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For other proofs concerning this locality, see ante, 239.While his brethren were building their convent and garnishing their altar at Quebec, the ardent friar had hastened to the site of Montreal, then thronged with a savage concourse come down for the yearly trade. he mingled with them, studied their manners, tried to learn their languages, and, when Champlain and Pontgrave arrived, declared his purpose of wintering in their villages. Dissuasion availed nothing. "What," he demanded, "are privations to him whose life is devoted to perpetual poverty, and who has no ambition but to serve God?"
There were allies close at hand. Near Fort Miami were the huts of twenty-five or thirty savages, exiles [Pg 285] from their homes, and strangers in this western world. Several of the English colonies, from Virginia to Maine, had of late years been harassed by Indian wars; and the Puritans of New England, above all, had been scourged by the deadly outbreak of King Philip's war. Those engaged in it had paid a bitter price for their brief triumphs. A band of refugees, chiefly Abenakis and Mohegans, driven from their native seats, had roamed into these distant wilds, and were wintering in the friendly neighborhood of the French. La Salle soon won them over to his interests. One of their number was the Mohegan hunter, who for two years had faithfully followed his fortunes, and who had been four years in the West. He is described as a prudent and discreet young man, in whom La Salle had great confidence, and who could make himself understood in several western languages, belonging, like his own, to the great Algonquin tongue. This devoted henchman proved an efficient mediator with his countrymen. The New-England Indians, with one voice, promised to follow La Salle, asking no recompense but to call him their chief, and yield to him the love and admiration which he rarely failed to command from this hero-worshipping race.Challeux, the carpenter, was going betimes to his work, a chisel in his hand. He was old, but pike and partisan brandished at his back gave wings to his flight. In the ecstasy of his terror, he leaped upward, clutched the top of the palisade, and threw himself over with the agility of a boy. He ran up the hill, no one pursuing, and, as he neared the edge of the forest, turned and looked back. From the high ground where he stood, he could see the butchery, the fury of the conquerors, and the agonizing gestures of the victims. He turned again in horror, and plunged into the woods. As he tore his way through the briers and thickets, he met several fugitives escaped like himself. Others presently came up, haggard and wild, like men broken loose from the jaws of death. They gathered together and consulted. One of them, known as Master Robert, in great repute for his knowledge of the Bible, was for returning and surrendering to the Spaniards. "They are men," he said; "perhaps, when their fury is over, they will spare our lives; and, even if they kill us, it will only be a few moments' pain. Better so, than to starve here in the woods, or be torn to pieces by wild beasts."
* Instruction au Sieur Talon.
The father lands where a shattered eel-pot high and dry on the pebbles betrays the neighborhood of man. His servant shoulders his portable chapel, and follows him through the belt of firs, and the taller woods beyond, till the sunlight of a desolate clearing shines upon them. Charred trunks and limbs encumber the ground; dead trees, branchless, barkless, pierced by the woodpeckers, in part black with fire, in part bleached by sun and frost, tower ghastly and weird above the labyrinth of forest ruins, through which the priest and hisWhen the Onondagas learned this last exploit of their rivals, their jealousy knew no bounds, and a troop of them descended to Quebec to claim their share in the human plunder. Deserted by the French, the despairing Hurons abandoned themselves to their fate, and about fifty of those whom the Mohawks had left obeyed the behest of their tyrants and embarked for Onondaga. They reached Montreal in July, and thence proceeded towards their destination in company with the Onondaga warriors. The Jesuit Ragueneau, bound also for Onondaga, joined them. Five leagues above Montreal, the warriors left him behind; but he found an old canoe on the bank, in which, after abandoning most of his baggage, he contrived to follow with two or three Frenchmen who were with him. There was a rumor that a hundred Mohawk warriors were lying in wait among the Thousand Islands, to plunder the Onondagas of their Huron prisoners. It proved a false report. A speedier catastrophe awaited these unfortunates.
Come, my kid. You shall learn that I am not called Lycon with the big hand for nothing. The diabolical practices described above were not peculiar to the Iroquois. The Neutrals and other kindred tribes were no whit less cruel. It is a remark of Mr. Gallatin, and I think a just one, that the Indians west of the Mississippi are less ferocious than those east of it. The burning of prisoners is rare among the prairie tribes, but is not unknown. An Ogillallah chief, in whose lodge I lived for several weeks in 1846, described to me, with most expressive pantomime, how he had captured and burned a warrior of the Snake Tribe, in a valley of the Medicine Bow Mountains, near which we were then encamped.