Pathfinders of the West
by A. C. Laut
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[Frontispiece: Stealing from the Fort by Night.]

Pathfinders of the West
















Set up and electrotyped. Published November, 1904. Reprinted February, 1906.


August 15, 1904.


A few years ago, when I was a resident of the Far West and tried to trace the paths of early explorers, I found that all authorities—first, second, and third rate—alike referred to one source of information for their facts. The name in the tell-tale footnote was invariably your own.

While I assume all responsibility for upsetting the apple cart of established opinions by this book, will you permit me to dedicate it to you as a slight token of esteem to the greatest living French-Canadian historian, from whom we have all borrowed and to whom few of us have rendered the tribute due?





I love thee, O thou great, wild, rugged land Of fenceless field and snowy mountain height, Uprearing crests all starry-diademed Above the silver clouds! A sea of light Swims o'er thy prairies, shimmering to the sight A rolling world of glossy yellow wheat That runs before the wind in billows bright As waves beneath the beat of unseen feet, And ripples far as eye can see—as far and fleet!

Here's chances for every man! The hands that work Become the hands that rule! Thy harvests yield Only to him who toils; and hands that shirk Must empty go! And here the hands that wield The sceptre work! O glorious golden field! O bounteous, plenteous land of poet's dream! O'er thy broad plain the cloudless sun ne'er wheeled But some dull heart was brightened by its gleam To seize on hope and realize life's highest dream!

Thy roaring tempests sweep from out the north— Ten thousand cohorts on the wind's wild mane— No hand can check thy frost-steeds bursting forth To gambol madly on the storm-swept plain! Thy hissing snow-drifts wreathe their serpent train, With stormy laughter shrieks the joy of might— Or lifts, or falls, or wails upon the wane— Thy tempests sweep their stormy trail of white Across the deepening drifts—and man must die, or fight!

Yes, man must sink or fight, be strong or die! That is thy law, O great, free, strenuous West! The weak thou wilt make strong till he defy Thy bufferings; but spacious prairie breast Will never nourish weakling as its guest! He must grow strong or die! Thou givest all An equal chance—to work, to do their best— Free land, free hand—thy son must work or fall Grow strong or die! That message shrieks the storm-wind's call!

And so I love thee, great, free, rugged land Of cloudless summer days, with west-wind croon, And prairie flowers all dewy-diademed, And twilights long, with blood-red, low-hung moon And mountain peaks that glisten white each noon Through purple haze that veils the western sky— And well I know the meadow-lark's far rune As up and down he lilts and circles high And sings sheer joy—be strong, be free; be strong or die!


The question will at once occur why no mention is made of Marquette and Jolliet and La Salle in a work on the pathfinders of the West. The simple answer is—they were not pathfinders. Contrary to the notions imbibed at school, and repeated in all histories of the West, Marquette, Jolliet, and La Salle did not discover the vast region beyond the Great Lakes. Twelve years before these explorers had thought of visiting the land which the French hunter designated as the Pays d'en Haut, the West had already been discovered by the most intrepid voyageurs that France produced,—men whose wide-ranging explorations exceeded the achievements of Cartier and Champlain and La Salle put together.

It naturally rouses resentment to find that names revered for more than two centuries as the first explorers of the Great Northwest must give place to a name almost unknown. It seems impossible that at this late date history should have to be rewritten. Such is the fact if we would have our history true. Not Marquette, Jolliet, and La Salle discovered the West, but two poor adventurers, who sacrificed all earthly possessions to the enthusiasm for discovery, and incurred such bitter hostility from the governments of France and England that their names have been hounded to infamy. These were Sieur Pierre Esprit Radisson and Sieur Medard Chouart Groseillers, fur traders of Three Rivers, Quebec. [1]

The explanation of the long oblivion obscuring the fame of these two men is very simple. Radisson and Groseillers defied, first New France, then Old France, and lastly England. While on friendly terms with the church, they did not make their explorations subservient to the propagation of the faith. In consequence, they were ignored by both Church and State. The Jesuit Relations repeatedly refer to two young Frenchmen who went beyond Lake Michigan to a "Forked River" (the Mississippi), among the Sioux and other Indian tribes that used coal for fire because wood did not grow large enough on the prairie. Contemporaneous documents mention the exploits of the young Frenchmen. The State Papers of the Marine Department, Paris, contain numerous references to Radisson and Groseillers. But, then, the Jesuit Relations were not accessible to scholars, let alone the general public, until the middle of the last century, when a limited edition was reprinted of the Cramoisy copies published at the time the priests sent their letters home to France. The contemporaneous writings of Marie de l'Incarnation, the Abbe Belmont, and Dollier de Casson were not known outside the circle of French savants until still later; and it is only within recent years that the Archives of Paris have been searched for historical data. Meantime, the historians of France and England, animated by the hostility of their respective governments, either slurred over the discoveries of Radisson and Groseillers entirely, or blackened their memories without the slightest regard to truth. It would, in fact, take a large volume to contradict and disprove half the lies written of these two men. Instead of consulting contemporaneous documents,—which would have entailed both cost and labor,—modern writers have, unfortunately, been satisfied to serve up a rehash of the detractions written by the old historians. In 1885 came a discovery that punished such slovenly methods by practically wiping out the work of the pseudo-historians. There was found in the British Museum, the Bodleian Library, and Hudson's Bay House, London, unmistakably authentic record of Radisson's voyages, written by himself. The Prince Society of Boston printed two hundred and fifty copies of the collected Journals. The Canadian Archives published the journals of the two last voyages. Francis Parkman was too conscientious to ignore the importance of the find; but his history of the West was already written. He made what reparation he could to Radisson's memory by appending a footnote to subsequent editions of two of his books, stating that Radisson and Groseillers' travels took them to the "Forked River" before 1660. Some ten other lines are all that Mr. Parkman relates of Radisson; and the data for these brief references have evidently been drawn from Radisson's enemies, for the explorer is called "a renegade." It is necessary to state this, because some writers, whose zeal for criticism was much greater than their qualifications, wanted to know why any one should attempt to write Radisson's life when Parkman had already done so.

Radisson's life reads more like a second Robinson Crusoe than sober history. For that reason I have put the corroborative evidence in footnotes, rather than cumber the movement of the main theme. I am sorry to have loaded the opening parts with so many notes; but Radisson's voyages change the relative positions of the other explorers so radically that proofs must be given. The footnotes are for the student and may be omitted by the general reader. The study of Radisson arose from, using his later exploits on Hudson Bay as the subject of the novel, Heralds of Empire. On the publication of that book, several letters came from the Western states asking how far I thought Radisson had gone beyond Lake Superior before he went to Hudson Bay. Having in mind—I am sorry to say—mainly the early records of Radisson's enemies, I at first answered that I thought it very difficult to identify the discoverer's itinerary beyond the Great Lakes. So many letters continued to come on the subject that I began to investigate contemporaneous documents. The path followed by the explorer west of the Great Lakes—as given by Radisson himself—is here written. Full corroboration of all that Radisson relates is to be found—as already stated—in chronicles written at the period of his life and in the State Papers. Copies of these I have in my possession. Samples of the papers bearing on Radisson's times, copied from the Marine Archives, will be found in the Appendix. One must either accept the explorer's word as conclusive,—even when he relates his own trickery,—or in rejecting his journal also reject as fictions the Jesuit Relations, the Marine Archives, Dollier de Casson, Marie de l'Incarnation, and the Abbe Belmont, which record the same events as Radisson. In no case has reliance been placed on second-hand chronicles. Oldmixon and Charlevoix must both have written from hearsay; therefore, though quoted in the footnotes, they are not given as conclusive proof. The only means of identifying Radisson's routes are (1) by his descriptions of the countries, (2) his notes of the Indian tribes; so that personal knowledge of the territory is absolutely essential in following Radisson's narrative. All the regions traversed by Radisson—the Ottawa, the St. Lawrence, the Great Lakes, Labrador, and the Great Northwest—I have visited, some of them many times, except the shores of Hudson Bay, and of that region I have some hundreds of photographs.

Material for the accounts of the other pathfinders of the West has been drawn directly from the different explorers' journals.

For historical matter I wish to express my indebtedness to Dr. N. E. Dionne of the Parliamentary Library, Quebec, whose splendid sketch of Radisson and Groseillers, read before the Royal Society of Canada, does much to redeem the memory of the discoverers from ignominy; to Dr. George Bryce of Winnipeg, whose investigation of Hudson's Bay Archives adds a new chapter to Radisson's life; to Mr. Benjamin Sulte of Ottawa, whose destructive criticism of inaccuracies in old and modern records has done so much to stop people writing history out of their heads and to put research on an honest basis; and to M. Edouard Richard for scholarly advice relating to the Marine Archives, which he has exploited so thoroughly. For transcripts and archives now out of print, thanks are due Mr. L. P. Sylvain of the Parliamentary Library, Ottawa, the officials of the Archives Department, Ottawa, Mr. F. C. Wurtele of Quebec, Professor Andrew Baird of Winnipeg, Mr. Alfred Matthews of the Prince Society, Boston, the Hon. Jacob V. Brower and Mr. Warren Upham of St. Paul. Mr. Lawrence J. Burpee of Ottawa was so good as to give me a reading of his exhaustive notes on La Verendrye and of data found on the Radisson family. To Mrs. Fred Paget of Ottawa, the daughter of a Hudson's Bay Company officer, and to Mr. and Mrs. C. C. Farr of the Northern Ottawa, I am indebted for interesting facts on life in the fur posts. Miss Talbot of Winnipeg obtained from retired officers of the Hudson's Bay Company a most complete set of photographs relating to the fur trade. To her and to those officers who loaned old heirlooms to be photographed, I beg to express my cordial appreciation. And the thanks of all who write on the North are permanently due Mr. C. C. Chipman, Chief Commissioner of the Hudson's Bay Company, for unfailing courtesy in extending information.



