Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys


By Francis Parkman




It was past the middle of June, and the expected warriors from the upper
country had not come,--a delay which seems to have given Champlain
little concern, for, without waiting longer, he set out with no better
allies than a band of Montagnais. But, as he moved up the St. Lawrence,
he saw, thickly clustered in the bordering forest, the lodges of an
Indian camp, and, landing, found his Huron and Algonquin allies. Few of
them had ever seen a white man, and they surrounded the steel-clad
strangers in speechless wonder. Champlain asked for their chief, and the
staring throng moved with him towards a lodge where sat, not one chief,
but two; for each band had its own. There were feasting, smoking, and
speeches; and, the needful ceremony over, all descended together to
Quebec; for the strangers were bent on seeing those wonders of
architecture, the fame of which had pierced the recesses of their

On their arrival, they feasted their eyes and glutted their appetites;
yelped consternation at the sharp explosions of the arquebuse and the
roar of the cannon; pitched their camps, and bedecked themselves for
their war-dance. In the still night, their fire glared against the black
and jagged cliff, and the fierce red light fell on tawny limbs convulsed
with frenzied gestures and ferocious stampings on contorted visages,
hideous with paint; on brandished weapons, stone war-clubs, stone
hatchets, and stone-pointed lances; while the drum kept up its hollow
boom, and the air was split with mingled yells.

The war-feast followed, and then all embarked together. Champlain was in
a small shallop, carrying, besides himself, eleven men of Pontgrave's
party, including his son-in-law Marais and the pilot La Routte. They
were armed with the arquebuse,--a matchlock or firelock somewhat like
the modern carbine, and from its shortness not ill suited for use in the
forest. On the twenty-eighth of June they spread their sails and held
their course against the current, while around them the river was alive
with canoes, and hundreds of naked arms plied the paddle with a steady,
measured sweep. They crossed the Lake of St. Peter, threaded the devious
channels among its many islands, and reached at last the mouth of the
Riviere des Iroquois, since called the Richelien, or the St. John. Here,
probably on the site of the town of Sorel, the leisurely warriors
encamped for two days, hunted, fished, and took their ease, regaling
their allies with venison and wildfowl. They quarrelled, too; three
fourths of their number seceded, took to their canoes in dudgeon, and
paddled towards their homes, while the rest pursued their course up the
broad and placid stream.

Walls of verdure stretched on left and right. Now, aloft in the lonely
air rose the cliffs of Belceil, and now, before them, framed in circling
forests, the Basin of Chambly spread its tranquil mirror, glittering in
the sun. The shallop outsailed the canoes. Champlain, leaving his allies
behind, crossed the basin and tried to pursue his course; but, as he
listened in the stillness, the unwelcome noise of rapids reached his
ear, and, by glimpses through the dark foliage of the Islets of St. John
he could see the gleam of snowy foam and the flash of hurrying waters.
Leaving the boat by the shore in charge of four men, he went with
Marais, La Routte, and five others, to explore the wild before him. They
pushed their way through the damps and shadows of the wood, through
thickets and tangled vines, over mossy rocks and mouldering logs. Still
the hoarse surging of the rapids followed them; and when, parting the
screen of foliage, they looked out upon the river, they saw it thick set
with rocks where, plunging over ledges, gurgling under drift-logs,
darting along clefts, and boiling in chasms, the angry waters filled the
solitude with monotonous ravings.

Champlain retraced his steps. He had learned the value of an Indian's
word. His allies had promised him that his boat could pass unobstructed
throughout the whole journey. "It afflicted me," he says, "and troubled
me exceedingly to be obliged to return without having seen so great a
lake, full of fair islands and bordered with the fine countries which
they had described to me."

When he reached the boat, he found the whole savage crew gathered at the
spot. He mildly rebuked their bad faith, but added, that, though they
had deceived him, he, as far as might be, would fulfil his pledge. To
this end, he directed Marais, with the boat and the greater part of the
men, to return to Quebec, while he, with two who offered to follow him,
should proceed in the Indian canoes.

The warriors lifted their canoes from the water, and bore them on their
shoulders half a league through the forest to the smoother stream above.
Here the chiefs made a muster of their forces, counting twenty-four
canoes and sixty warriors. All embarked again, and advanced once more,
by marsh, meadow, forest, and scattered islands,--then full of game,
for it was an uninhabited land, the war-path and battleground of hostile
tribes. The warriors observed a certain system in their advance. Some
were in front as a vanguard; others formed the main body; while an equal
number were in the forests on the flanks and rear, hunting for the
subsistence of the whole; for, though they had a provision of parched
maize pounded into meal, they kept it for use when, from the vicinity of
the enemy, hunting should become impossible.

Late in the day they landed and drew up their canoes, ranging them
closely, side by side. Some stripped sheets of bark, to cover their camp
sheds; others gathered wood, the forest being full of dead, dry trees;
others felled the living trees, for a barricade. They seem to have had
steel axes, obtained by barter from the French; for in less than two
hours they had made a strong defensive work, in the form of a
half-circle, open on the river side, where their canoes lay on the
strand, and large enough to enclose all their huts and sheds.[FN#28]
Some of their number had gone forward as scouts, and, returning,
reported no signs of an enemy. This was the extent of their precaution,
for they placed no guard, but all, in full security, stretched
themselves to sleep,--a vicious custom from which the lazy warrior of
the forest rarely departs.

They had not forgotten, however, to consult their oracle. The
medicine-man pitched his magic lodge in the woods, formed of a small
stack of poles, planted in a circle and brought together at the tops
like stacked muskets. Over these he placed the filthy deer-skins which
served him for a robe, and, creeping in at a narrow opening, hid himself
from view. Crouched in a ball upon the earth, he invoked the spirits in
mumbling inarticulate tones; while his naked auditory, squatted on the
ground like apes, listened in wonder and awe. Suddenly, the lodge moved,
rocking with violence to and fro,--by the power of the spirits, as the
Indians thought, while Champlain could plainly see the tawny fist of the
medicine-man shaking the poles. They begged him to keep a watchful eye
on the peak of the lodge, whence fire and smoke would presently issue;
but with the best efforts of his vision, he discovered none. Meanwhile
the medicine-man was seized with such convulsions, that, when his
divination was over, his naked body streamed with perspiration. In loud,
clear tones, and in an unknown tongue, he invoked the spirit, who was
understood to be present in the form of a stone, and whose feeble and
squeaking accents were heard at intervals, like the wail of a young

In this manner they consulted the spirit--as Champlain thinks, the
Devil--at all their camps. His replies, for the most part, seem to have
given them great content; yet they took other measures, of which the
military advantages were less questionable. The principal chief gathered
bundles of sticks, and, without wasting his breath, stuck them in the
earth in a certain order, calling each by the name of some warrior, a
few taller than the rest representing the subordinate chiefs. Thus was
indicated the position which each was to hold in the expected battle.
All gathered round and attentively studied the sticks, ranged like a
child's wooden soldiers, or the pieces on a chessboard; then, with no
further instruction, they formed their ranks, broke them, and reformed
them again and again with excellent alacrity and skill.

