As they were paddling along one day, a large flock of turkeys was seen feeding near the river. Cautiously Father Hennepin paddled near them, and one of his boatmen, taking careful aim, struck down three with a single shot. The savages, who had watched the proceeding with intense interest, were amazed. Many of them, perhaps all, had never seen a gun discharged before, though the knowledge of the arrival of the French, and the wonderful power of their guns, had been widely spread through the tribes. The canoes were all paddled to the shore. With the deepest interest they examined the dead turkeys, and reexamined the musket. The unseen bolt had struck them down at twice the distance their arrows would reach. An arrow could have killed but one. The bullet had killed three. "Manza ouacangege," exclaimed one of the chiefs, in astonishment, which signified, The iron has understanding.
The situation of the Frenchmen was very peculiar, as they hardly knew whether the savages regarded them as prisoners or not. Father Hennepin was still pursuing his original design of exploring the sources of the Mississippi. If the Indians were truly friendly, their companionship was an element of safety, and was to be desired. In order to test the question whether he was his own master, and could follow his own will, he suggested to the chief his design of turning back and following down the Mississippi to its mouth. He might thus find a short passage to the Indies, though he admits that he thought it more probable that it emptied into the Gulf of Mexico, than into the Red Sea. The chiefs however, promptly signified that they could not consent to be thus deprived of the pleasure of his company.
Though the Indians paddled all day long, with great vigor, against the current, not stopping even to eat until their night's encampment, they never seemed at all fatigued. There was an ample supply of game for food. Having reared their frail shelters, if it rained, kindled their fires and cooked their suppers, they invariably had a war dance, each smoking in turn the war calumet. This was distinguished from the peace calumet by different colored feathers. Their whoops and yells were hideous. And there was something indescribably mournful in the wailings of those who had lost relatives during the war.
Fortunately for the French, all their expeditions had thus far been conducted under the control of religious men. Not an Indian had been killed or wronged by them. They had proved only great benefactors to the Indians. Had a solitary Indian been killed by any Frenchmen, these captives, in revenge, would have been put to death with tortures of the most diabolical cruelty. Had any Miami warriors fallen into the hands of these savages, awful would have been their doom. Father Hennepin and his companions could not but shudder as they listened to the wailing yells of those who mourned their dead, and witnessed the fiend-like expression of their countenances and gestures.
With the earliest dawn, after the night's encampment, some one gave a whoop, which instantly brought every man to his feet. No time was lost in washing or dressing. They generally, as a measure of protection against their enemies, endeavored to encamp upon the point of an island. While some went out to hunt for game, others replenished the fires, and cooked the breakfast, while still others sought the neighboring eminences to discover whether there were any smoke or other indications of a lurking foe. They then entered their birch canoes, which they did not leave until the close of the afternoon, when they landed for another night's encampment.
Thus for nineteen days they continued ascending the river. Father Hennepin estimated that they had made between three and four hundred miles.
One afternoon, as the thirty canoes were being paddled up the stream in a long line, a large bear was seen swimming across the river, a little above them. The canoes in advance promptly surrounded him, and he was speedily killed. Upon dragging him ashore he proved to be a monster in size, and very fat. It so happened that they were opposite a very beautiful prairie. The head chief, whose name was Aguipaguetin, ordered all the canoes ashore for a grand feast. The warriors decorated themselves with paint and feathers, and after partaking of what they considered a sumptuous feast, commenced the wild orgies of the war dance, with hideous yellings and contortions. They all leaped about on the greensward of the prairie, with their arms akimbo, and violently beating the ground with their feet, in measured tread.
The wailing for the dead was blended with their discordant cries. One of the chiefs who was very loud in his demonstrations of grief for his lost son, and who had previously urged putting the Frenchmen to death, frequently in the course of the frantic dance approached the Frenchmen, and placing his hands on each one of their heads, uttered the most piercing dirge-like cries. Father Hennepin could not understand the significance of this strange ceremony, but he had many fears that it indicated violence to come.
Hoping to conciliate the chief, he made him a very valuable present of knives, axes, beads, and tobacco in honor of the son whose loss he so deeply deplored. By these frequent presents, the small store of goods which the canoe could hold was rapidly disappearing. They were then on the borders of a wide expansion of the Mississippi resembling a lake. Father Hennepin gave it the name of Pepin, or the Lake of Tears, from the lugubrious cries of the chieftain in the funereal dance. The next day, or day after, quite a large herd of buffaloes was seen swimming across the river. The enormous creatures, thus taken at disadvantage, were easily killed. Thirty or forty, pierced by arrows and javelins, were soon dragged ashore. The savages had another feast, from the tongues and other most delicate morsels of the animal. All the remainder was left to putrefy, or be devoured by wild beasts. The frail canoes were so crowded that there was no room to store away any game. Neither was there need to do so, for every day brought almost invariably a full supply. It required hunger, and an acquired appetite for such food, to make it palatable; for it was eaten without bread or salt, or any other seasoning.
Some days the Indians seemed very good natured. Again, with no known cause, they were morose and threatening. Even the chief who had protected them was as capricious in his conduct as a child. He would at times feed them abundantly, minister to all their wants, and caress them. Again he would allow them, in a stormy night, to be driven from his cabin, to find such shelter as they could. Usually some Indians would be placed in their canoe to help them paddle. Again they would be left to struggle unaided against the rushing flood. The Frenchmen could not speak a word of the language of their captors, or understand a word spoken to them. It is probable that they often misunderstood the significance of signs. But there was no difficulty in perceiving the difference between smiles and frowns, between blessings and curses.
On the nineteenth day of their navigation, the Indians reached one of their villages on the river banks. It was afterwards found that this spot was about twenty-five miles below a remarkable fall in the river, to which Father Hennepin gave, in honor of his patron saint, the name of the Falls of St. Anthony. This hamlet, far away in the north, was a cold and cheerless assemblage of savage homes. The families, in the culture and comforts of life, were but slightly elevated above the brutes around them. There were several chiefs who had lost sons during the war. The captives were given one to each of three of them. Nominally, they were to be adopted in the place of the lost ones. In reality, they were slaves, to be driven farthest from the fire, to have the most scanty supply of food, in case of want, and in all things to endure the hardest fare.
Having thus distributed their captives, the savages seized their property and divided it among themselves. They probably did not consider this an act of robbery, but since the Frenchmen had been graciously received as sons of the tribe, their goods should be appropriated to the public welfare. The village near the Falls of St. Anthony was but a temporary encampment. The tribe into whose hands the captives had fallen, was called Issatis. Their principal village was still farther up the river, nearly a hundred and fifty miles in a northwesterly direction. Probably in consequence of the innumerable windings of the stream, they abandoned their canoes at the Falls, and commenced the journey on foot, traversing an Indian trail which led through forest and moor, over prairie and mountain. It was indeed a wearisome and almost fatal journey to those newly adopted into such hardships of barbarian life. In those early days of spring, and in those high latitudes, it was often bitterly cold. There were remaining snow drifts, and deeper clammy mud and pools of water to be waded, skimmed over with ice, and freezing storms of rain and sleet. They encountered many rivers and swollen brooks, which they were compelled either to swim or ford.
These streams, flowing down from unknown regions in the north, were often encumbered with large blocks of ice. There was but little game in those dismal forests, and on those sear and bleak prairies. The savages were pitiless, and would often give but a meagre portion to their adopted brethren. Father Hennepin often divested himself of his clothes, bound them upon his head, and swam across these streams. Upon reaching the shore, his limbs would be so chilled and benumbed that he could scarcely stand. The blood would trickle down his body and limbs, from wounds inflicted by the sharp edges of the ice. The trail invariably led to spots where the crossings of the swollen streams were not very wide. Several of the Indians were men of gigantic stature. Father Hennepin was a tall man, but his companions were very short, and neither of them could swim. When they came to a ford where the water was over the heads of the short men these tall Indians would carry them across on their shoulders. When all were compelled to swim they would help the unfortunate men across on pieces of drift wood.
The Indians seemed to have sinews of steel. They were alike insensible to hunger, to drenched garments, and to freezing blasts. The celerity with which they pressed on their way, astonished the Europeans. On several occasions Father Hennepin, while traversing the broad bleak prairie, was quite in despair. His trembling, tottering limbs would scarcely support his body. Once, feeling unable to take another step, he threw himself upon the ground, declaring that there he must die. The rank and withered grass of the prairie was five or six feet high. Very deliberately one of the savages set fire to the grass. It burst forth in a consuming flame. "Now," said he, "you may follow us or be burned to death."
On one occasion, when Father Hennepin had thrown himself upon the ground, in utter exhaustion, one of the chiefs of the party came to him, and pulling up a quantity of dried grass, made a soft bed for him to lie down upon. Then seating himself by his side, he took from his pocket two pieces of wood, very dry. One was a small block of cedar, with an indentation in the centre, about two thirds of an inch in diameter. The other was a round peg, five or six inches long, which fitted into the hole in the block. This block he placed upon his knee, and fitting the peg into the socket, spun it round with wonderful rapidity between his two palms. Soon smoke began to appear, then a few sparks were elicited, and then a gentle flame rose from the dust of the charred wood. He lighted his pipe, and after smoking for a moment, gave it Father Hennepin to smoke. He then put his hands affectionately on the Frenchman's head, and moaned and wept.
What did this all mean? Were the sympathies of the savage excited, in view of the sufferings of the white man? Were his tears caused to flow in anticipation of torture at the burning stake, to which he might suppose the victim to be doomed? Or was this an act of barbarian mourning over some loved one lost in battle? Father Hennepin could not interpret the deed. But he greatly feared that it indicated dreadful woes to come—sufferings, the thought of which was sufficient to agitate even a savage breast.