[1] I of course refer to the West as beyond the Great Lakes; for Nicotet, in 1634, and two nameless Frenchmen—servants of Jean de Lauzon—in 1654, had been beyond the Sault.

Just as this volume was going to the printer, I received a copy of the very valuable Minnesota Memoir, Vol. VI, compiled by the Hon. J. V. Brower of St. Paul, to whom my thanks are due for this excellent contribution to Western annals. It may be said that the authors of this volume have done more than any other writers to vindicate Radisson and Groseillers as explorers of the West. The very differences of opinion over the regions visited establish the fact that Radisson did explore parts of Minnesota. I have purposely avoided trying to say what parts of Minnesota he exploited, because, it seems to me, the controversy is futile. Radisson's memory has been the subject of controversy from the time of his life. The controversy—first between the governments of France and England, subsequently between the French and English historians—has eclipsed the real achievements of Radisson. To me it seems non-essential as to whether Radisson camped on an island in the Mississippi, or only visited the region of that island. The fact remains that he discovered the Great Northwest, meaning by that the region west of the Mississippi. The same dispute has obscured his explorations of Hudson Bay, French writers maintaining that he went overland to the North and put his feet in the waters of the bay, the English writers insisting that he only crossed over the watershed toward Hudson Bay. Again, the fact remains that he did what others had failed to do—discovered an overland route to the bay. I am sorry that Radisson is accused in this Memoir of intentionally falsifying his relations in two respects, (1) in adding a fanciful year to the 1658-1660 voyage; (2) in saying that he had voyaged down the Mississippi to Mexico. (1) Internal evidence plainly shows that Radisson's first four voyages were written twenty years afterward, when he was in London, and not while on the voyage across the Atlantic with Cartwright, the Boston commissioner. It is the most natural thing in the world that Radisson, who had so often been to the wilds, should have mixed his dates. Every slip as to dates is so easily checked by contemporaneous records—which, themselves, need to be checked—that it seems too bad to accuse Radisson of wilfully lying in the matter. When Radisson lied it was to avoid bloodshed, and not to exalt himself. If he had had glorification of self in mind, he would not have set down his own faults so unblushingly; for instance, where he deceives M. Colbert of Paris. (2) Radisson does not try to give the impression that he went to Mexico. The sense of the context is that he met an Indian tribe—Illinois, Mandans, Omahas, or some other—who lived next to another tribe who told of the Spaniards. I feel almost sure that the scholarly Mr. Benjamin Sulte is right in his letter to me when he suggests that Radisson's manuscript has been mixed by transposition of pages or paragraphs, rather than that Radisson himself was confused in his account. At the same time every one of the contributors to the Minnesota Memoir deserves the thanks of all who love true history.


Since the above foreword was written, the contents of this volume have appeared serially in four New York magazines. The context of the book was slightly abridged in these articles, so that a very vital distinction—namely, the difference between what is given as in dispute, and what is given as incontrovertible fact—was lost; but what was my amusement to receive letters from all parts of the West all but challenging me to a duel. One wants to know "how a reputable author dare" suggest that Radisson's voyages be taken as authentic. There is no "dare" about it. It is a fact. For any "reputable" historian to suggest—as two recently have—that Radisson's voyages are a fabrication, is to stamp that historian as a pretender who has not investigated a single record contemporaneous with Radisson's life. One cannot consult documents contemporaneous with his life and not learn instantly that he was a very live fact of the most troublesome kind the governments of France and England ever had to accept. That is why it impresses me as a presumption that is almost comical for any modern writer to condescend to say that he "accepts" or "rejects" this or that part of Radisson's record. If he "rejects" Radisson, he also rejects the Marine Archives of Paris, and the Jesuit Relations, which are the recognized sources of our early history.

Another correspondent furiously denounces Radisson as a liar because he mixes his dates of the 1660 trip. It would be just as reasonable to call La Salle a liar because there are discrepancies in the dates of his exploits, as to call Radisson a liar for the slips in his dates. When the mistakes can be checked from internal evidence, one is hardly justified in charging falsification.

A third correspondent is troubled by the reference to the Mascoutin Indians being beyond the Mississippi. State documents establish this fact. I am not responsible for it; and Radisson could not circle west-northwest from the Mascoutins to the great encampments of the Sioux without going far west of the Mississippi. Even if the Jesuits make a slip in referring to the Sioux's use of some kind of coal for fire because there was no wood on the prairie, and really mean turf or buffalo refuse,—which I have seen the Sioux use for fire,—the fact is that only the tribes far west of the Mississippi habitually used such substitutes for wood.

My Wisconsin correspondents I have offended by saying that Radisson went beyond the Wisconsin; my Minnesota friends, by saying that he went beyond Minnesota; and my Manitoba co-workers of past days, by suggesting that he ever went beyond Manitoba. The fact remains that when we try to identify Radisson's voyages, we must take his own account of his journeyings; and that account establishes him as the Discoverer of the Northwest.

For those who know, I surely do not need to state that there is no picture of Radisson extant, and that some of the studies of his life are just as genuine (?) as alleged old prints of his likeness.







The Boy Radisson is captured by the Iroquois and carried to the Mohawk Valley—In League with Another Captive, he slays their Guards and escapes—He is overtaken in Sight of Home—Tortured and adopted in the Tribe, he visits Orange, where the Dutch offer to ransom him—His Escape



Radisson returns to Quebec, where he joins the Jesuits to go to the Iroquois Mission—He witnesses the Massacre of the Hurons among the Thousand Islands—Besieged by the Iroquois, they pass the Winter as Prisoners of War—Conspiracy to massacre the French foiled by Radisson



The Discovery of the Great Northwest—Radisson and his Brother-in-law, Groseillers, visit what are now Wisconsin, Minnesota, Dakota, and the Canadian Northwest—Radisson's Prophecy on first beholding the West—Twelve Years before Marquette and Jolliet, Radisson sees the Mississippi—The Terrible Remains of Dollard's Fight seen on the Way down the Ottawa—Why Radisson's Explorations have been ignored



The Success of the Explorers arouses Envy—It becomes known that they have heard of the Famous Sea of the North—When they ask Permission to resume their Explorations, the French Governor refuses except on Condition of receiving Half the Profits—In Defiance, the Explorers steal off at Midnight—They return with a Fortune and are driven from New France



Rival Traders thwart the Plans of the Discoverers—Entangled in Lawsuits, the Two French Explorers go to England—The Organization of the Hudson's Bay Fur Company—Radisson the Storm-centre of International Intrigue—Boston Merchants in the Struggle to capture the Fur Trade



Though opposed by the Monopolists of Quebec, he secures Ships for a Voyage to Hudson Bay—Here he encounters a Pirate Ship from Boston and an English Ship of the Hudson's Bay Company—How he plays his Cards to win against Both Rivals



France refuses to restore the Confiscated Furs and Radisson tries to redeem his Fortune—Reengaged by England, he captures back Fort Nelson, but comes to Want in his Old Age—His Character





M. de la Verendrye continues the Exploration of the Great Northwest by establishing a Chain of Fur Posts across the Continent—Privations of the Explorers and the Massacre of Twenty Followers—His Sons visit the Mandans and discover the Rockies—The Valley of the Saskatchewan is next explored, but Jealousy thwarts the Explorer, and he dies in Poverty





The Adventures of Hearne in his Search for the Coppermine River and Northwest Passage—Hilarious Life of Wassail led by Governor Norton—The Massacre of the Eskimo by Hearne's Indians North of the Arctic Circle—Discovery of the Athabasca Country—Hearne becomes Resident Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, but is captured by the French—Death of Norton and Suicide of Matonabbee





How Mackenzie found the Great River named after him and then pushed across the Mountains to the Pacific, forever settling the Question of a Northwest Passage



The First White Men to ascend the Missouri to its Sources and descend the Columbia to the Pacific—Exciting Adventures on the Canons of the Missouri, the Discovery of the Great Falls and the Yellowstone—Lewis' Escape from Hostiles




Stealing from the Fort by Night . . . . . . Frontispiece

Map of the Great Fur Country

Three Rivers in 1757

Map of the Iroquois Country in the Days of Radisson

Albany from an Old Print

The Battery, New York, in Radisson's Time

Fort Amsterdam, from an ancient engraving executed in Holland

One of the Earliest Maps of the Great Lakes

Paddling past Hostiles

Jogues, the Jesuit Missionary, who was tortured by the Mohawks

Chateau de Ramezay, Montreal

A Cree Brave, with the Wampum String

An Old-time Buffalo Hunt on the Plains among the Sioux

Father Marquette, from an old painting discovered in Montreal

Voyageurs running the Rapids of the Ottawa River

Montreal in 1760

Chateau St. Louis, Quebec, 1669

A Parley on the Plains

Martello Tower of Refuge in Time of Indian Wars—Three Rivers

Skin for Skin, Coat of Arms and Motto, Hudson's Bay Company

Hudson's Bay Company Coins, made of Lead melted from Tea-chests at York Factory

Hudson Bay Dog Trains laden with Furs arriving at Lower Fort Garry, Red River

Indians and Hunters spurring to the Fight

Fights at the Foothills of the Rockies, between Crows and Snakes

Each Man landed with Pack on his Back and trotted away over Portages

A Cree Indian of the Minnesota Borderlands

A Group of Cree Indians

The Soldiers marched out from Mount Royal for the Western Sea

Traders' Boats running the Rapids of the Athabasca River

The Ragged Sky-line of the Mountains

Hungry Hall, 1870

A Monarch of the Plains

Fur Traders towed down the Saskatchewan in the Summer of 1900

Tepees dotted the Valley

An Eskimo Belle

Samuel Hearne

Eskimo using Double-bladed Paddle

Eskimo Family, taken by Light of Midnight Sun

Fort Garry, Winnipeg, a Century Ago

Plan of Fort Prince of Wales, from Robson's drawing, 1733-1747

Fort Prince of Wales

Beaver Coin of the Hudson's Bay Company

Alexander Mackenzie

Eskimo trading his Pipe, carved from Walrus Tusk, for the Value of Three Beaver Skins

