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which bear up the spirit with equanimity and cheerfulness under the heaviest trials. Charlevoix says he died at the advanced age of seventy-one. He had been ten years in America, ardently devoted 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 these 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 solaces 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. We need not look to the end, nor inquire for the results ; motives are the test of merit; and humanity can claim no higher honor, than that such examples have existed.*
Having despaired of meeting their venerable friend, the voyagers pursued their course up the river with dejected spirits, and much distressed by the want of food. The water broke into their shattered canoe so fast, that they were obliged to leave it behind, and perform the journey by land, a distance of more than two hundred miles, to the nearest village of the Pottawatimies, subsisting on ground nuts, wild garlic, and such roots as chance threw in their
* A spirited sketch of the labors and sufferings of the early missionaries in Canada may be seen in the third volume of Bancroft's History of the United States.
Hennepin, in the closing chapters of his Nouvelle Découverte, has narrated the incidents of Father Gabriel's death, and the preceding events of the Iroquois war. His facts are drawn from the letters of Father Zenobe, or from the abstract published by Le Clercq, with such embellishments as are always ready at the call of his prolific imagination. He censures Tonty, apparently without justice, for having deserted Father Gabriel ; but Zenobe, who was present, passes no such censure, though he endeavored to prevail on Tonty to remain some time longer.
way. The snow began to fall, and the ice to form. Their lacerated feet were poorly protected by moccasons made of Father Gabriel's mantle of skins. Without a compass or path to guide them through the woods, they wandered up and down at random, and advanced slowly towards their journey's end; nor was it till after fifteen days' march that their hunger was appeased by the flesh of a deer, which they had the good fortune to kill.
The Sieur de Boisrondet lost himself in the forests, and for ten days his companions supposed him to be dead. He had a musket, but neither balls nor flint. Necessity spurred his invention, and he contrived to melt a pewter dish into balls, and to fire his gun by the touch of a live coal. In this way he shot wild turkeys, upon which he subsisted.
They finally all reached the village of the Pottawatimies, borne down with fatigue, and exhaustion. They were kindly received, and entertained with a generous hospitality. These Indians had traded with the French, and regarded them as friends. The principal chief addressed them in a flattering speech. He was accustomed to say that he knew of but three great captains in the world, Frontenac, La Salle, and himself. Tonty had dragged his emaciated frame with difficulty to the village, where he was taken dangerously ill, and was obliged to remain till his recovery. Father Zenobe went forward to the missionary station at Green Bay. At this place they all assembled in the spring, and proceeded to Mackinac, where they intended to wait till they should hear from their commander.
Let us now return to the Sieur de la Salle. No record has been preserved of the incidents of his long and perilous journey through the wilderness from the Illinois to the St. Lawrence. He arrived safely at Fort Frontenac, where he found his affairs in a state of deplorable confusion. The Griffin, with her cargo, valued at twelve thousand dollars, had been lost; his agents had despoiled him of the profits of the trade, in which he had several boats and canoes embarked in Lake Ontario; a vessel charged with merchandise for him to a large amount had been cast away in the Bay of St. Lawrence; his canoes, heavily laden, had been dashed in pieces while ascending the rapids above Montreal; some of his men, seduced by the wicked machinations of his enemies, had stolen his goods, and run away with them to the Dutch in New York; and, to crown all, his creditors, taking advantage of a rumor, maliciously circulated, that he and his whole party were drowned on their voyage up the lakes, had seized upon his remaining effects, and wasted them by forced sales. In short, being deserted by fortune, all Canada seemned to conspire against his enterprise.
A less resolute heart would have shrunk back from such obstacles, and abandoned an object apparently so hopeless and unattainable ; but despair was never known to settle upon the mind of La Salle. He had one friend left, the Count de Frontenac, whose influence and authority were exerted in his favor. The plan of navigating the Mississippi in a boat with rigging and sails was given up, and he resolved to prosecute his discoveries with canoes.
Having engaged more men, and among them La Forest as an officer, and such an arrangement of his affairs being made as circumstances would permit, he departed from Fort Frontenac on the 23d of July, 1680. Head winds detained him more than a month in Lake Ontario, and he did not reach Mackinac till the middle of September. Three weeks were here consumed in a vain attempt to traffic for Indian corn, which neither money nor goods would purchase. It was known that he had brandy; and when this was offered, the trade became so brisk, that sixty sacks of corn were brought to him in a single day. With this supply he embarked for Lake Michigan, and near the end of November