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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 art 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, which the orator enforced by expressions of anxious concern for the welfare of his friends, produced an obvious effect on the minds of La Salle's men, even when repeated in the less ornate and forcible language of the interpreter. He perceived it in their countenances, and therefore framed his answer in a manner both to allay their fears, and show the savage that he saw more deeply into his motives than he imagined.
He said the dangers, which had been painted in such glowing colors, bore on their face so clear a stamp of exaggeration and improbability, that he was convinced Nikanape himself would excuse him for regarding them with, utter incredulity ; and even if they were as formidable as had been represented, the courage of Frenchmen would only be the more eager to encounter them, as crowning their ente prise with the greater glory. As to the concern, w'iich his host had expressed for their welfare, he would not doubt its sincerity, but he believed there was something at the bottom of his heart, which his sense of propriety on this occasion did not permit to escape through his words. He felt constrained to say that he saw the seeds of jealousy lurking under the cover of this fair speech, which touched him the more sensibly, as his own conduct had been frank, steady,
and confiding If there were causes of uneasiness, let them not be concealed under the garb of suspicion, but let them be brought out to open day, where they might be explained and removed. He was surprised that they should listen to such idle and malicious reports as Monso had scattered in their ears, creeping into the camp as he did at midnight, and skulking away in darkness before he could be confronted by those whom he had accused.
This tone of firmness and reproof was taken in good part by Nikanape, and he was too skilful a host to allow the harmony of his feast to be interrupted by dissensions of his own making. These events, however, were not such as to give peace or repose to the mind of La Salle. The imaginations of his men were inflamed by Nikanape's terrific account of the Mississippi. Six of them deserted, including the two sawyers, whose services were exceedingly important, preferring a long journey in search of some friendly tribes near the Michigan, to the labors and dangers before them. Some accounts say that these men had laid a plot to poison their commander and his principal adherents. The defection of so large a number was not only discouraging in itself, but a sad breach in the company. La Salle told those who remained, that, in the spring, if any of
them should be afraid to venture upon the Mississippi, he would give them a canoe to return to Canada, but that it was the extreme of folly and imprudence to go off in the depth of winter, exposed to perish by cold and hunger, or perhaps by the hands of the savages. He was aware that the readiest method of soothing their discontent was to find them employment, and he laid a scheme for building a fort. He consulted his men on the subject, represented their exposed situation among the natives, and their greater security in some fortified place. They acquiesced in his views, and promised cheerfully to undertake the work.
Fort Crèvec@ur built near Lake Peoriu. Inter
course with the Indians. - Hennepin ascends the Mississippi. — La Salle returns by Land to Fort Frontenac. Some of the Men desert. - Iroquois War. — Tonty and Father Zenobe endeavor to mediate between the Iroquois and Illinois.
The place selected for the fort was about half a league below the Indian camp, and not
far from the present town of Peoria. The position was strong by nature, situate on a high bank rising from the margin of the river, and bounded on two sides by ravines running nearly at right angles to the stream. The task of preparing it for defence was not a hard one, since it consisted mainly in connecting the two ravines by a breastwork of timbers and palisades, and in digging away some parts of the other three sides, to render the ascent more steep and difficult. About the middle of January, the whole company removed to this spot, and established their quarters within the lines of the fort. In sympathy with his feelings, La Salle named it Fort Crèvec@ur, Broken Heart, as a memorial of the sadness he felt at the loss of his vessel, which he now deemed almost certain, and at the numerous discouragements and disasters which had hitherto attended his enterprise.
With his suspicious neighbors at the camp he lived on good terms. They gave him no annoyance, and visits were sometimes interchanged. Father Zenobe took up his residence there, was adopted into the family of a noted chief, made some progress in learning the language of the natives, and exercised among them, as well as he could, his missionary calling; but he confessed that their rude manners and mode