When the Adelantado saw the French fires in the distance, he lay close in his bivouac, and sent two soldiers to reconnoitre. At two o'clock in the morning they came back, and reported that it was impossible to get at the enemy, since they were on the farther side of an arm of the sea (Matanzas Inlet). Menendez, however, gave orders to march, and before daybreak reached the hither bank, where he hid his men in a bushy hollow. Thence, as it grew light, they could discern the enemy, many of whom were searching along the sands and shallows for shell-fish, for they were famishing. A thought struck Menendez, an inspiration, says Mendoza, of the Holy Spirit. He put on the clothes of a sailor, entered a boat which had been brought to the spot, and rowed towards the shipwrecked men, the better to learn their condition. A Frenchman swam out to meet him. Menendez demanded what men they were.
"Followers of Ribaut, Viceroy of the King of France," answered the swimmer.
"Are you Catholics or Lutherans?"
A brief dialogue ensued, during which the Adelantado declared his name and character, and the Frenchman gave an account of the designs of Ribaut, and of the disaster that had thwarted them. He then swam back to his companions, but soon returned, and asked safe conduct for his captain and four other gentlemen, who wished to hold conference with the Spanish general. Menendez gave his word for their safety, and, returning to the shore, sent his boat to bring them over. On their landing, he met them very courteously. His followers were kept at a distance, so disposed behind hills and among bushes as to give an exaggerated idea of their force,—a precaution the more needful, as they were only about sixty in number, while the French, says Solfs, were above two hundred. Menendez, however, declares that they did not exceed a hundred and forty. The French officer told him the story of their shipwreck, and begged him to lend them a boat to aid them in crossing the rivers which lay between them and a fort of their King, whither they were making their way.
Then came again the ominous question,
"Are you Catholics or Lutherans?"
"We are Lutherans."
"Gentlemen," pursued Menendez, "your fort is taken, and all in it are put to the sword." And, in proof of his declaration, he caused articles plundered from Fort Caroline to be shown to the unhappy petitioners. He then left them, and went to breakfast with his officers, first ordering food to be placed before them. Having breakfasted, he returned to them.
"Are you convinced now," he asked, "that what I have told you is true?"
The French captain assented, and implored him to lend them ships in which to return home. Menendez answered that he would do so willingly if they were Catholics, and if he had ships to spare, but he had none. The supplicants then expressed the hope that at least they and their followers would be allowed to remain with the Spaniards till ships could be sent to their relief, since there was peace between the two nations, whose kings were friends and brothers.
"All Catholics," retorted the Spaniard, "I will befriend; but as you are of the New Sect, I hold you as enemies, and wage deadly war against you; and this I will do with all cruelty [crueldad] in this country, where I command as Viceroy and Captain-General for my King. I am here to plant the Holy Gospel, that the Indians may be enlightened and come to the knowledge of the Holy Catholic faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Roman Church teaches it. If you will give up your arms and banners, and place yourselves at my mercy, you may do so, and I will act towards you as God shall give me grace. Do as you will, for other than this you can have neither truce nor friendship with me."
Such were the Adelantado's words, as reported by a bystanders his admiring brother-in-law and that they contain an implied assurance of mercy has been held, not only by Protestants, but by Catholics and Spaniards. The report of Menendez himself is more brief, and sufficiently equivocal:—
"I answered, that they could give up their arms and place themselves under my mercy,—that I should do with them what our Lord should order; and from that I did not depart, nor would I, unless God our Lord should otherwise inspire."
One of the Frenchmen recrossed to consult with his companions. In two hours he returned, and offered fifty thousand ducats to secure their lives; but Menendez, says his brother-in-law, would give no pledges. On the other hand, expressions in his own despatches point to the inference that a virtual pledge was given, at least to certain individuals.
The starving French saw no resource but to yield themselves to his mercy. The boat was again sent across the river. It returned laden with banners, arquebuses, swords, targets, and helmets. The Adelantado ordered twenty soldiers to bring over the prisoners, ten at a time. He then took the French officers aside behind a ridge of sand, two gunshots from the bank. Here, with courtesy on his lips and murder at his heart, he said:
"Gentlemen, I have but few men, and you are so many that, if you were free, it would be easy for you to take your satisfaction on us for the people we killed when we took your fort. Therefore it is necessary that you should go to my camp, four leagues from this place, with your hands tied."
Accordingly, as each party landed, they were led out of sight behind the sand-hill, and their hands tied behind their backs with the match-cords of the arquebuses, though not before each had been supplied with food. The whole day passed before all were brought together, bound and helpless, under the eye of the inexorable Adelantado. But now Mendoza interposed. "I was a priest," he says, "and had the bowels of a man." He asked that if there were Christians—that is to say, Catholics—among the prisoners, they should be set apart. Twelve Breton sailors professed themselves to be such; and these, together with four carpenters and calkers, "of whom," writes Menendez, "I was in great need," were put on board the boat and sent to St. Augustine. The rest were ordered to march thither by land.
The Adelantado walked in advance till he came to a lonely spot, not far distant, deep among the bush-covered hills. Here he stopped, and with his cane drew a line in the sand. The sun was set when the captive Huguenots, with their escort, reached the fatal goal thus marked out. And now let the curtain drop; for here, in the name of Heaven, the hounds of hell were turned loose, and the savage soldiery, like wolves in a sheepfold, rioted in slaughter. Of all that wretched company, not one was left alive.
"I had their hands tied behind their backs," writes the chief criminal, "and themselves put to the knife. It appeared to me that, by thus chastising them, God our Lord and your Majesty were served; whereby in future this evil sect will leave us more free to plant the Gospel in these parts."
Again Menendez returned triumphant to St. Augustine, and behind him marched his band of butchers, steeped in blood to the elbows, but still unsated. Great as had been his success, he still had cause for anxiety. There was ill news of his fleet. Some of the ships were lost, others scattered, or lagging tardily on their way. Of his whole force, less than a half had reached Florida, and of these a large part were still at Fort Caroline. Ribaut could not be far off; and, whatever might be the condition of his shipwrecked company, their numbers would make them formidable, unless taken at advantage. Urged by fear and fortified by fanaticism, Menendez had well begun his work of slaughter; but rest for him there was none,—a darker deed was behind.
On the tenth of October, Indians came with the tidings that, at the spot where the first party of the shipwrecked French had been found, there was now another party still larger. This murder-loving race looked with great respect on Menendez for his wholesale butchery of the night before,—an exploit rarely equalled in their own annals of massacre. On his part, he doubted not that Ribaut was at hand. Marching with a hundred and fifty men, he crossed the bush-covered sands of Anastasia Island, followed the strand between the thickets and the sea, reached the inlet at midnight, and again, like a savage, ambushed himself on the bank. Day broke, and he could plainly see the French on the farther side. They had made a raft, which lay in the water ready for crossing. Menendez and his men showed themselves, when, forthwith, the French displayed their banners, sounded drums and trumpets, and set their sick and starving ranks in array of battle. But the Adelantado, regardless of this warlike show, ordered his men to seat themselves at breakfast, while he with three officers walked unconcernedly along the shore. His coolness had its effect. The French blew a trumpet of parley, and showed a white flag. The Spaniards replied. A Frenchman came out upon the raft, and, shouting across the water, asked that a Spanish envoy should be sent over.
"You have a raft," was the reply; "come yourselves."
An Indian canoe lay under the bank on the Spanish side. A French sailor swam to it, paddled back unmolested, and presently returned, bringing with him La Caille, Ribaut's sergeant-major. He told Menendez that the French were three hundred and fifty in all, and were on their way to Fort Caroline; and, like the officers of the former party, he begged for boats to aid them in crossing the river.
"My brother," said Menendez, "go and tell your general, that, if he wishes to speak with me, he may come with four or six companions, and that I pledge my word he shall go back safe."
La Caille returned; and Ribaut, with eight gentlemen, soon came over in the canoe. Menendez met them courteously, caused wine and preserved fruits to be placed before them,—he had come well provisioned on his errand of blood,—and next led Ribaut to the reeking Golgotha, where, in heaps upon the sand, lay the corpses of his slaughtered followers. Ribaut was prepared for the spectacle,—La Caille had already seen it,—but he would not believe that Fort Caroline was taken till a part of the plunder was shown him. Then, mastering his despair, he turned to the conqueror. "What has befallen us," he said, "may one day befall you." And, urging that the kings of France and Spain were brothers and close friends, he begged, in the name of that friendship, that the Spaniard would aid him in conveying his followers home. Menendez gave him the same equivocal answer that he had given the former party, and Ribaut returned to consult with his officers. After three hours of absence, he came back in the canoe, and told the Adelantado that some of his people were ready to surrender at discretion, but that many refused.
"They can do as they please," was the reply. In behalf of those who surrendered, Ribaut offered a ransom of a hundred thousand ducats. "It would much grieve me," said Menendez, "not to accept it; for I have great need of it."
Ribaut was much encouraged. Menendez could scarcely forego such a prize, and he thought, says the Spanish narrator, that the lives of his followers would now be safe. He asked to be allowed the night for deliberation, and at sunset recrossed the river. In the morning he reappeared among the Spaniards, and reported that two hundred of his men had retreated from the spot, but that the remaining hundred and fifty would surrender. At the same time he gave into the hands of Menendez the royal standard and other flags, with his sword, dagger, helmet, buckler, and the official seal given him by Coligny. Menendez directed an officer to enter the boat and bring over the French by tens. He next led Ribaut among the bushes behind the neighboring sand-hill, and ordered his hands to be bound fast. Then the scales fell from the prisoner's eyes. Face to face his fate rose up before him. He saw his followers and himself entrapped,—the dupes of words artfully framed to lure them to their ruin. The day wore on; and, as band after band of prisoners was brought over, they were led behind the sand-hill out of sight from the farther shore, and bound like their general. At length the transit was finished. With bloodshot eyes and weapons bared, the Spaniards closed around their victims.
"Are you Catholics or Lutherans? and is there any one among you who will go to confession?"
Ribaut answered, "I and all here are of the Reformed Faith."
And he recited the Psalm, "Domine, memento mei."