After a weary journey of five days, this party of forty or fifty warriors, with their captives, approached their destined village. It was far away in the northern wilderness, east of the Mississippi, which majestic stream had there dwindled into a rivulet. They were near the head waters of a river, since called the St. Francis. It was indeed a dreary and savage wild which they had penetrated, and from whose glooms the captives could not expect ever to emerge. In some way the inhabitants of the village had heard of the approach of the warriors, and quite a number of the women and children came out to meet them.
In a sort of triumphal entrance, like that of the ancient Romans, they took Auguelle, dressed him as gorgeously as they could, in Indian costume, painted his face, daubed his hair with grease, and fastened upon his head a plume of eagle's feathers, brilliantly colored. They placed a gourd in his hand, containing a number of round pebbles, which he was directed to shake for music, with the accompaniment of his voice, shouting a French song. The Frenchmen, in dreadful incertitude respecting their fate, were agreed in the conviction that it was good policy to do every thing in their power to conciliate their captors.
The warriors were much chagrined in returning from their expedition without a single scalp, without a single captive from their enemies, without having even struck a blow. It was necessary for them therefore to make as much parade as they could of their French prisoners. Yet the most ignorant Indian of them all could not but perceive that there was not much to be boasted of in a hundred and twenty warriors having picked up three peaceful canoe men, who had made no resistance, who had never done them any harm; who had come into their country as friends, making them rich presents, and who undeniably desired only to do them good.
They could not utter the scalp halloo, nor the yell announcing that they were bringing victims for the stake. But they made the forest resound with their war-whoops, and with their shouts of triumph. During the absence of the war party, the women and the old men had planted several stakes, and had gathered around their large quantities of dried grass, with which they intended to scorch and blister and consume the prisoners, whom they doubted not the victors would bring back. They were anticipating a grand gala day in dance and yell, as they witnessed the writhings of their victims and listened with delight to the shrieks which agony extorted.
Father Hennepin and his companions were appalled as they looked at these stakes and these preparations for torture, and feared that they were to occupy the places prepared for the Miamis. They, however, concealed their fears, carefully abstained from the slightest indication of anxiety, and assumed that they were contented and beloved members of the tribe which had adopted them.
It was about the 21st of April, 1680, when these unfortunate men, who had been cradled in France, were led into the miserable hovels of this village of savages. They were all conducted into the wigwam of the principal chief. Here, much to their encouragement, the chief presented them his own peace calumet, to smoke. He then gave them, in a birch bark dish, some boiled wild rice, seasoned with dry whortleberries. Half-famished as the Frenchmen were, this was by no means unpalatable food.
After this feast each one was conducted to the wigwam of the Indian by whom he had been adopted. These Indians lived in different villages several miles apart. The captives now found, much to their sorrow, that they were to be separated. Father Hennepin was adopted by the chief Aquipaguetin, and was conducted nearly three miles, often through marshes knee-deep with mud and water, till they came to a considerable stream, probably one of the upper tributaries of the St. Francis River. Here five wives of the chief, with their canoes, were obsequiously waiting the approach of their lord and master. A young son of the chief was also with them. The chief informed them all that he had adopted the white man in the place of the child he had lost; and that his wives were to call him their son, and that his son was to call him brother.
The women paddled the canoes down the dark stream fringed with gloomy evergreens and tangled underbrush, until they came to an island upon which there was a small cluster of cabins. Here was the residence of the chief. His wigwam was large, though but a single room, and was crowded with his wives and children. Father Hennepin was immediately presented with some boiled fish on a birch bark plate. But he was so very weak, from exposure, toil, and emaciation, that he could not rise from the ground without assistance.
The medical practice of the chief was peculiar; but either in consequence of it, or in spite of it, the sick man got well. A small hut, called a sweating cabin, was built, very tight. This was made more impervious to the air by covering it with buffalo skins. A large number of stones heated red hot were placed inside, which raised the temperature almost to that of an oven. The sick man crept in, followed by four medical practitioners. The entrance was closed. The Indians then began to wail and howl, probably to frighten off the evil spirits, who they supposed had invaded the sick man's body. At the same time they commenced rubbing their patient violently from head to foot. The perspiration oozed from every pore, and fell from him like rain drops. The heat was intolerable. He nearly fainted, and was for the time greatly debilitated. This regimen was followed three times a week for two or three weeks, when, Father Hennepin writes:
"I felt as strong as ever."
Escape from the Savages.
Preaching to the Indians. Studying the Language. The Council. Speech of Ou-si-cou-de. The Baptism. The Night Encampment. Picturesque Scene. Excursion on the St. Francis. Wonderful River Voyage. Incidents by the Way. Characteristics of the Indians. Great Peril. Strange Encounter with the Indian Chief. Hardships of the Voyage. Vicissitudes of the Hunter's Life. Anecdote. The Return Voyage.
There was a singular combination of intelligence and childish simplicity developed by the Indians. Father Hennepin had a small pocket compass, of which they stood in great need. When they saw him turn the needle with a key, they were awe-stricken, and whispered to one another that it was a spirit which had become obedient to the white man's will. He had an iron pot, with three feet resembling a lion's paws. This they never dared to touch, unless their hands were covered with some robe. What could have been the cause of this senseless fear, it is impossible to imagine. The same men on other subjects would reason with great logical acumen.
The good ecclesiastic was still very anxious for the conversion of the Indians. He manifested more solicitude for their salvation, than for his own restoration to liberty or the preservation of his own life. He immediately entered upon the vigorous study of the language. Having learned that the phrase, "Taket chia biheu," meant, "How do you call that," he commenced compiling a dictionary. He had a natural facility for the acquisition of languages, and made rapid progress. Fortunately he had paper and ink, and eagle's quills were easily obtained.
Hour after hour he spent inquiring the meaning of words and the names of things. The chiefs were quite pleased in teaching him and in seeing how fast he was acquiring the power of talking with them on all familiar subjects. His writing the words was an inexplicable mystery to them. They would often question him respecting the names of things. He would refer to his memorandum and then tell them correctly. This not only surprised but seemed to overawe them.
Father Louis Hennepin was called, by his two French boatmen, Pere Louis. The chief who had adopted him was one day exhibiting to some chiefs who were visiting his wigwam, this wonderful power of the white man in recalling a difficult name, by looking at the characters he had written. Very solemnly he said:
"There must be an invisible spirit who tells Pere Louis everything we say."
Neither of the other Frenchmen could write. The dress of the ecclesiastic was much more imposing than that of the boatmen. He was a tall, fine-looking man, ever moving with that dignity which seems instinctive in one accustomed to command. The keen-sighted Indians were not slow in recognizing his superiority of rank, and all considered him invested with supernatural powers. Often, when it rained as they were wishing to go hunting, they would entreat him to sweep away the clouds. His invariable reply was, pointing to the skies, "The Great Spirit there controls all things. I have no such ability." They stood in awe of his spiritual power, and their good feelings were won by his invariable serenity and kindness. They contributed beaver skins, to the value of about one hundred dollars, which they presented to him to induce him to remain and take some wives and have a richly furnished wigwam. But he declined the present, saying:
"I did not come among you to collect beaver skins, but to teach you to love and obey the Great Spirit. I wish to live as you do, sharing your hard fare."
Very wisely he assumed that he came voluntarily among them, and that when the time came for his departure, no one would think of throwing any obstacle in his way. It was a time almost of famine with the Indians. The summer birds had not returned. Game was very scarce. There was great suffering for want of food. And these strangely inconsistent creatures, while affecting the greatest kindness, would conceal the little food they had, get up in the night and eat it secretly, leaving Pere Hennepin to the gnawings of hunger.
"Although women," he writes, "are for the most part more kind and compassionate than men, they gave what little fish they had to their children, regarding me as a slave made by their warriors in their enemy's country, and they reasonably preferred their children's lives to mine."
One day a deliberative council of Issati chiefs was held, to consult respecting various matters. Pere Louis, having been adopted into the tribe as the son of the head chief, attended. He could understand nearly all that was said. There was a very able chief, by the name of Ou-si-cou-de, who had manifested great esteem for the father. He rose and said:
"We all ought to feel indignant in view of the insulting manner in which our young men treated Pere Louis on the way. They were young warriors without sense, and perhaps knew no better. They robbed him and wanted to kill him. They acted like hungry dogs, who snatch a bit of meat from the bark dish, and run. They abused men who brought us iron and merchandise, which we never had before."
Pere Louis had considerable medical skill, and had brought with him several simple remedies. He was ever ready to attend the sick, and his success in medical practice gave him great renown. A little child was dying. According to the belief of Father Hennepin, if it should die unbaptized, it was lost. But how could he baptize the heathen child of heathen parents. Great was his anxiety, and fervent were his prayers for enlightenment. At length his kind heart obtained the victory over his theological creed. The solemn rite was performed with deepest emotion. Giving the child, a little girl, the Christian name of Antoinette, in honor of St. Anthony, he said:
"Creature of God, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
To his great grief he could not say mass, for want of wine and the appropriate vestments, which had been taken from him. He however spread an altar cloth, which he had retained about his person, upon the body of the child. When the spirit had taken its flight, he gave the remains Christian burial.
The news of the arrival of the Frenchmen in the villages of Issati, spread far and wide through the adjacent tribes. An embassy of Indians came to visit Father Hennepin from the distance of several hundred miles in the far west. They approached him with reverence, and had many questions to ask him. They were men of high rank and dignity, and their questions indicated much thought.
