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And here we should remark, that La Salle had all along been told by the savages he had seen on his way from Mackinac, that the Illinois Indians were unfriendly to the French, and that he was running a fearful risk to venture himself among them. The thievish Outtagamies, who crossed his path near the Miamis River, had repeated the same tale. Those rumors lingered in the busy thoughts of the men, and the commander himself was not entirely free from apprehension. At any rate, as he must soon expect to meet with the natives, he deemed it prudent to be on his guard, and prepared for any tide of events that might rise.
On the first day of the year, after the ceremonies of the morning, they passed through a lake, about twenty miles long and three broad, then called Pimiteouy, but since known as Lake Peoria; and, just as they had entered the river at the lower end of the lake, an Indian encampment suddenly broke upon their view, planted on both sides of the stream. The men were immediately summoned to arms; the canoes were ranged in a line, with La Salle on the right and Tonty on the left; and in this attitude the little flotilla boldly advanced to the shore. The Indians were amazed at this apparition; some of the more resolute seized their arms; others took to flight; and in a moment the whole camp was a scene of confusion.
The Sieur de la Salle landed first, and he was followed by his men. It was not his interest nor his purpose to seek hostilities, but he well knew that to betray symptoms of timidity was not the way to secure the respect or conciliate the favor of the savages.
He stood on his defence, allowing the Indians time to recover from their consternation, and awaiting the issue. He did not present his calumet, because this might be construed as an evidence of weakness, rather than of a voluntary offer of peace on equal terms. The Indians gazed for a while, and seemed to expect a conflict; but, perceiving no movement on the part of their visiters, they finally held up three calumets of peace, and the signal was immediately answered by the French. From that moment all suspicions and fears ceased; they invited the Frenchmen to their cabins, and received them as friends ; the women and others who had fled were called back; and the day was passed with festivity and joy.
La Salle took the first opportunity to explain to them the objects, that had brought him to their country, which he could do with the more facility as he was accompanied by two interpreters. 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 with the conveniences of life. At this interview he said nothing about his proposed voyage to the Mississippi. In fact, his aim seems only to have been to quell their apprehensions and rivet their friendship. The idea of teaching them the Christian religion, and at the same time putting firearms in their hands to excite their passion for war, is so incongruous, that this report might be doubted, if it were not confirmed by two of the missionaries who were present, and who relate the circumstance without comment. plained to them what he had done in regard to the corn, which, he said, was an act of necessity; and he offered to pay its full value in such commodities as they might choose from his stores. This proposal was readily accepted, and
. he then distributed presents among them, with which they expressed entire satisfaction, and all the links in the chain of friendship were understood by both parties to be closed.
This good understanding, however, was soon interrupted. During the night of the same day, a chief of the Mascoutens, a tribe inhabiting near the Fox River, came secretly into the camp of the Illinois. His name was Monso, and he was accompanied by several Miamies, who brought with them presents of knives, hatchets, kettles, and other valuable articles. Monso assembled the head-men of the village in the night, and told them he had come to warn them against the insidious designs of La Salle, representing him to be in a league with the Iroquois, and as coming only in advance of an army from that formidable nation, with which he would unite his forces in an attack on the I'linois; and added that this intelligence was communicated to him by some of La Salle's own countrymen, at whose suggestion he had undertaken this mission, out of the love he bore to his friends. Having thus poisoned the minds of these people, and distributed the presents, he went off the same night, to avoid being seen by the French, although he was, doubtless, himself the dupe of his employers, believing the tale they instructed him to tell.
In the morning, when the Sieur de la Salle went into the camp, he was surprised at seeing the apparent distrust and coldness of those, who the day before had treated him with so much frankness and cordiality. He was puzzled to conjecture the cause. Applying to one of the chiefs, from whom he had received marked tokens of friendship, and pressing him to explain the reason of these strange appearances, he finally drew from him the whole story of Monso's intrigues. Knowing now on what ground he stood, it was his next endeavor to counteract these mischievous counsels, by proving the falsehood of the report, and showing the evil designs of its authors. He managed the affair with so much dexterity, that he succeeded in recovering their friendship, though, perhaps, not in eradicating every germ of suspicion.
In the mean time, he made inquiries about the Mississippi, and talked of his plan of building a boat to sail down that river. That all jealousies were not put at rest is evident from a circumstance which occurred soon afterwards. Nikanape, a man of rank in the camp, and brother to the great chief of the nation, who was absent on a hunting excursion, invited the Frenchmen to an entertainment, and, before sitting down to the repast, he made a long speech, the drift of which was, to advise his guests against their perilous scheme of going down the Mississippi. 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. This harangue,