"We are of earth," he continued, "and to earth we must return; twenty years more or less can matter little;" and, turning to the Adelantado, he bade him do his will.
The stony-hearted bigot gave the signal; and those who will may paint to themselves the horrors of the scene.
A few, however, were spared. "I saved," writes Menendez, "the lives of two young gentlemen of about eighteen years of age, as well as of three others, the fifer, the drummer, and the trumpeter; and I caused Juan Ribao [Ribaut] with all the rest to be put to the knife, judging this to be necessary for the service of God our Lord and of your Majesty. And I consider it great good fortune that he [Juan Ribao] should be dead, for the King of France could effect more with him and five hundred ducats than with other men and five thousand; and he would do more in one year than another in ten, for he was the most experienced sailor and naval commander known, and of great skill in this navigation of the Indies and the coast of Florida. He was, besides, greatly liked in England, in which kingdom his reputation was such that he was appointed Captain-General of all the English fleet against the French Catholics in the war between England and France some years ago."
Such is the sum of the Spanish accounts,—the self-damning testimony of the author and abettors of the crime; a picture of lurid and awful coloring; and yet there is reason to believe that the truth was darker still. Among those who were spared was one Christophe le Breton, who was carried to Spain, escaped to France, and told his story to Challeux. Among those struck down in the butchery was a sailor of Dieppe, stunned and left for dead under a heap of corpses. In the night he revived, contrived to draw his knife, cut the cords that bound his hands, and made his way to an Indian village. The Indians, not without reluctance, abandoned him to the Spaniards, who sold him as a slave; but, on his way in fetters to Portugal, the ship was taken by the Huguenots, the sailor set free, and his story published in the narrative of Le Moyne. When the massacre was known in France, the friends and relatives of the victims sent to the King, Charles the Ninth, a vehement petition for redress; and their memorial recounts many incidents of the tragedy. From these three sources is to be drawn the French version of the story. The following is its substance.
Famished and desperate, the followers of Ribaut were toiling northward to seek refuge at Fort Caroline, when they found the Spaniards in their path. Some were filled with dismay; others, in their misery, almost hailed them as deliverers. La Caille, the sergeant-major, crossed the river. Menendez met him with a face of friendship, and protested that he would spare the lives of the shipwrecked men, sealing the promise with an oath, a kiss, and many signs of the cross. He even gave it in writing, under seal. Still, there were many among the French who would not place themselves in his power. The most credulous crossed the river in a boat. As each successive party landed, their hands were bound fast at their backs; and thus, except a few who were set apart, they were all driven towards the fort, like cattle to the shambles, with curses and scurrilous abuse. Then, at sound of drums and trumpets, the Spaniards fell upon them, striking them down with swords, pikes, and halberds. Ribaut vainly called on the Adelantado to remember his oath. By his order, a soldier plunged a dagger into the French commander's heart; and Ottigny, who stood near, met a similar fate. Ribaut's beard was cut off, and portions of it sent in a letter to Philip the Second. His head was hewn into four parts, one of which was displayed on the point of a lance at each corner of Fort St. Augustine. Great fires were kindled, and the bodies of the murdered burned to ashes.
Such is the sum of the French accounts. The charge of breach of faith contained in them was believed by Catholics as well as Protestants; and it was as a defence against this charge that the narrative of the Adelantado's brother-in-law was published. That Ribaut, a man whose good sense and courage were both reputed high, should have submitted himself and his men to Menendez without positive assurance of safety, is scarcely credible; nor is it lack of charity to believe that a bigot so savage in heart and so perverted in conscience would act on the maxim, current among certain casuists of the day, that faith ought not to be kept with heretics.
It was night when the Adelantado again entered St. Augustine. There were some who blamed his cruelty; but many applauded. "Even if the French had been Catholics,"—such was their language,—"he would have done right, for, with the little provision we have, they would all have starved; besides, there were so many of them that they would have cut our throats."
And now Menendez again addressed himself to the despatch, already begun, in which he recounts to the King his labors and his triumphs, a deliberate and business-like document, mingling narratives of butchery with recommendations for promotions, commissary details, and petitions for supplies,—enlarging, too, on the vast schemes of encroachment which his successful generalship had brought to naught. The French, he says, had planned a military and naval depot at Los Martires, whence they would make a descent upon Havana, and another at the Bay of Ponce de Leon, whence they could threaten Vera Cruz. They had long been encroaching on Spanish rights at Newfoundland, from which a great arm of the sea—doubtless meaning the St. Lawrence—would give them access to the Moluccas and other parts of the East Indies. He adds, in a later despatch, that by this passage they may reach the mines of Zacatecas and St. Martin, as well as every part of the South Sea. And, as already mentioned, he urges immediate occupation of Chesapeake Bay, which, by its supposed water communication with the St. Lawrence, would enable Spain to vindicate her rights, control the fisheries of Newfoundland, and thwart her rival in vast designs of commercial and territorial aggrandizement. Thus did France and Spain dispute the possession of North America long before England became a party to the strife. 
Some twenty days after Menendez returned to St. Augustine, the Indians, enamoured of carnage, and exulting to see their invaders mowed down, came to tell him that on the coast southward, near Cape Canaveral, a great number of Frenchmen were intrenching themselves. They were those of Ribaut's party who had refused to surrender. Having retreated to the spot where their ships had been cast ashore, they were trying to build a vessel from the fragments of the wrecks.
In all haste Menendez despatched messengers to Fort Caroline, named by him San Mateo, ordering a reinforcement of a hundred and fifty men. In a few days they came. He added some of his own soldiers, and, with a united force of two hundred and fifty, set out, as he tells us, on the second of November. A part of his force went by sea, while the rest pushed southward along the shore with such merciless energy that several men dropped dead with wading night and day through the loose sands. When, from behind their frail defences, the French saw the Spanish pikes and partisans glittering into view, they fled in a panic, and took refuge among the hills. Menendez sent a trumpet to summon them, pledging his honor for their safety. The commander and several others told the messenger that they would sooner be eaten by the savages than trust themselves to Spaniards; and, escaping, they fled to the Indian towns. The rest surrendered; and Menendez kept his word. The comparative number of his own men made his prisoners no longer dangerous. They were led back to St. Augustine, where, as the Spanish writer affirms, they were well treated. Those of good birth sat at the Adelantado's table, eating the bread of a homicide crimsoned with the slaughter of their comrades. The priests essayed their pious efforts, and, under the gloomy menace of the Inquisition, some of the heretics renounced their errors. The fate of the captives may be gathered from the endorsement, in the handwriting of the King, on one of the despatches of Menendez.
"Say to him," writes Philip the Second, "that, as to those he has killed, he has done well; and as to those he has saved, they shall be sent to the galleys."
CHARLES IX. AND PHILLIP II.
The state of international relations in the sixteenth century is hardly conceivable at this day. The Puritans of England and the Huguenots of France regarded Spain as their natural enemy, and on the high seas and in the British Channel they joined hands with godless freebooters to rifle her ships, kill her sailors, or throw them alive into the sea. Spain on her side seized English Protestant sailors who ventured into her ports, and burned them as heretics, or consigned them to a living death in the dungeons of the Inquisition. Yet in the latter half of the century these mutual outrages went on for years while the nations professed to be at peace. There was complaint, protest, and occasional menace, but no redress, and no declaration of war.
Contemporary writers of good authority have said that, when the news of the massacres in Florida reached the court of France, Charles the Ninth and Catherine de Medicis submitted to the insult in silence; but documents lately brought to light show that a demand for redress was made, though not insisted on. A cry of horror and execration had risen from the Huguenots and many even of the Catholics had echoed it; yet the perpetrators of the crime, and not its victims, were the first to make complaint. Philip the Second resented the expeditions of Ribaut and Laudonniere as an invasion of the American domains of Spain, and ordered D'Alava, his ambassador at Paris, to denounce them to the French King. Charles, thus put on the defensive, replied, that the country in question belonged to France, having been discovered by Frenchmen a hundred years before, and named by them Terre des Bretons. This alludes to the tradition that the Bretons and Basques visited the northern coasts of America before the voyage of Columbus. In several maps of the sixteenth century the region of New England and the neighboring states and provinces is set down as Terre des Bretons, or Tierra de los Bretones, and this name was assumed by Charles to extend to the Gulf of Mexico, as the name of Florida was assumed by the Spaniards to extend to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and even beyond it. Philip spurned the claim, asserted the Spanish right to all Florida, and asked whether or not the followers of Ribaut and Laudonniere had gone thither by authority of their King. The Queen Mother, Catherine de Medicis, replied in her son's behalf, that certain Frenchmen had gone to a country called Terre aux Bretons, discovered by French subjects, and that in so doing they had been warned not to encroach on lands belonging to the King of Spain. And she added, with some spirit, that the Kings of France were not in the habit of permitting themselves to be threatened.
Philip persisted in his attitude of injured innocence; and Forquevaulx, French ambassador at Madrid, reported that, as a reward for murdering French subjects, Menendez was to receive the title of Marquis of Florida. A demand soon followed from Philip, that Admiral Coligny should be punished for planting a French colony on Spanish ground, and thus causing the disasters that ensued. It was at this time that the first full account of the massacres reached the French court, and the Queen Mother, greatly moved, complained to the Spanish ambassador, saying that she could not persuade herself that his master would refuse reparation. The ambassador replied by again throwing the blame on Coligny and the Huguenots; and Catherine de Medicis returned that, Huguenots or not, the King of Spain had no right to take upon himself the punishment of French subjects. Forquevaulx was instructed to demand redress at Madrid; but Philip only answered that he was very sorry for what had happened, and again insisted that Coligny should be punished as the true cause of it.
Forquevaulx, an old soldier, remonstrated with firmness, declared that no deeds so execrable had ever been committed within his memory, and demanded that Menendez and his followers should be chastised as they deserved. The King said that he was sorry that the sufferers chanced to be Frenchmen, but, as they were pirates also, they ought to be treated as such. The ambassador replied, that they were no pirates, since they bore the commission of the Admiral of France, who in naval affairs represented the King; and Philip closed the conversation by saying that he would speak on the subject with the Duke of Alva. This was equivalent to refusal, for the views of the Duke were well known; "and so, Madame," writes the ambassador to the Queen Mother, "there is no hope that any reparation will be made for the aforesaid massacre."