"We live," they said, "in a much milder clime, where there are immense plains and boundless prairies; where herds of thousands of buffaloes roam, and where deer and turkeys and innumerable other kinds of game are found in abundance. There is no hunger there, for food can always be obtained."
They expressed the earnest wish to take Father Hennepin back with them. But his own tribe were just about to set out on a grand hunting excursion, to the sunny realms of the southwest. A hundred and thirty families, and also two hundred and fifty warriors, embarked in a fleet of eighty birch canoes, about the middle of July. The embarcation was a wondrous spectacle, such as civilized eyes have rarely beheld, and can never witness again. A canoe had been provided for the three Frenchmen. But the two Frenchmen were jealous of the extraordinary respect with which Father Hennepin was treated and refused to take him on board.
As this strange fleet in a long and straggling line descended the St. Francis River, Father Hennepin stood upon the banks extending his hands in a benediction. Two Indians, passing by in a small canoe, seeing him thus deserted, paddled ashore and took him with them. This overloaded the canoe, and it began to leak. It required constant exertion on the part of Father Hennepin to bail out the water with a small birch cup, as fast as it ran in. The canoe did not weigh fifty pounds. Great care was necessary to preserve its equilibrium, for almost the slightest irregular motion of the body would upset it.
At night all landed. Sleeping in the canoes, or navigating them in the dark, was impossible. Here again one of the strangest of earthly spectacles was witnessed. Beneath the gloomy pines which fringed the stream, countless camp fires were gleaming. Men, women and children were running about in all directions. Some were cooking the supper; some, rearing frail shelters for the night. There was chattering and bandied jokes and laughter. The proud warriors, despising any menial employment, strutted about with lordly air.
Michael Ako was a most graceless fellow, and it was his influence which had excluded Father Hennepin from the canoe. But Anthony Auguelle was much more devoutly inclined. He was ashamed of their conduct. In the evening he sought out Father Hennepin, and offered a poor excuse for not receiving him into their canoe, saying it was so small and frail that had three been in it, it would inevitably have been swamped. The father was not deceived, though he accepted the apology.
After four days' paddling down the St. Francis River, the little fleet reached its mouth, where it empties into the Mississippi. They crossed to the west shore of the great river, and encamped upon an eminence there. It was impossible for Father Hennepin to be very accurate in his estimate of distances. He judged that they were then about twenty-four miles above the Falls of St. Anthony.
At this spot there was a forest of birch trees, and suitable wood for canoe frames. They had commenced the voyage with old canoes, which were frail and decayed, and in which they could not safely launch forth upon the turbulent flood of the Mississippi. The whole band consequently encamped for several days upon this eminence, to construct new canoes. The veteran hunters wandered through the forests and over the prairies, to hunt stags, deer, and beaver. The larger boys and girls brought to the encampment their arms full of birch bark, with carefully selected twigs for frames. The experienced women, with nimble fingers, joined the seams and fashioned the buoyant and graceful boat. All were busy.
But the hunters were unsuccessful. They brought in but little game. The whole community was fed upon thin broth, and there was but little of that. Father Hennepin, accompanied by Anthony Auguelle, in their great hunger, wandered about searching for wild berries. They found but few, and those which they ate often made them sick. The surly Michael Ako refused to go with them.
The tribe of Indians encamped in July, 1680, upon the Upper Mississippi, opposite the mouth of St. Francis River, numbered between four and five hundred souls. There was a great want of food in the camp. According to Father Hennepin's estimate, they were about two hundred miles above the mouth of the Wisconsin River. He told the Indians that when La Salle left Crevecoeur for Fort Frontenac to obtain supplies, he promised to send to the mouth of the Wisconsin River, a reinforcement of men, with powder and guns, and very many other articles for traffic with the Indians.
They therefore consented that he should descend the river to this point, to obtain the supplies. These strange men were too polite to intimate that they distrusted his word and considered this merely a plan devised for his escape, as it probably was. They however, furnished him with a canoe only sufficiently large to bear him and Anthony Auguelle, with their needful luggage. By this contrivance, Michael Ako was left behind as a hostage for their return.
The two Frenchmen set out, in a birch bark canoe, for this river voyage, going and returning, of four hundred miles. The only articles they could obtain to take with them, to meet the casualties of the way, were a gun, fifteen charges of powder, a knife, an earthen pot, and two robes of beaver skins, as blankets for the night's encampments. They safely reached the falls. Taking the canoe and freight upon their shoulders, they carried them along the well-trodden trail which constituted the portage. Here they found five or six of their Indian hunters. One of them had climbed a gnarled oak tree opposite the foaming cataract, and was offering the following prayer, which Father Hennepin took down on the spot. Peculiar moans and wails, as of penitence, were blended with the prayer.
"O Thou who art a Great Spirit, grant that our nation may pass these Falls quietly without harm. Help us to kill buffaloes in abundance. May we take prisoners who shall serve us as slaves. Some of them we will put to death in thine honor. Aid us to avenge our kindred whom they have killed."
At the same time this devout savage hung upon the tree, as an offering to the spirit of the falls, a rich robe of fur, gorgeously fringed and embroidered with porcupines' quills, variously colored. A few miles below the falls, they met another party of four or five hunters. They were encamped upon a small island, and were feasting upon an abundance of buffalo meat. The Frenchmen paddled ashore and joined eagerly in the repast. Scarcely two hours had elapsed ere four or five more canoes were seen descending the river. Sixteen warrior hunters of their own party leaped ashore. They seemed to be very angry. Tomahawk in hand, they knocked their cabin to pieces, and seized all the meat. Father Hennepin was astonished, and inquired what this meant. One of the warriors, who professed to be his uncle, replied:
"These men, contrary to our laws, have gone on a buffalo hunt before the rest. Thus, while they have furnished themselves with an abundance of meat, they have frightened away the buffaloes, and left us destitute. In punishment, we have a right to strip them."
The two solitary voyagers paddled down the stream, as they judged, one hundred and sixty miles. During this time they killed but one deer, which they shot as it was swimming across the river. The July heat was such that the flesh could be kept but for a few hours. They saw many turtles. But for a long time in vain they endeavored to take one. The timid animals would plunge into the water the moment they heard the least noise. At last they succeeded in taking one of them. But as Father Hennepin endeavored to cut off the turtle's head, he came very near losing one of his own fingers in its sharp jaws. The Frenchmen were very hungry, and had paddled their canoe to the shore. While the father was endeavoring to dress the turtle to be cooked. Anthony, with his gun, went back into the prairie, hoping to shoot some game. Father Hennepin chanced to look up from his work, and behold, a gust of wind had swept the canoe from the shore out into the stream, and it was floating rapidly down on the strong current.
Unless the canoe could be recovered, this would prove a terrible calamity. Not a moment was to be lost. Divesting himself of most of his clothing, he plunged into the stream, and being a strong swimmer, soon overtook the boat. It floated buoyant as an eggshell. He could not get into it. By pushing it before him he succeeded in effecting a landing, about half a mile down stream, and quite cut of sight of the spot he had left. In the meantime Anthony returned. Seeing the half-dressed turtle, and the father and the canoe both gone, he was thrown into a dreadful panic. He could not doubt that some hostile Indians had appeared and carried them both away, and that he was abandoned to perish of starvation. He went back into the prairie, to ascend an eminence which commanded a view of the country for some distance around.
Father Hennepin paddled up the stream with all possible diligence, drew the canoe well upon the shore, and had just reclothed himself, when he saw, near by, a herd of sixty buffaloes, swimming across the river. Anthony had the only gun. The father ran back into the prairie, shouting for him with all his might. It was indeed a joyful cry which reached the ears of Anthony. Eagerly he responded to it. They sprang into the canoe, pursued the buffaloes, and succeeded in shooting one. They towed him to the bank of the river. The father paddled, Anthony holding the huge carcass by the horns. But they could not drag the creature ashore. They could only cut off the tender morsels and leave the remainder to float down the stream. In consequence of their great hunger they ate so voraciously, that they were both made sick, and for two days could not leave their camp. Father Hennepin writes:
"Never have we more admired God's providence than during this voyage. We could not always find game. And when we did, could take but little meat with us, as our canoe was so small, and besides, the excessive heat spoiled it. When we embarked in the morning, we seldom knew what we should have to eat during the day. But the eagles, which were very common in those vast countries, frequently dropped from their claws large fishes, which they were taking to their nests!"
On the 11th of July, as they were paddling down the river in search of the mouth of the Wisconsin, they were startled by the sudden appearance of a large canoe descending rapidly upon them, containing eleven warriors. They proved to be the chief Aquipaguetin, and ten of his braves. This savage chieftain had been very unwilling that his adopted son should leave the tribe for this voyage, though the other Indians had given their consent. There was a frown on his brow, and severity in his tones, as he asked whether they had yet found the Frenchmen, who were to bring the goods. They all landed and ate together. Then the chief and his party started off, leaving Father Hennepin behind, and with vigorous paddling drove their canoe rapidly down the stream. Rather menacingly the chief said that he would go to the Wisconsin River, and that if the Frenchmen were there, he would take charge of their goods.
After three days' absence, he again appeared, with his canoe of warriors, on his return. He had been to the mouth of the river. There were no signs of the Frenchmen there. He came back in a very unamiable mood. Father Hennepin had landed, and was alone in a frail cabin which he had reared as a shelter from the hot sun. Anthony had gone into the prairie for food. Father Hennepin writes:
"Aquipaguetin, seeing me alone, came up tomahawk in hand. I seized two pocket pistols, which we had regained from the Indians, and a knife. I had no intention of killing my pretended father, but only wished to frighten him, and to prevent his killing me, in case he had that intention."
