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19 and that its symbol must now be planted; which was accordingly done at once by erecting a cross, before which the Vexilla and the Domine salvum fac Regem were sung. Whereupon the ceremony was concluded with cries of Vive le Roi.
“Of all and every of the above, the said Sieur de la Salle having required of us an instrument, we have delivered to him the same, signed by us, and by the undersigned witnesses, this ninth day of April, one thousand six hundred and eighty-two.
“LA METAIRE, Notary DE LA SALLE.
Jean Michel, Surgeon.
JEAN Mas. JEAN BOURDON.
JEAN DULIGNON. SIEUR D'AUTRAY.
NICHOLAS DE LA SALLE. JAQUES CAUCHOIS.”
Thus was the foundation fairly laid for the claim of France to the Mississippi Valley, according to the usages of European powers. But La Salle and his companions could not stay to examine the land they had entered, nor the coast they had reached. Provisions with them were exceedingly scarce, and they were forced at once to start upon their return for the north. This they did without serious trouble, although somewhat annoyed by the savages, until they reached Fort Prudhomme, where La Salle was taken violently sick. Finding himself unable to announce his success in person, the Chevalier sent forward Tonti to the lakes to communicate with the Count de Frontenac: he himself was unable to reach the fort at the mouth of the St. Joseph's, until toward the last of September. From that post he sent with his despatches, Father Zenobe, to represent him in France, while he pursued the more lucrative business of attending to his fur trade in the north-west, and completing his long projected fort of St. Louis, upon the high and commanding bluff of the Illinois, now known as Rock Fort; a bluff two hundred and fifty feet high, and accessible only on one side. Having seen this completed, and the necessary steps taken to preserve a good understanding with the Indians, and also to keep up a good trade with them, in the autumn of 1683, the Chevalier sailed for his native land, which he reached, December 13th.
At one time he had thought probably of attempting to establish a colony on the Mississippi, by means of supplies and persons sent
La Salle in France.
from Canada; but farther reflection led him to believe his true course to be to go direct from France to the mouth of the Mississippi, with abundant means for settling and securing the country; and to obtain the necessary ships, stores, and emigrants, was the main purpose of his visit to Europe. But he found his fair fame in danger, in the court of his king. His success, his wide plans, and his overbearing character were all calculated to make him enemies; and among the foremost was La Barre, who had succeeded Frontenac as governor of Canada.
But La Salle had a most able advocate in France, so soon as he was there in person; and the whole nation being stirred by the story of the new discoveries, of which Hennepin had widely promulgated his first account some months before La Salle's return, our hero found ears open to drink in his words, and imaginations warmed to make the most of them. The minister, Seignelay, desired to see the adventurer, and he soon won his way to whatever heart that man had; for it could not have required much talk with La Salle to have been satisfied of his sincerity, enthusiasm, energy, and bravery. The tales of the new governor fell dead, therefore, and the king listened to the prayer of his subject, that a fleet might be sent to take possession of the mouth of the Mississippi, and so that great country of which he told them be secured to France. The king listened; and soon the town of Rochelle was busy with the stir of artisans, ship-riggers, adventurers, soldiers, sailors, and all that varied crowd which in those days looked into the dim West for a land where wealth was to be had for the seeking
On the 24th of July, 1684, twenty-four vessels sailed from Rochelle to America, four of which were for the discovery and settlement of the famed Louisiana. These four carried two hundred and eighty persons, including the crews; there were soldiers, artificers, and volunteers, and also “some young women.” There is no doubt that this brave fleet started full of light hearts, and vast, vague hopes; but, alas! it had scarce started when discord began; for La Salle and the commander of the fleet, M. de Beaujeu, were well fitted to quarrel one with the other, but never to work together. In truth La Salle seems to have been nowise amiable, for he was overbearing, harsh, and probably selfish to the full extent to be looked for in a man of worldly ambition. However, in one of the causes of quarrel which arose during the passage, he acted, if not with policy, certainly with boldness and
21 humanity. It was when they came to the Tropic of Cancer, where, in those times, it was customary to baptize all green hands, as is still sometimes done under the Equator. On this occasion, the sailors of La Salle's little squadron promised themselves rare sport and much plunder, grog, and other good things, the forfeit paid by those who do not wish a seasoning; but all these expectations were stopped, and hope turned into hate, by the express and emphatic statement on the part of La Salle, that no man under his command should be ducked, whereupon the commander of the fleet was forced to forbid the ceremony.
With such beginnings of bickering and dissatisfaction the Atlantic was slowly crossed, and, upon the 20th of September, the island of St. Domingo was reached. Here certain arrangements were to be made with the colonial authorities; but, as they were away, it became necessary to stop there for a time. And a sad time it was. The fever seized the new-comers; the ships were crowded with sick; La Salle himself was brought to the verge of the grave; and, when he recovered, the first news that greeted him, was that of his four vessels, the one wherein he had embarked his stores and implements, had been taken by the Spaniards. The sick man had to bestir himself thereupon to procure new supplies; and while he was doing so, his enemies were also bestirring themselves to seduce his men from him, so that what with death and desertion, he was likely to have a small crew at the last. But energy did much; and, on the 25th of November, the first of the remaining vessels, she that was “to carry the light,” sailed for the coast of America. In her went La Salle, and the historian of the voyage, Joutel.