On this, Charles wrote to Forquevaulx "It is my will that you renew your complaint, and insist urgently that, for the sake of the union and friendship between the two crowns, reparation be made for the wrong done me and the cruelties committed on my subjects, to which I cannot submit without too great loss of reputation." And, jointly with his mother, he ordered the ambassador to demand once more that Menendez and his men should be punished, adding, that he trusts that Philip will grant justice to the King of France, his brother-in-law and friend, rather than pardon a gang of brigands. "On this demand," concludes Charles, "the Sieur de Forquevaulx will not fail to insist, be the answer what it may, in order that the King of Spain shall understand that his Majesty of France has no less spirit than his predecessors to repel an insult." The ambassador fulfilled his commission, and Philip replied by referring him to the Duke of Alva. "I have no hope," reports Forquevaulx, "that the Duke will give any satisfaction as to the massacre, for it was he who advised it from the first." A year passed, and then he reported that Menendez had returned from Florida, that the King had given him a warm welcome, and that his fame as a naval commander was such that he was regarded as a sort of Neptune.
In spite of their brave words, Charles and the Queen Mother tamely resigned themselves to the affront, for they would not quarrel with Spain. To have done so would have been to throw themselves into the arms of the Protestant party, adopt the principle of toleration, and save France from the disgrace and blight of her later years. France was not so fortunate. The enterprise of Florida was a national enterprise, undertaken at the national charge, with the royal commission, and under the royal standard; and it had been crushed in time of peace by a power professing the closest friendship. Yet Huguenot influence had prompted and Huguenot hands executed it. That influence had now ebbed low; Coligny's power had waned; Charles, after long vacillation, was leaning more and more towards the Guises and the Catholics, and fast subsiding into the deathly embrace of Spain, for whom, at last, on the bloody eve of St. Bartholomew, he was to become the assassin of his own best subjects.
In vain the relatives of the slain petitioned him for redress; and had the honor of the nation rested in the keeping of its King, the blood of hundreds of murdered Frenchmen would have cried from the ground in vain. But it was not to be so. Injured humanity found an avenger, and outraged France a champion. Her chivalrous annals may be searched in vain for a deed of more romantic daring than the vengeance of Dominique de Gourgues.
DOMINIQUE DE GOURGUES.
There was a gentleman of Mont-de-Marsan, Dominique de Gourgues, a soldier of ancient birth and high renown. It is not certain that he was a Huguenot. The Spanish annalist calls him a "terrible heretic;" but the French Jesuit, Charlevoix, anxious that the faithful should share the glory of his exploits, affirms that, like his ancestors before him, he was a good Catholic. If so, his faith sat lightly upon him; and, Catholic or heretic, he hated the Spaniards with a mortal hate. Fighting in the Italian wars,—for from boyhood he was wedded to the sword,—he had been taken prisoner by them near Siena, where he had signalized himself by a fiery and determined bravery. With brutal insult, they chained him to the oar as a galley slave. After he had long endured this ignominy the Turks captured the vessel and carried her to Constantinople. It was but a change of tyrants but, soon after, while she was on a cruise, Gourgues still at the oar, a galley of the knights of Malta hove in sight, bore down on her, recaptured her, and set the prisoner free. For several years after, his restless spirit found employment in voyages to Africa, Brazil, and regions yet more remote. His naval repute rose high, but his grudge against the Spaniards still rankled within him; and when, returned from his rovings, he learned the tidings from Florida, his hot Gascon blood boiled with fury.
The honor of France had been foully stained, and there was none to wipe away the shame. The faction-ridden King was dumb. The nobles who surrounded him were in the Spanish interest. Then, since they proved recreant, he, Dominique de Gourgues, a simple gentleman, would take upon him to avenge the wrong, and restore the dimmed lustre of the French name. He sold his inheritance, borrowed money from his brother, who held a high post in Guienne, and equipped three small vessels, navigable by sail or oar. On board he placed a hundred arquebusiers and eighty sailors, prepared to fight on land, if need were. The noted Blaise de Montluc, then lieutenant for the King in Guienne, gave him a commission to make war on the negroes of Benin,—that is, to kidnap them as slaves, an adventure then held honorable.
His true design was locked within his own breast. He mustered his followers,—not a few of whom were of rank equal to his own, feasted them, and, on the twenty-second of August, 1567, sailed from the mouth of the Charente. Off Cape Finisterre, so violent a storm buffeted his ships that his men clamored to return; but Gourgues's spirit prevailed. He bore away for Africa, and, landing at the Rio del Oro, refreshed and cheered them as he best might. Thence he sailed to Cape Blanco, where the jealous Portuguese, who had a fort in the neighborhoods set upon him three negro chiefs. Gourgues beat them off, and remained master of the harbor; whence, however, he soon voyaged onward to Cape Verd, and, steering westward, made for the West Indies. Here, advancing from island to island, he came to Hispaniola, where, between the fury of a hurricane at sea and the jealousy of the Spaniards on shore, he was in no small jeopardy,—"the Spaniards", exclaims the indignant journalist, "who think that this New World was made for nobody but them, and that no other living man has a right to move or breathe here!" Gourgues landed, however, obtained the water of which he was in need, and steered for Cape San Antonio, at the western end of Cuba. There he gathered his followers about him, and addressed them with his fiery Gascon eloquence. For the first time, he told them his true purpose, inveighed against Spanish cruelty, and painted, with angry rhetoric, the butcheries of Fort Caroline and St. Augustine.
"What disgrace," he cried, "if such an insult should pass unpunished! What glory to us if we avenge it! To this I have devoted my fortune. I relied on you. I thought you jealous enough of your country's glory to sacrifice life itself in a cause like this. Was I deceived? I will show you the way; I will be always at your head; I will bear the brunt of the danger. Will you refuse to follow me?"
At first his startled hearers listened in silence; but soon the passions of that adventurous age rose responsive to his words. The combustible French nature burst into flame. The enthusiasm of the soldiers rose to such a pitch that Gourgues had much ado to make them wait till the moon was full before tempting the perils of the Bahama Channel. His time came at length. The moon rode high above the lonely sea, and, silvered in its light, the ships of the avenger held their course.
Meanwhile, it had fared ill with the Spaniards in Florida; the good-will of the Indians had vanished. The French had been obtrusive and vexatious guests; but their worst trespasses had been mercy and tenderness compared to the daily outrage of the new-comers. Friendship had changed to aversion, aversion to hatred, and hatred to open war. The forest paths were beset; stragglers were cut off; and woe to the Spaniard who should venture after nightfall beyond call of the outposts.
Menendez, however, had strengthened himself in his new conquest. St. Augustine was well fortified; Fort Caroline, now Fort San Mateo, was repaired; and two redoubts, or small forts, were thrown up to guard the mouth of the River of May,—one of them near the present lighthouse at Mayport, and the other across the river on Fort George Island. Thence, on an afternoon in early spring, the Spaniards saw three sail steering northward. They suspected no enemy, and their batteries boomed a salute. Gourgues's ships replied, then stood out to sea, and were lost in the shades of evening.
They kept their course all night, and, as day broke, anchored at the mouth of a river, the St. Mary's, or the Santilla, by their reckoning fifteen leagues north of the River of May. Here, as it grew light, Gourgues saw the borders of the sea thronged with savages, armed and plumed for war. They, too, had mistaken the strangers for Spaniards, and mustered to meet their tyrants at the landing. But in the French ships there was a trumpeter who had been long in Florida, and knew the Indians well. He went towards them in a boat, with many gestures of friendship; and no sooner was he recognized, than the naked crowd, with yelps of delight, danced for joy along the sands. Why had he ever left them? they asked; and why had he not returned before? The intercourse thus auspiciously begun was actively kept up. Gourgues told the principal chief,—who was no other than Satouriona, once the ally of the French,—that he had come to visit them, make friendship with them, and bring them presents. At this last announcement, so grateful to Indian ears the dancing was renewed with double zeal. The next morning was named for a grand council, and Satouriona sent runners to summon all Indians within call; while Gourgues, for safety, brought his vessels within the mouth of the river.
Morning came, and the woods were thronged with warriors. Gourgues and his soldiers landed with martial pomp. In token of mutual confidence, the French laid aside their arquebuses, and the Indians their bows and arrows. Satouriona came to meet the strangers, and seated their commander at his side, on a wooden stool, draped and cushioned with the gray Spanish moss. Two old Indians cleared the spot of brambles, weeds, and grass; and, when their task was finished, the tribesmen took their places, ring within ring, standing, sitting, and crouching on the ground,—a dusky concourse, plumed in festal array, waiting with grave visages and intent eyes. Gourgues was about to speak, when the chief, who, says the narrator, had not learned French manners, anticipated him, and broke into a vehement harangue, denouncing the cruelty of the Spaniards.
Since the French fort was taken, he said, the Indians had not had one happy day. The Spaniards drove them from their cabins, stole their corn, ravished their wives and daughters, and killed their children; and all this they had endured because they loved the French. There was a French boy who had escaped from the massacre at the fort; they had found him in the woods and though the Spaniards, who wished to kill him, demanded that they should give him up, they had kept him for his friends.
"Look!" pursued the chief, "here he is! "—and he brought forward a youth of sixteen, named Pierre Debre, who became at once of the greatest service to the French, his knowledge of the Indian language making him an excellent interpreter.
Delighted as he was at this outburst against the Spaniards, Gourgues did not see fit to display the full extent of his satisfaction. He thanked the Indians for their good-will, exhorted them to continue in it, and pronounced an ill-merited eulogy on the greatness and goodness of his King. As for the Spaniards, he said, their day of reckoning was at hand; and, if the Indians had been abused for their love of the French, the French would be their avengers. Here Satouriona forgot his dignity, and leaped up for joy.
"What!" he cried, "will you fight the Spaniards?"
