« ПредишнаНапред »
On board the Griffin were embarked, among the missionaries, the venerable Ribourde, the “erratic Hennepin," and the fated Zenobe. Tonty had previously left in a canoe for Mackinac, in search of men despatched thither by La Salle.
The vessel spread her sheets to the gale, and favoring breezes wafted the gallant adventurers, with high hope and spirits, across the broad basin of Erie, through the straits into Huron, and moored them in safety, after twenty days, at the island of Mackinac.
From Mackinac the Griffin passed into Lake Michigan, and at last into Green Bay, the region of the Pottawatomies, where La Salle met several of his men, provided with large supplies of furs. Here the sudden and, as it afterwards proved, most disastrous resolution was taken by the Sieur, without consultation with his party, and even without its approbation, to dispatch the Griffin back to Canada with merchandise sufficient to satisfy his creditors. She sailed, and had the miserable fortune to be lost, with nearly all of her crew, in the storms that swept the lakes. The navigation of the lake to the Miamis river, now known as the St. i Joseph, was accomplished in canoes; an urdertaking with infinite more hazard than they had conceived.
“Nightfall came on before they had reached the nearest point of the continent, which was twelve miles distant. Darkness thickened, the waves rose, and the water dashed into the canoes; but they contrived to keep together, and to find a landing-place in the morning. Trusting their canoes again to the waves, they were soon overtaken by new disasters. Clouds gathered over them, the winds blew angrily, and, deluged with sleet and rain, they were glad to seek safety on a naked rock for two days, with no other shelter than their blankets. At the end of another day, they were in so great danger in attempting to land, that the Sieur de la Salle leaped into the water with his men, and assisted them to drag his canoe ashore.” p. 33.
At length they reached the further extremity of the lake: “Here the waters were more tranquil, and on the land they could regale themselves with the flesh of deer and wild turkies, which fell an easy prey to the hunters. Grape-vines hung in graceful festoons from the tall forest trees, loaded with clusters of ripe fruit, which was gathered by cutting down the trees." pp. 34–5.
The Outtagamies, at this place, promised no little annoyance. Some of the more stealthy of the tribe had conveyed away a portion of the Sieur's merchandize. It was necessary to take a firm stand. Restitution was demanded, and
two of the Indians were seized upon as prisoners. A warlike manifestation now ensued on the part of the tribe. The French prepared to receive their foes from a well selected eminence,-but the issue was one without blood. A parley ensued, and the calumet of peace was offered. "Father Hennepin, as usual,” says Mr. Sparks, "plumes himself upon the happy event.” On the 1st of November, the party reached the mouth of the Miamis river.
The passage from the Miamis, or St. Joseph's river, to the head waters of the Kankakee, a stream which loses itself in the Illinois river, is over a tract of land or portage six miles in breadth ; across this the canoes, with all their contents, were bourne. To restrain the restlessness and fears of the men, which the coldness of the season seemed to increase, and to keep them from desertion, was a work which required no ordinary skill. The Illinois, a powerful nation, and supposed to be little friendly, added to the dread already existing, and weighed heavily upon the spirits of the party. The appearance of De Tonty, however, at this critical exigence, with a supply of deer recently killed, inspired new confidence. But, to the Sieur de la Salle he brought no welcome intelligence. The Griffin had not been heard from,. and there was every reason to believe that she was lost. We may well imagine with what feelings such a disaster must have been contemplated, which, on a nature less inflexi. ble than La Salle's, would have exerted a blighting influence,-in him, however, it found a heart resolute and equal to any fortune.
Through marshes, and surrounded by rushes and alders, the Kankakee winds its slow course several hundred miles, to lose itself at last in the Illinois. Thither the canoes were soon floated. On the banks of this stream was discovered a Jarge Indian village, with several hundred comfortable cabins, entirely deserted,—the Indians being on a hunt. A large quantity of grain found here, buried in dry places, was booty which La Salle's men seized upon with avidity, regarding, in their condition, with entire contempt, the meum and teum doctrines of casuistry. The presence of the Indians, a little while after, awakened different feelings, but they extended the calumet, which was gladly accepted. Here la Salle, for the first time, played the orator :
“He told them that he had come from Canada to impart to them a knowledge of the true God; to assist them against their enemies,
and to supply them with arms and the conveniences of life. He explained to them what he had done in regard to the corn, and offered to pay its value in such commodities as they might choose from his stores," etc. p. 49.
At last he finds courage to broach to the assembled warriors his favorite projects in reference to the Mississippi, which at first he had sedulously concealed from them. For some reason the Indians appeared to be adverse, and listened with little pleasure; a spirit of opposition yet lurked beneath the fair exterior which they had assumed, and at an entertainment given by Nikanape, a chief of high rank, he found occasion, in an eloquent speech, to dissuade La Salle from the enterprize:
“He said that others had perished in the attempt; that the banks were inhabited by a strong and terrible race of men, who killed every body that came among them; that the waters swarmed with crocodiles, serpents and frightful monsters; and that even if the boat was large and strong enough to escape these dangers, it would be dashed in pieces by the falls and rapids, or meet with inevitable destruction in a hideous whirlpool at the river's mouth, where the river itself was swallowed up and lost.” p. 52.