Quill and Beadwork on Buckskin

Fort William, Headquarters Northwest Company, Lake Superior

Running a Rapid on Mackenzie River

Slave Lake Indians

Good Hope, Mackenzie River, Hudson's Bay Company Fort

The Mouth of the Mackenzie by the Light of the Midnight Sun

Captain Meriwether Lewis

Captain William Clark

Tracking up Stream

Typical Mountain Trapper

The Discovery of the Great Falls

Fighting a Grizzly

Packer carrying Goods across Portage

Spying on Enemy's Fort

Indian Camp at Foothills of Rockies

On Guard

Indians of the Up-country or Pays d'en Haut




Pathfinders of the West




The Boy Radisson is captured by the Iroquois and carried to the Mohawk Valley—In League with Another Captive, he slays their Guards and escapes—He is overtaken in Sight of Home—Tortured and adopted in the Tribe, he visits Orange, where the Dutch offer to ransom him—His Escape

Early one morning in the spring of 1652 three young men left the little stockaded fort of Three Rivers, on the north bank of the St. Lawrence, for a day's hunting in the marshes of Lake St. Peter. On one side were the forested hills, purple with the mists of rising vapor and still streaked with white patches of snow where the dense woods shut out the sunlight. On the other lay the silver expanse of the St. Lawrence, more like a lake than a river, with mile on mile southwestward of rush-grown marshes, where plover and curlew and duck and wild geese flocked to their favorite feeding-grounds three hundred years ago just as they do to-day. Northeastward, the three mouths of the St. Maurice poured their spring flood into the St. Lawrence.

The hunters were very young. Only hunters rash with the courage of untried youth would have left the shelter of the fort walls when all the world knew that the Iroquois had been lying in ambush round the little settlement of Three Rivers day and night for the preceding year. Not a week passed but some settler working on the outskirts of Three Rivers was set upon and left dead in his fields by marauding Iroquois. The tortures suffered by Jogues, the great Jesuit missionary who had been captured by the Iroquois a few years before, were still fresh in the memory of every man, woman, and child in New France. It was from Three Rivers that Piescaret, the famous Algonquin chief who could outrun a deer, had set out against the Iroquois, turning his snowshoes back to front, so that the track seemed to lead north when he was really going south, and then, having thrown his pursuers off the trail, coming back on his own footsteps, slipping up stealthily on the Iroquois that were following the false scent, and tomahawking the laggards.[1] It was from Three Rivers that the Mohawks had captured the Algonquin girl who escaped by slipping off the thongs that bound her. Stepping over the prostrate forms of her sleeping guards, such a fury of revenge possessed her that she seized an axe and brained the nearest sleeper, then eluded her pursuers by first hiding in a hollow tree and afterward diving under the debris of a beaver dam.

These things were known to every inhabitant of Three Rivers. Farmers had flocked into the little fort and could venture back to their fields only when armed with a musket.[2] Yet the three young hunters rashly left the shelter of the fort walls and took the very dangerous path that led between the forests and the water. One of the young men was barely in his seventeenth year.[3] This was Pierre Esprit Radisson, from St. Malo, the town of the famous Cartier. Young Radisson had only come to New France the year before, and therefore could not realize the dangers of Indian warfare. Like boys the world over, the three went along, boasting how they would fight if the Indians came. One skirted the forest, on the watch for Iroquois, the others kept to the water, on the lookout for game. About a mile from Three Rivers they encountered a herdsman who warned them to keep out from the foot of the hills. Things that looked like a multitude of heads had risen out of the earth back there, he said, pointing to the forests. That set the young hunters loading their pistols and priming muskets. It must also have chilled their zest; for, shooting some ducks, one of the young men presently declared that he had had enough—he was going back. With that daring which was to prove both the lodestar and the curse of his life, young Radisson laughed to scorn the sudden change of mind. Thereupon the first hunter was joined by the second, and the two went off in high dudgeon. With a laugh, Pierre Radisson marched along alone, foreshadowing his after life,—a type of every pathfinder facing the dangers of the unknown with dauntless scorn, an immortal type of the world-hero.

Shooting at every pace and hilarious over his luck, Radisson had wandered some nine miles from the fort, when he came to a stream too deep to ford and realized that he already had more game than he could possibly carry. Hiding in hollow trees what he could not bring back, he began trudging toward Three Rivers with a string of geese, ducks, and odd teal over his shoulders, Wading swollen brooks and scrambling over windfalls, he retraced his way without pause till he caught sight of the town chapel glimmering in the sunlight against the darkening horizon above the river. He was almost back where his comrades had left him; so he sat down to rest. The cowherd had driven his cattle back to Three Rivers.[4] The river came lapping through the rushes. There was a clacking of wild-fowl flocking down to their marsh nests; perhaps a crane flopped through the reeds; but Radisson, who had laughed the nervous fears of the others to scorn, suddenly gave a start at the lonely sounds of twilight. Then he noticed that his pistols were water-soaked. Emptying the charges, he at once reloaded, and with characteristic daring crept softly back to reconnoitre the woods. Dodging from tree to tree, he peered up and down the river. Great flocks of ducks were swimming on the water. That reassured him, for the bird is more alert to alarm than man. The fort was almost within call. Radisson determined to have a shot at such easy quarry; but as he crept through the grass toward the game, he almost stumbled over what rooted him to the spot with horror. Just as they had fallen, naked and scalped, with bullet and hatchet wounds all over their bodies, lay his comrades of the morning, dead among the rushes. Radisson was too far out to get back to the woods. Stooping, he tried to grope to the hiding of the rushes. As he bent, half a hundred heads rose from the grasses, peering which way he might go. They were behind, before, on all sides—his only hope was a dash for the cane-grown river, where he might hide by diving and wading, till darkness gave a chance for a rush to the fort. Slipping bullet and shot in his musket as he ran, and ramming down the paper, hoping against hope that he had not been seen, he dashed through the brushwood. A score of guns crashed from the forest.[5] Before he realized the penalty that the Iroquois might exact for such an act, he had fired back; but they were upon him. He was thrown down and disarmed. When he came giddily to his senses, he found himself being dragged back to the woods, where the Iroquois flaunted the fresh scalps of his dead friends. Half drawn, half driven, he was taken to the shore. Here, a flotilla of canoes lay concealed where he had been hunting wild-fowl but a few hours before. Fires were kindled, and the crotched sticks driven in the ground to boil the kettle for the evening meal. The young Frenchman was searched, stripped, and tied round the waist with a rope, the Indians yelling and howling like so many wolves all the while till a pause was given their jubilation by the alarm of a scout that the French and Algonquins were coming. In a trice, the fire was out and covered. A score of young braves set off to reconnoitre. Fifty remained at the boats; but if Radisson hoped for a rescue, he was doomed to disappointment. The warriors returned. Seventy Iroquois gathered round a second fire for the night. The one predominating passion of the savage nature is bravery. Lying in ambush, they had heard this French youth laugh at his comrades' fears. In defiance of danger, they had seen him go hunting alone. After he had heard an alarm, he had daringly come out to shoot at the ducks. And, then, boy as he was, when attacked he had instantly fired back at numerous enough enemies to have intimidated a score of grown men. There is not the slightest doubt it was Radisson's bravery that now saved him from the fate of his companions.

His clothes were returned. While the evening meal was boiling, young warriors dressed and combed the Frenchman's hair after the manner of braves. They daubed his cheeks with war-paint; and when they saw that their rancid meats turned him faint, they boiled meat in clean water and gave him meal browned on burning sand.[6] He did not struggle to escape, so he was now untied. That night he slept between two warriors under a common blanket, through which he counted the stars. For fifty years his home was to be under the stars. It is typically Radisson when he could add: "I slept a sound sleep; for they wakened me upon the breaking of the day." In the morning they embarked in thirty-seven canoes, two Indians in each boat, with Radisson tied to the cross-bar of one, the scalps lying at his feet. Spreading out on the river, they beat their paddles on the gunwales of the canoes, shot off guns, and uttered the shrill war-cry—"Ah-oh! Ah-oh! Ah-oh!" [7] Lest this were not sufficient defiance to the penned-up fort on the river bank, the chief stood up in his canoe, signalled silence, and gave three shouts. At once the whole company answered till the hills rang; and out swung the fleet of canoes with more shouting and singing and firing of guns, each paddle-stroke sounding the death knell to the young Frenchman's hopes.

By sunset they were among the islands at the mouth of the Richelieu, where muskrats scuttled through the rushes and wild-fowl clouded the air. The south shore of Lake St. Peter was heavily forested; the north, shallow. The lake was flooded with spring thaw, and the Mohawks could scarcely find camping-ground among the islands. The young prisoner was deathly sick from the rank food that he had eaten and heart-sick from the widening distance between himself and Three Rivers. Still, they treated him kindly, saying, "Chagon! Chagon!—Be merry! Cheer up!" The fourth day up the Richelieu, he was embarked without being fastened to the cross-bar, and he was given a paddle. Fresh to the work, Radisson made a labor of his oar. The Iroquois took the paddle and taught him how to give the light, deft, feather strokes of the Indian canoeman. On the river they met another band of warriors, and the prisoner was compelled to show himself a trophy of victory and to sing songs for his captors. That evening the united bands kindled an enormous campfire and with the scalps of the dead flaunting from spear heads danced the scalp dance, reenacting in pantomime all the episodes of the massacre to the monotonous chant-chant, of a recitative relating the foray. At the next camping-ground, Radisson's hair was shaved in front and decorated on top with the war-crest of a brave. Having translated the white man into a savage, they brought him one of the tin looking-glasses used by Indians to signal in the sun. "I, viewing myself all in a pickle," relates Radisson, "smeared with red and black, covered with such a top, . . . could not but fall in love with myself, if I had not had better instructions to shun the sin of pride."

