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he prevailed on them to build a little fort, and surround it with intrenchments; for it seems, that, although numerous, they were not a warlike people, it being their custom, whenever an enemy approached with a large force,' to desert their habitations, wander to the westward, and join their allies, sometimes across the Mississippi.
In the mean time, the missionaries applied themselves with zeal to the labors of their calling. Father Gabriel was adopted into the family of a chief, where he was treated in all respects as one of their own number. Zenobe made such progress in acquiring the language, as enabled him to converse in it with tolerable
He visited other Illinois villages, and even the Miamies, among whom Marquette had resided for some time five or six years before. But in his narrative Father Zenobe speaks despondingly of the prospect of communicating to these savages the doctrines and precepts of Christianity, or of producing any change in their manners. He represents them as addicted to gross vices, passionate, thievish, indolent, superstitious, and as yielding but a very slight obedience to their chiefs. Some of them were docile, and listened attentively to the instructions of the missionaries; but the good Fathers could not satisfy themselves that they had made the least impression. One of the principal converts, a man of note among them, being attacked by some disease, put himself under the discipline of the conjurers, in whose hands he died, thus showing the little confidence he possessed in his new faith.
At all events, neither Tonty nor any of his party had reason to complain of a want of hospitality or kind treatment in these untutored Illinois, during their residence of six months in the great village. At length, in the early part of September, an Indian belonging to a friendly tribe came to the village, and reported that he had discovered an army of Iroquois and Miamies, to the number of four or five hundred men, who had already advanced into the territory of the Illinois. This intelligence, so unexpected, produced the greatest consternation. A few persons were deputed to reconnoitre, who soon came back and confirmed the report, adding that La Salle himself was in the enemy's camp, whom they recognized by his hat and European dress. A loud clamor was immediately raised against the French, who were accused of being deceivers and traitors, and the rabble cried out that those in the village ought to be put to death without a moment's delay.
It required all the presence of mind and firmness, which the Chevalier de Tonty could com
mand, to appease this tempest of rage, and avert
, the blow. He used such arguments as he could in his defence, and, to prove his sincerity, offered to join the Illinois with his companions in an attack on the enemy. It turned out that the man taken for La Salle was an Iroquois chief, who had adorned his person with a hat and Canadian jacket.
It was unfortunate that at this time a large number of the young Illinois warriors was absent, but, as no time was to be lost, those in the village, accompanied by the Frenchmen, marched out to meet the enemy. They put on an air of courage at first, and skirmished with an advanced party; but Tonty soon discovered that his allies would not be able to stand their ground against so large a force. As a last hope, therefore, he proposed to go to the Iroquois as a mediator, and endeavor to bring about a reconciliation and peace, to which they assented, and gave him the powers of a negotiator. Attended by Father Zenobe, and laying aside his arms, he approached the camp of the Iroquois with a calumet in his hand, and called out for a parley. The Iroquois themselves had begun to waver a little, as to the probable issue of a battle, for they had expected to come upon the Illinois by surprise in their village, whereas these had been enabled to rally their warriors
and prepare for defence. Nor could the Iroquois judge of the numbers of the opposing army.
In this state of uncertainty, some of the leaders were willing to hear what could be said in favor of peace. Tonty and Zenobe were admitted into the camp; but the young men, not approving any terms of peace, surrounded the mediators, and, with violent gestures and language, seemed on the point of putting them to instant death. A young warrior thrust a knife at Tonty, which would have pierced him to the heart, if it had not been turned aside by one of his ribs. The wound bled profusely. At this moment, a chief rushed forward, who, perceiving that his ears were not bored, cried out that he was a Frenchman, and must not be killed, and endeavored to stop the blood by applying a belt of wampum as a bandage to the wound.
At the same time, another warrior seized Tonty's hat, and, placing it upon the end of his musket, ran towards the Illinois, who inferred from this signal that their messengers of peace had been murdered, and, enraged at such perfidy, they were about to renew the conflict with all their might, and wreak their vengeance on so faithless a foe. They were undeceived, however, in time to prevent this rash step. The Iroquois accepted the calumet, promised
peace, and made a show of retiring; but, having discovered that the Illinois were not so strong as they had supposed, they soon appeared again near the village.
Father Zenobe now consented to go alone among them, and inquire the reason of their return. They received him with civility and kindness, and told him that they did not intend to violate the treaty or do any harm, but they were hungry, and must have food. The Illinois, taking this in good part, supplied them with such provisions as they wanted, and proposed to open a trade with them for furs and skins. For two or three days, there was a sort of intercourse between the two parties on the footing of friendship, and Father Zenobe and one of his Illinois friends slept very quietly one night in the Iroquois camp. It was soon apparent, nevertheless, that all these pretensions were hollow and treacherous.
The Iroquois prowled about the village, committed depredations, and took such liberties as proved that they were only seeking a quarrel under the garb of peace.
The Illinois themselves had not been free from suspicion, and they prepared for the worst. The old men, women, and children, had retired to the interior of the country, and the inhabitants of the other villages were advised to retreat, and