Probably the savage had no such murderous designs. He informed his adopted son that there were no Frenchmen at the Wisconsin, and none had been there, and therefore urged his return up the river. There was no alternative. But Father Hennepin and Anthony could not keep pace with the eleven-oared, or rather paddled, canoe of the savages. They crept along slowly after them. They thus paddled up the swift current of the Mississippi two hundred miles, running the risk, Hennepin says, of perishing of hunger.
They had but ten charges of powder left. These they divided into twenty, and succeeded in killing some wild pigeons. At one time, for two days, they had no food whatever, though they landed and searched for game. They found a fish whose flesh was almost putrid, dropped by an eagle. With bits of this they baited two hooks, which they floated from the stern of the canoe. Father Hennepin then fell upon his knees and prayed to St. Anthony that he would come to his relief. While praying, they perceived a strain upon the lines, and running to the canoe, drew in two fishes, so large that they could with difficulty take them from the water. They broiled pieces upon the coals, and the starving men made an abundant repast.
The next morning they met the remainder of the Indians whom they had left above the Falls of St. Anthony. They were descending the river, in search of more southern hunting grounds. Michael Ako was with them. He had developed want of courage and energy which excited the contempt of the savages. There was a large number of canoes, composing this fleet, crowded with a motley group of men, women, and children. They had encountered herds of buffaloes, and were well supplied with food.
Father Hennepin and Anthony again joined them, and accompanied them back down the river, as he says, about eighty leagues. But as we have before remarked, we cannot place much reliance upon his estimate of distances. The discomforts of this voyage must have been innumerable. The crowded canoes, the loathsome personal habits of the savages, elevated but little above the beasts, the blistering midday sun, the drenching storms and showers, the cheerless encampments, often upon the open prairie with no protection whatever from wind and rain, and the food often scanty, consisting of nothing but flesh, without any seasoning, boiled in earthen pots, or broiled upon the coals, must have rendered the excursion irksome in the extreme to civilized men accustomed to the comforts of European life.
In our last chapter we left the Indians, several hundred in number, in a fleet of canoes descending the upper waters of the Mississippi, in search of game. The three Frenchmen were with them. They were somewhere near the mouth of the Wisconsin River. Conscious that they were trespassing upon hunting grounds which other tribes claimed, they practised the utmost caution to elude their enemies. There were two hundred and fifty warriors, thoroughly armed with all the weapons of savage warfare, who composed the guard of the tribe.
Whenever they landed, they selected a spot where they could hide their canoes in the tangled brush which often fringed the banks of the river. Some warriors were sent to the tops of the adjacent eminences to see if there were any indications of hostile parties in the vicinity. They then pushed back twenty or thirty miles into the prairie land, where they almost invariably found herds of buffaloes grazing. Without horses to aid in the pursuit, and with only arrows and javelins as weapons, the killing of a buffalo was indeed an arduous task. Still, in the course of a few weeks, a hundred and twenty were slaughtered. They jerked the meat; that is, they cut it into very thin strips and hung them in the sun over a smouldering fire, so that it was both smoked and dried at the same time.
One day an Indian ran a splinter far into his foot, inflicting a very serious wound. Father Hennepin made a deep incision in the sole, to draw out the wood. He was performing the painful operation when an alarm was given, that foes were approaching the camp. The wounded Indian immediately sprang upon his feet, seized his arms and rushed to meet the enemy, regardless of his swollen, throbbing foot. The alarm proved a false one. A herd of eighty stags in the distance had been imagined to be hostile warriors. The excitement being over, it was with very great difficulty the crippled savage could hobble his way back to the camp.
When Father Hennepin and Anthony Auguelle rejoined the Indians, they were again separated, and each was taken into the family by which he had been adopted. In their voyaging, as they passed from point to point in the river, there was assigned to the father the duty of conveying in his small canoe, a shrivelled Indian woman, eighty years of age, and three little children. These long years had not sweetened the woman's disposition. She was a terrible scold, and often threatened to beat the children with her paddle.
Thus they wandered about in this successful buffalo hunt, until the close of July, when they were returning to their village far up the St. Francis River. They were here not very far west of the western end of Lake Superior. As they were returning, two wandering members of the tribe came in, and stated that they had been to Lake Superior, that they found there five Frenchmen, and that when they told them that there were three of their countrymen with the Issati tribe, the Frenchmen were very anxious to come to them, as they could not imagine by what roundabout way they had reached those distant regions.
Soon after, they met on the Mississippi River M. de Luth, with five French soldiers, descending the stream in a canoe. There is some confusion in Father Hennepin's narrative here, so that it is impossible to ascertain at what point of the river the two parties of Frenchmen met. On the 14th of August they all reached the villages of the Issati. As they were ascending the river they passed the grave of an Indian warrior. Many of the savages cast upon it some valuable article, in token of regard for the departed. Father Hennepin, who understood the Indians thoroughly, spread upon it a blanket. M. Luth contributed nothing. The generous act of Hennepin was exceedingly gratifying to the Indians.
Soon after their return, they had a great feast, Father Hennepin and M. Luth were both present. In the midst of the entertainment one of the chiefs, who was a relative of the deceased warrior, brought in a large buffalo robe, very softly dressed, one side being brilliantly embroidered with variously colored porcupines' quills, while the curly wool remained upon the other. This robe was neatly folded, and upon it was placed a birch-bark dish filled with food. On this, as a tea-tray, he presented the dish to the father. After he had eaten the meat, the chief spread the robe over his shoulders, saying:
"He whose body thou didst cover, now covers thine. He has carried tidings of thee to the land of spirits. Brave was thy act in his regard. All the nation praises thee for it."
He then reproached M. Luth for not having paid any tribute of respect to the remains of the dead. M. Luth replied that he covered the bodies only of those who were chiefs, of the same rank with himself. The chief replied:
"Pere Louis is a greater captain than thou art; for his robe is more beautiful than thine. We have sent his robe to our allies who are distant more than three moons' journey from our country."
By his robe the chief meant the rich dress, embroidered with silver lace, which the ecclesiastic wore at mass, and which he called his "brocade chasuble." This garment had so dazzled the eyes of the Indians, that they had appropriated it to themselves as of supernatural splendor.
Toward the end of September, Father Hennepin informed the Indians that it was his wish and that of his two companions, to return with the five other Frenchmen to their own country; and that then they would fit out expeditions laden with goods to trade with these distant tribes. The Indians gave their consent. The length of the journey to Montreal by the route they must take, they estimated at twenty-four hundred miles.
The eight Frenchmen set out in two canoes. They paddled down the St. Francis, and the Mississippi to the mouth of the Wisconsin. On their way they met a fleet of one hundred and forty canoes, filled with about two hundred and fifty warriors. The chiefs visited the Frenchmen, and treated them with greatest kindness.
Entering the Wisconsin, they paddled up its lone and silent banks one hundred and twenty miles, as they supposed. They followed the same route which Father Marquette had previously pursued going in an opposite direction. They carried their canoes and their effects on their shoulders, across a portage of a mile and a half to Fox River. Here they reembarked, following a river of wonderful windings, and through a series of magnificent and beautiful lakes, and through a country which they described as charming in the extreme, until they entered the magnificent expanse of Green Bay, at its southern extremity. They had accomplished, as they judged, about twelve hundred miles of their journey. Father Hennepin writes:
"I had not celebrated mass for over nine months, for want of wine. I had still some hosts. We remained two days to rest, sing the Te Deum, high mass, and preach. All our Frenchmen went to confession and communion, to thank God for having preserved us amid so many wanderings and perils."
They purchased for a gun, a canoe, large enough to contain them all. With this they paddled a hundred leagues, until they reached Mackinac. The blasts of approaching winter were beginning to sweep these cold regions. Here they spent the winter.
At this point they found, as they expected, an important military and trading post. Many Indians, even from remote tribes, were continually coming and going. Father Hennepin engaged very earnestly in preaching to the French, and in trying to teach the Indians the Gospel of Christ. They were deeply impressed with the heroism he had exhibited in his long and perilous journey. They said that the father must have been protected by the Great Spirit, for had any of the Indians attempted to go so far they would certainly have been put to death by these distant tribes.
Early in April, 1681, the father, with a few boatmen, set out on his long voyage to Fort Frontenac, at the extreme end of Lake Ontario. A broad belt of thick ice still fringed the shores of these northern lakes. For thirty miles they dragged their canoes over the ice of Lake Huron; and then, as they came to thin ice, launched them upon this fresh water sea. They sailed along the lake a "hundred leagues," closely following the shore, landing every night, and living mainly upon white-fish, which were caught in abundance, in twenty fathoms water. They passed "The Strait" and Lake St. Clair for "thirty leagues." In the still waters of Lake St. Clair they killed with an axe, thirty sturgeons which had come to the shallow waters of the banks to spawn. Near this place they came upon an Ottowa Indian chief, wan and woe-stricken, who told him that he had been unsuccessful in hunting, and his wife and five children had all starved to death.
Emerging from "The Strait," they entered Lake Erie, and paddled along its shores a hundred and twenty leagues. Carrying their canoes and effects upon their backs, they passed the great Falls of Niagara, and again took to the water, coasting along the southern shore of Lake Ontario. After a voyage of about ninety miles, they reached a large village of Seneca Indians, on the southern shore of the lake. It was the middle of May. These Indians had constant intercourse with the French in Canada, and were in cordial alliance with them. Father Hennepin attended a council of the chiefs, accusing them of having enslaved, as he had learned by the way, several Indians of the Ottawa tribe, who were also allies of the French. The chiefs made many apologies; said that the deed had been perpetrated by some mad young warriors, and that the captives should be restored to their tribe.