Radisson saw that apparent compliance with the Mohawks might win him a chance to escape; so he was the first to arise in the morning, wakening the others and urging them that it was time to break camp. The stolid Indians were not to be moved by an audacious white boy. Watching the young prisoner, the keepers lay still, feigning sleep. Radisson rose. They made no protest. He wandered casually down to the water side. One can guess that the half-closed eyelids of his guards opened a trifle: was the mouse trying to get away from the cat? To the Indians' amusement, instead of trying to escape, Radisson picked up a spear and practised tossing it, till a Mohawk became so interested that he jumped up and taught the young Frenchman the proper throws. That day the Indians gave him the present of a hunting-knife. North of Lake Champlain, the river became so turbulent that they were forced to land and make a portage. Instead of lagging, as captives frequently did from very fear as they approached nearer and nearer what was almost certain to mean death-torture in the Iroquois villages—Radisson hurried over the rocks, helping the older warriors to carry their packs. At night he was the first to cut wood for the camp fire.

About a week from the time they had left Lake St. Peter, they entered Lake Champlain. On the shores of the former had been enacted the most hideous of all Indian customs—the scalp dance. On the shores of the latter was performed one of the most redeeming rites of Indian warfare. Round a small pool of water a coppice of branches was interlaced. Into the water were thrown hot stones till the enclosure was steaming. Here each warrior took a sweat-bath of purification to prepare for reunion with his family. Invoking the spirits as they bathed, the warriors emerged washed—as they thought—of all blood-guilt.[8]

In the night shots sounded through the heavy silence of the forest, and the Mohawks embarked in alarm, compelling their white prisoner to lie flat in the bottom of the canoe. In the morning when he awakened, he found the entire band hidden among the rushes of the lake. They spent several days on Lake Champlain, then glided past wooded mountains down a calm river to Lake George, where canoes were abandoned and the warriors struck westward through dense forests to the country of the Iroquois. Two days from the lake slave women met the returning braves, and in Radisson's words, "loaded themselves like mules with baggage." On this woodland march Radisson won golden opinions for himself by two acts: struck by an insolent young brave, he thrashed the culprit soundly; seeing an old man staggering under too heavy a load, the white youth took the burden on his own shoulders.

The return of the warriors to their villages was always celebrated as a triumph. The tribe marched out to meet them, singing, firing guns, shouting a welcome, dancing as the Israelites danced of old when victors returned from battle. Men, women, and children lined up on each side armed with clubs and whips to scourge the captives. Well for Radisson that he had won the warriors' favor; for when the time came for him to run the gantlet of Iroquois diableries, instead of being slowly led, with trussed arms and shackled feet, he was stripped free and signalled to run so fast that his tormentors could not hit him. Shrieks of laughter from the women, shouts of applause from the men, always greeted the racer who reached the end of the line unscathed. A captive Huron woman, who had been adopted by the tribe, caught the white boy as he dashed free of a single blow clear through the lines of tormentors. Leading him to her cabin, she fed and clothed him. Presently a band of braves marched up, demanded the surrender of Radisson, and took him to the Council Lodge of the Iroquois for judgment.

Old men sat solemnly round a central fire, smoking their calumets in silence. Radisson was ordered to sit down. A coal of fire was put in the bowl of the great Council Pipe and passed reverently round the assemblage. Then the old Huron woman entered, gesticulating and pleading for the youth's life. The men smoked on silently with deep, guttural "ho-ho's," meaning "yes, yes, we are pleased." The woman was granted permission to adopt Radisson as a son. Radisson had won his end. Diplomacy and courage had saved his life. It now remained to await an opportunity for escape.

Radisson bent all his energies to become a great hunter. He was given firearms, and daily hunted with the family of his adoption. It so happened that the family had lost a son in the wars, whose name had signified the same as Radisson's—that is, "a stone"; so the Pierre of Three Rivers became the Orimha of the Mohawks. The Iroquois husband of the woman who had befriended him gave such a feast to the Mohawk braves as befitted the prestige of a warrior who had slain nineteen enemies with his own hand. Three hundred young Mohawks sat down to a collation of moose nose and beaver tails and bears' paws, served by slaves. To this banquet Radisson was led, decked out in colored blankets with garnished leggings and such a wealth of wampum strings hanging from wrists, neck, hair, and waist that he could scarcely walk. Wampum means more to the Indian than money to the white man. It represents not only wealth but social standing, and its value may be compared to the white man's estimate of pink pearls. Diamond-cutters seldom spend more than two weeks in polishing a good stone. An Indian would spend thirty days in perfecting a single bit of shell into fine wampum. Radisson's friends had ornamented him for the feast in order to win the respect of the Mohawks for the French boy. Striking his hatchet through a kettle of sagamite to signify thus would he break peace to all Radisson's foes, the old Iroquois warrior made a speech to the assembled guests. The guests clapped their hands and shouted, "Chagon, Orimha!—Be merry, Pierre!" The Frenchman had been formally adopted as a Mohawk.

The forests were now painted in all the glories of autumn. All the creatures of the woodlands shook off the drowsy laziness of summer and came down from the uplands seeking haunts for winter retreat. Moose and deer were on the move. Beaver came splashing down-stream to plaster up their wattled homes before frost. Bear and lynx and marten, all were restless as the autumn winds instinct with coming storm. This is the season when the Indian sets out to hunt and fight. Furnished with clothing, food, and firearms, Radisson left the Mohawk Valley with three hunters. By the middle of August, the rind of the birch is in perfect condition for peeling. The first thing the hunters did was to slit off the bark of a thick-girthed birch and with cedar linings make themselves a skiff. Then they prepared to lay up a store of meat for the winter's war-raids. Before ice forms a skim across the still pools, nibbled chips betray where a beaver colony is at work; so the hunters began setting beaver traps. One night as they were returning to their wigwam, there came through the leafy darkness the weird sound of a man singing. It was a solitary Algonquin captive, who called out that he had been on the track of a bear since daybreak. He probably belonged to some well-known Iroquois, for he was welcomed to the camp-fire. The sight of a face from Three Rivers roused the Algonquin's memories of his northern home. In the noise of the crackling fire, he succeeded in telling Radisson, without being overheard by the Iroquois, that he had been a captive for two years and longed to escape.

"Do you love the French?" the Algonquin asked Radisson.

"Do you love the Algonquin?" returned Radisson, knowing they were watched.

"As I do my own nation." Then leaning across to Radisson, "Brother—white man!—Let us escape! The Three Rivers—it is not far off! Will you live like a Huron in bondage, or have your liberty with the French?" Then, lowering his voice, "Let us kill all three this night when they are asleep!"

From such a way of escape, the French youth held back. The Algonquin continued to urge him. By this time, Radisson must have heard from returning Iroquois warriors that they had slain the governor of Three Rivers, Duplessis-Kerbodot, and eleven other Frenchmen, among whom was the husband of Radisson's eldest sister, Marguerite.[9]

While Radisson was still hesitating, the suspicious Iroquois demanded what so much whispering was about; but the alert Algonquin promptly quieted their fears by trumping up some hunting story. Wearied from their day's hunt, the three Mohawks slept heavily round the camp-fire. They had not the least suspicion of danger, for they had stacked their arms carelessly against the trees of the forest. Terrified lest the Algonquin should attempt to carry out his threat, Radisson pretended to be asleep. Rising noiselessly, the Algonquin sat down by the fire. The Mohawks slept on. The Algonquin gave Radisson a push. The French boy looked up to see the Algonquin studying the postures of the sleeping forms. The dying fire glimmered like a blotch of blood under the trees. Stepping stealthy as a cat over the sleeping men, the Indian took possession of their firearms. Drawn by a kind of horror, Radisson had risen. The Algonquin thrust one of the tomahawks into the French lad's hands and pointed without a word at the three sleeping Mohawks. Then the Indian began the black work. The Mohawk nearest the fire never knew that he had been struck, and died without a sound. Radisson tried to imitate the relentless Algonquin, but, unnerved with horror, he bungled the blow and lost hold of the hatchet just as it struck the Mohawk's head. The Iroquois sprang up with a shout that awakened the third man, but the Algonquin was ready. Radisson's blow proved fatal. The victim reeled back dead, and the third man was already despatched by the Algonquin.

Radisson was free. It was a black deed that freed him, but not half so black as the deeds perpetrated in civilized wars for less cause; and for that deed Radisson was to pay swift retribution.

Taking the scalps as trophies to attest his word, the Algonquin threw the bodies into the river. He seized all the belongings of the dead men but one gun and then launched out with Radisson on the river. The French youth was conscience-stricken. "I was sorry to have been in such an encounter," he writes, "but it was too late to repent." Under cover of the night mist and shore foliage, they slipped away with the current. At first dawn streak, while the mist still hid them, they landed, carried their canoe to a sequestered spot in the dense forest, and lay hidden under the upturned skiff all that day, tormented by swarms of mosquitoes and flies, but not daring to move from concealment. At nightfall, they again launched down-stream, keeping always in the shadows of the shore till mist and darkness shrouded them, then sheering off for mid-current, where they paddled for dear life. Where camp-fires glimmered on the banks, they glided past with motionless paddles. Across Lake Champlain, across the Richelieu, over long portages where every shadow took the shape of an ambushed Iroquois, for fourteen nights they travelled, when at last with many windings and false alarms they swept out on the wide surface of Lake St. Peter in the St. Lawrence.