"I came here," replied Gourgues, "only to reconnoitre the country and make friends with you, and then go back to bring more soldiers; but, when I hear what you are suffering from them, I wish to fall upon them this very day, and rescue you from their tyranny." All around the ring a clamor of applauding voices greeted his words.
"But you will do your part," pursued the Frenchman; "you will not leave us all the honor."
"We will go," replied Satouriona, "and die with you, if need be."
"Then, if we fight, we ought to fight at once. How soon can you have your warriors ready to march?"
The chief asked three days for preparation. Gourgues cautioned him to secrecy, lest the Spaniards should take alarm.
"Never fear," was the answer; "we hate them more than you do."
Then came a distribution of gifts,—knives, hatchets, mirrors, bells, and beads,—while the warrior rabble crowded to receive them, with eager faces and outstretched arms. The distribution over, Gourgues asked the chiefs if there was any other matter in which he could serve them. On this, pointing to his shirt, they expressed a peculiar admiration for that garment, and begged each to have one, to be worn at feasts and councils during life, and in their graves after death. Gourgues complied; and his grateful confederates were soon stalking about him, fluttering in the spoils of his wardrobe.
To learn the strength and position of the Spaniards, Gourgues now sent out three scouts; and with them went Olotoraca, Satourioria's nephew, a young brave of great renown.
The chief, eager to prove his good faith, gave as hostages his only surviving son and his favorite wife. They were sent on board the ships, while the Indians dispersed to their encampments, with leaping, stamping, dancing, and whoops of jubilation.
The day appointed came, and with it the savage army, hideous in war-paint, and plumed for battle. The woods rang back their songs and yells, as with frantic gesticulation they brandished their war-clubs and vaunted their deeds of prowess. Then they drank the black drink, endowed with mystic virtues against hardship and danger; and Gourgues himself pretended to swallow the nauseous decoction. 
These ceremonies consumed the day. It was evening before the allies filed off into their forests, and took the path for the Spanish forts. The French, on their part, were to repair by sea to the rendezvous. Gourgues mustered and addressed his men. It was needless: their ardor was at fever height. They broke in upon his words, and demanded to be led at once against the enemy. Francois Bourdelais, with twenty sailors, was left with the ships, and Gourgues affectionately bade him farewell.
"If I am slain in this most just enterprise," he said, "I leave all in your charge, and pray you to carry back my soldiers to France."
There were many embracings among the excited Frenchmen,—many sympathetic tears from those who were to stay behind,—many messages left with them for wives, children, friends, and mistresses; and then this valiant band pushed their boats from shore. It was a hare-brained venture, for, as young Debre had assured them, the Spaniards on the River of May were four hundred in number, secure behind their ramparts.
Hour after hour the sailors pulled at the oar. They glided slowly by the sombre shores in the shimmering moonlight, to the sound of the surf and the moaning pine-trees. In the gray of the morning, they came to the mouth of a river, probably the Nassau; and here a northeast wind set in with a violence that almost wrecked their boats. Their Indian allies were waiting on the bank, but for a while the gale delayed their crossing. The bolder French would lose no time, rowed through the tossing waves, and, landing safely, left their boats, and pushed into the forest. Gourgues took the lead, in breastplate and back-piece. At his side marched the young chief Olotoraca, with a French pike in his hand; and the files of arquebuse-men and armed sailors followed close behind. They plunged through swamps, hewed their way through brambly thickets and the matted intricacies of the forests, and, at five in the afternoon, almost spent with fatigue and hunger, came to a river or inlet of the sea, not far from the first Spanish fort. Here they found three hundred Indians waiting for them.
Tired as he was, Gourgues would not rest. He wished to attack at daybreak, and with ten arquebusiers and his Indian guide he set out to reconnoitre. Night closed upon him. It was a vain task to struggle on, in pitchy darkness, among trunks of trees, fallen logs, tangled vines, and swollen streams. Gourgues returned, anxious and gloomy. An Indian chief approached him, read through the darkness his perturbed look, and offered to lead him by a better path along the margin of the sea. Gourgues joyfully assented, and ordered all his men to march. The Indians, better skilled in wood-craft, chose the shorter course through the forest.
The French forgot their weariness, and pressed on with speed. At dawn they and their allies met on the bank of a stream, probably Sister Creek, beyond which, and very near, was the fort. But the tide was in, and they tried in vain to cross. Greatly vexed,—for he had hoped to take the enemy asleep,—Gourgues withdrew his soldiers into the forest, where they were no sooner ensconced than a drenching rain fell, and they had much ado to keep their gun-matches burning. The light grew fast. Gourgues plainly saw the fort, the defences of which seemed slight and unfinished. He even saw the Spaniards at work within. A feverish interval elapsed, till at length the tide was out,—so far, at least, that the stream was fordable. A little higher up, a clump of trees lay between it and the fort. Behind this friendly screen the passage was begun. Each man tied his powder-flask to his steel cap, held his arquebuse above his head with one hand, and grasped his sword with the other. The channel was a bed of oysters. The sharp shells cut their feet as they waded through. But the farther bank was gained. They emerged from the water, drenched, lacerated, and bleeding, but with unabated mettle. Gourgues set them in array under cover of the trees. They stood with kindling eyes, and hearts throbbing, but not with fear. Gourgues pointed to the Spanish fort, seen by glimpses through the boughs. "Look I" he said, "there are the robbers who have stolen this land from our King; there are the murderers who have butchered our countrymen!" With voices eager, fierce, but half suppressed, they demanded to be led on.
Gourgues gave the word. Cazenove, his lientenant, with thirty men, pushed for the fort gate; he himself, with the main body, for the glacis. It was near noon; the Spaniards had just finished their meal, and, says the narrative, "were still picking their teeth," when a startled cry rang in their ears:—"To arms! to arms! The French are coming! The French are coming!"
It was the voice of a cannoneer who had that moment mounted the rampart and seen the assailants advancing in unbroken ranks, with heads lowered and weapons at the charge. He fired his cannon among them. He even had time to load and fire again, when the light-limbed Olotoraca bounded forward, ran up the glacis, leaped the unfinished ditch, and drove his pike through the Spaniard from breast to back. Gourgues was now on the glacis, when he heard Cazenove shouting from the gate that the Spaniards were escaping on that side. He turned and led his men thither at a run. In a moment, the fugitives, sixty in all, were enclosed between his party and that of his lieutenant. The Indians, too, came leaping to the spot. Not a Spaniard escaped. All were cut down but a few, reserved by Gourgues for a more inglorious end.
Meanwhile the Spaniards in the other fort, on the opposite shore, cannonaded the victors without ceasing. The latter turned four captured guns against them. One of Gourgues's boats, a very large one, had been brought along-shore, and, entering it with eighty soldiers, he pushed for the farther bank. With loud yells, the Indians leaped into the river, which is here about three fourths of a mile wide. Each held his bow and arrows aloft in one hand, while he swam with the other. A panic seized the garrison as they saw the savage multitude. They broke out of the fort and fled into the forest. But the French had already landed; and, throwing themselves in the path of the fugitives, they greeted them with a storm of lead. The terrified wretches recoiled; but flight was vain. The Indian whoop rang behind them, and war-clubs and arrows finished the work. Gourgues's utmost efforts saved but fifteen, not out of mercy, but from a refinement of vengeance.
The next day was Quasimodo Sunday, or the Sunday after Easter. Gourgues and his men remained quiet, making ladders for the assault on Fort San Mateo. Meanwhile the whole forest was in arms, and, far and near, the Indians were wild with excitement. They beset the Spanish fort till not a soldier could venture out. The garrison, aware of their danger, though ignorant of its extent, devised an expedient to gain information; and one of them, painted and feathered like an Indian, ventured within Gourgues's outposts. He himself chanced to be at hand, and by his side walked his constant attendant, Olotoraca. The keen-eyed young savage pierced the cheat at a glance. The spy was seized, and, being examined, declared that there were two hundred and sixty Spaniards in San Mateo, and that they believed the French to be two thousand, and were so frightened that they did not know what they were doing.
Gourgues, well pleased, pushed on to attack them. On Monday evening he sent forward the Indians to ambush themselves on both sides of the fort. In the morning he followed with his Frenchmen; and, as the glittering ranks came into view, defiling between the forest and the river, the Spaniards opened on them with culverins from a projecting bastion. The French took cover in the woods with which the hills below and behind the fort were densely overgrown. Here, himself unseen, Gourgues could survey whole extent of the defences, and he presently descried a strong party of Spaniards issuing from their works, crossing the ditch, and advancing to reconnoitre.
On this, he sent Cazenove, with a detachment, to station himself at a point well hidden by trees on the flank of the Spaniards, who, with strange infatuation, continued their advance. Gourgues and his followers pushed on through the thickets to meet them. As the Spaniards reached the edge of the open ground, a deadly fire blazed in their faces, and, before the smoke cleared, the French were among them, sword in hand. The survivors would have fled; but Cazenove's detachment fell upon their rear, and all were killed or taken.
When their comrades in the fort beheld their fate, a panic seized them. Conscious of their own deeds, perpetrated on this very spot, they could hope no mercy, and their terror multiplied immeasurably the numbers of their enemy. They abandoned the fort in a body, and fled into the woods most remote from the French. But here a deadlier foe awaited them; for a host of Indians leaped up from ambush. Then rose those hideous war-cries which have curdled the boldest blood and blanched the manliest cheek. The forest warriors, with savage ecstasy, wreaked their long arrears of vengeance, while the French hastened to the spot, and lent their swords to the slaughter. A few prisoners were saved alive; the rest were slain; and thus did the Spaniards make bloody atonement for the butchery of Fort Caroline.
But Gourgues's vengeance was not yet appeased. Hard by the fort, the trees were pointed out to him on which Menendez had hanged his captives, and placed over them the inscription, "Not as to Frenchmen, but as to Lutherans."
Gourgues ordered the Spanish prisoners to be led thither.