One of the chiefs, named Teganeot, speaking in the name of all assembled in the council, presented Father Hennepin with several rich furs, which were valued at about twenty-five dollars. The father accepted the gift, but immediately passed it over to the son of the chief, saying:
"I give it to you, that you may purchase such things as you need of the French traders. I cannot accept any presents. But I will report your kind feelings to the French Governor."
Reembarking, they continued their voyage forty leagues, when they reached Fort Frontenac. Father Hennepin was received with great rejoicing, as one risen from the dead. After a short tarry, they again entered their canoes, and descending the rapids of the St. Lawrence, in two days reached Montreal, sixty miles distant from the fort. Here Count Frontenac resided. He was Governor of all the French possessions in the New World.
"This governor," Father Hennepin writes, "received me as well as a man of his probity can receive a missionary. As he believed me killed by the Indians, he was for a time thunderstruck. He beheld me wasted, without a cloak, with a garment patched with pieces of buffalo skin. He took me with him, twelve days, to recover, and himself gave me the meat I was to eat, for fear I should eat too much, after so long a diet. I rendered to him an exact account of my voyage, and represented to him the advantages of our discovery."
The Abandonment of Fort Crevecoeur.
Departure of La Salle. Fathers Membre and Gabriel. Their Missionary Labors. Character of the Savages. The Iroquois on the War Path. Peril of the Garrison. Heroism of Tonti and Membre. Infamous Conduct of the Young Savages. Flight of the Illinois. Fort Abandoned. Death of Father Gabriel. Sufferings of the Journey to Mackinac.
It will be remembered that on the last of February, 1680, M. La Salle left the fort at Crevecoeur, with four Frenchmen and an Indian guide, for his perilous journey of four hundred leagues, through the pathless wilderness, to Frontenac, at the eastern extremity of Lake Ontario. His chosen companion, Lieutenant Tonti, was intrusted with the military charge of the garrison. Fathers Membre and Gabriel, both inspired with the noblest spirit of missionary enterprise, were appointed to instruct and, if possible, to convert the Indians.
They raised a pretty capacious log-cabin, which was both their residence and their chapel. This humble sanctuary was every day crowded with Indians from various tribes. A very large Indian village was on the shores of Lake Peoria, about half a mile from the cabin of the missionaries. Father Membre, a true apostle of Jesus Christ, wrote an account of the momentous scenes which transpired. To his narrative we are indebted for the facts which we now give.
One of the chiefs, Oumakouka, adopted, according to Indian custom, Father Membre as his son. He ever welcomed him to a warm seat by his wigwam fire, and presented him with tender morsels of game. While Father Gabriel spent the most of his time in the fort with Lieutenant Tonti and the workmen, Father Membre, who was soon quite familiar with their language, devoted much of his time to the instruction of the Indians in their wigwams. This was the arrangement which La Salle had made. He felt that the wild and reckless spirits in the garrison needed the restraints of the constant presence of their spiritual father. Individuals might otherwise be guilty of violating the rights of the Indians, and thus the whole of the little community might be involved in ruin.
The large Indian village where Father Membre exerted his ministry contained a population of about eight thousand souls. There were also a large number of villages within a circle of fifty miles in diameter, some of which belonged to other tribes. These the unwearied missionary frequently visited. All these Indians made their wigwams of mats of braided flat rushes. They were tall, well formed, and very skilful archers. But the good father does not give a very flattering account of the characters they developed. They were genuine loafers; idle, excessively superstitious, quarrelsome, under scarcely any restraints of law, and they would steal everything upon which they could lay their hands. Their lands were exceedingly fertile that, with very slight labor, they had an abundance of corn. Pounded corn, mixed with water and baked in the ashes, would afford but a meagre repast in the humblest log-cabin. It was deemed all-sufficient in the wigwam.
All who could afford it had several wives. They were as unfeeling as brutes. If a wife displeased her lord and master, he would mercilessly cut off her nose; and with apparently as little concern as a dog-fancier trims the ears of a terrier. United with these execrable traits of character, there were others, to which we have already alluded, which were alluring. In the summer, the men often went without any clothing, except moccasins made of buffalo hide.
These poor savages were engaged in almost incessant wars. Even the religion of Jesus, whose great mission was to bring peace on earth and goodwill to man, has not yet been able to obliterate these sanguinary propensities from the human heart. England, France, Germany, are great slaughterhouses, where millions of men have hurled themselves upon each other in demoniac strife. What, then, could be expected of savages.
The Miamis of the north were organizing an expedition against the Illinois. The rumor reached the Indian village at Crevecoeur, and created great consternation. Lieutenant Tonti endeavored to inspire the Indians with a spirit of defence. He taught them how to surround their village with palisades, and influenced them to build a fort with intrenchments. Some of the French garrison, weary of the restraints of the fort, deserted, and wandered away among the Indian tribes; and so incorporated themselves with the savages, in dress, in war-paint, in habits, and in taking Indian wives, that it required very close scrutiny to distinguish them from the Indians.
The two missionaries, conscious that there was no substantial remedy for the ills of humanity but in the regeneration of the soul which the religion of Jesus enjoined, consecrated, with increasing zeal, all their energies in the endeavor to make Frenchmen and Indians good men, new creatures in Jesus Christ.
One of the Illinois chiefs, Asapista by name, became very strongly attached to good Father Gabriel, and adopted him as his son. This was quite a favor. The generality of the Indians, like the populace everywhere, were exceedingly fickle. The friendship and caresses of to-day might be hatred and the tomahawk to-morrow. The adoption of a stranger into the tribe, as the son of a chief, was a great security against any sudden outburst of suspicion, which might lead to massacre.
The Gospel of Christ makes slow headway against the wickedness of man. As in our own enlightened times, the multitude listened, were respectful to their teachers, even reverenced them, but did not heed or obey.
"With regard to conversions," Father Membre writes, "I cannot rely on any. There is in these savages such an alienation from the faith, so brutal and narrow a mind, such corrupt and anti-Christian morals, that much time would be needed to hope for any fruit. It is however true, that I found many of quite docile character. We baptized some dying children, and two or three dying persons who manifested proper dispositions. As these people are entirely material in their ideas, they would have submitted to baptism, had we liked, but without any knowledge of the sacrament."
During the summer, the Indians wandered about in large hunting expeditions. The missionaries accompanied these bands, seeking day by day opportunities to teach them. Father Membre also visited several remote tribes. He found much to discourage him. He said that their blindness and obduracy were quite indescribable.
On the 10th of September, 1680, when the Indians had generally returned from their hunting parties, and were loitering about in indolent groups, with nothing to do, an Indian, from an allied tribe, came rushing almost breathless into the village, with the tidings that a united army of the Iroquois and the Miamis from the north, five hundred in number, had already entered their territory, and were on the rapid march to attack their village by surprise. He also made the astounding assertion that M. La Salle himself was leading this band of hostile warriors. There was no foundation for this last statement excepting that the chief of the Iroquois wore a European coat and hat. This led the courier to think he was La Salle, whom he had seen similarly dressed.
The Indians, accepting this statement, of course believed that there was treachery. Supposing the Frenchmen at Crevecoeur were prepared to join the invading army immediately upon its arrival, they resolved to tomahawk them all. The peril of the French was great. The Indians, like children, were apt to act first and think afterwards. The French were entirely unprepared for such a sudden change of feeling.
But Lieutenant Tonti, whose presence of mind never forsook him even in the greatest perils, ran from the fort to the village, and assured the warriors that La Salle was not with their foes, and that he was ready to muster his whole force, at the garrison, with their fire-arms, and accompany the warriors to repel the enemy. This caused another change of public sentiment. All looked to the French as their deliverers. In a few hours several hundred warriors, with the French, were on the march.
The arrow from the bow is but a feeble weapon compared with the bullet from rifle. The Iroquois, having had much intercourse with the French in Canada, were many of them supplied with fire-arms. They were allies of the French, and were very anxious to preserve friendship with them. The Illinois Indians, being more remote, had not been able to obtain the efficient European instruments of warfare.
The two parties approached each other; and the Illinois, guided by Tonti, were placed in a commanding position to resist attack. The allies were much disappointed in finding their plan of assailing the village by surprise frustrated. They paused in the march; and the two armies for some time looked each other in the face, neither venturing to commence the assault. The result of the battle was at least doubtful. So many of the Iroquois warriors were armed with muskets or rifles, and had become so skilful in the use of them that, in Indian warfare, dodging from rock to rock and from tree to tree, they were fully equal to the French. Whatever might be the result of the battle, it was certain that many on each side must be slain.
Lieutenant Tonti called the chiefs of the Illinois around him, and, after quite an earnest colloquy, induced them to consent that he should go to the Iroquois chiefs and endeavor to avert hostilities. It was a perilous enterprise. While some of the Indian chieftains were of much moral worth, there were many savages who were miserable wretches, and over whom the chiefs had but very little control.
Lieutenant Tonti, partly from necessity, partly from choice, was dressed mainly in Indian costume. As the European garments of the Frenchmen were worn out, they were constrained to supply their place with deer-skin jackets and leggins, generally painted and fringed after the fashion of the natives. Thus Lieutenant Tonti, at the council of the chiefs, in general appearance resembled the rest. But the Christian Fathers always wore a long black gown. As we have mentioned, they were called by that name among all the tribes, "The Black Gowns." Their teachings, their ministerings at the couches of the sick and dying, their utter renunciation of the character of warriors, and their self-denying devotion to the welfare of the Indians, had caused them to be generally revered. But, among the untutored tribes as in almost every village of our land, there were "certain lewd fellows of the baser sort," who hated the clergy.