Within a day's journey of Three Rivers, they were really in greater danger than they had been in the forests of Lake Champlain. Iroquois had infested that part of the St. Lawrence for more than a year. The forest of the south shore, the rush-grown marshes, the wooded islands, all afforded impenetrable hiding. It was four in the morning when they reached Lake St. Peter. Concealing their canoe, they withdrew to the woods, cooked their breakfast, covered the fire, and lay down to sleep. In a couple of hours the Algonquin impatiently wakened Radisson and urged him to cross the lake to the north shore on the Three Rivers side. Radisson warned the Indian that the Iroquois were ever lurking about Three Rivers. The Indian would not wait till sunset. "Let us go," he said. "We are past fear. Let us shake off the yoke of these whelps that have killed so many French and black robes (priests). . . . If you come not now that we are so near, I leave you, and will tell the governor you were afraid to come."

Radisson's judgment was overruled by the impatient Indian. They pushed their skiff out from the rushes. The water lay calm as a sea of silver. They paddled directly across to get into hiding on the north shore. Halfway across Radisson, who was at the bow, called out that he saw shadows on the water ahead. The Indian stood up and declared that the shadow was the reflection of a flying bird. Barely had they gone a boat length when the shadows multiplied. They were the reflections of Iroquois ambushed among the rushes. Heading the canoe back for the south shore, they raced for their lives. The Iroquois pursued in their own boats. About a mile from the shore, the strength of the fugitives fagged. Knowing that the Iroquois were gaining fast, Radisson threw out the loathsome scalps that the Algonquin had persisted in carrying. By that strange fatality which seems to follow crime, instead of sinking, the hairy scalps floated on the surface of the water back to the pursuing Iroquois. Shouts of rage broke from the warriors. Radisson's skiff was so near the south shore that he could see the pebbled bottom of the lake; but the water was too deep to wade and too clear for a dive, and there was no driftwood to afford hiding. Then a crash of musketry from the Iroquois knocked the bottom out of the canoe. The Algonquin fell dead with two bullet wounds in his head and the canoe gradually filled, settled, and sank, with the young Frenchman clinging to the cross-bar mute as stone. Just as it disappeared under water, Radisson was seized, and the dead Algonquin was thrown into the Mohawk boats.

Radisson alone remained to pay the penalty of a double crime; and he might well have prayed for the boat to sink. The victors shouted their triumph. Hurrying ashore, they kindled a great fire. They tore the heart from the dead Algonquin, transfixed the head on a pike, and cast the mutilated body into the flames for those cannibal rites in which savages thought they gained courage by eating the flesh of their enemies. Radisson was rifled of clothes and arms, trussed at the elbows, roped round the waist, and driven with blows back to the canoes. There were other captives among the Mohawks. As the canoes emerged from the islands, Radisson counted one hundred and fifty Iroquois warriors, with two French captives, one white woman, and seventeen Hurons. Flaunting from the canoe prows were the scalps of eleven Algonquins. The victors fired off their muskets and shouted defiance until the valley rang. As the seventy-five canoes turned up the Richelieu River for the country of the Iroquois, hope died in the captive Hurons and there mingled with the chant of the Mohawks' war-songs, the low monotonous dirge of the prisoners:—

"If I die, I die valiant! I go without fear To that land where brave men Have gone long before me— If I die, I die valiant."

Twelve miles up the Richelieu, the Iroquois landed to camp. The prisoners were pegged out on the sand, elbows trussed to knees, each captive tied to a post. In this fashion they lay every night of encampment, tortured by sand-flies that they were powerless to drive off. At the entrance to the Mohawk village, a yoke was fastened to the captives' necks by placing pairs of saplings one on each side down the line of prisoners. By the rope round the waist of the foremost prisoner, they were led slowly between the lines of tormentors. The captives were ordered to sing. If one refused or showed fear, a Mohawk struck off a finger with a hatchet, or tore the prisoners' nails out, or thrust red-hot irons into the muscles of the bound arms.[10] As Radisson appeared, he was recognized with shouts of rage by the friends of the murdered Mohawks. Men, women, and children armed with rods and skull-crackers—leather bags loaded with stones—rushed on the slowly moving file of prisoners.

"They began to cry from both sides," says Radisson; "we marching one after another, environed with people to witness that hideous sight, which seriously may be called the image of Hell in this world."

The prisoners moved mournfully on. The Hurons chanted their death dirge. The Mohawk women uttered screams of mockery. Suddenly there broke from the throng of onlookers the Iroquois family that had adopted Radisson. Pushing through the crew of torturers, the mother caught Radisson by the hair, calling him by the name of her dead son, "Orimha! Orimha!" She cut the thongs that bound him to the poles, and wresting him free shoved him to her husband, who led Radisson to their own lodge.

"Thou fool," cried the old chief, "thou wast my son! Thou makest thyself an enemy! Thou lovest us not, though we saved thy life! Wouldst kill me, too?" Then, with a rough push to a mat on the ground, "Chagon—now, be merry! It's a merry business you've got into! Give him something to eat!"

Trembling with fear, young Radisson put as bold a face on as he could and made a show of eating what the squaw placed before him. He was still relating his adventures when there came a roar of anger from the Mohawks outside, who had discovered his absence from the line. A moment later the rabble broke into the lodge. Jostling the friendly chief aside, the Mohawk warriors carried Radisson back to the orgies of the torture. The prisoners had been taken out of the stocks and placed on several scaffoldings. One poor Frenchman fell to the ground bruised and unable to rise. The Iroquois tore the scalp from his head and threw him into the fire. That was Radisson's first glimpse of what was in store for him. Then he, too, stood on the scaffolding among the other prisoners, who never ceased singing their death song. In the midst of these horrors—diableries, the Jesuits called them—as if the very elements had been moved with pity, there burst over the darkened forest a terrific hurricane of hail and rain. This put out the fires and drove all the tormentors away but a few impish children, who stayed to pluck nails from the hands and feet of the captives and shoot arrows with barbed points at the naked bodies. Every iniquity that cruelty could invent, these children practised on the captives. Red-hot spears were brought from the lodge fires and thrust into the prisoners. The mutilated finger ends were ground between stones. Thongs were twisted round wrists and ankles, by sticks put through a loop, till flesh was cut to the bone. As the rain ceased falling, a woman, who was probably the wife of one of the murdered Mohawks, brought her little boy to cut one of Radisson's fingers with a flint stone. The child was too young and ran away from the gruesome task.

Gathering darkness fell over the horrible spectacle. The exhausted captives, some in a delirium from pain, others unconscious, were led to separate lodges, or dragged over the ground, and left tied for the night. The next morning all were returned to the scaffolds, but the first day had glutted the Iroquois appetite for tortures. The friendly family was permitted to approach Radisson. The mother brought him food and told him that the Council Lodge had decided not to kill him for that day—they wanted the young white warrior for their own ranks; but even as the cheering hope was uttered, came a brave with a pipe of live coals, in which he thrust and held Radisson's thumb. No sooner had the tormentor left than the woman bound up the burn and oiled Radisson's wounds. He suffered no abuse that day till night, when the soles of both feet were burned. The majority of the captives were flung into a great bonfire. On the third day of torture he almost lost his life. First came a child to gnaw at his fingers. Then a man appeared armed for the ghastly work of mutilation. Both these the Iroquois father of Radisson sent away. Once, when none of the friendly family happened to be near, Radisson was seized and bound for burning, but by chance the lighted faggot scorched his executioner. A friendly hand slashed the thongs that bound him, and he was drawn back to the scaffold.

Past caring whether he lived or died, and in too great agony from the burns of his feet to realize where he was going, Radisson was conducted to the Great Council. Sixty old men sat on a circle of mats, smoking, round the central fire. Before them stood seven other captives. Radisson only was still bound. A gust of wind from the opening lodge door cleared the smoke for an instant and there entered Radisson's Indian father, clad in the regalia of a mighty chief. Tomahawk and calumet and medicine-bag were in his hands. He took his place in the circle of councillors. Judgment was to be given on the remaining prisoners.

After passing the Council Pipe from hand to hand in solemn silence, the sachems prepared to give their views. One arose, and offering the smoke of incense to the four winds of heaven to invoke witness to the justice of the trial, gave his opinion on the matter of life or death. Each of the chiefs in succession spoke. Without any warning whatever, one chief rose and summarily tomahawked three of the captives. That had been the sentence. The rest were driven, like sheep for the shambles, to life-long slavery.

Radisson was left last. His case was important. He had sanctioned the murder of three Mohawks. Not for a moment since he was recaptured had they dared to untie the hands of so dangerous a prisoner. Amid deathly silence, the Iroquois father stood up. Flinging down medicine-bag, fur robe, wampum belts, and tomahawk, he pointed to the nineteen scars upon his side, each of which signified an enemy slain by his own hand. Then the old Mohawk broke into one of those impassioned rhapsodies of eloquence which delighted the savage nature, calling back to each of the warriors recollection of victories for the Iroquois. His eyes took fire from memory of heroic battle. The councillors shook off their imperturbable gravity and shouted "Ho, ho!" Each man of them had a memory of his part in those past glories. And as they applauded, there glided into the wigwam the mother, singing some battle-song of valor, dancing and gesticulating round and round the lodge in dizzy, serpentine circlings, that illustrated in pantomime those battles of long ago. Gliding ghostily from the camp-fire to the outer dark, she suddenly stopped, stood erect, advanced a step, and with all her might threw one belt of priceless wampum at the councillors' feet, one necklace over the prisoner's head.