Again the canoes advanced, the river widening as they went. Great
islands appeared, leagues in extent,--Isle a la Motte, Long Island,
Grande Isle; channels where ships might float and broad reaches of water
stretched between them, and Champlain entered the lake which preserves
his name to posterity. Cumberland Head was passed, and from the opening
of the great channel between Grande Isle and the main he could look
forth on the wilderness sea. Edged with woods, the tranquil flood spread
southward beyond the sight. Far on the left rose the forest ridges of
the Green Mountains, and on the right the Adirondacks,--haunts in these
later years of amateur sportsmen from counting-rooms or college halls.
Then the Iroquois made them their hunting-ground; and beyond, in the
valleys of the Mohawk, the Onondaga, and the Genesce, stretched the long
line of their five cantons and palisaded towns.

At night they encamped again. The scene is a familiar one to many a
tourist; and perhaps, standing at sunset on the peaceful strand,
Champlain saw what a roving student of this generation has seen on those
same shores, at that same hour,--the glow of the vanished sun behind
the western mountains, darkly piled in mist and shadow along the sky;
near at hand, the dead pine, mighty in decay, stretching its ragged arms
athwart the burning heaven, the crow perched on its top like an image
carved in jet; and aloft, the nighthawk, circling in his flight, and,
with a strange whirring sound, diving through the air each moment for
the insects he makes his prey.

The progress of the party was becoming dangerous. They changed their
mode of advance and moved only in the night. All day they lay close in
the depth of the forest, sleeping, lounging, smoking tobacco of their
own raising, and beguiling the hours, no doubt, with the shallow banter
and obscene jesting with which knots of Indians are wont to amuse their
leisure. At twilight they embarked again, paddling their cautious way
till the eastern sky began to redden. Their goal was the rocky
promontory where Fort Ticonderoga was long afterward built. Thence, they
would pass the outlet of Lake George, and launch their canoes again on
that Como of the wilderness, whose waters, limpid as a fountain-head,
stretched far southward between their flanking mountains. Landing at the
future site of Fort William Henry, they would carry their canoes through
the forest to the river Hudson, and, descending it, attack perhaps some
outlying town of the Mohawks. In the next century this chain of lakes
and rivers became the grand highway of savage and civilized war, linked
to memories of momentous conflicts.

The allies were spared so long a progress. On the morning of the
twenty-ninth of July, after paddling all night, they hid as usual in the
forest on the western shore, apparently between Crown Point and
Ticonderoga. The warriors stretched themselves to their slumbers, and
Champlain, after walking till nine or ten o'clock through the
surrounding woods, returned to take his repose on a pile of
spruce-boughs. Sleeping, he dreamed a dream, wherein he beheld the
Iroquois drowning in the lake; and, trying to rescue them, he was told
by his Algonquin friends that they were good for nothing, and had better
be left to their fate. For some time past he had been beset every
morning by his superstitious allies, eager to learn about his dreams;
and, to this moment, his unbroken slumbers had failed to furnish the
desired prognostics. The announcement of this auspicious vision filled
the crowd with joy, and at nightfall they embarked, flushed with
anticipated victories.

It was ten o'clock in the evening, when, near a projecting point of
land, which was probably Ticonderoga, they descried dark objects in
motion on the lake before them. These were a flotilla of Iroquois
canoes, heavier and slower than theirs, for they were made of oak bark.
Each party saw the other, and the mingled war-cries pealed over the
darkened water. The Iroquois, who were near the shore, having no stomach
for an aquatic battle, landed, and, making night hideous with their
clamors, began to barricade themselves. Champlain could see them in the
woods, laboring like beavers, hacking down trees with iron axes taken
from the Canadian tribes in war, and with stone hatchets of their own
making. The allies remained on the lake, a bowshot from the hostile
barricade, their canoes made fast together by poles lashed across. All
night they danced with as much vigor as the frailty of their vessels
would permit, their throats making amends for the enforced restraint of
their limbs. It was agreed on both sides that the fight should be
deferred till daybreak; but meanwhile a commerce of abuse, sarcasm,
menace, and boasting gave unceasing exercise to the lungs and fancy of
the combatants, "much," says Champlain, "like the besiegers and besieged
in a beleaguered town."

As day approached, he and his two followers put on the light armor of
the time. Champlain wore the doublet and long hose then in vogue. Over
the doublet he buckled on a breastplate, and probably a back-piece,
while his thighs were protected by cuisses of steel, and his head by a
plumed casque. Across his shoulder hung the strap of his bandoleer, or
ammunition-box; at his side was his sword, and in his hand his
arquebuse. Such was the equipment of this ancient Indian-fighter, whose
exploits date eleven years before the landing of the Puritans at
Plymouth, and sixty-six years before King Philip's War.

Each of the three Frenchmen was in a separate canoe, and, as it grew
light, they kept themselves hidden, either by lying at the bottom, or
covering themselves with an Indian robe. The canoes approached the
shore, and all landed without opposition at some distance from the
Iroquois, whom they presently could see filing out of their barricade,
-tall, strong men, some two hundred in number, the boldest and fiercest
warriors of North America. They advanced through the forest with a
steadiness which excited the admiration of Champlain. Among them could
be seen three chiefs, made conspicuous by their tall plumes. Some bore
shields of wood and hide, and some were covered with a kind of armor
made of tough twigs interlaced with a vegetable fibre supposed by
Champlain to be cotton.[FN#29]

The allies, growing anxious, called with loud cries for their champion,
and opened their ranks that he might pass to the front. He did so, and,
advancing before his red companions in arms, stood revealed to the gaze
of the Iroquois, who, beholding the warlike apparition in their path,
stared in mute amazement. "I looked at them," says Champlain, "and they
looked at me. When I saw them getting ready to shoot their arrows at us,
I levelled my arquebuse, which I had loaded with four balls, and aimed
straight at one of the three chiefs. The shot brought down two, and
wounded another. On this, our Indians set up such a yelling that one
could not have heard a thunder-clap, and all the while the arrows flew
thick on both sides. The Iroquois were greatly astonished and frightened
to see two of their men killed so quickly, in spite of their arrow-proof
armor. As I was reloading, one of my companions fired a shot from the
woods, which so increased their astonishment that, seeing their chiefs
dead, they abandoned the field and fled into the depth of the forest."
The allies dashed after them. Some of the Iroquois were killed, and more
were taken. Camp, canoes, provisions, all were abandoned, and many
weapons flung down in the panic flight. The victory was complete.