"Did you think," he sternly said, as the pallid wretches stood ranged before him, "that so vile a treachery, so detestable a cruelty, against a King so potent and a nation so generous, would go unpunished? I, one of the humblest gentlemen among my King's subjects, have charged myself with avenging it. Even if the Most Christian and the Most Catholic Kings had been enemies, at deadly war, such perfidy and extreme cruelty would still have been unpardonable. Now that they are friends and close allies, there is no name vile enough to brand your deeds, no punishment sharp enough to requite them. But though you cannot suffer as you deserve, you shall suffer all that an enemy can honorably inflict, that your example may teach others to observe the peace and alliance which you have so perfidiously violated."
They were hanged where the French had hung before them; and over them was nailed the inscription, burned with a hot iron on a tablet of pine, "Not as to Spaniards, but as to Traitors, Robbers, and Murderers."
Gourgues's mission was fulfilled. To occupy the country had never been his intention; nor was it possible, for the Spaniards were still in force at St. Augustine. His was a whirlwind visitation,—to ravage, ruin, and vanish. He harangued the Indians, and exhorted them to demolish the fort. They fell to the work with eagerness, and in less than a day not one stone was left on another.
Gourgues returned to the forts at the mouth of the river, destroyed them also, and took up his march for his ships. It was a triumphal procession. The Indians thronged around the victors with gifts of fish and game; and an old woman declared that she was now ready to die, since she had seen the French once more.
The ships were ready for sea. Gourgues bade his disconsolate allies farewell, and nothing would content them but a promise to return soon. Before embarking, he addressed his own men:—"My friends, let us give thanks to God for the success He has granted us. It is He who saved us from tempests; it is He who inclined the hearts of the Indians towards us; it is He who blinded the understanding of the Spaniards. They were four to one, in forts well armed and provisioned. Our right was our only strength; and yet we have conquered. Not to our own swords, but to God only, we owe our victory. Then let us thank Him, my friends; let us never forget His favors; and let us pray that He may continue them, saving us from dangers, and guiding us safely home. Let us pray, too, that He may so dispose the hearts of men that our perils and toils may find favor in the eyes of our King and of all France, since all we have done was done for the King's service and for the honor of our country."
Thus Spaniards and Frenchmen alike laid their reeking swords on God's altar.
Gourgues sailed on the third of May, and, gazing back along their foaming wake, the adventurers looked their last on the scene of their exploits. Their success had cost its price. A few of their number had fallen, and hardships still awaited the survivors. Gourgues, however, reached Rochelle on the day of Pentecost, and the Huguenot citizens greeted him with all honor. At court it fared worse with him. The King, still obsequious to Spain, looked on him coldly and askance. The Spanish minister demanded his head. It was hinted to him that he was not safe, and he withdrew to Ronen, where he found asylum among his friends. His fortune was gone; debts contracted for his expedition weighed heavily on him; and for years he lived in obscurity, almost in misery.
At length his prospects brightened. Elizabeth of England learned his merits and his misfortunes, and invited him to enter her service. The King, who, says the Jesuit historian, had always at heart been delighted with his achievement, openly restored him to favor; while, some years later, Don Antonio tendered him command of his fleet, to defend his right to the crown of Portugal against Philip the Second. Gourgues, happy once more to cross swords with the Spaniards, gladly embraced this offer; but in 1583, on his way to join the Portuguese prince, he died at Tours of a sudden illness. The French mourned the loss of the man who had wiped a blot from the national scutcheon, and respected his memory as that of one of the best captains of his time. And, in truth, if a zealous patriotism, a fiery valor, and skilful leadership are worthy of honor, then is such a tribute due to Dominique de Gourgues, slave-catcher and half-pirate as he was, like other naval heroes of that wild age.
Romantic as was his exploit, it lacked the fullness of poetic justice, since the chief offender escaped him. While Gourgues was sailing towards Florida, Menendez was in Spain, high in favor at court, where he told to approving ears how he had butchered the heretics. Borgia, the sainted General of the Jesuits, was his fast friend; and two years later, when he returned to America, the Pope, Paul the Fifth, regarding him as an instrument for the conversion of the Indians, wrote him a letter with his benediction. He re-established his power in Florida, rebuilt Fort San Mateo, and taught the Indians that death or flight was the only refuge from Spanish tyranny. They murdered his missionaries and spurned their doctrine. "The Devil is the best thing in the world," they cried; "we adore him; he makes men brave." Even the Jesuits despaired, and abandoned Florida in disgust.
Menendez was summoned home, where fresh honors awaited him from the Crown, though, according to the somewhat doubtful assertion of the heretical Grotius, his deeds had left a stain upon his name among the people. He was given command of the armada of three hundred sail and twenty thousand men, which, in 1574, was gathered at Santander against England and Flanders. But now, at the height of his fortunes, his career was abruptly closed. He died suddenly, at the age of fifty-five. Grotius affirms that he killed himself; but, in his eagerness to point the moral of his story, he seems to have overstepped the bounds of historic truth. The Spanish bigot was rarely a suicide; for the rites of Christian burial and repose in consecrated ground were denied to the remains of the self-murderer. There is positive evidence, too, in a codicil to the will of Menendez, dated at Santander on the fifteenth of September, 1574, that he was on that day seriously ill, though, as the instrument declares, "of sound mind." There is reason, then, to believe that this pious cut-throat died a natural death, crowned with honors, and soothed by the consolations of his religion.
It was he who crushed French Protestantism in America. To plant religious freedom on this western soil was not the mission of France. It was for her to rear in northern forests the banner of absolutism and of Rome; while among the rocks of Massachusetts England and Calvin fronted her in dogged opposition, long before the ice-crusted pines of Plymouth had listened to the rugged psalmody of the Puritan, the solitudes of Western New York and the stern wilderness of Lake Huron were trodden by the iron heel of the soldier and the sandalled foot of the Franciscan friar. France was the true pioneer of the Great West. They who bore the fleur-de-lis were always in the van, patient, daring, indomitable. And foremost on this bright roll of forest chivalry stands the half-forgotten name of Samuel de Champlain.
SAMUEL DE CHAMPLAIN AND HIS ASSOCIATES;
WITH A VIEW OF EARLIER FRENCH ADVENTURE IN AMERICA, AND THE LEGENDS OF THE NORTHERN COASTS.
SAMUEL DE CHAMPLAIN.
EARLY FRENCH ADVENTURE IN NORTH AMERICA.
When America was first made known to Europe, the part assumed by France on the borders of that new world was peculiar, and is little recognized. While the Spaniard roamed sea and land, burning for achievement, red-hot with bigotry and avarice, and while England, with soberer steps and a less dazzling result, followed in the path of discovery and gold-hunting, it was from France that those barbarous shores first learned to serve the ends of peaceful commercial industry.
A French writer, however, advances a more ambitious claim. In the year 1488, four years before the first voyage of Columbus, America, he maintains, was found by Frenchmen. Cousin, a navigator of Dieppe, being at sea off the African coast, was forced westward, it is said, by winds and currents to within sight of an unknown shore, where he presently descried the mouth of a great river. On board his ship was one Pinzon, whose conduct became so mutinous that, on his return to Dieppe, Cousin made complaint to the magistracy, who thereupon dismissed the offender from the maritime service of the town. Pinzon went to Spain, became known to Columbus, told him the discovery, and joined him on his voyage of 1492.
To leave this cloudland of tradition, and approach the confines of recorded history. The Normans, offspring of an ancestry of conquerors,—the Bretons, that stubborn, hardy, unchanging race, who, among Druid monuments changeless as themselves, still cling with Celtic obstinacy to the thoughts and habits of the past,—the Basques, that primeval people, older than history,—all frequented from a very early date the cod-banks of Newfoundland. There is some reason to believe that this fishery existed before the voyage of Cabot, in 1497; there is strong evidence that it began as early as the year 1504; and it is well established that, in 1517, fifty Castilian, French, and Portuguese vessels were engaged in it at once; while in 1527, on the third of August, eleven sail of Norman, one of Breton, and two of Portuguese fishermen were to be found in the Bay of St. John.
From this time forth, the Newfoundland fishery was never abandoned. French, English, Spanish, and Portuguese made resort to the Banks, always jealous, often quarrelling, but still drawing up treasure from those exhaustless mines, and bearing home bountiful provision against the season of Lent.
On this dim verge of the known world there were other perils than those of the waves. The rocks and shores of those sequestered seas had, so thought the voyagers, other tenants than the seal, the walrus, and the screaming sea-fowl, the bears which stole away their fish before their eyes, and the wild natives dressed in seal-skins. Griffius—so ran the story—infested the mountains of Labrador. Two islands, north of Newfoundland, were given over to the fiends from whom they derived their name, the Isles of Demons. An old map pictures their occupants at length,—devils rampant, with wings, horns, and tail. The passing voyager heard the din of their infernal orgies, and woe to the sailor or the fisherman who ventured alone into the haunted woods. "True it is," writes the old cosmographer Thevet, "and I myself have heard it, not from one, but from a great number of the sailors and pilots with whom I have made many voyages, that, when they passed this way, they heard in the air, on the tops and about the masts, a great clamor of men's voices, confused and inarticulate, such as you may hear from the crowd at a fair or market-place whereupon they well knew that the Isle of Demons was not far off." And he adds, that he himself, when among the Indians, had seen them so tormented by these infernal persecutors, that they would fall into his arms for relief; on which, repeating a passage of the Gospel of St. John, he had driven the imps of darkness to a speedy exodus. They are comely to look upon, he further tells us; yet, by reason of their malice, that island is of late abandoned, and all who dwelt there have fled for refuge to the main.
While French fishermen plied their trade along these gloomy coasts, the French government spent it's energies on a different field. The vitality of the kingdom was wasted in Italian wars. Milan and Naples offered a more tempting prize than the wilds of Baccalaos. Eager for glory and for plunder, a swarm of restless nobles followed their knight-errant King, the would-be paladin, who, misshapen in body and fantastic in mind, had yet the power to raise a storm which the lapse of generations could not quell. Under Charles the Eighth and his successor, war and intrigue ruled the day; and in the whirl of Italian politics there was no leisure to think of a new world.
Yet private enterprise was not quite benumbed. In 1506, one Denis of Honfleur explored the Gulf of St. Lawrence; 2 two years later, Aubert of Dieppe followed on his track; and in 1518, the Baron de Lery made an abortive attempt at settlement on Sable Island, where the cattle left by him remained and multiplied.