Before the applause could cease or the councillors' ardor cool, the adopted brother sprang up, hatchet in hand, and sang of other victories. Then, with a delicacy of etiquette which white pleaders do not always observe, father and son withdrew from the Council Lodge to let the jury deliberate. The old sachems were disturbed. They had been moved more than their wont. Twenty withdrew to confer. Dusk gathered deeper and deeper over the forests of the Mohawk Valley. Tawny faces came peering at the doors, waiting for the decision. Outsiders tore the skins from the walls of the lodge that they, too, might witness the memorable trial of the boy prisoner. Sachem after sachem rose and spoke. Tobacco was sacrificed to the fire-god. Would the relatives of the dead Mohawks consider the wampum belts full compensation? Could the Iroquois suffer a youth to live who had joined the murderers of the Mohawks? Could the Mohawks afford to offend the great Iroquois chief who was the French youth's friend? As they deliberated, the other councillors returned, accompanied by all the members of Radisson's friendly family. Again the father sang and spoke. This time when he finished, instead of sitting down, he caught the necklace of wampum from Radisson's neck, threw it at the feet of the oldest sachem, cut the captive's bonds, and, amid shouts of applause, set the white youth free.

One of the incomprehensible things to civilization is how a white man can degenerate to savagery. Young Radisson's life is an illustration. In the first transports of his freedom, with the Mohawk women dancing and singing around him, the men shouting, he leaped up, oblivious of pain; but when the flush of ecstasy had passed, he sank to the mat of the Iroquois lodge, and he was unable to use his burned feet for more than a month. During this time the Iroquois dressed his wounds, brought him the choice portions of the hunt, gave him clean clothing purchased at Orange (Albany), and attended to his wants as if he had been a prince. No doubt the bright eyes of the swarthy young French boy moved to pity the hearts of the Mohawk mothers, and his courage had won him favor among the warriors. He was treated like a king. The women waited upon him like slaves, and the men gave him presents of firearms and ammunition—the Indian's most precious possessions. Between flattered vanity and indolence, other white men, similarly treated, have lost their self-respect. Beckworth, of the Missouri, became to all intents and purposes a savage; and Bird, of the Blackfeet, degenerated lower than the Indians. Other Frenchmen captured from the St. Lawrence, and white women taken from the New England colonies, became so enamored of savage life that they refused to leave the Indian lodges when peace had liberated them. Not so Radisson. Though only seventeen, flattered vanity never caused him to forget the gratitude he owed the Mohawk family. Though he relates his life with a frankness that leaves nothing untold, he never at any time returned treachery for kindness. The very chivalry of the French nature endangered him all the more. Would he forget his manhood, his birthright of a superior race, his inheritance of nobility from a family that stood foremost among the noblesse of New France?

The spring of 1653 came with unloosening of the rivers and stirring of the forest sap and fret of the warrior blood. Radisson's Iroquois father held great feasts in which he heaved up the hatchet to break the kettle of sagamite against all enemies. Would Radisson go on the war-path with the braves, or stay at home with the women and so lose the respect of the tribe? In the hope of coming again within reach of Three Rivers, he offered to join the Iroquois in their wars. The Mohawks were delighted with his spirit, but they feared to lose their young warrior. Accepting his offer, they refused to let him accompany them to Quebec, but assigned him to a band of young braves, who were to raid the border-lands between the Huron country of the Upper Lakes and the St. Lawrence. This was not what Radisson wanted, but he could not draw back. There followed months of wild wanderings round the regions of Niagara. The band of young braves passed dangerous places with great precipices and a waterfall, where the river was a mile wide and unfrozen. Radisson was constrained to witness many acts against the Eries, which must have one of two effects on white blood,—either turn the white man into a complete savage, or disgust him utterly with savage life. Leaving the Mohawk village amid a blare of guns and shouts, the young braves on their maiden venture passed successively through the lodges of Oneidas, Onondagas, Senecas, and Cayugas, where they were feasted almost to death by the Iroquois Confederacy.[11] Then they marched to the vast wilderness of snow-padded forests and heaped windfall between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.

Snow still lay in great drifts under the shadow of hemlock and spruce; and the braves skimmed forward winged with the noiseless speed of snow-shoes. When the snow became too soft from thaw for snow-shoes, they paused to build themselves a skiff. It was too early to peel the bark off the birch, so they made themselves a dugout of the walnut tree. The wind changed from north to south, clearing the lakes of ice and filling the air with the earthy smells of up-bursting growth. "There was such a thawing," writes Radisson, "ye little brookes flowed like rivers, which made us embark to wander over that sweet sea." Lounging in their skiff all day, carried from shore to shore with the waves, and sleeping round camp-fires on the sand each night, the young braves luxuriated in all the delights of sunny idleness and spring life. But this was not war. It was play, and play of the sort that weans the white man from civilization to savagery.

One day a scout, who had climbed to the top of a tree, espied two strange squaws. They were of a hostile tribe. The Mohawk bloodthirst was up as a wolf's at the sight of lambs. In vain Radisson tried to save the women by warning the Iroquois that if there were women, there must be men, too, who would exact vengeance for the squaws' death. The young braves only laid their plans the more carefully for his warning and massacred the entire encampment. Prisoners were taken, but when food became scarce they were brutally knocked on the head. These tribes had never heard guns before, and at the sound of shots fled as from diabolical enemies. It was an easy matter for the young braves in the course of a few weeks to take a score of scalps and a dozen prisoners. At one place more than two hundred beaver were trapped. At the end of the raid, the booty was equally divided. Radisson asked that the woman prisoner be given to him; and he saved her from torture and death on the return to the Mohawks by presenting her as a slave to his Indian mother. All his other share of booty he gave to the friendly family. The raid was over. He had failed of his main object in joining it. He had not escaped. But he had made one important gain. His valor had reestablished the confidence of the Indians so that when they went on a free-booting expedition against the whites of the Dutch settlements at Orange (Albany), Radisson was taken with them. Orange, or Albany, consisted at that time of some fifty thatched log-houses surrounded by a settlement of perhaps a hundred and fifty farmers. This raid was bloodless. The warriors looted the farmers' cabins, emptied their cupboards, and drank their beer cellars dry to the last drop. Once more Radisson kept his head. While the braves entered Fort Orange roaring drunk, Radisson was alert and sober. A drunk Indian falls an easy prey in the bartering of pelts. The Iroquois wanted guns. The Dutch wanted pelts. The whites treated the savages like kings; and the Mohawks marched from house to house feasting of the best. Radisson was dressed in garnished buckskin and had been painted like a Mohawk. Suspecting some design to escape, his Iroquois friends never left him. The young Frenchman now saw white men for the first time in almost two years; but the speech that he heard was in a strange tongue. As Radisson went into the fort, he noticed a soldier among the Dutch. At the same instant the soldier recognized him as a Frenchman, and oblivious of the Mohawks' presence blurted out his discovery in Iroquois dialect, vowing that for all the paint and grease, this youth was a white man below. The fellow's blundering might have cost Radisson's life; but the youth had not been a captive among crafty Mohawks for nothing. Radisson feigned surprise at the accusation. That quieted the Mohawk suspicions and they were presently deep in the beer pots of the Dutch. Again the soldier spoke, this time in French. It was the first time that Radisson had heard his native tongue for months. He answered in French. At that the soldier emitted shouts of delight, for he, too, was French, and these strangers in an alien land threw their arms about each other like a pair of long-lost brothers with exclamations of joy too great for words.

From that moment Radisson became the lion of Fort Orange. The women dragged him to their houses and forced more dainties on him than he could eat. He was conducted from house to house in triumph, to the amazed delight of the Indians. The Dutch offered to ransom him at any price; but that would have exposed the Dutch settlement to the resentment of the Mohawks and placed Radisson under heavy obligation to people who were the enemies of New France. Besides, his honor was pledged to return to his Indian parents; and it was a long way home to have to sail to Europe and back again to Quebec. Perhaps, too, there was deep in his heart what he did not realize—a rooted love for the wilds that was to follow him all through life. By the devious course of captivity, he had tasted of a new freedom and could not give it up. He declined the offer of the Dutch. In two days he was back among the Mohawks ten times more a hero than he had ever been. Mother and sisters were his slaves.

But between love of the wilds and love of barbarism is a wide difference. He had not been back for two weeks when that glimpse of crude civilization at Orange recalled torturing memories of the French home in Three Rivers. The filthy food, the smoky lodges, the cruelties of the Mohawks, filled him with loathing. The nature of the white man, which had been hidden under the grease and paint of the savage—and in danger of total eclipse—now came upper-most. With Radisson, to think was to act. He determined to escape if it cost him his life.

Taking only a hatchet as if he were going to cut wood, Radisson left the Indian lodge early one morning in the fall of 1653. Once out of sight from the village, he broke into a run, following the trail through the dense forests of the Mohawk Valley toward Fort Orange. On and on he ran, all that day, without pause to rest or eat, without backward glance, with eye ever piercing through the long leafy vistas of the forest on the watch for the fresh-chipped bark of the trees that guided his course, or the narrow indurated path over the spongy mould worn by running warriors. And when night filled the forest with the hoot of owl, and the far, weird cries of wild creatures on the rove, there sped through the aisled columns of star light and shadow, the ghostly figure of the French boy slim, and lithe as a willow, with muscles tense as ironwood, and step silent as the mountain-cat. All that night he ran without a single stop. Chill daybreak found him still staggering on, over rocks slippery with the night frost, over windfall tree on tree in a barricade, through brawling mountain brooks where his moccasins broke the skim of ice at the edge, past rivers where he half waded, half swam. He was now faint from want of food; but fear spurred him on. The morning air was so cold that he found it better to run than rest. By four of the afternoon he came to a clearing in the forest, where was the cabin of a settler. A man was chopping wood. Radisson ascertained that there were no Iroquois in the cabin, and, hiding in it, persuaded the settler to carry a message to Fort Orange, two miles farther on. While he waited Indians passed the cabin, singing and shouting. The settler's wife concealed him behind sacks of wheat and put out all lights. Within an hour came a rescue party from Orange, who conducted him safely to the fort. For three days Radisson hid in Orange, while the Mohawks wandered through the fort, calling him by name.