Father Membre, with that calm, peaceful Christian chivalry which cannot be surpassed amidst the tumult and carnage of the field of battle, offered to accompany Lieutenant Tonti on his mission of peace.
The two opposing forces were facing each other, with the space of perhaps an eighth of a mile between them. Both parties were concealed, as far as possible, though occasionally the nodding plumes of a warrior were visible, as he moved from one hiding-place to another. Lieutenant Tonti, holding high above his head, as a flag of truce, the gorgeously decorated calumet of peace, accompanied by Father Membre in his long, flowing black robe, boldly moved forward toward the Iroquois encampment. Several of the chiefs met him, and were surprised to find that he was a Frenchman. He addressed them in their own language, in substance as follows:
"I bring you the calumet of peace. The Illinois, against whom you are waging war, are our brothers. They are the friends and allies of the French. The great father in Canada is the protector both of the Iroquois and of the Illinois. He cannot see one destroy the other."
The chiefs were deeply impressed by this statement. It would be ruinous for them to bring down the terrible arm of the French power upon their nation. The French could withhold entirely from them arms and ammunition, and could supply their foes abundantly with these terrible materials of war. Such were the thoughts of the considerate chieftains. They perceived the necessity of heeding the remonstrance. But the reckless young men, who had their reputation as warriors to make, and whose hearts were glowing with the thought of returning to their village waving gory scalps as the trophies of their heroism, were resolved that there should be no peace. To render a battle inevitable they determined to kill the two envoys from the Illinois camp.
A small band of these ferocious, savage young men, crept up, cautiously and unperceived, to a spot within arrow-shot of the place where the conference with the chiefs was held. Suddenly they discharged several arrows upon Tonti and Membre, which whizzed by, fortunately, without hitting them. The perfidious wretches then rushed forward, with gleaming knives. The chiefs interposed to save those who were under the sacred protection of the calumet.
One young Indian, with vigorous arm and a gleaming knife, aimed a blow at the heart of Lieutenant Tonti. As by a miracle, he escaped from death. The blow struck him to the ground, and the blood gushed forth from a fearful gash. But the point of the knife glanced from a rib, and did not penetrate the heart. All this was the work of an instant. The chiefs, veteran warriors, who had a reputation for honor to sustain, promptly drew their knives, surrounded the envoys with their protection, and drove off the assassins. Tenderly they bound up the wound of Tonti, expressed to him their grief and indignation, assured him that hostilities should cease and that they would immediately withdraw, with their warriors, back to their own village.
The wounded lieutenant, aided by his clerical friend, returned to the Illinois camp, with the glad tidings that the Iroquois had consented to peace. Several hours passed, and the Iroquois bands, instead of retiring, were continually drawing nearer, in a very suspicious manner, apparently with the intention of surrounding the Illinois, and cutting off their retreat. The Illinois chief held another council, and requested Father Membre to go back to the Iroquois and inquire into the reason of their conduct. Father Membre writes:
"This was not a very agreeable mission to a savage tribe. Nevertheless, I made up my mind, and God preserved me from all harm."
The chiefs received him kindly. They were ashamed of the course which the warriors, notwithstanding their remonstrances, were pursuing. They said to him frankly:
"Our real trouble is that we are starving. We expected to find abundant food in the Illinois village, and have consumed all we brought with us. Our march has frightened away the game, so that we can expect to find but little on our return. We are in danger of perishing for want of food."
Membre brought back this message. At his suggestion an abundance of food was immediately sent, on many heavily-laden shoulders, to the Illinois camp. The good father accompanied this peaceful embassage, and slept in the camp of the Illinois. Still the young savages were determined, if possible, to bring on a fight. They longed for the excitement of battle. The hideous war-whoop, with the shrieks of women and children, falling beneath their tomahawks, was music to their ears. The burning wigwams, the mangled bodies, the bloody scalps, were pictures of beauty to their eyes. And, most glorious of all, to their purely unangelic natures, was the triumphant return to their village with prisoners to run the dreadful gauntlet; and to writhe, and perhaps be forced to scream, beneath the fiend-like tortures of the stake.
The next morning the Iroquois warriors, instead of turning their steps homewards, flocked, in large numbers, into the village of the Illinois. They were evidently bent upon picking a quarrel. They swaggered through the streets, insulted the women, trampled the corn-fields, and went even so far as to disinter, and knock about the bones of the dead.
It soon became manifest to all, that a bloody conflict was inevitable. The chiefs directed all the women and children to retire as silently and unobserved as possible, and hide themselves in the forest, behind a distant hill. Here they were in the vicinity of a trail which led quite directly to the Mississippi River. If the Illinois were defeated in the battle, they could by this line of retreat, cross the Great River, and take refuge with a friendly tribe upon the other side. Then the Illinois warriors, in a body, without venturing upon an engagement abandoned the village to the Iroquois, and commenced a precipitate flight to the Mississippi. They were not pursued. The Iroquois chiefs would not lead the young men in an enterprise which they deemed so dishonorable.
As we have said, the control of the chiefs over the daring and lawless spirits of the young savages was feeble. The French garrison was greatly weakened by death and desertion. There was much reason to fear that the savages would fall upon them, and kill them all, for the sake of the plunder they would find in the fort. There was nothing to detain the missionaries. Upon the retirement of the Iroquois, they would be left in a lone and silent wilderness.
Lieutenant Tonti, and his two clerical associates, Fathers Membre and Gabriel, held a consultation, and decided upon an immediate withdrawal. It was the 13th of September, 1680. Their desire was to go back to Mackinaw, which station La Salle would necessarily revisit on his return from Frontenac, with reinforcements and supplies. Their numbers were so diminished, and their departure so hasty, that they all embarked in one frail canoe. The chiefs so far restrained the young savages, that no attack was made upon them. But the leaders of this feeble little garrison were well aware, that in all probability bands of the young men would pursue them, to lie in ambush at some narrow passage of the river, and cut them off, if possible.
They left the fort about noon, packing in their canoe only a few articles of absolute necessity. All the afternoon they plied their paddles vigorously, ascending the Illinois River, and passing through the broad expanse of Lake Peoria. Their canoe was leaky and heavily laden. The current was strong, and their passage slow. They did not venture to land until after dark, that the landing might not be seen by any foe, skulking through the forest along the banks of the river. They also took the precaution to seek their night's encampment on the side of the stream opposite that which was occupied by the Iroquois band.
At an early hour the next morning they resumed their voyage, still ascending the Illinois River. They had paddled along but a few hours, and had reached a point between twenty-five and thirty miles above the fort, when their dilapidated canoe leaked so badly, that they were forced to land, that they might repair it. They were on the borders of one of Illinois' most beautiful prairies. The smooth and verdant expanse, extending to the horizon, was dotted with groves, presenting a landscape of enchanting loveliness.
Father Gabriel, as he could be of no service in repairing the boat, decided to walk into one of the groves at a little distance from the river, with his prayer-book in his hand, that he might, alone in those lonely solitudes, worship his Creator. It was a temple for devout meditation and adoration such as no cathedral reared by man's hand ever presented.
It took all day to repair the canoe. Hour after hour passed away, and Father Gabriel did not return. His companions began to feel a little solicitude about his safety. Toward evening Father Membre set out in search of him. He was not in the grove. There were no traces of him to be seen. There were several groves in the distance; and there were gentle eminences in the rolling prairie, behind which he might be concealed. The anxious father ascended one after another of these eminences, but nowhere over the vast plain could he catch any sight of the lost one. Again and again he shouted. The silence of the prairie was the only response to his cry.
Greatly alarmed, he returned to his companions, who had now completed their repairs of the canoe. The whole party then set out on the search. They moved in various directions; hallooed, and fired their guns. All was in vain. Night had settled over the prairie, when they reassembled in great despondency at the canoe. Father Gabriel was greatly loved. He was a gentle, self-sacrificing man, of kindly words and generous deeds.
The party crossed the river, as a precaution against an attack from any band of the Iroquois who might be following them. They then built a large fire, that its rays, shining far and wide over the prairie, might arrest the eye of the lost one, and guide him on his return. The morning dawned. Still there was no clue to the disappearance of Father Gabriel. The voyagers returned to the other side of the river, and lingered there until the middle of the forenoon.
Lieutenant Tonti then said that it was clear that their companion had not wandered into the prairie and become lost; for from any of the eminences he could have discerned the line of the river, nor could he have wandered so far as neither to have heard the report of their guns nor seen the light of their fire. It was certain that he had either been cut off by some prowling band of savages, or that he had decided to follow up the banks of the river on foot, intending to enter the canoe when it came along. In either case it was their duty to press forward on their journey as rapidly as possible.
For a long time they heard no more of Father Gabriel. Finally they learned that some young savages, of the Kikapoo tribe, who were at war with the Iroquois, were prowling about when they caught sight of the father engaged in his devotions in the grove. His eyes were probably closed, and his whole soul absorbed in prayer. There is one advantage which the arrow has over the bullet. It performs its deadly mission without making any noise. The wily savages, unseen and unheard, crept near, and piercing him with their arrows he fell dead. They took his scalp, threw the body into a ditch, covering it with a few leaves, and fled. When they arrived at their village they very boastfully exhibited the scalp of the defenceless missionary, as that of an Iroquois warrior. To obtain this renown was the only object of the cowardly assassins in their murderous deed.