At night, the victors led out one of the prisoners, told him that he was
to die by fire, and ordered him to sing his death-song if he dared. Then
they began the torture, and presently scalped their victim alive,[FN#20]
when Champlain, sickening at the sight, begged leave to shoot him. They
refused, and he turned away in anger and disgust; on which they called
him back and told him to do as he pleased. He turned again, and a shot
from his arquebuse put the wretch out of misery.

The scene filled him with horror; but a few months later, on the Place
de la Greve at Paris, he might have witnessed tortures equally revolting
and equally vindictive, inflicted on the regicide Ravaillac by the
sentence of grave and learned judges.

The allies made a prompt retreat from the scene of their triumph. Three
or four days brought them to the mouth of the Richelien. Here they
separated; the Hurons and Algonquins made for the Ottawa, their homeward
route, each with a share of prisoners for future torments. At parting,
they invited Champlain to visit their towns and aid them again in their
wars, an invitation which this paladin of the woods failed not to

The companions now remaining to him were the Montagnais. In their camp
on the Richelien, one of them dreamed that a war party of Iroquois was
close upon them; on which, in a torrent of rain, they left their huts,
paddled in dismay to the islands above the Lake of St. Peter, and hid
themselves all night in the rushes. In the morning they took heart,
emerged from their hiding-places, descended to Quebec, and went thence
to Tadoussac, whither Champlain accompanied them. Here the squaws, stark
naked, swam out to the canoes to receive the heads of the dead Iroquois,
and, hanging them from their necks, danced in triumph along the shore,
One of the heads and a pair of arms were then bestowed on Champlain,--
touching memorials of gratitude, which, however, he was by no means to
keep for himself, but to present to the King.

Thus did New France rush into collision with the redoubted warriors of
the Five Nations. Here was the beginning, and in some measure doubtless
the cause, of a long suite of murderous conflicts, bearing havoc and
flame to generations yet unborn. Champlain had invaded the tiger's den;
and now, in smothered fury, the patient savage would lie biding his day
of blood.




Champlain and Pontgrave returned to France, while Pierre Chauvin of
Dieppe held Quebec in their absence. The King was at Fontainebleau,--it
was a few months before his assassination,--and here Champlain
recounted his adventures, to the great satisfaction of the lively
monarch. He gave him also, not the head of the dead Iroquois, but a belt
wrought in embroidery of dyed quills of the Canada porcupine, together
with two small birds of scarlet plumage, and the skull of a gar-fish.

De Monts was at court, striving for a renewal of his monopoly. His
efforts failed; on which, with great spirit but little discretion, he
resolved to push his enterprise without it. Early in the spring of 1610,
the ship was ready, and Champlain and Pontgrave were on board, when a
violent illness seized the former, reducing him to the most miserable of
all conflicts, the battle of the eager spirit against the treacherous
and failing flesh. Having partially recovered, he put to sea, giddy and
weak, in wretched plight for the hard career of toil and battle which
the New World offered him. The voyage was prosperous, no other mishap
occurring than that of an ardent youth of St. Malo, who drank the health
of Pontgrave with such persistent enthusiasm that he fell overboard and
was drowned.

There were ships at Tadoussac, fast loading with furs; and boats, too,
higher up the river, anticipating the trade, and draining De Monts's
resources in advance. Champlain, who was left free to fight and explore
wherever he should see fit, had provided, to use his own phrase, "two
strings to his bow." On the one hand, the Montagnais had promised to
guide him northward to Hudson's Bay; on the other, the Hurons were to
show him the Great Lakes, with the mines of copper on their shores; and
to each the same reward was promised,--to join them against the common
foe, the Iroquois. The rendezvous was at the mouth of the river
Richelien. Thither the Hurons were to descend in force, together with
Algonquins of the Ottawa; and thither Champlain now repaired, while
around his boat swarmed a multitude of Montagnais canoes, filled with
warriors whose lank hair streamed loose in the wind.

There is an island in the St. Lawrence near the mouth of the Richelien.
On the nineteenth of June it was swarming with busy and clamorous
savages, Champlain's Montagnais allies, cutting down the trees and
clearing the ground for a dance and a feast; for they were hourly
expecting the Algonquin warriors, and were eager to welcome them with
befitting honors. But suddenly, far out on the river, they saw an
advancing canoe. Now on this side, now on that, the flashing paddles
urged it forward as if death were on its track; and as it drew near, the
Indians on board cried out that the Algonquins were in the forest, a
league distant, engaged with a hundred warriors of the Iroquois, who,
outnumbered, were fighting savagely within a barricade of trees.
The air was split with shrill outcries. The Montagnais snatched their
weapons,--shields, bows, arrows, war-clubs, sword-blades made fast to
poles,--and ran headlong to their canoes, impeding each other in their
haste, screeching to Champlain to follow, and invoking with no less
vehemence the aid of certain fur-traders, just arrived in four boats
from below. These, as it was not their cue to fight, lent them a deaf
ear; on which, in disgust and scorn, they paddled off, calling to the
recusants that they were women, fit for nothing but to make war on

Champlain and four of his men were in the canoes. They shot across the
intervening water, and, as their prows grated on the pebbles, each
warrior flung down his paddle, snatched his weapons, and ran into the
woods. The five Frenchmen followed, striving vainly to keep pace with
the naked, light-limbed rabble, bounding like shadows through the
forest. They quickly disappeared. Even their shrill cries grew faint,
till Champlain and his men, discomforted and vexed, found themselves
deserted in the midst of a swamp. The day was sultry, the forest air
heavy, close, and filled with hosts of mosquitoes, "so thick," says the
chief sufferer, "that we could scarcely draw breath, and it was
wonderful how cruelly they persecuted us." Through black mud, spongy
moss, water knee-deep, over fallen trees, among slimy logs and
entangling roots, tripped by vines, lashed by recoiling boughs, panting
under their steel head-pieces and heavy corselets, the Frenchmen
struggled on, bewildered and indignant. At length they descried two
Indians running in the distance, and shouted to them in desperation,
that, if they wanted their aid, they must guide them to the enemy.