In vain the powerful appeal. The Sieur was not to be intimidated. A sleepless vigilance detected the duplicity which had given birth to the speech. He retorted upon the warrior; accused him of this unfair dealing,—of a jealousy which was fertile in impediments, and an opposition which was vain and ridiculous. Whatever might be the dangers, he would proceed; but these dangers he knew had been exaggerated. Different, however, was the effect of Nikanape's speech upon the men. Its terrible details were too much for their excited nerves, and several of them deserted.
Near the site of the present town of Peoria, it was deemed expedient to erect a fort, which they christened Crevecoeur, or the Broken Heart, as indicative of the low spirits of the party, on account of the numerous disasters which had befallen them. From this post, Fathers Zenobe and Gabriel commenced their mission of love and charity among the neighboring tribes, calling upon them to look up, from the perishing things of a day, to that life beyond the grave, where the blest are forever united in holy union with the Great Spirit,-thus for the first time teaching, in these vast wilds, the elevating doctrines of the cross. Vain was the teaching. The Indians were disposed to friendliness; they
listened with attention, and even with interest, but no more. Father Zenobe himself affords us here a narrative of high interest :
"He represents them as addicted to gross vices, passionate, thievish, indolent, superstitious, and as yielding but a very slight obedience to their chiefs. Some of them were docile, and listened attentively to the instructions of the missionaries; but the good fathers could not satisfy themselves that they had made the least impression. One of the principal converts, a man of note among them, being attacked by some disease, put himself under the discipline of the conjurors, in whose hands he died ; thus showing the little confidence he possessed in his new faith.” p. 63.
La Salle determined on the construction of another barque for the navigation of the Mississippi, but discovering that it would be impossible to proceed from the want of the neces. sary material, which had been shipped on board the Griffin, he suddenly formed the resolution, so characteristic of the man, to plunge into the forests, and, over the snows and ice of winter, penetrate to Fort Frontenac and Canada, a distance of over twelve hundred miles. The dangers of such an enterprize, through hostile tribes, and over almost impassable rivers, can scarcely be imagined, and the intrepidity which would undertake it, cannot but impress us with won. der. Having left Tonty in command, the Sieur de la Salle fearlessly committed himself to his fortunes.
Before his departure, the darling project of a North-West passage to China had, in all probability, engrossed not a few of his reflections ; and in order that no time might be needlessly lost, he despatched Hennepin to the upper Mississippi, above the Wisconsin, where the discoveries of Marquette commenced. Hennepin was to explore the river to its sources, during the absence of La Salle in Canada, and report the result of his enterprizes at his return. He was a man possessed, in a high degree, of all the qualifications necessary in such an expedition. His restless nature craved excitement, and his vanity seldom hesitated to appropriate every possible excellence. We leave him, however, for the present, floating with two other Frenchmen on the waters of the Illinois in a canoe, and shall have abundant reason to return to him and his voyage on the Mississippi.
Tonty, endangered by a war between the Illinois, Iroquois and Miamies, found it necessary, during the absence of the Sieur, lo retreat to the station at Green Bay. But, on the passage, Father Gabriel's melancholy fate was forever sealed, and a requiem sung by those wild forests over his remains. Attracted by the scenery of the country, the good father wandered too far from his party, and was murdered by the Indians. Mr. Sparks pauses to pay a tribute to his memory, and the memory of his brother missionaries :
"For ten years, in America, he had ardently devoted himself to the cause to which he had consecrated his life, spending his days and nights in the cabins of savages, domesticating himself in their families, submitting without a murmur to the hardships he endured, and waiting patiently for the blessing of heaven to convert the fruit of his toils to the spiritual well-being of those benighted children of nature. Indeed, there are few examples in the history of mankind, more worthy of admiration and profound respect, than those of the Catholic missionaries in Canada. With a singleness of heart, a self-sacrifice and constancy of purpose, to which a parallel can scarcely be found, casting behind them the comforts of civilized life, deprived of the solace of society and the sympathy of friends, and surrounded by dangers and discouragements on every side, they exhausted their energies in a work for which they could not hope for any other reward than the consciousness of having done a great duty, approved in the sight of God, as designed to enlighten the moral and mental darkness of a degraded race of human beings. Some of them were murdered, some were cruelly tortured, but these appalling barbarities did not shake the constancy of others, nor deter them from closing up the ranks thus fearfully broken." * pp. 71–72.
The Sieur de la Salle, after various adventures, reached in safety the St. Lawrence. Here he found that clouds upon clouds darkened over all his prospects. The loss of the Griffin and a cargo of twelve thousand dollars, was certain. A vessel, laden with merchandize for him, had been cast away on the St. Lawrence; he had been plundered by his agents ; had had his canoes dashed to pieces among the rapids near Montreal; and, to cap the whole, his creditors, hearing of his death, dissipated his effects in forced sales, whilst his men ran away with the residue to the Dutch in New-York. Unsubdued, La Salle set himself zealously to work to compose his shattered fortunes, and in a short time turned his face again towards the forests of the far West. In May, 1681, he joined the party at Green Bay, and they recounted the mutual adventures they had passed :
“La Salle in particular set before them, in melancholy array, the dark catalogue of misfortunes and disappointments which had assail
* See also 3 Bancroft, Hist. U. S,