For a whole month were the disconsolate sailors sailing, and sounding, and stopping to take in water and shoot alligators, and drifting in utter uncertainty, until, on the 28th of December, the mainland was fairly discovered. But “there being” as Joutel says, “no man among them who had any knowledge of that Bay,” and there being also an impression that they must steer very much to the westward to avoid the currents, it was no wonder they missed the Mississippi, and wandered far beyond it, not knowing where they went; and so wore away the whole month of January, 1685. At last, La Salle, out of patience, determined to land some of his men, and go along the shore toward the point where he believed the mouth of the Mississippi to be, and Joutel was appointed one of the commanders of this exploring party. They La Salle in Matagorda Bay.
started on the 4th of February, and travelled eastward, (for it was clear that they had passed the river) during three days, when they came to a great stream which they could not cross, having no boats. Here they made fire signals, and, on the 13th, two of the vessels came in sight; the mouth of the river, or entrance of the bay, for such it proved to be, was forthwith sounded, and the barks sent in to be under shelter. But, sad to say, La Salle's old fortune was at work here again; for the vessel which bore his provisions and most valuable stores, was run upon a shoal by the grossest neglect, or, as Joutel thinks, with malice prepense; and, soon after, the wind coming in strong from the sea, she fell to pieces in the night, and the bay was full of casks and packages, which could not be saved, or were worthless when drawn from the salt water. From this untimely fate our poor adventurer rescued but a small half of his second stock of indispensables.
And here, for a moment, let us pause to look at the Chevalier's condition in the middle of March, 1685. Beaujeu, with his ship, is gone, leaving his comrades in the marshy wilderness, with not much of joy to look forward to. They had guns, and powder, and shot; eight cannon, too, “but not one bullet,” that is, cannon-ball, the naval gentlemen having refused to give them any. And here are our lonely settlers, building a fort upon the shores of the Bay of St. Louis, as they called it, known to us as the Bay of St. Bernard, or Matagorda Bay, in Texas. They build from the wreck of their ship, we cannot think with light hearts; every plank and timber tells of past ill luck, and, as they look forward, there is vision of irritated savages (for there had been warring already,) of long search for the Hidden River, * of toils and dangers in its ascent when reached. No wonder, that “during that time several men deserted.” So strong was the fever for desertion, that, of some who stole away and were retaken, it was found necessary to execute one.
And now La Salle prepares to issue from his nearly completed fort, to look round and see where he is. He has still a good force, some hundred and fifty people; and, by prompt and determined action, much may be done between this last of March and next autumn. In the first place, the river falling into the Bay of St. Louis is examined, and a new fort commenced in that neighborhood, where seed is planted also; for the men begin to tire of meat and fish, with spare allowance of bread, and no vegetables.
So the Spaniards called the Mississippi.
La Salle in Texas.
But the old luck is at work still. The seed will not sprout; men desert; the fort goes forward miserably slow; and at last, three months and more gone to no purpose, Joutel and his men, who are still hewing timber at the first fort, are sent for, and told to bring their timber with them in a float. The float or raft was begun “with immense labor,” says the wearied historian, but all to no purpose, for the weather was so adverse, that it had to be all taken apart again and buried in the sand. Empty-handed, therefore, Joutel sought his superior, the effects being left at a post by the way. And he came to a scene of desolation; men sick, and no houses to put them in; all the looked-for crop blasted; and not a ray of comfort from any quarter.
“Well,” said La Salle, “we must now muster all hands, and build ourselves 'a large lodgment."” But there was no timber within a league; and not a cart nor a bullock to be had, for the buffaloes, though abundant, were ill broken to such labor. If done, this dragging must be done by men; so, over the long grass and weeds of the prairie-plain, they dragged some sticks, with vast suffering. Afterwards the carriage of a gun was tried; but it would not do; "the ablest men were quite spent.” Indeed, heaving and hauling over that damp plain, and under that July sun, might have tried the constitution of the best of Africans; and of the poor Frenchmen thirty died, worn out. The carpenter was lost; and, worse still, La Salle, wearied, worried, disappointed, lost his temper and insulted his men. So closed July; the Chevalier turned carpenter, marking out the tenons and mortises of what timber he could get, and growing daily more cross.
In March he thought much might be done before autumn, and now autumn stands but one month removed from him, and not even a house built yet.
And August soon passed too, not without results, however; for the timber that had been buried below was got up, and a second house built, “all covered with planks and bullock's hides over them."
And now once more was La Salle ready to seek the Mississippi. First, he thought he would try with the last of the four barks with which he left France; the bark La Belle, “a little frigate carrying six guns," which the King had given our Chevalier to be his navy. But, after having put all his clothes and valuables on board of her, he determined to try with twenty men to reach his object by land. This was in December, 1685. From this