At length they could hear the yells of the combatants; there was light
in the forest before them, and they issued into a partial clearing made
by the Iroquois axemen near the river. Champlain saw their barricade.
Trees were piled into a circular breastwork, trunks, boughs, and matted
foliage forming a strong defence, within which the Iroquois stood
savagely at bay. Around them flocked the allies, half hidden in the
edges of the forest, like hounds around a wild boar, eager, clamorous,
yet afraid to rush in. They had attacked, and had met a bloody rebuff.
All their hope was now in the French; and when they saw them, a yell
arose from hundreds of throats that outdid the wilderness voices whence
its tones were borrowed,--the whoop of the homed owl, the scream of the
cougar, the howl of starved wolves on a winter night. A fierce response
pealed from the desperate band within; and, amid a storm of arrows from
both sides, the Frenchmen threw themselves into the fray, firing at
random through the fence of trunks, boughs, and drooping leaves, with
which the Iroquois had encircled themselves. Champlain felt a
stone-headed arrow splitting his ear and tearing through the muscles of
his neck. he drew it out, and, the moment after, did a similar office
for one of his men. But the Iroquois had not recovered from their first
terror at the arquebuse; and when the mysterious and terrible
assailants, clad in steel and armed with thunder-bolts, ran up to the
barricade, thrust their pieces through the openings, and shot death
among the crowd within, they could not control their fright, but with
every report threw themselves flat on the ground. Animated with unwonted
valor, the allies, covered by their large shields, began to drag out the
felled trees of the barricade, while others, under Champlain's
direction, gathered at the edge of the forest, preparing to close the
affair with a final rush. New actors soon appeared on the scene. These
were a boat's crew of the fur-traders under a young man of St. Malo, one
Des Prairies, who, when he heard the firing, could not resist the
impulse to join the fight. On seeing them, Champlain checked the
assault, in order, as he says, that the new-comers might have their
share in the sport. The traders opened fire, with great zest and no less
execution; while the Iroquois, now wild with terror, leaped and writhed
to dodge the shot which tore through their frail armor of twigs.
Champlain gave the signal; the crowd ran to the barricade, dragged down
the boughs or clambered over them, and bore themselves, in his own
words, "so well and manfully," that, though scratched and torn by the
sharp points, they quickly forced an entrance. The French ceased their
fire, and, followed by a smaller body of Indians, scaled the barricade
on the farther side. Now, amid howlings, shouts, and screeches, the work
was finished. Some of the Iroquois were cut down as they stood, hewing
with their war-clubs, and foaming like slaughtered tigers; some climbed
the barrier and were killed by the furious crowd without; some were
drowned in the river; while fifteen, the only survivors, were made
prisoners. "By the grace of God," writes Champlain, "behold the battle
won!" Drunk with ferocious ecstasy, the conquerors scalped the dead and
gathered fagots for the living; while some of the fur-traders, too late
to bear part in the fight, robbed the carcasses of their
blood-bedrenched robes of beaver-skin amid the derision of the
surrounding Indians.

That night, the torture fires blazed along the shore. Champlain saved
one prisoner from their clutches, but nothing could save the rest. One
body was quartered and eaten.[FN#31] "As for the rest of the prisoners,"
says Champlain, "they were kept to be put to death by the women and
girls, who in this respect are no less inhuman than the men, and,
indeed, much more so; for by their subtlety they invent more cruel
tortures, and take pleasure in it."

On the next day, a large band of Hurons appeared at the rendezvous,
greatly vexed that they had come too late. The shores were thickly
studded with Indian huts, and the woods were full of them. Here were
warriors of three designations, including many subordinate tribes, and
representing three grades of savage society,--the Hurons, the
Algonquins of the Ottawa, and the Montagnais; afterwards styled by a
Franciscan friar, than whom few men better knew them, the nobles, the
burghers, and the peasantry and paupers of the forest. Many of them,
from the remote interior, had never before seen a white man; and,
wrapped like statues in their robes, they stood gazing on the French
with a fixed stare of wild and wondering eyes.

Judged by the standard of Indian war, a heavy blow had been struck on
the common enemy. Here were hundreds of assembled warriors; yet none
thought of following up their success. Elated with unexpected fortune,
they danced and sang; then loaded their canoes, hung their scalps on
poles, broke up their camps, and set out triumphant for their homes.
Champlain had fought their battles, and now might claim, on their part,
guidance and escort to the distant interior. Why he did not do so is
scarcely apparent. There were cares, it seems, connected with the very
life of his puny colony, which demanded his return to France. Nor were
his anxieties lessened by the arrival of a ship from his native town of
Brouage, with tidings of the King's assassination. Here was a death-blow
to all that had remained of De Monts's credit at court; while that
unfortunate nobleman, like his old associate, Pontrincourt, was moving
with swift strides toward financial ruin. With the revocation of his
monopoly, fur-traders had swarmed to the St. Lawrence. Tadoussac was
full of them, and for that year the trade was spoiled. Far from aiding
to support a burdensome enterprise of colonization, it was in itself an
occasion of heavy loss.

Champlain bade farewell to his garden at Quebec, where maize, wheat,
rye, and barley, with vegetables of all kinds, and a small vineyard of
native grapes,--for he was a zealous horticulturist,--held forth a
promise which he was not to see fulfilled. He left one Du Parc in
command, with sixteen men, and, sailing on the eighth of August, arrived
at Honfleur with no worse accident than that of running over a sleeping
whale near the Grand Bank.

With the opening spring he was afloat again. Perils awaited him worse
than those of Iroquois tomahawks; for, approaching Newfoundland, the
ship was entangled for days among drifting fields and bergs of ice.
Escaping at length, she arrived at Tadoussac on the thirteenth of May,
1611. She had anticipated the spring. Forests and mountains, far and
near, all were white with snow. A principal object with Champlain was to
establish such relations with the great Indian communities of the
interior as to secure to De Monts and his associates the advantage of
trade with them; and to this end he now repaired to Montreal, a position
in the gateway, as it were, of their yearly descents of trade or war. On
arriving, he began to survey the ground for the site of a permanent

A few days convinced him, that, under the present system, all his
efforts would be vain. Wild reports of the wonders of New France had
gone abroad, and a crowd of hungry adventurers had hastened to the land
of promise, eager to grow rich, they scarcely knew how, and soon to
return disgusted. A fleet of boats and small vessels followed in
Champlain's wake. Within a few days, thirteen of them arrived at
Montreal, and more soon appeared. He was to break the ground; others
would reap the harvest. Travel, discovery, and battle, all must inure to
the profit, not of the colony, but of a crew of greedy traders.