Gifts of money from the Jesuit, Poncet, and from a Dutch merchant, enabled Radisson to take ship from Orange to New York, and from New York to Europe.

Pere Poncet had been captured by the Mohawks the preceding summer, but had escaped to Orange.[12] Embarking on a small sloop, Radisson sailed down the Hudson to New York, which then consisted of some five hundred houses, with stores, barracks, a stone church, and a dilapidated fort. Central Park was a forest; goats and cows pastured on what is now Wall Street; and to east and west was a howling wilderness of marsh and woods. After a stay of three weeks, Radisson embarked for Amsterdam, which he reached in January, 1654.

[1] Benjamin Sulte in Chronique Trifluvienne.

[2] It was in August of this same year, 1652, that the governor of Three Rivers was slain by the Iroquois. Parkman gives this date, 1653, Garneau, 1651, L'Abbe Tanguay, 1651; Dollier de Casson, 1651, Belmont, 1653. Sulte gives the name of the governor Duplessis-Kerbodot, not Bochart, as given in Parkman.

[3] Dr. Bryce has unearthed the fact that in a petition to the House of Commons, 1698, Radisson sets down his age as sixty-two. This gives the year of his birth as 1636. On the other hand, Sulte has record of a Pierre Radisson registered at Quebec in 1681, aged fifty-one, which would make him slightly older, if it is the same Radisson. Mr. Sulte's explanation is as follows: Sebastien Hayet of St. Malo married Madeline Henault. Their daughter Marguerite married Chouart, known as Groseillers. Madeline Henault then married Pierre Esprit Radisson of Paris, whose children were Pierre, our hero, and two daughters.

[4] A despatch from M. Talon in 1666 shows there were 461 families in Three Rivers. State papers from the Minister to M. Frontenac in 1674 show there were only 6705 French in all the colony. Averaging five a family, there must have been 2000 people at Three Rivers. Fear of the Iroquois must have driven the country people inside the fort, so that the population enrolled was larger than the real population of Three Rivers. Sulte gives the normal population of Three Rivers in 1654 as 38 married couples, 13 bachelors, 38 boys, 26 girls—in all not 200.

[5] At first flush, this seems a slip in Radisson's Relation. Where did the Mohawks get their guns? New York Colonial Documents show that between 1640 and 1650 the Dutch at Fort Orange had supplied the Mohawks alone with four hundred guns.

[6] One of many instances of Radisson's accuracy in detail. All tribes have a trick of browning food on hot stones or sand that has been taken from fire. The Assiniboines gained their name from this practice: they were the users of "boiling stones."

[7] I have asked both natives and old fur-traders what combination of sounds in English most closely resembles the Indian war-cry, and they have all given the words that I have quoted. One daughter of a chief factor, who went through a six weeks' siege by hostiles in her father's fort, gave a still more graphic description. She said: "you can imagine the snarls of a pack of furiously vicious dogs saying 'ah-oh' with a whoop, you have it; and you will not forget it!"

[8] This practice was a binding law on many tribes. Catlin relates it of the Mandans, and Hearne of the Chipewyans. The latter considered it a crime to kiss wives and children after a massacre without the bath of purification. Could one know where and when that universal custom of washing blood-guilt arose, one mystery of existence would be unlocked.

[9] I have throughout followed Mr. Sulte's correction of the name of this governor. The mistake followed by Parkman, Tanguay, and others—it seems—was first made in 1820, and has been faithfully copied since. Elsewhere will be found Mr. Sulte's complete elucidation of the hopeless dark in which all writers have involved Radisson's family.

[10] If there were not corroborative testimony, one might suspect the excited French lad of gross exaggeration in his account of Iroquois tortures; but the Jesuits more than confirm the worst that Radisson relates. Bad as these torments were, they were equalled by the deeds of white troops from civilized cities in the nineteenth century. A band of Montana scouts came on the body of a comrade horribly mutilated by the Indians. They caught the culprits a few days afterwards. Though the government report has no account of what happened, traders say the bodies of the guilty Indians were found skinned and scalped by the white troops.

[11] Radisson puts the Senecas before the Cayugas, which is different from the order given by the Jesuits.

[12] The fact that Radisson confessed his sins to this priest seems pretty well to prove that Pierre was a Catholic and not a Protestant, as has been so often stated.




Radisson returns to Quebec, where he joins the Jesuits to go to the Iroquois Mission—He witnesses the Massacre of the Hurons among the Thousand Islands—Besieged by the Iroquois, they pass the Winter as Prisoners of War—Conspiracy to massacre the French foiled by Radisson.

From Amsterdam Radisson took ship to Rochelle. Here he found himself a stranger in his native land. All his kin of whom there is any record—Pierre Radisson, his father, Madeline Henault, his mother, Marguerite and Francoise, his elder and younger sisters, his uncle and aunt, with their daughter, Elizabeth—were now living at Three Rivers in New France.[1] Embarking with the fishing fleet that yearly left France for the Grand Banks, Radisson came early in the spring of 1654 to Isle Percee at the mouth of the St. Lawrence. He was still a week's journey from Three Rivers, but chance befriended him. Algonquin canoes were on the way up the river to war on the Iroquois. Joining the Indian canoes, he slipped past the hilly shores of the St. Lawrence and in five days was between the main bank on the north side and the muddy shallows of the Isle of Orleans. Sheering out where the Montmorency roars over a precipice in a shining cataract, the canoes glided across St. Charles River among the forests of masts heaving to the tide below the beetling heights of Cape Diamond, Quebec.

It was May, 1651, when he had first seen the turrets and spires of Quebec glittering on the hillside in the sun; it was May, 1652, that the Iroquois had carried him off from Three Rivers; and it was May, 1654, when he came again to his own. He was welcomed back as from the dead. Changes had taken place in the interval of his captivity. A truce had been arranged between the Iroquois and the French. Now that the Huron missions had been wiped out by Iroquois wars, the Jesuits regarded the truce as a Divine provision for a mission among the Iroquois. The year that Radisson escaped from the Mohawks, Jesuit priests had gone among them. A still greater change that was to affect his life more vitally had taken place in the Radisson family. The year that Radisson had been captured, the outraged people of Three Rivers had seized a Mohawk chief and burned him to death. In revenge, the Mohawks murdered the governor of Three Rivers and a company of Frenchmen. Among the slain was the husband of Radisson's sister, Marguerite. When Radisson returned, he found that his widowed sister had married Medard Chouart Groseillers, a famous fur trader of New France, who had passed his youth as a lay helper to the Jesuit missions of Lake Huron.[2] Radisson was now doubly bound to the Jesuits by gratitude and family ties. Never did pagan heart hear an evangel more gladly than the Mohawks heard the Jesuits. The priests were welcomed with acclaim, led to the Council Lodge, and presented with belts of wampum. Not a suspicion of foul play seems to have entered the Jesuits' mind. When the Iroquois proposed to incorporate into the Confederacy the remnants of the Hurons, the Jesuits discerned nothing in the plan but the most excellent means to convert pagan Iroquois by Christian Hurons. Having gained an inch, the Iroquois demanded the proverbial ell. They asked that a French settlement be made in the Iroquois country. The Indians wanted a supply of firearms to war against all enemies; and with a French settlement miles away from help, the Iroquois could wage what war they pleased against the Algonquins without fear of reprisals from Quebec—the settlement of white men among hostiles would be hostage of generous treatment from New France. Of these designs, neither priests nor governor had the slightest suspicion. The Jesuits were thinking only of the Iroquois' soul; the French, of peace with the Iroquois at any cost.

In 1656 Major Dupuis and fifty Frenchmen had established a French colony among the Iroquois.[3] The hardships of these pioneers form no part of Radisson's life, and are, therefore, not set down here. Peace not bought by a victory is an unstable foundation for Indian treaty. The Mohawks were jealous that their confederates, the Onondagas, had obtained the French settlement. In 1657, eighty Iroquois came to Quebec to escort one hundred Huron refugees back to Onondaga for adoption into the Confederacy. These Hurons were Christians, and the two Jesuits, Paul Ragueneau and Francois du Peron, were appointed to accompany them to their new abode. Twenty young Frenchmen joined the party to seek their fortunes at the new settlement; but a man was needed who could speak Iroquois. Glad to repay his debt to the Jesuits, young Radisson volunteered to go as a donne, that is, a lay helper vowed to gratuitous services.

It was midsummer before all preparations had been made. On July 26, the party of two hundred, made up of twenty Frenchmen, eighty Iroquois, and a hundred Hurons, filed out of the gates of Montreal, and winding round the foot of the mountain followed a trail through the forest that took them past the Lachine Rapids. The Onondaga voyageurs carried the long birch canoes inverted on their shoulders, two Indians at each end; and the other Iroquois trotted over the rocks with the Frenchmen's baggage on their backs. The day was hot, the portage long and slippery with dank moisture. The Huron children fagged and fell behind. At nightfall, thirty of the haughty Iroquois lost patience, and throwing down their bundles made off for Quebec with the avowed purpose of raiding the Algonquins. On the way, they paused to scalp three Frenchmen at Montreal, cynically explaining that if the French persisted in taking Algonquins into their arms, the white men need not be surprised if the blow aimed at an Algonquin sometimes struck a Frenchman. That act opened the eyes of the French to the real meaning of the peace made with the Iroquois; but the little colony was beyond recall. To insure the safety of the French among the Onondagas, the French governor at Quebec seized a dozen Iroquois and kept them as hostages of good conduct.