The crown passed at length to Francis of Angouleme. There were in his nature seeds of nobleness,—seeds destined to bear little fruit. Chivalry and honor were always on his lips; but Francis the First, a forsworn gentleman, a despotic king, vainglorious, selfish, sunk in debaucheries, was but the type of an era which retained the forms of the Middle Age without its soul, and added to a still prevailing barbarism the pestilential vices which hung fog-like around the dawn of civilization. Yet he esteemed arts and letters, and, still more, coveted the eclat which they could give. The light which was beginning to pierce the feudal darkness gathered its rays around his throne. Italy was rewarding the robbers who preyed on her with the treasures of her knowledge and her culture; and Italian genius, of whatever stamp, found ready patronage at the hands of Francis. Among artists, philosophers, and men of letters enrolled in his service stands the humbler name of a Florentine navigator, John Verrazzano.
He was born of an ancient family, which could boast names eminent in Florentine history, and of which the last survivor died in 1819. He has been called a pirate, and he was such in the same sense in which Drake, Hawkins, and other valiant sea-rovers of his own and later times, merited the name; that is to say, he would plunder and kill a Spaniard on the high seas without waiting for a declaration of war.
The wealth of the Indies was pouring into the coffers of Charles the Fifth, and the exploits of Cortes had given new lustre to his crown. Francis the First begrudged his hated rival the glories and profits of the New World. He would fain have his share of the prize; and Verrazzano, with four ships, was despatched to seek out a passage westward to the rich kingdom of Cathay.
Some doubt has of late been cast on the reality of this voyage of Verrazzano, and evidence, mainly negative in kind, has been adduced to prove the story of it a fabrication; but the difficulties of incredulity appear greater than those of belief, and no ordinary degree of scepticism is required to reject the evidence that the narrative is essentially true.
Towards the end of the year 1523, his four ships sailed from Dieppe; but a storm fell upon him, and, with two of the vessels, he ran back in distress to a port of Brittany. What became of the other two does not appear. Neither is it clear why, after a preliminary cruise against the Spaniards, he pursued his voyage with one vessel alone, a caravel called the "Dauphine." With her he made for Madeira, and, on the seventeenth of January, 1524, set sail from a barren islet in its neighborhood, and bore away for the unknown world. In forty-nine days they neared a low shore, not far from the site of Wilmington in North Carolina, "a newe land," exclaims the voyager, "never before seen of any man, either auncient or moderne." Verrazzano steered southward in search of a harbor, and, finding none, turned northward again. Presently he sent a boat ashore. The inhabitants, who had fled at first, soon came down to the strand in wonder and admiration, pointing out a landing-place, and making gestures of friendship. "These people," says Verrazzano, "goe altogether naked, except only certain skinnes of beastes like unto marterns [martens], which they fasten onto a narrowe girdle made of grasse. They are of colour russet, and not much unlike the Saracens, their hayre blacke, thicke, and not very long, which they tye togeather in a knot behinde, and weare it like a taile."
He describes the shore as consisting of small low hillocks of fine sand, intersected by creeks and inlets, and beyond these a country "full of Palme [pine?] trees, Bay trees, and high Cypresse trees, and many other sortes of trees, vnknowne in Europe, which yeeld most sweete sanours, farre from the shore." Still advancing northward, Verrazzano sent a boat for a supply of water. The surf ran high, and the crew could not land; but an adventurous young sailor jumped overboard and swam shoreward with a gift of beads and trinkets for the Indians, who stood watching him. His heart failed as he drew near; he flung his gift among them, turned, and struck out for the boat. The surf dashed him back, flinging him with violence on the beach among the recipients of his bounty, who seized him by the arms and legs, and, while he called lustily for aid, answered him with outcries designed to allay his terrors. Next they kindled a great fire,—doubtless to roast and devour him before the eyes of his comrades, gazing in horror from their boat. On the contrary, they carefully warmed him, and were trying to dry his clothes, when, recovering from his bewilderment, he betrayed a strong desire to escape to his friends; whereupon, "with great love, clapping him fast about, with many embracings," they led him to the shore, and stood watching till he had reached the boat.
It only remained to requite this kindness, and an opportunity soon occurred; for, coasting the shores of Virginia or Maryland, a party went on shore and found an old woman, a young girl, and several children, hiding with great terror in the grass. Having, by various blandishments, gained their confidence, they carried off one of the children as a curiosity, and, since the girl was comely, would fain have taken her also, but desisted by reason of her continual screaming.
Verrazzano's next resting-place was the Bay of New York. Rowing up in his boat through the Narrows, under the steep heights of Staten Island, he saw the harbor within dotted with canoes of the feathered natives, coming from the shore to welcome him. But what most engaged the eyes of the white men were the fancied signs of mineral wealth in the neighboring hills.
Following the shores of Long Island, they came to an island, which may have been Block Island, and thence to a harbor, which was probably that of Newport. Here they stayed fifteen days, most courteously received by the inhabitants. Among others appeared two chiefs, gorgeously arrayed in painted deer-skins,—kings, as Verrazzano calls them, with attendant gentlemen; while a party of squaws in a canoe, kept by their jealous lords at a safe distance from the caravel, figure in the narrative as the queen and her maids. The Indian wardrobe had been taxed to its utmost to do the strangers honor,—copper bracelets, lynx-skins, raccoon-skins, and faces bedaubed with gaudy colors.
Again they spread their sails, and on the fifth of May bade farewell to the primitive hospitalities of Newport, steered along the rugged coasts of New England, and surveyed, ill pleased, the surf-beaten rocks, the pine-tree and the fir, the shadows and the gloom of mighty forests. Here man and nature alike were savage and repellent. Perhaps some plundering straggler from the fishing-banks, some manstealer like the Portuguese Cortereal, or some kidnapper of children and ravisher of squaws like themselves, had warned the denizens of the woods to beware of the worshippers of Christ. Their only intercourse was in the way of trade. From the brink of the rocks which overhung the sea the Indians would let down a cord to the boat below, demand fish-hooks, knives, and steel, in barter for their furs, and, their bargain made, salute the voyagers with unseemly gestures of derision and scorn. The French once ventured ashore; but a war-whoop and a shower of arrows sent them back to their boats.
Verrazzano coasted the seaboard of Maine, and sailed northward as far as Newfoundland, whence, provisions failing, he steered for France. He had not found a passage to Cathay, but he had explored the American coast from the thirty-fourth degree to the fiftieth, and at various points had penetrated several leagues into the country. On the eighth of July, he wrote from Dieppe to the King the earliest description known to exist of the shores of the United States.
Great was the joy that hailed his arrival, and great were the hopes of emolument and wealth from the new-found shores. The merchants of Lyons were in a flush of expectation. For himself, he was earnest to return, plant a colony, and bring the heathen tribes within the pale of the Church. But the time was inauspicious. The year of his voyage was to France a year of disasters,—defeat in Italy, the loss of Milan, the death of the heroic Bayard; and, while Verrazzano was writing his narrative at Dieppe, the traitor Bourbon was invading Provence. Preparation, too, was soon on foot for the expedition which, a few months later, ended in the captivity of Francis on the field of Pavia. Without a king, without an army, without money, convulsed within, and threatened from without, France after that humiliation was in no condition to renew her Transatlantic enterprise.
Henceforth few traces remain of the fortunes of Verrazzano. Ramusio affirms, that, on another voyage, he was killed and eaten by savages, in sight of his followers; and a late writer hazards the conjecture that this voyage, if made at all, was made in the service of Henry the Eighth of England. But a Spanish writer affirms that, in 1527, he was hanged at Puerto del Pico as a pirate, and this assertion is fully confirmed by authentic documents recently brought to light.
The fickle-minded King, always ardent at the outset of an enterprise and always flagging before its close, divided, moreover, between the smiles of his mistresses and the assaults of his enemies, might probably have dismissed the New World from his thoughts. But among the favorites of his youth was a high-spirited young noble, Philippe de BrionChabot, the partner of his joustings and tennis-playing, his gaming and gallantries. He still stood high in the royal favor, and, after the treacherous escape of Francis from captivity, held the office of Admiral of France. When the kingdom had rallied in some measure from its calamnities, he conceived the purpose of following up the path which Verrazzano had opened.
The ancient town of St. Malo—thrust out like a buttress into the sea, strange and grim of aspect, breathing war front its walls and battlements of ragged stone, a stronghold of privateers, the home of a race whose intractable and defiant independence neither time nor change has subdued—has been for centuries a nursery of hardy mariners. Among the earliest and most eminent on its list stands the name of Jacques Cartier. His portrait hangs in the town-hall of St. Malo,—bold, keen features bespeaking a spirit not apt to quail before the wrath of man or of the elements. In him Chabot found a fit agent of his design, if, indeed, its suggestion is not due to the Breton navigator.
Sailing from St. Malo on the twentieth of April, 1534, Cartier steered for Newfoundland, passed through the Straits of Belle Isle, entered the Gulf of Chaleurs, planted a cross at Gaspe, and, never doubting that he was on the high road to Cathay, advanced up the St. Lawrence till he saw the shores of Anticosti. But autumnal storms were gathering. The voyagers took counsel together, turned their prows eastward, and bore away for France, carrying thither, as a sample of the natural products of the New World, two young Indians, lured into their clutches by an act of villanous treachery. The voyage was a mere reconnoissance.
The spirit of discovery was awakened. A passage to India could be found, and a new France built up beyond the Atlantic. Mingled with such views of interest and ambition was another motive scarcely less potent. The heresy of Luther was convulsing Germany, and the deeper heresy of Calvin infecting France. Devout Catholics, kindling with redoubled zeal, would fain requite the Church for her losses in the Old World by winning to her fold the infidels of the New. But, in pursuing an end at once so pious and so politic, Francis the First was setting at naught the supreme Pontiff himself, since, by the preposterous bull of Alexander the Sixth, all America had been given to the Spaniards.
