Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

known to La Salle, and named by him St. Louis, but which is now called Matagorda Bay, in the southwestern corner of Texas. The soldiers and others, except the ships' crews, were landed near the entrance of the bay, on the west side, and were regaled to their hearts' content with the fresh provisions afforded by the deer, wild fowl, and fish, which were found in abundance. Near this place was established the first encampment. A temporary camp for a part of the company was likewise formed at a considerable distance farther up the bay, on a point of land called Point Hurier, from the name of the officer who commanded there. An exploring party was sent out, under the command of Joutel and Moragnet, with orders to proceed along the shore around the western end of the bay. After three days' march, they were stopped by a river, which they could not cross without a boat. The vessels on the other side of the bay were in full view, and the Sieur de la Salle crossed over in a boat, and met the explorers at this place.

He had already given orders for the outlet of the bay to be sounded, with the design of bringing in the Aimable and Belle, if the depth of water should prove sufficient. There were two channels, and an island between them. The pilots reported favorably, and set up signals on the shoals. The cannon, and some other heavy

articles, were taken out of the Aimable, and the captain was directed to run her into the bay. The pilot of the Belle, who knew the channel, was sent to his assistance, but he refused to admit him on board, and said he could manage his own ship. He hoisted the sails, and in a short time contrived to run her upon a shoal, where she bilged, and could not be removed. The boat, which hung at the stern, was also maliciously staved in pieces. Some part of the cargo was saved, but the larger and most valuable portion was lost. Beaujeu must have the credit of allowing his boats to be employed in this service. On one occasion, when a boat was dashed against the side of the wreck by the violence of the waves, Father Zenobe was plunged into the sea, and was rescued by a rope, which he caught from the hand of a sailor standing on the deck.

This loss was the more to be deplored, as the vessel contained nearly all the implements and tools intended for establishing the colony. The circumstances were such, says Joutel, that no one could doubt the disaster to have been the effect of a premeditated design of the captain, which he calls, truly enough, one of the blackest and most detestable that could be conceived in the heart of man.

When this accident happened, the Sieur de la Salle was on the opposite side of the bay, where

the savages had already made their appearance, and carried off three men, while they were employed in cutting down a large tree, to be formed into a canoe. He went to the village, and brought back the men without opposition. He also succeeded in bartering some hatchets with them for two canoes, which he very much wanted; and it may here be observed, that he seems to have possessed a deep knowledge of the character of savages, and an extraordinary power over their minds, for it rarely happened that difficulties began when he was personally present.

It would have been fortunate if all his companions had possessed the same knowledge and the same power.

We have an instance in point at this time. A bale of blankets had floated away from the wreck of the Aimable to the margin of the lake on the opposite side. The Indians picked it up, and, naturally enough, appropriated the blankets to their own use.

He thought it would be a good opportunity to prevail on them to let him have canoes in exchange. Du Hamel, the second lieutenant of the Joly, offered to go with a party in his boat and negotiate the affair. They landed, and marched up to the village in a resolute manner, with arms in their hands, so that the Indians knew not whether to regard them as friends or enemies. Unable to make themselves understood, they finally went back, seizing a parcel of skins and two canoes as booty. The Indians looked upon this act as a declaration of war, pursued the party, overtook them in the night on the shore where they had landed and gone to sleep, poured in upon them a discharge of arrows, killed two and wounded two others, and then fled, frightened at the sound of a musket, fired by one of the men while rousing from his slumbers.

The Sieur de la Salle bitterly lamented this catastrophe. Ory and Desloges, the men that had been slain, were volunteers, whom he esteemed and valued as friends. The event cast a gloom over the minds of all; they were struck with terror at the thought of Indians, murmured at their condition, and began to talk of returning to France, and abandoning an enterprise so thickly beset with dangers. If they had been endowed with the gift of foresight, their hearts might well have sunk within them. But the firm spirit of La Salle, which never sank, or even drooped, under any burden, sustained him now as in former trials, and his example was a gleam of encouragement to the desponding, the irresolute, and the faint-hearted.

Meantime Beaujeu was preparing to depart. He nourished his ill humor to the last. The cannon balls were all on board the Joly. He refused to take them out, because he could not do it without removing some of his cargo. Eight cannon were thus left for the defence of the colony, and not a single ball. Taking with him the perfidious captain and the crew of the Aimable, he set sail for France on the 12th of March.

The whole number of persons then remaining in the colony is not exactly known. Joutel mentions one hundred and eighty, besides the crew of the Belle, consisting of soldiers, volunteers, workmen, women, and children. The stock of provisions from the vessels was nearly exhausted, and their future supply depended mainly on the chase. Fortunately the surrounding prairies were covered with buffaloes, which were easily killed with their firearms, and which furnished excellent food; the rivers abounded with fish; the cattle, swine, and fowls, which they had brought from St. Domingo, thrived and multiplied; and, after the failure of one experiment in a barren soil, they succeeded in producing grain and vegetables from European seeds.

To provide a shelter for themselves and their goods, and a protection against, the Indians, they built a temporary fort on a hillock of sand, with the timbers and planks of the Aimable, which floated ashore after the vessel went to pieces, and with driftwood from the beach. While

« AnteriorContinuar »