Meanwhile, all was confusion on Lake St. Louis, where the last band of colonists had encamped. The Iroquois had cast the Frenchmen's baggage on the rocks and refused to carry it farther. Leaving the whites all embarrassed, the Onondagas hurriedly embarked the Hurons and paddled quickly out of sight. The act was too suddenly unanimous not to have been premeditated. Why had the Iroquois carried the Hurons away from the Frenchmen? Father Ragueneau at once suspected some sinister purpose. Taking only a single sack of flour for food, he called for volunteers among the twenty Frenchmen to embark in a leaky, old canoe and follow the treacherous Onondagas. Young Radisson was one of the first to offer himself. Six others followed his example; and the seven Frenchmen led by the priest struck across the lake, leaving the others to gather up the scattered baggage.

The Onondagas were too deep to reveal their plots with seven armed Frenchmen in pursuit. The Indians permitted the French boats to come up with the main band. All camped together in the most friendly fashion that night; but the next morning one Iroquois offered passage in his canoe to one Frenchman, another Iroquois to another of the whites, and by the third day, when they came to Lake St. Francis, the old canoe had been abandoned. The French were scattered promiscuously among the Iroquois, with no two whites in one boat. The Hurons were quicker to read the signs of treachery than the French. There were rumors of one hundred Mohawks lying in ambush at the Thousand Islands to massacre the coming Hurons. On the morning of August 3 four Huron warriors and two women seized a canoe, and to the great astonishment of the encampment launched out before they could be stopped. Heading the canoe back for Montreal, they broke out in a war chant of defiance to the Iroquois.

The Onondagas made no sign, but they evidently took council to delay no longer. Again, when they embarked, they allowed no two whites in one canoe. The boats spread out. Nothing was said to indicate anything unusual. The lake lay like a silver mirror in the August sun. The water was so clear that the Indians frequently paused to spear fish lying below on the stones. At places the canoes skirted close to the wood-fringed shore, and braves landed to shoot wild-fowl. Radisson and Ragueneau seemed simultaneously to have noticed the same thing. Without any signal, at about four in the afternoon, the Onondagas steered their canoes for a wooded island in the middle of the St. Lawrence. With Radisson were three Iroquois and a Huron. As the canoe grated shore, the bowman loaded his musket and sprang into the thicket. Naturally, the Huron turned to gaze after the disappearing hunter. Instantly, the Onondaga standing directly behind buried his hatchet in the Huron's head. The victim fell quivering across Radisson's feet and was hacked to pieces by the other Iroquois. Not far along the shore from Radisson, the priest was landing. He noticed an Iroquois chief approach a Christian Huron girl. If the Huron had not been a convert, she might have saved her life by becoming one of the chief's many slaves; but she had repulsed the Onondaga pagan. As Ragueneau looked, the girl fell dead with her skull split by the chief's war-axe. The Hurons on the lake now knew what awaited them; and a cry of terror arose from the children. Then a silence of numb horror settled over the incoming canoes. The women were driven ashore like lambs before wolves; but the valiant Hurons would not die without striking one blow at their inveterate and treacherous enemies. They threw themselves together back to back, prepared to fight. For a moment this show of resistance drove off the Iroquois. Then the Onondaga chieftain rushed forward, protesting that the two murders had been a personal quarrel. Striking back his own warriors with a great show of sincerity, he bade the Hurons run for refuge to the top of the hill. No sooner had the Hurons broken rank, than there rushed from the woods scores of Iroquois, daubed in war-paint and shouting their war-cry. This was the hunt to which the young braves had dashed from the canoes to be in readiness behind the thicket. Before the scattered Hurons could get together for defence, the Onondagas had closed around the hilltop in a cordon. The priest ran here, there, everywhere,—comforting the dying, stopping mutilation, defending the women. All the Hurons were massacred but one man, and the bodies were thrown into the river. With blankets drawn over their heads that they might not see, the women huddled together, dumb with terror. When the Onondagas turned toward the women, the Frenchmen stood with muskets levelled. The Onondagas halted, conferred, and drew off.

The fight lasted for four hours. Darkness and the valor of the little French band saved the women for the time. The Iroquois kindled a fire and gathered to celebrate their victory. Then the old priest took his life in his hands. Borrowing three belts of wampum, he left the huddling group of Huron women and Frenchmen and marched boldly into the circle of hostiles. The lives of all the French and Hurons hung by a thread. Ragueneau had been the spiritual guide of the murdered tribe for twenty years; and he was now sobbing like a child. The Iroquois regarded his grief with sardonic scorn; but they misjudged the manhood below the old priest's tears. Ragueneau asked leave to speak. They grunted permission. Springing up, he broke into impassioned, fearless reproaches of the Iroquois for their treachery. Casting one belt of wampum at the Onondaga chief's feet, the priest demanded pledges that the massacre cease. A second belt was given to register the Onondaga's vow to conduct the women and children safely to the Iroquois country. The third belt was for the safety of the French at Onondaga.

The Iroquois were astonished. They had looked for womanish pleadings. They had heard stern demands coupled with fearless threats of punishment. When Ragueneau sat down, the Onondaga chief bestirred himself to counteract the priest's powerful impression. Lounging to his feet, the Onondaga impudently declared that the governor of Quebec had instigated the massacre. Ragueneau leaped up with a denial that took the lie from the scoundrel's teeth. The chief sat down abashed. The Council grunted "Ho, ho!" accepting the wampum and promising all that the Jesuit had asked.

Among the Thousand Islands, the French who had remained behind to gather up the baggage again joined the Onondagas. They brought with them from the Isle of Massacres a poor Huron woman, whom they had found lying insensible on a rock. During the massacre she had hidden in a hollow tree, where she remained for three days. In this region, Radisson almost lost his life by hoisting a blanket sail to his canoe. The wind drifted the boat so far out that Radisson had to throw all ballast overboard to keep from being swamped. As they turned from the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario up the Oswego River for Onondaga, they met other warriors of the Iroquois nation. In spite of pledges to the priest, the meeting was celebrated by torturing the Huron women to entertain the newcomers. Not the sufferings of the early Christians in Rome exceeded the martyrdom of the Christian Hurons among the Onondagas. As her mother mounted the scaffold of tortures, a little girl who had been educated by the Ursulines of Quebec broke out with loud weeping. The Huron mother turned calmly to the child:—

"Weep not my death, my little daughter! We shall this day be in heaven," said she; "God will pity us to all eternity. The Iroquois cannot rob us of that."

As the flames crept about her, her voice was heard chanting in the crooning monotone of Indian death dirge: "Jesu—have pity on us! Jesu—have pity on us!" The next moment the child was thrown into the flames, repeating the same words.

The Iroquois recognized Radisson. He sent presents to his Mohawk parents, who afterwards played an important part in saving the French of Onondaga. Having passed the falls, they came to the French fort situated on the crest of a hill above a lake. Two high towers loopholed for musketry occupied the centre of the courtyard. Double walls, trenched between, ran round a space large enough to enable the French to keep their cattle inside the fort. The voyageurs were welcomed to Onondaga by Major Dupuis, fifty Frenchmen, and several Jesuits.

The pilgrims had scarcely settled at Onondaga before signs of the dangers that were gathering became too plain for the blind zeal of the Jesuits to ignore. Cayugas, Onondagas, and Senecas, togged out in war-gear, swarmed outside the palisades. There was no more dissembling of hunger for the Jesuits' evangel. The warriors spoke no more soft words, but spent their time feasting, chanting war-songs, heaving up the war-hatchet against the kettle of sagamite—which meant the rupture of peace. Then came four hundred Mohawks, who not only shouted their war-songs, but built their wigwams before the fort gates and established themselves for the winter like a besieging army. That the intent of the entire Confederacy was hostile to Onondaga could not be mistaken; but what was holding the Indians back? Why did they delay the massacre? Then Huron slaves brought word to the besieged fort of the twelve Iroquois hostages held at Quebec. The fort understood what stayed the Iroquois blow. The Confederacy dared not attack the isolated fort lest Quebec should take terrible vengeance on the hostages.

The French decided to send messengers to Quebec for instructions before closing navigation cut them off for the winter. Thirteen men and one Jesuit left the fort the first week of September. Mohawk spies knew of the departure and lay in ambush at each side of the narrow river to intercept the party; but the messengers eluded the trap by striking through the forests back from the river directly to the St. Lawrence. Then the little fort closed its gates and awaited an answer from Quebec. Winter settled over the land, blocking the rivers with ice and the forest trails with drifts of snow; but no messengers came back from Quebec. The Mohawks had missed the outgoing scouts: but they caught the return coureurs and destroyed the letters. Not a soul could leave the fort but spies dogged his steps. The Jesuits continued going from lodge to lodge, and in this way Onondaga gained vague knowledge of the plots outside the fort. The French could venture out only at the risk of their lives, and spent the winter as closely confined as prisoners of war. Of the ten drilled soldiers, nine threatened to desert. One night an unseen hand plunged through the dark, seized the sentry, and dragged him from the gate. The sentry drew his sword and shouted, "To arms!" A band of Frenchmen sallied from the gates with swords and muskets. In the tussle the sentry was rescued, and gifts were sent out in the morning to pacify the wounded Mohawks. Fortunately the besieged had plenty of food inside the stockades; but the Iroquois knew there could be no escape till the ice broke up in spring, and were quite willing to exchange ample supplies of corn for tobacco and firearms. The Huron slaves who carried the corn to the fort acted as spies among the Mohawks for the French.

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