Thus died Father Gabriel. He was the last scion of a noble family of Burgundy. He had renounced his inheritance, and all the brilliant prospects of a courtly life, to consecrate himself to the service of his Saviour, the Son of God. In his own country, his family name, his many virtues, and his entire devotion to the ministry upon which he had entered, had elevated him to high positions of influence and honor. All these he relinquished, after he had passed his three-score years, to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus to the savages of North America. He landed in Canada, in the summer of 1670. For some time he was employed as chaplain of Governor Frontenac. Here he was untiring in his efforts to instruct the Indians. Having become in a good degree familiar with their language and customs, he embarked with La Salle to establish new missions in the vast and unexplored regions he was about to penetrate.
The good old man was now seventy years of age. For forty years he had been earnestly engaged in preaching the gospel of peace on earth, and good will among men. And now the blessed hour had come when God sent his angel to take the victor in many a hard-fought spiritual conflict, to his home in heaven; for God can convert even the wickedness of man into an agency for the accomplishment of His purposes.
How sublime the scene of his departure. It was a serene, beautiful autumnal day. The deep blue of the overarching skies were embroidered, as it were, with fleecy clouds. The waters of the river, clear as crystal, flowed gently by. The luxuriant prairie, brilliant with the bloom of autumn, almost entranced the eye as a garden of the Lord. In a majestic grove the veteran Christian knelt, at peace with God, with himself, and with all the world. His eyes were closed. His hands were clasped. His soul was all absorbed in prayer. Suddenly a shower of arrows pierce him, and he falls dead!
Dead! do I say? No! He awakes to a new life of inconceivable vitality and grandeur. A retinue of angels are there, ready to receive him. In their blest companionship he takes his rapturous journey to the bosom of his Saviour and his God.
"Oh, 'tis a glorious thing to die As dies the Christian, with his armor on."
The saddened voyagers, as they plied their paddles in ascending the river, all unconscious of the fate which had overtaken the beloved father, had still a journey of nearly two hundred and fifty miles before them, ere they could reach their friends. The dilapidated canoe soon failed them entirely, and they were compelled to abandon it. The remainder of the long journey was to be made on foot. Their destitution was alarming. They had no food but such as they could pick up by the way. Their clothing was old, worn out, and very scant; for they had been waiting for supplies to be brought them by La Salle. They had neither companion nor guide. The route they were to follow was in a northerly direction through the pathless forests, and over the pathless prairies, many miles west of Lake Michigan, to the missionary station at the foot of Green Bay.
Father Hennepin had left his cloak in the canoe. They cut up the garment to repair their shoes and clothes. Often, in days of storm, they wandered bewildered and lost. They found but little game, for they were not professional hunters. Their food consisted mainly of acorns and roots. After a journey of fifteen days, and when almost starved, they were so fortunate as to kill a deer. Upon venison steaks they feasted luxuriously.
At length they came to a little cluster of Pottawatomi wigwams. This powerful tribe occupied an extensive territory southwest of Lake Michigan. About ten years before, a delegation from the tribe had visited the French, and friendly relations were established between them. Very hospitably they received the worn, emaciate, and ragged wanderers. They fed them with such morsels as could be fished from the pots of the Indians. The wigwams were comfortable, affording ample protection from wind and rain. The weary wanderers, who were scarcely able to stand, threw themselves upon mats before the wigwam fires and slept long, long hours of rich enjoyment.
Somewhat recruited by the repose of a few days, they again took up their line of march. After the endurance of great fatigue and many sufferings, they at length reached the missionary station at Green Bay. Here they were received as brothers, and here they passed the winter. Early in the spring, as soon as the ice had disappeared from the bay, Lieutenant Tonti and Father Membre set out in a canoe, with a few boatmen, for the station at Michilimackinac. After a prosperous voyage of a few days, they reached that important point in safety. They had been there but a short time, when a small fleet of canoes came paddling into the harbor. It was about the middle of June. To their great joy they found that it was an expedition of La Salle, and that he was on board. He had a sad story to tell of disasters and sufferings, which we must reserve for our next chapter.
La Salle's Second Exploring Tour.
Disasters. Energy of La Salle. The Embarcation. Navigating the Lakes. Sunshine and Storm, Beauty and Desolation. Ruins at Crevecoeur. Steps Retraced. Christian Character of La Salle. Arrival at Mackinaw. The Enterprise Renewed. Travelling on the Ice. Descent of the Illinois River. Entering the Mississippi. Voyage of the Canoes. Adventures with the Indians.
It will be remembered that late in February, 1680, La Salle left Crevecoeur for Frontenac, to obtain supplies. We have no record of the details of that wonderful journey of four hundred leagues through the wilderness. He reached the post after a long and exhausting journey. There he encountered tidings of disaster sufficient to crush the stoutest heart. The Griffin had foundered, when but a few days out from Green Bay. All on board perished; and the whole of La Salle's fortune, consisting of ten thousand dollars' worth of furs, had gone down into the bottom of the lake.
The rumor reached Frontenac that La Salle had perished in his vessel. He had sent quite a fleet of canoes, laden with articles for the Indian trade, to purchase all the furs they could along the northern and southern shores of Lake Ontario. The canoe men heard the rumor of the death of La Salle, and treacherously appropriated to themselves all the goods with which they had been intrusted. Before setting out on his first excursion, he had sent to France for more goods, to the amount of five thousand dollars; a very considerable sum in those days. The vessel laden with these articles, after having safely crossed the Atlantic, was driven upon one of the islands of St. Peter, and everything was lost. There was no insurance in those days; La Salle did indeed experience the truth of the adage that "sorrows come in troops."
Still the enterprise, energy, and noble character of the man was such that friends came to the rescue. The Governor was very desirous of continuing the exploration, to the mouth of the Mississippi, which La Salle had begun. It was his great ambition there to unfurl the banner of France, and there, in the name of his king, to take possession of the most majestic valley on this globe.
Another small fleet of canoes was soon prepared, freighted with such articles, for use and traffic, as he would need on the expedition. The canoes, eight or ten in number, were large and strong. The party consisted of twenty-three Frenchmen and thirty-one Indians; fifty-four, in all. The statement seems almost incredible that, of these Indians, ten were women, and three were children. But Father Zenobe, who accompanied the expedition, mentions that the Indians insisted upon taking the women, as servants, to cook their food, and to perform the drudgery at their several encampments. Some of these women had children whom they could not leave behind.
It was indeed an imposing spectacle, when, at an early hour of a still, sultry summer morning, this gayly decorated fleet of canoes pushed out from the little harbor at the fort, upon the mirrored surface of Lake Ontario. It was, to a considerable degree, a national expedition. The banners of France fluttered in the gentle breeze over all the battlements of the fort. The forests and the hills resounded with the roar of the salute from her heavy guns. Hundreds of Indians crowded the shore to witness the departure. The Frenchmen returned the salute by a discharge of their muskets and by three cheers. The canoes speedily disappeared behind a headland, as the voyagers, with their paddles, pressed forward upon one of the most extraordinary expeditions ever undertaken by man.
The voyage along the southern shore of the lake proved to be very stormy. Again and again the gale and the surging billows drove them ashore. To the Indians, and to the Canadian boatmen generally, there was no hardship in this. It was the customary life of these men; and to the Indians, the life to which they had been inured from infancy, and the only life they had ever known. Indeed the crew generally had no more thought of yesterday or tomorrow than the few dogs who accompanied them. The weight of responsibility rested only upon the minds of La Salle and his gentlemanly, highly educated ecclesiastical companions.
When landing, for an encampment at night, or forced to take shelter from the storm, they easily drew their canoes up upon the greensward; turned them over to protect the freight from the rain, entered a little distance, the dense, primeval forest, which from time immemorial had fringed the shores of the lake, and there speedily reared a shelter which, to them, presented all the comforts which the palatial mansion offers to its lord. They spread their mats upon the floor. They built their camp fires, whose brilliant blaze enlivened the scene. They cooked their suppers, of corn-bread and venison steaks, which health and hunger rendered luxurious. They sang songs, told stories, cracked jokes, and enjoyed perhaps as much as the mere animal man is capable of enjoying.
This is indeed the sunny side of such a life. But it is a real side. For such men it has a real charm; charms so great that they reluctantly relinquish them for all that civilization can offer. But it must be evident to every reader of these pages, that this wandering, homeless life, has also its shady side. They, like all other men, had often occasion to say in the beautiful verse of Longfellow:
"The day is cold, and dark, and dreary, It rains, and the wind is never weary, The vine still clings to the mouldering wall, At every gust the dead leaves fall, And the day is dark and dreary."
La Salle left Fort Frontenac on the 23d of July, 1680, about two months before the abandonment of Crevecoeur by Tonti. In consequence of the series of storms, he was nearly three weeks in reaching the western extremity of Lake Ontario. The canoes and the goods were then carried around the falls, to the station called Fort Conti, which had been established at the head of Niagara River. He did not reach this station until about the middle of August.
Fort Conti had become quite a resort of the neighboring Indian tribes for trade. Here La Salle intended to lay in fresh supplies of corn. The season had been an unfavorable one. The small crop annually raised by the thoughtless, indolent savages, was still smaller than usual, affording but a scant supply for the winter. The Indians were not disposed to sell. Many days passed away, and but little had been brought in. La Salle had quite a store of French brandy. He offered to exchange brandy for corn. The poor Indians, who would sell the clothes from their backs for intoxicating liquors, brought the corn in so abundantly, that the canoes were immediately filled. In one day sixty sacks were urged upon him.