Champlain, however, chose the site and cleared the ground for his
intended post. It was immediately above a small stream, now running
under arches of masonry, and entering the St. Lawrence at Point
Callieres, within the modern city. He called it Place Royale; and here,
on the margin of the river, he built a wall of bricks made on the spot,
in order to measure the destructive effects of the "ice-shove" in the

Now, down the surges of St. Louis, where the mighty floods of the St.
Lawrence, contracted to a narrow throat, roll in fury among their sunken
rocks,--here, through foam and spray and the roar of the angry torrent,
a fleet of birch canoes came dancing like dry leaves on the froth of
some riotous brook. They bore a band of Hurons first at the rendezvous.
As they drew near the landing, all the fur-traders' boats blazed out a
clattering fusillade, which was designed to bid them welcome, but in
fact terrified many of them to such a degree that they scarcely dared to
come ashore. Nor were they reassured by the bearing of the disorderly
crowd, who, in jealous competition for their beaver-skins, left them not
a moment's peace, and outraged all their notions of decorum. More soon
appeared, till hundreds of warriors were encamped along the shore, all
restless, suspicious, and alarmed. Late one night they awakened
Champlain. On going with them to their camp, he found chiefs and
warriors in solemn conclave around the glimmering firelight. Though they
were fearful of the rest, their trust in him was boundless. "Come to our
country, buy our beaver, build a fort, teach us the true faith, do what
you will, but do not bring this crowd with you." The idea had seized
them that these lawless bands of rival traders, all well armed, meant to
plunder and kill them. Champlain assured them of safety, and the whole
night was consumed in friendly colloquy. Soon afterward, however, the
camp broke up, and the uneasy warriors removed to the borders of the
Lake of St. Louis, placing the rapids betwixt themselves and the objects
of their alarm. Here Champlain visited them, and hence these intrepid
canoe-men, kneeling in their birchen egg-shells, carried him homeward
down the rapids, somewhat, as he admits, to the discomposure of his

The great gathering dispersed: the traders descended to Tadoussac, and
Champlain to Quebec; while the Indians went, some to their homes, some
to fight the Iroquois. A few months later, Champlain was in close
conference with De Monts at Pons, a place near Rochelle, of which the
latter was governor. The last two years had made it apparent, that, to
keep the colony alive and maintain a basis for those discoveries on
which his heart was bent, was impossible without a change of system. De
Monts, engrossed with the cares of his government, placed all in the
hands of his associate; and Champlain, fully empowered to act as he
should judge expedient, set out for Paris. On the way, Fortune, at one
stroke, wellnigh crushed him and New France together; for his horse fell
on him, and he narrowly escaped with life. When he was partially
recovered, he resumed his journey, pondering on means of rescue for the
fading colony. A powerful protector must be had,--a great name to
shield the enterprise from assaults and intrigues of jealous rival
interests. On reaching Paris he addressed himself to a prince of the
blood, Charles de Bourbon, Comte de Soissons; described New France, its
resources, and its boundless extent; urged the need of unfolding a
mystery pregnant perhaps with results of the deepest moment; laid before
him maps and memoirs, and begged him to become the guardian of this new
world. The royal consent being obtained, the Comte de Soissons became
Lieutenant-General for the King in New France, with vice-regal powers.
These, in turn, he conferred upon Champlain, making him his lieutenant,
with full control over the trade in furs at and above Quebec, and with
power to associate with himself such persons as he saw fit, to aid in
the exploration and settlement of the country.

Scarcely was the commission drawn when the Comte de Soissons, attacked
with fever, died,--to the joy of the Breton and Norman traders, whose
jubilation, however, found a speedy end. Henri de Bourbon, Prince de
Conde, first prince of the blood, assumed the vacant protectorship. He
was grandson of the gay and gallant Conde of the civil wars, was father
of the great Conde, the youthful victor of Rocroy, and was husband of
Charlotte de Moutmorency, whose blond beauties had fired the inflammable
heart of Henry the Fourth. To the unspeakable wrath of that keen lover,
the prudent Conde fled with his bride, first to Brussels, and then to
Italy; nor did he return to France till the regicide's knife had put his
jealous fears to rest. After his return, he began to intrigue against
the court. He was a man of common abilities, greedy of money and power,
and scarcely seeking even the decency of a pretext to cover his mean
ambition. His chief honor--an honor somewhat equivocal--is, as
Voltaire observes, to have been father of the great Conde. Busy with his
intrigues, he cared little for colonies and discoveries; and his rank
and power were his sole qualifications for his new post.

In Champlain alone was the life of New France. By instinct and
temperament he was more impelled to the adventurous toils of exploration
than to the duller task of building colonies. The profits of trade had
value in his eyes only as means to these ends, and settlements were
important chiefly as a base of discovery. Two great objects eclipsed all
others,--to find a route to the Indies, and to bring the heathen tribes
into the embraces of the Church, since, while he cared little for their
bodies, his solicitude for their souls knew no bounds.

It was no part of his plan to establish an odious monopoly. He sought
rather to enlist the rival traders in his cause; and he now, in
concurrence with Du Monts, invited them to become sharers in the
traffic, under certain regulations, and on condition of aiding in the
establishment and support of the colony. The merchants of St. Malo and
Rouen accepted the terms, and became members of the new company; but the
intractable heretics of Rochelle, refractory in commerce as in religion,
kept aloof, and preferred the chances of an illicit trade. The prospects
of New France were far from flattering; for little could be hoped from
this unwilling league of selfish traders, each jealous of the rest. They
gave the Prince of Conde large gratuities to secure his countenance and
support. The hungry viceroy took them, and with these emoluments his
interest in the colony ended.


1612, 1613.