In October, 1534, Cartier received from Chabot another commission, and, in spite of secret but bitter opposition from jealous traders of St. Malo, he prepared for a second voyage. Three vessels, the largest not above a hundred and twenty tons, were placed at his disposal, and Claude de Pontbriand, Charles de la Pommeraye, and other gentlemen of birth, enrolled themselves for the adventure. On the sixteenth of May, 1535, officers and sailors assembled in the cathedral of St. Malo, where, after confession and mass, they received the parting blessing of the bishop. Three days later they set sail. The dingy walls of the rude old seaport, and the white rocks that line the neighboring shores of Brittany, faded from their sight, and soon they were tossing in a furious tempest. The scattered ships escaped the danger, and, reuniting at the Straits of Belle Isle, steered westward along the coast of Labrador, till they reached a small bay opposite the island of Anticosti. Cartier called it the Bay of St. Lawrence,—a name afterwards extended to the entire gulf, and to the great river above.
To ascend this great river, and tempt the hazards of its intricate navigation with no better pilots than the two young Indians kidnapped the year before, was a venture of no light risk. But skill or fortune prevailed; and, on the first of September, the voyagers reached in safety the gorge of the gloomy Saguenay, with its towering cliffs and sullen depth of waters. Passing the Isle aux Coudres, and the lofty promontory of Cape Tourmente, they came to anchor in a quiet channel between the northern shore and the margin of a richly wooded island, where the trees were so thickly hung with grapes that Cartier named it the Island of Bacchus.
Indians came swarming from the shores, paddled their canoes about the ships, and clambered to the decks to gaze in bewilderment at the novel scene, and listen to the story of their travelled countrymen, marvellous in their ears as a visit to another planet. Cartier received them kindly, listened to the long harangue of the great chief Donnacona, regaled him with bread and wine; and, when relieved at length of his guests, set forth in a boat to explore the river above.
As he drew near the opening of the channel, the Hochelaga again spread before him the broad expanse of its waters. A mighty promontory, rugged and bare, thrust its scarped front into the surging current. Here, clothed in the majesty of solitude, breathing the stern poetry of the wilderness, rose the cliffs now rich with heroic memories, where the fiery Count Frontenac cast defiance at his foes, where Wolfe, Montcalm, and Montgomery fell. As yet, all was a nameless barbarism, and a cluster of wigwams held the site of the rock-built city of Quebec. Its name was Stadacone, and it owned the sway of the royal Donnacona.
Cartier set out to visit this greasy potentate; ascended the river St. Charles, by him called the St. Croix, landed, crossed the meadows, climbed the rocks, threaded the forest, and emerged upon a squalid hamlet of bark cabins. When, having satisfied their curiosity, he and his party were rowing for the ships, a friendly interruption met them at the mouth of the St. Charles. An old chief harangued them from the bank, men, boys, and children screeched welcome from the meadow, and a troop of hilarious squaws danced knee-deep in the water. The gift of a few strings of beads completed their delight and redoubled their agility; and, from the distance of a mile, their shrill songs of jubilation still reached the ears of the receding Frenchmen.
The hamlet of Stadacone, with its king, Donnacona, and its naked lords and princes, was not the metropolis of this forest state, since a town far greater—so the Indians averred—stood by the brink of the river, many days' journey above. It was called Hochelaga, and the great river itself, with a wide reach of adjacent country, had borrowed its name. Thither, with his two young Indians as guides, Cartier resolved to go; but misgivings seized the guides as the time drew near, while Donnacona and his tribesmen, jealous of the plan, set themselves to thwart it. The Breton captain turned a deaf ear to their dissuasions; on which, failing to touch his reason, they appealed to his fears.
One morning, as the ships still lay at anchor, the French beheld three Indian devils descending in a canoe towards them, dressed in black and white dog-skins, with faces black as ink, and horns long as a man's arm. Thus arrayed, they drifted by, while the principal fiend, with fixed eyes, as of one piercing the secrets of futurity, uttered in a loud voice a long harangue. Then they paddled for the shore; and no sooner did they reach it than each fell flat like a dead man in the bottom of the canoe. Aid, however, was at hand; for Donnacona and his tribesmen, rushing pell-mell from the adjacent woods, raised the swooning masqueraders, and, with shrill clamors, bore them in their arms within the sheltering thickets. Here, for a full half-hour, the French could hear them haranguing in solemn conclave. Then the two young Indians whom Cartier had brought back from France came out of the bushes, enacting a pantomime of amazement and terror, clasping their hands, and calling on Christ and the Virgin; whereupon Cartier, shouting from the vessel, asked what was the matter. They replied, that the god Coudonagny had sent to warn the French against all attempts to ascend the great river, since, should they persist, snows, tempests, and drifting ice would requite their rashness with inevitable ruin. The French replied that Coudonagny was a fool; that he could not hurt those who believed in Christ; and that they might tell this to his three messengers. The assembled Indians, with little reverence for their deity, pretended great contentment at this assurance, and danced for joy along the beach.
Cartier now made ready to depart. And, first, he caused the two larger vessels to be towed for safe harborage within the mouth of the St. Charles. With the smallest, a galleon of forty tons, and two open boats, carrying in all fifty sailors, besides Pontbriand, La Pommeraye, and other gentlemen, he set out for Hochelaga.
Slowly gliding on their way by walls of verdure brightened in the autumnal sun, they saw forests festooned with grape-vines, and waters alive with wild-fowl; they heard the song of the blackbird, the thrush, and, as they fondly thought, the nightingale. The galleon grounded; they left her, and, advancing with the boats alone, on the second of October neared the goal of their hopes, the mysterious Hochelaga.
Just below where now are seen the quays and storehouses of Montreal, a thousand Indians thronged the shore, wild with delight, dancing, singing, crowding about the strangers, and showering into the boats their gifts of fish and maize; and, as it grew dark, fires lighted up the night, while, far and near, the French could see the excited savages leaping and rejoicing by the blaze.
At dawn of day, marshalled and accoutred, they marched for Hochelaga. An Indian path led them through the forest which covered the site of Montreal. The morning air was chill and sharp, the leaves were changing hue, and beneath the oaks the ground was thickly strewn with acorns. They soon met an Indian chief with a party of tribesmen, or, as the old narrative has it, "one of the principal lords of the said city," attended with a numerous retinue. Greeting them after the concise courtesy of the forest, he led them to a fire kindled by the side of the path for their comfort and refreshment, seated them on the ground, and made them a long harangue, receiving in requital of his eloquence two hatchets, two knives, and a crucifix, the last of which he was invited to kiss. This done, they resumed their march, and presently came upon open fields, covered far and near with the ripened maize, its leaves rustling, and its yellow grains gleaming between the parting husks. Before them, wrapped in forests painted by the early frosts, rose the ridgy back of the Mountain of Montreal, and below, encompassed with its corn-fields, lay the Indian town. Nothing was visible but its encircling palisades. They were of trunks of trees, set in a triple row. The outer and inner ranges inclined till they met and crossed near the summit, while the upright row between them, aided by transverse braces, gave to the whole an abundant strength. Within were galleries for the defenders, rude ladders to mount them, and magazines of stones to throw down on the heads of assailants. It was a mode of fortification practised by all the tribes speaking dialects of the Iroquois.
The voyagers entered the narrow portal. Within, they saw some fifty of those large oblong dwellings so familiar in after years to the eyes of the Jesuit apostles in Iroquois and Huron forests. They were about fifty yards in length, and twelve or fifteen wide, framed of sapling poles closely covered with sheets of bark, and each containing several fires and several families. In the midst of the town was an open area, or public square, a stone's throw in width. Here Cartier and his followers stopped, while the surrounding houses of bark disgorged their inmates,—swarms of children, and young women and old, their infants in their arms. They crowded about the visitors, crying for delight, touching their beards, feeling their faces, and holding up the screeching infants to be touched in turn. The marvellous visitors, strange in hue, strange in attire, with moustached lip and bearded chin, with arquebuse, halberd, helmet, and cuirass, seemed rather demigods than men.
Due time having been allowed for this exuberance of feminine rapture, the warriors interposed, banished the women and children to a distance, and squatted on the ground around the French, row within row of swarthy forms and eager faces, "as if," says Cartier, "we were going to act a play." Then appeared a troop of women, each bringing a mat, with which they carpeted the bare earth for the behoof of their guests. The latter being seated, the chief of the nation was borne before them on a deerskin by a number of his tribesmen, a bedridden old savage, paralyzed and helpless, squalid as the rest in his attire, and distinguished only by a red fillet, inwrought with the dyed quills of the Canada porcupine, encircling his lank black hair. They placed him on the ground at Cartier's feet and made signs of welcome for him, while he pointed feebly to his powerless limbs, and implored the healing touch from the hand of the French chief. Cartier complied, and received in acknowledgment the red fillet of his grateful patient. Then from surrounding dwellings appeared a woeful throng, the sick, the lame, the blind, the maimed, the decrepit, brought or led forth and placed on the earth before the perplexed commander, "as if," he says, "a god had come down to cure them." His skill in medicine being far behind the emergency, he pronounced over his petitioners a portion of the Gospel of St. John, made the sign of the cross, and uttered a prayer, not for their bodies only, but for their miserable souls. Next he read the passion of the Saviour, to which, though comprehending not a word, his audience listened with grave attention. Then came a distribution of presents. The squaws and children were recalled, and, with the warriors, placed in separate groups. Knives and hatchets were given to the men, and beads to the women, while pewter rings and images of the Agnus Dei were flung among the troop of children, whence ensued a vigorous scramble in the square of Hochelaga. Now the French trumpeters pressed their trumpets to their lips, and blew a blast that filled the air with warlike din and the hearts of the hearers with amazement and delight. Bidding their hosts farewells the visitors formed their ranks and defiled through the gate once more, despite the efforts of a crowd of women, who, with clamorous hospitality, beset them with gifts of fish, beans, corn, and other viands of uninviting aspect, which the Frenchmen courteously declined.
A troop of Indians followed, and guided them to the top of the neighboring mountain. Cartier called it Mont Royal, Montreal; and hence the name of the busy city which now holds the site of the vanished Iloclielaga. Stadacone and Hochelaga, Quebec and Montreal, in the sixteenth century as in the nineteenth, were the centres of Canadian population.