On the 28th of August, 1680, the voyagers reembarked in their canoes, and beneath sunny skies and with a smooth expanse of water before them, paddled joyously along the northern shores of Lake Erie, ascended the Detroit River, crossed Lake St. Clair, passed through the Straits of St. Clair, and coasted along the eastern and northern shores of Lake Huron, a distance of two or three hundred miles, until they reached the station at Mackinac, the latter part of September.
The voyage from the head of Niagara River had occupied nearly a month. When the little fleet of birch canoes entered the harbor at Mackinac, Lieutenant Tonti had just abandoned his dilapidated birch canoe on the Illinois River, in his retirement from the fort, and, with his few companions, was struggling on foot through the wilderness west of Lake Michigan, seeking also the same refuge.
La Salle, entirely unconscious of the disasters which had overtaken his garrison at Crevecoeur, reembarked, on the 4th of October. Following the same course he had pursued before, he paddled down the eastern coast of Lake Michigan, to the River St. Joseph. At the head of which river, it will be remembered, he had erected Fort Miami, on territory inhabited by the Miami Indians. It was a long voyage, with many obstructions from the autumnal storms, which seemed to be incessantly sweeping that bleak and harborless lake. After the tempestuous voyage of a month, he reached Fort Miami on the 3d of November.
Eleven months before, on the 3d of December, 1679, he had left that station, on his route to the Illinois River. Le Clercq says that four men were left in charge there. This is not sustained by other accounts. It is not probable that so small a number would have been left in a position so greatly exposed. But, however this may be, he found the Miami village in ashes, and all who dwelt in it dispersed. His log fort was also in utter ruin. It was a melancholy scene which met his eye; another indication of man's inhumanity to man.
The St. Joseph's River takes its rise in Indiana. For nearly a hundred miles before it empties its flood into Lake Michigan, it flows in a course of narrow windings, almost directly from the south. By paddling up this stream, in a canoe voyage of three or four days, or about seventy miles of our measurement, they came to a portage, five or six miles in length, by which they could reach the Kankakee River.
This was an important tributary of the Illinois River. It will be remembered that it was by this stream that La Salle and his party, more than a year before, prosecuted their voyage to Lake Peoria. It was then, for much of its distance, rather a dismal stream, sluggishly winding through marshes lined with alders. Rapidly they paddled on, day after day, through a country of silence and solitude, until they entered the broader, deeper waters of Illinois River.
Still, as they descended this beautiful stream, which presented as attractive situations for happy homes as perhaps earth could afford, they passed no Indian villages, no solitary wigwam, no sign whatever of human life. They came to the site where the Indian village had formerly stood in its picturesque beauty, with six or eight thousand inhabitants swarming around, in the various costumes, and engaged in the diversified employments of savage life. Naught remained but smouldering ruins and trampled harvests. Man bitterest foe, his brother man, had been there, and had left behind but the traces of desolation, blood and woe. Neither wolf nor bear could have been more merciless, or could have left behind them ravages so dreadful.
The dispersion of the garrison, and the destruction of all the works commenced and the stores deposited at Crevecoeur, was another blow upon the head and the heart of La Salle, apparently frustrating all his plans. He must have experienced emotions of the keenest anguish. But this remarkable man, invincible by the reverses of fortune, presented to his companions only a smiling aspect, and addressed them only with cheerful words. Having lost everything which he had expected to find at Crevecoeur, it became necessary for him to return to Mackinac. This required a journey by river, forest, prairie, and lake, of nearly five hundred miles.
Immediately he reembarked his whole force, in his canoes, and commenced the laborious ascent of the stream he had just descended so pleasantly, borne along by the aid of the current. When they reached the mouth of the Kankakee, instead of following up that stream, they struck across the country, by a portage directly north, until they reached the Chicago River. Here they again launched their canoes and followed down the windings of the stream until they came to its entrance into Lake Michigan, where Chicago now stands.
At this port La Salle found fragments of many war-scathed tribes, in a half-starving condition. They informed him that the terrible Iroquois; composed of five united savage nations, and whose central power was in the vast territory south of Lake Ontario, had in overwhelming numbers invaded the valley of the Illinois. Many of their warriors were armed with guns purchased from the French. The feeble tribes fled in terror before them. The ferocious bands wandered in all directions. By day and by night the hideous war-whoop resounded. Villages were burned, captives were seized, women and children were slaughtered, and thousands of fugitives, war-bereaved, woe-stricken, fled to the western side of the Mississippi to seek protection by being incorporated into friendly tribes in those apparently limitless realms.
Around the lovely shores of Lake Peoria there had been seventeen flourishing Indian villages. These were all destroyed, in awful scenes of conflagration and massacre. The survivors fled beyond the Mississippi, six hundred miles from their desolated homes. And even to these regions the ferocious Iroquois pursued them, thirsting for blood and scalps.
La Salle was a Christian. He was interested in the religious welfare of the poor Indians, as the only instrumentality by which they could secure for themselves pleasant homes on earth, and happy homes in heaven. He agreed with the missionaries, that if they wished to establish missions in those parts, with any hope of seeing Christianity make progress among the natives, they must secure them immunity from the horrors of war. This could only be done by uniting the remaining tribes in a firm union for a common defence.
At the mouth of the Chicago River, La Salle was, as he thought, by the route he had taken, about one hundred and twenty miles from Lake Peoria. He reached this point probably some time in January 1681. The lake, for some distance from the shore, was encumbered with ice. Fierce wintry storms swept the bleak prairies, and piled the snow in drifts. It was almost impossible to journey, either by land or water. La Salle and his party went into encampment upon the banks of the Chicago River, to wait a few weeks until the severity of winter was over. At the same time, though he knew not of it, the few remaining members of the garrison which he had left at Crevecoeur were seeking shelter from these piercing blasts, about a hundred miles north, in the wigwams of the friendly Pottawattomies.
La Salle and his ecclesiastical companions improved these few weeks of leisure in seeking interviews with the chiefs of the various tribes in the vicinity, and in endeavoring to unite them in a strong confederacy. He assured them that if they would thus be true to themselves, the French would become their allies and send them efficient aid. It was not until the 22d of May that he was able to launch his canoes upon the lake. There was then a voyage of about two hundred and sixty miles before him.
About the middle of June his fleet of canoes was seen, coming around a point of land, as the boatmen rapidly paddled into the harbor at Michilimackinac. Here La Salle met Lieutenant Tonti, Father Membre, and their associates, as we have mentioned in the last chapter. The good Father Membre writes:
"I leave you to conceive our mutual joy, damped though it was by the narrative he made us of all his misfortunes, and of that we made him of our tragical adventures. Though La Salle related to us all his calamities, yet never did I remark in him the least alteration. He always maintained his ordinary coolness and self-possession. Any other person would have abandoned the enterprise. But La Salle, by a firmness of mind and constancy almost unequalled, was more resolute than ever to carry out his discovery. We therefore left, to return to Fort Frontenac with his whole party, to adopt new measures, to resume and complete our course, with the help of heaven, in which we put all our trust."
We have no detailed account of the long voyage back to Frontenac, or of the return voyage to the mouth of the Chicago River. In the meagre narratives which have descended to us, there are slight discrepancies which it is impossible to reconcile. Entering Lake Michigan at its northern extremity through the Straits of Mackinac, they paddled down the eastern coast, passed the mouth of St. Joseph's River, rounded the southern curvature of the lake, and reached the mouth of the Chicago River on the 4th of January, 1682. The winter in that region was short, but very severe. The Chicago River presented a solid surface of ice.
Sledges were constructed, upon which the canoes were placed, and dragged by the men over the ice of the river. This journey in mid-winter, over a bleak and often treeless expanse, was slow and toilsome. Having reached the point where the portage commenced, they dragged their sledges, laden with the canoes, baggage, and provisions, across the portage to the Illinois River. They reached this point on the 29th of the month, having spent twenty-three days in the exhausting journey. They were, at that point, according to Father Membre's estimate, two hundred and forty miles from the mouth of the Illinois where it enters into the Mississippi.
Drawing their sledges upon the ice, they day after day followed down the lonely and silent stream, whose banks war had desolated. They passed the smouldering sites of many former villages, where only melancholy scenes of devastation met the eye. They reached Crevecoeur about the 1st of February. It would seem that La Salle, on his previous visit, had repaired the ruins there, so as to provide a temporary home for his party upon its arrival. He found all things as he had left them.
The river below Crevecoeur was free from ice. Having rested for about a week, in the enjoyment of warm fires, in their log-cabins, they launched their canoes into the Illinois River, and on the 6th of February reached the mouth of the river. They found the swollen flood of the Mississippi full of vast masses of ice, pouring down from the distant regions of the north. This detained them till the 13th of the month. They encamped at the same point where Father Hennepin had tarried. A short voyage of a day bore them to the mouth of turbid and turbulent Missouri.
Here they landed at an Indian village, where they seem to have been very kindly received. It will be remembered that La Salle was still intent upon finding some short passage across the continent, of whose width he knew nothing, to the Pacific Ocean. He was much excited by the strange tidings he heard from the Indians here. They assured him that by ascending the river ten or twelve days he would come to a range of mountains where the river took its rise; that numerous and populous Indian villages were scattered all the way along the banks of the river; that by ascending one of the mountain eminences, he would have a view of the vast and boundless sea where great ships were sailing. We cannot now tell whether this was the mere fabrication of some imaginative savage, or whether such was the general opinion of the tribe.