The arrangements just indicated were a work of time. In the summer of
1612, Champlain was forced to forego his yearly voyage to New France;
nor, even in the following spring, were his labors finished and the
rival interests brought to harmony. Meanwhile, incidents occurred
destined to have no small influence on his movements. Three years
before, after his second fight with the Iroquois, a young man of his
company had boldly volunteered to join the Indians on their homeward
journey, and winter among them. Champlain gladly assented, and in the
following summer the adventurer returned. Another young man, one Nicolas
de Vignan, next offered himself; and he also, embarking in the Algonquin
canoes, passed up the Ottawa, and was seen no more for a twelvemonth. In
1612 he reappeared in Paris, bringing a tale of wonders; for, says
Champlain, "he was the most impudent liar that has been seen for many a
day." He averred that at the sources of the Ottawa he had found a great
lake; that he had crossed it, and discovered a river flowing northward;
that he had descended this river, and reached the shores of the sea;
that here he had seen the wreck of an English ship, whose crew, escaping
to land, had been killed by the Indians; and that this sea was distant
from Montreal only seventeen days by canoe. The clearness, consistency,
and apparent simplicity of his story deceived Champlain, who had heard
of a voyage of the English to the northern seas, coupled with rumors of
wreck and disaster, and was thus confirmed in his belief of Vignau's
honesty. The Marechal de Brissac, the President Jeannin, and other
persons of eminence about the court, greatly interested by these
dexterous fabrications, urged Champlain to follow up without delay a
discovery which promised results so important; while he, with the
Pacific, Japan, China, the Spice Islands, and India stretching in
flattering vista before his fancy, entered with eagerness on the chase
of this illusion. Early in the spring of 1613 the unwearied voyager
crossed the Atlantic, and sailed up the St. Lawrence. On Monday, the
twenty-seventh of May, he left the island of St. Helen, opposite
Montreal, with four Frenchmen, one of whom was Nicolas de Vignau, and
one Indian, in two small canoes. They passed the swift current at St.
Ann's, crossed the Lake of Two Mountains, and advanced up the Ottawa
till the rapids of Carillon and the Long Saut checked their course. So
dense and tangled was the forest, that they were forced to remain in the
bed of the river, trailing their canoes along the bank with cords, or
pushing them by main force up the current. Champlain's foot slipped; he
fell in the rapids, two boulders, against which he braced himself,
saving him from being swept down, while the cord of the canoe, twisted
round his hand, nearly severed it. At length they reached smoother
water, and presently met fifteen canoes of friendly Indians. Champlain
gave them the most awkward of his Frenchmen and took one of their number
in return,--an exchange greatly to his profit.

All day they plied their paddles, and when night came they made their
camp-fire in the forest. He who now, when two centuries and a half are
passed, would see the evening bivouac of Champlain, has but to encamp,
with Indian guides, on the upper waters of this same Ottawa, or on the
borders of some lonely river of New Brunswick or of Maine.

Day dawned. The east glowed with tranquil fire, that pierced with eyes
of flame the fir-trees whose jagged tops stood drawn in black against
the burning heaven. Beneath, the glossy river slept in shadow, or spread
far and wide in sheets of burnished bronze; and the white moon, paling
in the face of day, hung like a disk of silver in the western sky. Now a
fervid light touched the dead top of the hemlock, and creeping downward
bathed the mossy beard of the patriarchal cedar, unstirred in the
breathless air; now a fiercer spark beamed from the east; and now, half
risen on the sight, a dome of crimson fire, the sun blazed with floods
of radiance across the awakened wilderness.

The canoes were launched again, and the voyagers held their course. Soon
the still surface was flecked with spots of foam; islets of froth
floated by, tokens of some great convulsion. Then, on their left, the
falling curtain of the Rideau shone like silver betwixt its bordering
woods, and in front, white as a snowdrift, the cataracts of the
Chaudiere barred their way. They saw the unbridled river careering down
its sheeted rocks, foaming in unfathomed chasms, wearying the solitude
with the hoarse outcry of its agony and rage.

On the brink of the rocky basin where the plunging torrent boiled like a
caldron, and puffs of spray sprang out from its concussion like smoke
from the throat of a cannon, Champlain's two Indians took their stand,
and, with a loud invocation, threw tobacco into the foam,--an offering
to the local spirit, the Manitou of the cataract.

They shouldered their canoes over the rocks, and through the woods; then
launched them again, and, with toil and struggle, made their amphibious
way, pushing dragging, lifting, paddling, shoving with poles; till, when
the evening sun poured its level rays across the quiet Lake of the
Chaudiere, they landed, and made their camp on the verge of a woody

Day by day brought a renewal of their toils. Hour by hour, they moved
prosperously up the long windings of the solitary stream; then, in quick
succession, rapid followed rapid, till the bed of the Ottawa seemed a
slope of foam. Now, like a wall bristling at the top with woody islets,
the Falls of the Chats faced them with the sheer plunge of their sixteen
cataracts; now they glided beneath overhanging cliffs, where, seeing but
unseen, the crouched wildcat eyed them from the thicket; now through the
maze of water-girded rocks, which the white cedar and the spruce clasped
with serpent-like roots, or among islands where old hemlocks darkened
the water with deep green shadow. Here, too, the rock-maple reared its
verdant masses, the beech its glistening leaves and clean, smooth stem,
and behind, stiff and sombre, rose the balsam-fir. Here in the tortuous
channels the muskrat swam and plunged, and the splashing wild duck dived
beneath the alders or among the red and matted roots of thirsty water
willows. Aloft, the white-pine towered above a sea of verdure; old
fir-trees, hoary and grim, shaggy with pendent mosses, leaned above the
stream, and beneath, dead and submerged, some fallen oak thrust from the
current its bare, bleached limbs, like the skeleton of a drowned giant.
In the weedy cove stood the moose, neck-deep in water to escape the
flies, wading shoreward, with glistening sides, as the canoes drew near,
shaking his broad antlers and writhing his hideous nostril, as with
clumsy trot he vanished in the woods.

In these ancient wilds, to whose ever verdant antiquity the pyramids are
young and Nineveh a mushroom of yesterday; where the sage wanderer of
the Odyssey, could he have urged his pilgrimage so far, would have
surveyed the same grand and stern monotony, the same dark sweep of
melancholy woods;--here, while New England was a solitude, and the
settlers of Virginia scarcely dared venture inland beyond the sound of a
cannon-shot, Champlain was planting on shores and islands the emblems of
his faith. Of the pioneers of the North American forests, his name
stands foremost on the list. It was he who struck the deepest and
boldest strokes into the heart of their pristine barbarism. At
Chantilly, at Fontainebleau, Paris, in the cabinets of princes and of
royalty itself, mingling with the proud vanities of the court; then lost
from sight in the depths of Canada, the companion of savages, sharer of
their toils, privations, and battles, more hardy, patient, and bold than
they;--such, for successive years, were the alternations of this man's

To follow on his trail once more. His Indians said that the rapids of
the river above were impassable. Nicolas de Vignan affirmed the
contrary; but, from the first, Vignau had been found always in the
wrong. His aim seems to have been to involve his leader in difficulties,
and disgust him with a journey which must soon result in exposing the
imposture which had occasioned it. Champlain took counsel of the
Indians. The party left the river, and entered the forest.