From the summit, that noble prospect met his eye which at this day is the delight of tourists, but strangely changed, since, first of white men, the Breton voyager gazed upon it. Tower and dome and spire, congregated roofs, white sail, and gliding steamer, animate its vast expanse with varied life. Cartier saw a different scene. East, west, and south, the mantling forest was over all, and the broad blue ribbon of the great river glistened amid a realm of verdure. Beyond, to the bounds of Mexico, stretched a leafy desert, and the vast hive of industry, the mighty battle-ground of later centuries, lay sunk in savage torpor, wrapped in illimitable woods.
The French re-embarked, bade farewell to Hochelaga, retraced their lonely course down the St. Lawrence, and reached Stadacone in safety. On the bank of the St. Charles, their companions had built in their absence a fort of palisades, and the ships, hauled up the little stream, lay moored before it. Here the self-exiled company were soon besieged by the rigors of the Canadian winter. The rocks, the shores, the pine-trees, the solid floor of the frozen river, all alike were blanketed in snow beneath the keen cold rays of the dazzling sun. The drifts rose above the sides of their ships; masts, spars, and cordage were thick with glittering incrustations and sparkling rows of icicles; a frosty armor, four inches thick, encased the bulwarks. Yet, in the bitterest weather, the neighboring Indians, "hardy," says the journal, "as so many beasts," came daily to the fort, wading, half naked, waist-deep through the snow. At length, their friendship began to abate; their visits grew less frequent, and during December had wholly ceased, when a calamity fell upon the French.
A malignant scurvy broke out among them. Man after man went down before the hideous disease, till twenty-five were dead, and only three or four were left in health. The sound were too few to attend the sick, and the wretched sufferers lay in helpless despair, dreaming of the sun and the vines of France. The ground, hard as flint, defied their feeble efforts, and, unable to bury their dead, they hid them in snow-drifts. Cartier appealed to the saints; but they turned a deaf ear. Then he nailed against a tree an image of the Virgin, and on a Sunday summoned forth his woe-begone followers, who, haggard, reeling, bloated with their maladies, moved in procession to the spot, and, kneeling in the snow, sang litanies and psalms of David. That day died Philippe Rougemont, of Amboise, aged twenty-two years. The Holy Virgin deigned no other response.
There was fear that the Indians, learning their misery, might finish the work that scurvy had begun. None of them, therefore, were allowed to approach the fort; and when a party of savages lingered within hearing, Cartier forced his invalid garrison to beat with sticks and stones against the walls, that their dangerous neighbors, deluded by the clatter, might think them engaged in hard labor. These objects of their fear proved, however, the instruments of their salvation. Cartier, walking one day near the river, met an Indian, who not long before had been prostrate, like many of his fellows, with the scurvy, but who was now, to all appearance, in high health and spirits. What agency had wrought this marvellous recovery? According to the Indian, it was a certain evergreen, called by him ameda, a decoction of the leaves of which was sovereign against the disease. The experiment was tried. The sick men drank copiously of the healing draught,—so copiously indeed that in six days they drank a tree as large as a French oak. Thus vigorously assailed, the distemper relaxed its hold, and health and hope began to revisit the hapless company.
When this winter of misery had worn away, and the ships were thawed from their icy fetters, Cartier prepared to return. He had made notable discoveries; but these were as nothing to the tales of wonder that had reached his ear,—of a land of gold and rubies, of a nation white like the French, of men who lived without food, and of others to whom Nature had granted but one leg. Should he stake his credit on these marvels? It were better that they who had recounted them to him should, with their own lips, recount them also to the King, and to this end he resolved that Donnacona and his chiefs should go with him to court. He lured them therefore to the fort, and led them into an ambuscade of sailors, who, seizing the astonished guests, hurried them on board the ships. Having accomplished this treachery, the voyagers proceeded to plant the emblem of Christianity. The cross was raised, the fleur-de-lis planted near it, and, spreading their sails, they steered for home. It was the sixteenth of July, 1536, when Cartier again cast anchor under the walls of St. Malo.
A rigorous climate, a savage people, a fatal disease, and a soil barren of gold were the allurements of New France. Nor were the times auspicious for a renewal of the enterprise. Charles the Fifth, flushed with his African triumphs, challenged the Most Christian King to single combat. The war flamed forth with renewed fury, and ten years elapsed before a hollow truce varnished the hate of the royal rivals with a thin pretence of courtesy. Peace returned; but Francis the First was sinking to his ignominious grave, under the scourge of his favorite goddess, and Chabot, patron of the former voyages, was in disgrace.
Meanwhile the ominous adventure of New France had found a champion in the person of Jean Francois de la Roque, Sieur de Roberval, a nobleman of Picardy. Though a man of high account in his own province, his past honors paled before the splendor of the titles said to have been now conferred on him, Lord of Norembega, Viceroy and Lieutenant-General in Canada, Hochelaga, Saguenay, Newfoundland, Belle Isle, Carpunt, Labrador, the Great Bay, and Baccalaos. To this windy gift of ink and parchment was added a solid grant from the royal treasury, with which five vessels were procured and equipped; and to Cartier was given the post of Captain-General. "We have resolved," says Francis, "to send him again to the lands of Canada and Hochelaga, which form the extremity of Asia towards the west." His commission declares the objects of the enterprise to be discovery, settlement, and the conversion of the Indians, who are described as "men without knowledge of God or use of reason,"—a pious design, held doubtless in full sincerity by the royal profligate, now, in his decline, a fervent champion of the Faith and a strenuous tormentor of heretics. The machinery of conversion was of a character somewhat questionable, since Cartier and Roberval were empowered to ransack the prisons for thieves, robbers, and other malefactors, to complete their crews and strengthen the colony. "Whereas," says the King, "we have undertaken this voyage for the honor of God our Creator, desiring with all our heart to do that which shall be agreeable to Him, it is our will to perform a compassionate and meritorious work towards criminals and malefactors, to the end that they may acknowledge the Creator, return thanks to Him, and mend their lives. Therefore we have resolved to cause to be delivered to our aforesaid lieutenant (Roberval), such and so many of the aforesaid criminals and malefactors detained in our prisons as may seem to him useful and necessary to be carried to the aforesaid countries." Of the expected profits of the voyage the adventurers were to have one third and the King another, while the remainder was to be reserved towards defraying expenses.
With respect to Donnacona and his tribesmen, basely kidnapped at Stadacone, their souls had been better cared for than their bodies; for, having been duly baptized, they all died within a year or two, to the great detriment, as it proved, of the expedition.
Meanwhile, from beyond the Pyrenees, the Most Catholic King, with alarmed and jealous eye, watched the preparations of his Most Christian enemy. America, in his eyes, was one vast province of Spain, to be vigilantly guarded against the intruding foreigner. To what end were men mustered, and ships fitted out in the Breton seaports? Was it for colonization, and if so, where? Was it in Southern Florida, or on the frozen shores of Baccalaos, of which Breton cod-fishers claimed the discovery? Or would the French build forts on the Bahamas, whence they could waylay the gold ships in the Bahama Channel? Or was the expedition destined against the Spanish settlements of the islands or the Main? Reinforcements were despatched in haste, and a spy was sent to France, who, passing from port to port, Quimper, St. Malo, Brest, Morlaix, came back freighted with exaggerated tales of preparation. The Council of the Indies was called. "The French are bound for Baccalaos,"—such was the substance of their report; "your Majesty will do well to send two caravels to watch their movements, and a force to take possession of the said country. And since there is no other money to pay for it, the gold from Peru, now at Panama, might be used to that end." The Cardinal of Seville thought lightly of the danger, and prophesied that the French would reap nothing from their enterprise but disappointment and loss. The King of Portugal, sole acknowledged partner with Spain in the ownership of the New World, was invited by the Spanish ambassador to take part in an expedition against the encroaching French. "They can do no harm at Baccalaos," was the cold reply; "and so," adds the indignant ambassador, "this King would say if they should come and take him here at Lisbon; such is the softness they show here on the one hand, while, on the other, they wish to give law to the whole world."
The five ships, occasions of this turmoil and alarm, had lain at St. Malo waiting for cannon and munitions from Normandy and Champagne. They waited in vain, and as the King's orders were stringent against delay, it was resolved that Cartier should sail at once, leaving Roberval to follow with additional ships when the expected supplies arrived.
On the twenty-third of May, 1541, the Breton captain again spread his canvas for New France, and, passing in safety the tempestuous Atlantic, the fog-banks of Newfoundland, the island rocks clouded with screaming sea-fowl, and the forests breathing piny odors from the shore, cast anchor again beneath the cliffs of Quebec. Canoes came out from shore filled with feathered savages inquiring for their kidnapped chiefs. "Donnacona," replied Cartier, "is dead;" but he added the politic falsehood, that the others had married in France, and lived in state, like great lords. The Indians pretended to be satisfied; but it was soon apparent that they looked askance on the perfidious strangers.
Cartier pursued his course, sailed three leagues and a half up the St. Lawrence, and anchored off the mouth of the River of Cap Rouge. It was late in August, and the leafy landscape sweltered in the sun. The Frenchmen landed, picked up quartz crystals on the shore and thought them diamonds, climbed the steep promontory, drank at the spring near the top, looked abroad on the wooded slopes beyond the little river, waded through the tall grass of the meadow, found a quarry of slate, and gathered scales of a yellow mineral which glistened like gold, then returned to their boats, crossed to the south shore of the St. Lawrence, and, languid with the heat, rested in the shade of forests laced with an entanglement of grape-vines.
Now their task began, and while some cleared off the woods and sowed turnip-seed, others cut a zigzag road up the height, and others built two forts, one at the summit, and one on the shore below. The forts finished, the Vicomte de Beaupre took command, while Cartier went with two boats to explore the rapids above Hochelaga. When at length he returned, the autumn was far advanced; and with the gloom of a Canadian November came distrust, foreboding, and homesickness. Roberval had not appeared; the Indians kept jealously aloof; the motley colony was sullen as the dull, raw air around it. There was disgust and ire at Charlesbourg-Royal, for so the place was called.