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      Part First INTRODUCTION.

      "Oh, my stars, Adolphe, you should have told me!"

      [12] Vimont, Relation, 1645, 24.[86] On Indian ideas of another life, compare Sagard, the Jesuit Relations, Perrot, Charlevoix, and Lafitau, with Tanner, James, Schoolcraft, and the Appendix to Morse's Indian Report.

      On the third of December the party re-embarked, thirty-three in all, in eight canoes,[140] and ascended the chill current of the St. Joseph, bordered with dreary meadows and bare gray forests. When they approached the site of the present village of South Bend, they looked anxiously along the shore on their right to find the portage or path leading to the headquarters of the Illinois. The Mohegan was absent, hunting; and, unaided by his practised eye, they passed the path without seeing it. La Salle landed to search the woods. Hours passed, and he did not return. Hennepin and Tonty grew uneasy, disembarked, bivouacked, ordered guns to be fired, and sent out men to scour the country. Night came, but not their lost leader. Muffled in their blankets and [Pg 165] powdered by the thick-falling snow-flakes, they sat ruefully speculating as to what had befallen him; nor was it till four o'clock of the next afternoon that they saw him approaching along the margin of the river. His face and hands were besmirched with charcoal; and he was further decorated with two opossums which hung from his belt, and which he had killed with a stick as they were swinging head downwards from the bough of a tree, after the fashion of that singular beast. He had missed his way in the forest, and had been forced to make a wide circuit around the edge of a swamp; while the snow, of which the air was full, added to his perplexities. Thus he pushed on through the rest of the day and the greater part of the night, till, about two o'clock in the morning, he reached the river again, and fired his gun as a signal to his party. Hearing no answering shot, he pursued his way along the bank, when he presently saw the gleam of a fire among the dense thickets close at hand. Not doubting that he had found the bivouac of his party, he hastened to the spot. To his surprise, no human being was to be seen. Under a tree beside the fire was a heap of dry grass impressed with the form of a man who must have fled but a moment before, for his couch was still warm. It was no doubt an Indian, ambushed on the bank, watching to kill some passing enemy. La Salle called out in several Indian languages; but there was dead silence all around. He then, with admirable coolness, took possession of the quarters he had found, shouting to [Pg 166] their invisible proprietor that he was about to sleep in his bed; piled a barricade of bushes around the spot, rekindled the dying fire, warmed his benumbed hands, stretched himself on the dried grass, and slept undisturbed till morning.

      As you know, Nomion continued, we live in friendship with the Cranai. We now desire that there shall also be a good understanding between us and you. One of our chiefs, who was your bitterest foe, is no more. He was a rich and distinguished man, and his funeral will be so magnificent that it will be talked about far and wide. A huge pyre shall be erected for him and tall urns, filled with oil and honey, shall be placed at the corners of the bier; sheep and oxen, dogs and horses shall be slain and burned upon the63 pyre. But one thing we will not dowe do not mean to avenge his death. He is responsible for his own deeds, and it is a just punishment that he fell by a womans hand. Since he had taken her for a hostage, she ought to have been sacred to him.

      This success was followed by a calamity. La Salle had gone up the Niagara to find a suitable place for a ship-yard, when he learned that the pilot in charge of the vessel he had left had disobeyed his orders, and ended by wrecking it on the coast. Little was saved except the anchors and cables destined for the new vessel to be built above the cataract. This loss threw him into extreme perplexity, and, as Hennepin says, "would have made anybody but him give up the enterprise."[121] The whole party were now gathered [Pg 143] at the palisaded house which La Motte had built, a little below the mountain ridge of Lewiston. They were a motley crew of French, Flemings, and Italians, all mutually jealous. La Salle's enemies had tampered with some of the men; and none of them seemed to have had much heart for the enterprise. The fidelity even of La Motte was doubtful. "He served me very ill," says La Salle; "and Messieurs de Tonty and de la Forest knew that he did his best to debauch all my men."[122] His health soon failed under the hardships of these winter journeyings, and he returned to Fort Frontenac, half-blinded by an inflammation of the eyes.[123] La Salle, seldom happy in the choice of subordinates, had, perhaps, in all his company but one man whom he could fully trust; and this was Tonty. He and Hennepin were on indifferent terms. Men thrown together in a rugged enterprise like this quickly learn to know each other; and the vain and assuming friar was not likely to commend himself to La Salle's brave and loyal lieutenant. Hennepin says that it was La Salle's policy to govern through the dissensions of his followers; and, from whatever cause, it is certain that those beneath him were rarely in perfect harmony.


      The Jesuits were no longer supreme in Canada; or, in other words, Canada was no longer simply a mission. It had become a colony. Temporal interests and the civil power were constantly gaining ground; and the disciples of Loyola felt that relatively, if not absolutely, they were losing it. They struggled vigorously to maintain the ascendency of their Order, or, as they would have expressed it, the ascendency of religion; but in the older and more settled parts of the colony it was clear that the day of their undivided rule was past. Therefore, they looked with redoubled solicitude to their missions in the West. They had been among its first explorers; and they hoped that here the Catholic Faith, as represented by Jesuits, might reign with undisputed sway. In Paraguay, it was their constant aim to exclude white men from their missions. It was the same in North America. They dreaded fur-traders, partly because they interfered with their teachings and perverted their converts, and partly for other reasons. But La Salle was a fur-trader, and far worse than a fur-trader: he aimed at occupation, fortification, and settlement. The scope and vigor of his enterprises, and the powerful influence that aided them, made him a stumbling-block in their path. He was their most dangerous rival for the control of the West, and from first to last they set themselves against him.


      Empty threats! And you care for them? A boy like you isnt easily killed.... No, say rather that you know nothing.


      Simonides had the great robbery and an exact description of the thiefs personal appearance proclaimed in the market by the public heralds; but all his efforts238 were useless. Grief and worry over this great loss broke down his health. He was attacked by paralysis, his right side was benumbed, his mouth drawn awry, and for a time he was almost speechless. The once gay, jovial man is now a mere shadow of his former self. Though he is too proud to complain, I think the slaves take advantage of his condition and do what they choose. There is not the least sign of the order that formerly existed in the house. In the vestibule lay fragments of broken wine-jars, fruit-skins, faded garlands, and the handles of burnt torches. Yet not even to his best friend, Polycles the wine-dealer, has he mentioned their negligence. The only complaint that ever escaped the lips of the sick man, so deserted by his servants, was the wish: If I only had a son! I could depend upon him.