"We had a hard march," says Champlain. "I carried for my share of the
luggage three arquebuses, three paddles, my overcoat, and a few
bagatelles. My men carried a little more than I did, and suffered more
from the mosquitoes than from their loads. After we had passed four
small ponds and advanced two leagues and a half, we were so tired that
we could go no farther, having eaten nothing but a little roasted fish
for nearly twenty-four hours. So we stopped in a pleasant place enough
by the edge of a pond, and lighted a fire to drive off the mosquitoes,
which plagued us beyond all description; and at the same time we set our
nets to catch a few fish."

On the next day they fared still worse, for their way was through a pine
forest where a tornado had passed, tearing up the trees and piling them
one upon another in a vast "windfall," where boughs, roots, and trunks
were mixed in confusion. Sometimes they climbed over and sometimes
crawled through these formidable barricades, till, after an exhausting
march, they reached the banks of Muskrat Lake, by the edge of which was
an Indian settlement.

This neighborhood was the seat of the principal Indian population of the
river, and, as the canoes advanced, unwonted signs of human life could
be seen on the borders of the lake. Here was a rough clearing. The trees
had been burned; there was a rude and desolate gap in the sombre green
of the pine forest. Dead trunks, blasted and black with fire, stood
grimly upright amid the charred stumps and prostrate bodies of comrades
half consumed. In the intervening spaces, the soil had been feebly
scratched with hoes of wood or bone, and a crop of maize was growing,
now some four inches high. The dwellings of these slovenly farmers,
framed of poles covered with sheets of bark, were scattered here and
there, singly or in groups, while their tenants were running to the
shore in amazement. The chief, Nibachis, offered the calumet, then
harangued the crowd: "These white men must have fallen from the clouds.
How else could they have reached us through the woods and rapids which
even we find it hard to pass? The French chief can do anything. All that
we have heard of him must he true." And they hastened to regale the
hungry visitors with a repast of fish.

Champlain asked for guidance to the settlements above. It was readily
granted. Escorted by his friendly hosts, he advanced beyond the foot of
Muskrat Lake, and, landing, saw the unaccustomed sight of pathways
through the forest. They led to the clearings and cabins of a chief
named Tessonat, who, amazed at the apparition of the white strangers,
exclaimed that he must be in a dream. Next, the voyagers crossed to the
neighboring island, then deeply wooded with pine, elm, and oak. Here
were more desolate clearings, more rude cornfields and bark-built
cabins. Here, too, was a cemetery, which excited the wonder of
Champlain, for the dead were better cared for than the living. Each
grave was covered with a double row of pieces of wood, inclined like a
roof till they crossed at the ridge, a long which was laid a thick
tablet of wood, meant apparently either to bind the whole together or
protect it from rain. At one end stood an upright tablet, or flattened
post, rudely carved with an intended representation of the features of
the deceased. If a chief, the head was adorned with a plume. If a
warrior, there were figures near it of a shield, a lance, a war-club,
and a bow and arrows; if a boy, of a small bow and one arrow; and if a
woman or a girl, of a kettle, an earthen pot, a wooden spoon, and a
paddle. The whole was decorated with red and yellow paint; and beneath
slept the departed, wrapped in a robe of skins, his earthly treasures
about him, ready for use in the land of souls.

Tessouat was to give a tabagie, or solemn feast, in honor of Champlain,
and the chiefs and elders of the island were invited. Runners were sent
to summon the guests from neighboring hamlets; and, on the morrow,
Tessonat's squaws swept his cabin for the festivity. Then Champlain and
his Frenchmen were seated on skins in the place of honor, and the naked
guests appeared in quick succession, each with his wooden dish and
spoon, and each ejaculating his guttural salute as he stooped at the low
door. The spacious cabin was full. The congregated wisdom and prowess of
the nation sat expectant on the bare earth. Each long, bare arm thrust
forth its dish in turn as the host served out the banquet, in which, as
courtesy enjoined, he himself was to have no share. First, a mess of
pounded maize, in which were boiled, without salt, morsels of fish and
dark scraps of meat; then, fish and flesh broiled on the embers, with a
kettle of cold water from the river. Champlain, in wise distrust of
Ottawa cookery, confined himself to the simpler and less doubtful
viands. A few minutes, and all alike had vanished. The kettles were
empty. Then pipes were filled and touched with fire brought in by the
squaws, while the young men who had stood thronged about the entrance
now modestly withdrew, and the door was closed for counsel.

First, the pipes were passed to Champlain. Then, for full half an hour,
the assembly smoked in silence. At length, when the fitting time was
come, he addressed them in a speech in which he declared, that, moved by
affection for them, he visited their country to see its richness and its
beauty, and to aid them in their wars; and he now begged them to furnish
him with four canoes and eight men, to convey him to the country of the
Nipissings, a tribe dwelling northward on the lake which bears their

His audience looked grave, for they were but cold and jealous friends of
the Nipissings. For a time they discoursed in murmuring tones among
themselves, all smoking meanwhile with redoubled vigor. Then Tessouat,
chief of these forest republicans, rose and spoke in behalf of all:--"We
always knew you for our best friend among the Frenchmen. We love you
like our own children. But why did you break your word with us last year
when we all went down to meet you at Montreal, to give you presents and
go with you to war? You were not there, but other Frenchmen were there
who abused us. We will never go again. As for the four canoes, you shall
have them if you insist upon it; but it grieves us to think of the
hardships you must endure. The Nipissings have weak hearts. They are
good for nothing in war, but they kill us with charms, and they poison
us. Therefore we are on bad terms with them. They will kill you, too."

Such was the pith of Tessouat's discourse, and at each clause the
conclave responded in unison with an approving grunt.

Champlain urged his petition; sought to relieve their tender scruples in
his behalf; assured them that he was charm-proof, and that he feared no
hardships. At length he gained his point. The canoes and the men were
promised, and, seeing himself as he thought on the highway to his
phantom Northern Sea, he left his entertainers to their pipes, and with
a light heart issued from the close and smoky den to breathe the fresh
air of the afternoon. He visited the Indian fields, with their young
crops of pumpkins, beans, and French peas,--the last a novelty obtained
from the traders. Here, Thomas, the interpreter, soon joined him with a
countenance of ill news. In the absence of Champlain, the assembly had
reconsidered their assent. The canoes were denied.

With a troubled mind he hastened again to the hall of council, and
addressed the naked senate in terms better suited to his exigencies than
to their dignity:

"I thought you were men; I thought you would hold fast to your word: but
I find you children, without truth. You call yourselves my friends, yet
you break faith with me. Still I would not incommode you; and if you
cannot give me four canoes, two will Serve."

The burden of the reply was, rapids, rocks, cataracts, and the
wickedness of the Nipissings. "We will not give you the canoes. because
we are afraid of losing you," they said.

