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Put aside the bear-skin, and enter the hut. Here, in a space some thirteen feet square, were packed nineteen savages, men, women, and children, with their dogs, crouched, squatted, coiled like hedgehogs, or lying on their backs, with knees drawn up perpendicularly to keep their feet out of the fire. Le Jeune, always methodical, arranges the grievances inseparable from these rough quarters under four chief heads,Cold, Heat, Smoke, and Dogs. The bark covering was full of crevices, through which the icy blasts streamed in upon him from all sides; and the hole above, at once window and chimney, was so large, that, as he lay, he could watch the stars as well as in the open air. While the fire in the midst, fed with fat pine-knots, scorched him on one side, on the other he had much ado to keep himself from freezing. At times, however, the crowded hut seemed heated 28 to the temperature of an oven. But these evils were light, when compared to the intolerable plague of smoke. During a snow-storm, and often at other times, the wigwam was filled with fumes so dense, stifling, and acrid, that all its inmates were forced to lie flat on their faces, breathing through mouths in contact with the cold earth. Their throats and nostrils felt as if on fire; their scorched eyes streamed with tears; and when Le Jeune tried to read, the letters of his breviary seemed printed in blood. The dogs were not an unmixed evil, for, by sleeping on and around him, they kept him warm at night; but, as an offset to this good service, they walked, ran, and jumped over him as he lay, snatched the food from his birchen dish, or, in a mad rush at some bone or discarded morsel, now and then overset both dish and missionary.
What do you mean? exclaimed Xenocles, who was always too impatient to like riddles.Acestor did not instantly commence what he had to say. Calmness must first be restored to the minds of the assembly so, glancing with a smile around the circle, he began in a tone intended to command attention.
Couture, though he had incensed the Indians by killing one of their warriors, had gained their admiration by his bravery; and, after torturing him most savagely, they adopted him into one of their families, in place of a dead relative. Thenceforth he was comparatively safe. Jogues and Goupil were less fortunate. Three of the Hurons had been burned to death, and they expected to share their fate. A council was held to pronounce their doom; but dissensions arose, and no result was reached. They were led back to the first village, where they remained, racked with suspense and half dead with exhaustion. Jogues, however, lost no opportunity to baptize dying infants, while Goupil taught children to make the sign of the cross. On one occasion, he made the sign on the forehead of a child, grandson of an Indian in whose lodge they lived. The superstition of the old savage was aroused. Some Dutchmen had told him that the sign of the cross came from the Devil, and would cause mischief. He thought that Goupil was bewitching the child; and, resolving to rid himself of so dangerous a guest, applied for aid to two young braves. Jogues and Goupil, clad in their squalid garb of tattered skins, were soon after walking together in the forest that adjoined the 224 town, consoling themselves with prayer, and mutually exhorting each other to suffer patiently for the sake of Christ and the Virgin, when, as they were returning, reciting their rosaries, they met the two young Indians, and read in their sullen visages an augury of ill. The Indians joined them, and accompanied them to the entrance of the town, where one of the two, suddenly drawing a hatchet from beneath his blanket, struck it into the head of Goupil, who fell, murmuring the name of Christ. Jogues dropped on his knees, and, bowing his head in prayer, awaited the blow, when the murderer ordered him to get up and go home. He obeyed but not until he had given absolution to his still breathing friend, and presently saw the lifeless body dragged through the town amid hootings and rejoicings.XX.
These Sioux, it may be observed, were the ancestors of those who committed the horrible but not unprovoked massacres of 1862, in the valley of the St. Peter. Hennepin complains bitterly of their treatment of him, which, however, seems to have been tolerably good. Afraid that he would lag behind, as his canoe was heavy and slow, they placed several warriors in it to aid him and his men in paddling. They kept on their way from morning till night, building huts for their bivouac when it rained, and sleeping on the open ground when the weather was fair,which, says Hennepin, "gave us a good opportunity to contemplate the moon and stars." The three Frenchmen took the precaution of sleeping at the side of the young chief who had been the first to smoke the peace-pipe, and who seemed inclined to befriend them; but there was another chief, one Aquipaguetin, a crafty old savage, who having lost a son in war with the Miamis, was angry that the party had abandoned their expedition, and thus deprived him of his revenge. He therefore kept up a dismal lament through half the night; while other old men, crouching over Hennepin as he lay trying to sleep, stroked him with their hands, and uttered wailings so lugubrious that he was forced to [Pg 255] the belief that he had been doomed to death, and that they were charitably bemoaning his fate.CHAPTER III.
Everybody was in the streets; animals ran wildly about; children cried; men and women, seized with fright, knew not where to take refuge, expecting every moment to be buried under the ruins of the houses, or swallowed up in some abyss opening under their feet. Some, on their knees in the snow, cried for mercy, and others passed the night in prayer; for the earthquake continued without ceasing, with a motion much like that of a ship at sea, insomuch that sundry persons felt the same qualms of stomach which they would feel on the water. In the forests the commotion was far greater. The trees struck one against the other as if there were a battle between them; and you would have said that not only their branches, but even their trunks started out of their places and leaped on each other with such noise and confusion that the Indians said that the whole forest was drunk. Mary of the Incarnation gives a similar account, as does also Frances Juchereau de Saint-Ignace; and these contemporary records are sustained to some extent by the evidence of geology. * A remarkable effect was produced on the St. Lawrence, which was so charged with mud and clay that for many weeks the water was unfit to drink. Considerable hills and large tracts of forest slid from their places, some into the river, and some into adjacent valleys. A number of men in a boat near Tadoussac stared aghast at a large hill covered with trees, which sank into the water before their eyes; streams were turned from their courses; water-falls were levelled; springs were dried up in some places, while in others new springs appeared. Nevertheless, the accounts that have come down to us seem a little exaggerated, and sometimes ludicrously so; as when, for example, Mother Mary of the Incarnation tells us of a man who ran all night to escape from a fissure in the earth which opened behind him and chased him as he fled.
After the carousal they returned to Charlesfort, where they were soon pinched with hunger. The Indians, never niggardly of food, brought them supplies as long as their own lasted; but the harvest was not yet ripe, and their means did not match their good-will. They told the French of two other kings, Ouade and Couexis, who dwelt towards the south, and were rich beyond belief in maize, beans, and squashes. The mendicant colonists embarked without delay, and, with an Indian guide, steered for the wigwams of these potentates, not by the open sea, but by a perplexing inland navigation, including, as it seems, Calibogue Sound and neighboring waters. Reaching the friendly villages, on or near the Savannah, they were feasted to repletion, and their boat was laden with vegetables and corn. They returned rejoicing; but their joy was short. Their store-house at Charlesfort, taking fire in the night, burned to the ground, and with it their newly acquired stock. Lettre de Frontenac au Ministre, 14 Nov., 1674. He here speaks of "la grande rivire qu'il [Joliet] a trouve, qui va du nord au sud, et qui est aussi large que celle du Saint-Laurent vis--vis de Qubec." Four years later, Frontenac speaks slightingly of Joliet, but neither denies his discovery of the Mississippi, nor claims it for La Salle, in whose interest he writes.