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XVIII.On the twenty eighth of August, the two captains Vasseur and Verdier came in with tidings of an approaching squadron. Again the fort was wild with excitement. Friends or foes, French or Spaniards, succor or death,betwixt these were their hopes and fears divided. On the following morning, they saw seven barges rowing up the river, bristling with weapons, and crowded with men in armor. The sentries on the bluff challenged, and received no answer. One of them fired at the advancing boats, and still there was no response. Laudonniere was almost defenceless. He had given his heavier cannon to Hawkins, and only two field-pieces were left. They were levelled at the foremost boats, and the word to fire was about to be given, when a voice from among the strangers called out that they were French, commanded by Jean Ribaut.
Thus far the memoir. From passages in some of La Salle's letters, it may be gathered that Abb Cavelier gave him at times no little annoyance. In his double character of priest and elder brother, he seems to have constituted himself the counsellor, monitor, and guide of a man who, though many years his junior, was in all respects incomparably superior to him, as the sequel will show. This must have been almost insufferable to a nature like that of La Salle, who, nevertheless, was forced to arm himself with patience, since his brother held the purse-strings. On one occasion his forbearance was put to a severe proof, when, wishing to marry a damsel of good connections in the colony, Abb Cavelier saw fit for some reason to interfere, and prevented the alliance.
The two priests left Sainte Marie on the second of November, found a Huron guide at St. Joseph, and, after a dreary march of five days through the forest, reached the first Neutral town. Advancing thence, they visited in turn eighteen others; and their progress was a storm of maledictions. Brbeuf especially was accounted the most pestilent of sorcerers. The Hurons, restrained by a superstitious awe, and unwilling to kill the priests, lest they should embroil themselves with the French at 144 Quebec, conceived that their object might be safely gained by stirring up the Neutrals to become their executioners. To that end, they sent two emissaries to the Neutral towns, who, calling the chiefs and young warriors to a council, denounced the Jesuits as destroyers of the human race, and made their auditors a gift of nine French hatchets on condition that they would put them to death. It was now that Brbeuf, fully conscious of the danger, half starved and half frozen, driven with revilings from every door, struck and spit upon by pretended maniacs, beheld in a vision that great cross, which, as we have seen, moved onward through the air, above the wintry forests that stretched towards the land of the Iroquois. 
It was far different with the small vessel, whose distance seemed gradually to decrease, and there could soon be no doubt that it was gaining upon the Attic ship. Ere long those on the latter could see the white foam washing under the Myoparians bowa sign of the speed with which she was movingand soon after they perceived that she was strongly manned and had all her oars out. From that time the vessel approached so swiftly that it seemed to grow every moment.
Now, down the surges of St. Louis, where the mighty floods of the St. Lawrence, contracted to a narrow throat, roll in fury among their sunken rocks,here, through foam and spray and the roar of the angry torrent, a fleet of birch canoes came dancing like dry leaves on the froth of some riotous brook. They bore a band of Hurons first at the rendezvous. As they drew near the landing, all the fur-traders' boats blazed out a clattering fusillade, which was designed to bid them welcome, but in fact terrified many of them to such a degree that they scarcely dared to come ashore. Nor were they reassured by the bearing of the disorderly crowd, who, in jealous competition for their beaver-skins, left them not a moment's peace, and outraged all their notions of decorum. More soon appeared, till hundreds of warriors were encamped along the shore, all restless, suspicious, and alarmed. Late one night they awakened Champlain. On going with them to their camp, he found chiefs and warriors in solemn conclave around the glimmering firelight. Though they were fearful of the rest, their trust in him was boundless. "Come to our country, buy our beaver, build a fort, teach us the true faith, do what you will, but do not bring this crowd with you." The idea had seized them that these lawless bands of rival traders, all well armed, meant to plunder and kill them. Champlain assured them of safety, and the whole night was consumed in friendly colloquy. Soon afterward, however, the camp broke up, and the uneasy warriors removed to the borders of the Lake of St. Louis, placing the rapids betwixt themselves and the objects of their alarm. Here Champlain visited them, and hence these intrepid canoe-men, kneeling in their birchen egg-shells, carried him homeward down the rapids, somewhat, as he admits, to the discomposure of his nerves. 32That La Salle came to Canada with objects distinctly in view, is probable from the fact that he at once began to study the Indian languages,and with such success that he is said, within two or three years, to have mastered the Iroquois and seven or eight other languages and dialects. From the shore of his seigniory, he could gaze westward over the broad breast of the Lake of St. Louis, bounded by the dim forests of Chateauguay and Beauharnois; but his thoughts flew far beyond, across the wild and lonely world that stretched towards the sunset. Like Champlain, and all the early explorers, he dreamed of a passage to the South Sea, and a new road for commerce to the riches of China and Japan. Indians often came to his secluded settlement; and, on one occasion, he was visited by a band of the Seneca Iroquois, not long before the scourge of the colony, but now, in virtue of the treaty, wearing the semblance [Pg 15] of friendship. The visitors spent the winter with him, and told him of a river called the Ohio, rising in their country, and flowing into the sea, but at such a distance that its mouth could only be reached after a journey of eight or nine months. Evidently, the Ohio and the Mississippi are here merged into one. In accordance with geographical views then prevalent, he conceived that this great river must needs flow into the "Vermilion Sea;" that is, the Gulf of California. If so, it would give him what he sought, a western passage to China; while, in any case, the populous Indian tribes said to inhabit its banks might be made a source of great commercial profit.
The Iroquois War.Father Poncet.His Adventures.Jesuit Boldness.Le Moynes Mission.Chaumonot and Dablon.Iroquois Ferocity.The Mohawk Kidnappers.Critical Position.The Colony of Onondaga.Speech op Chaumonot.Omens of Destruction.Device of the Jesuits.The Medicine Feast.The Escape.