"This young man," rejoined Champlain, pointing to Vignau, who sat by his
side, "has been to their country, and did not find the road or the
people so bad as you have said."

"Nicolas," demanded Tessouat, "did you say that you had been to the

The impostor sat mute for a time, and then replied, "Yes, I have been

Hereupon an outcry broke from the assembly, and they turned their eyes
on him askance, "as if," says Champlain, "they would have torn and eaten

"You are a liar," returned the unceremonious host; "you know very well
that you slept here among my children every night, and got up again
every morning; and if you ever went to the Nipissings, it must have been
when you were asleep. How can you be so impudent as to lie to your
chief, and so wicked as to risk his life among so many dangers? He ought
to kill you with tortures worse than those with which we kill our

Champlain urged him to reply. but he sat motionless and dumb. Then he
led him from the cabin, and conjured him to declare if in truth he had
seen this sea of the north. Vignan, with oaths, affirmed that all he had
said was true. Returning to the council, Champlain repeated the
impostor's story--how he had seen the sea, the wreck of an English
ship, the heads of eighty Englishmen, and an English boy, prisoner among
the Indians.

At this, an outcry rose louder than before, and the Indians turned in
ire upon Vignan.

"You are a liar." "Which way did you go?" "By what rivers?" "By what
lakes?" "Who went with you?"

Vignan had made a map of his travels, which Champlain now produced,
desiring him to explain it to his questioners; but his assurance failed
him, and he could not utter a word.

Champlain was greatly agitated. His heart was in the enterprise, his
reputation was in a measure at stake; and now, when he thought his
triumph so near, he shrank from believing himself the sport of an
impudent impostor. The council broke up,--the Indians displeased and
moody, and he, on his part, full of anxieties and doubts.

"I called Vignau to me in presence of his companions," he says. "I told
him that the time for deceiving me was ended; that he must tell me
whether or not he had really seen the things he had told of; that I had
forgotten the past, but that, if he continued to mislead me, I would
have him hanged without mercy."

Vignau pondered for a moment; then fell on his knees, owned his
treachery, and begged forgiveness. Champlain broke into a rage, and,
unable, as he says, to endure the sight of him, ordered him from his
presence, and sent the interpreter after him to make further
examination. Vanity, the love of notoriety, and the hope of reward, seem
to have been his inducements; for he had in fact spent a quiet winter in
Tessonat's cabin, his nearest approach to the northern sea; and he had
flattered himself that he might escape the necessity of guiding his
commander to this pretended discovery. The Indians were somewhat

"Why did you not listen to chiefs and warriors, instead of believing the
lies of this fellow?" And they counselled Champlain to have him killed
at once, adding, "Give him to us, and we promise you that he shall never
lie again."

No motive remaining for farther advance, the party set out on their
return, attended by a fleet of forty canoes bound to Montreal for trade.
They passed the perilous rapids of the Calumet, and were one night
encamped on an island, when an Indian, slumbering in an uneasy posture,
was visited with a nightmare. He leaped up with a yell, screamed, that
somebody was killing him, and ran for refuge into the river. Instantly
all his companions sprang to their feet, and, hearing in fancy the
Iroquois war-whoop, took to the water, splashing, diving, and wading up
to their necks, in the blindness of their fright. Champlain and his
Frenchmen, roused at the noise, snatched their weapons and looked in
vain for an enemy. The panic-stricken warriors, reassured at length,
waded crestfallen ashore, and the whole ended in a laugh.

At the Chaudiere, a contribution of tobacco was collected on a wooden
platter, and, after a solemn harangue, was thrown to the guardian
Manitou. On the seventeenth of June they approached Montreal, where the
assembled traders greeted them with discharges of small arms and cannon.
Here, among the rest, was Champlain's lieutenant, Du Parc, with his men,
who had amused their leisure with hunting, and were revelling in a
sylvan abundance, while their baffled chief, with worry of mind, fatigue
of body, and a Lenten diet of half-cooked fish, was grievously fallen
away in flesh and strength. He kept his word with DeVignau, left the
scoundrel unpunished, bade farewell to the Indians, and, promising to
rejoin then the next year, embarked in one of the trading-ships for




In New France, spiritual and temporal interests were inseparably
blended, and, as will hereafter appear, the conversion of the Indians
was used as a means of commercial and political growth. But, with the
single-hearted founder of the colony, considerations of material
advantage, though clearly recognized, were no less clearly subordinate.
He would fain rescue from perdition a people living, as he says, "like
brute beasts, without faith, without law, without religion, without
God." While the want of funds and the indifference of his merchant
associates, who as yet did not fully see that their trade would find in
the missions its surest ally, were threatening to wreck his benevolent
schemes, he found a kindred spirit in his friend Houd, secretary to the
King, and comptroller-general of the salt-works of Bronage. Near this
town was a convent of Recollet friars, some of whom were well known to
Houel. To them he addressed himself; and several of the brotherhood,
"inflamed," we are told, "with charity," were eager to undertake the
mission. But the Recollets, mendicants by profession, were as weak in
resources as Champlain himself. He repaired to Paris, then filled with
bishops, cardinals, and nobles, assembled for the States-General.
Responding to his appeal, they subscribed fifteen hundred livres for the
purchase of vestments, candles, and ornaments for altars. The King gave
letters patent in favor of the mission, and the Pope gave it his formal
authorization. By this instrument the papacy in the person of Paul the
Fifth virtually repudiated the action of the papacy in the person of
Alexander the Sixth, who had proclaimed all America the exclusive
property of Spain.

The Recollets form a branch of the great Franciscan Order, founded early
in the thirteenth century by Saint Francis of Assisi. Saint, hero, or
madman, according to the point of view from which he is regarded, he
belonged to an era of the Church when the tumult of invading heresies
awakened in her defence a band of impassioned champions, widely
different from the placid saints of an earlier age. He was very young
when dreams and voices began to reveal to him his vocation, and kindle
his high-wrought nature to sevenfold heat. Self-respect, natural
affection, decency, became in his eyes but stumbling-blocks and snares.
He robbed his father to build a church; and, like so many of the Roman
Catholic saints, confounded filth with humility, exchanged clothes with
beggars, and walked the streets of Assisi in rags amid the hootings of
his townsmen. He vowed perpetual poverty and perpetual beggary, and, in
token of his renunciation of the world, stripped himself naked before
the Bishop of Assisi, and then begged of him in charity a peasant's
mantle. Crowds gathered to his fervid and dramatic eloquence. His
handful of disciples multiplied, till Europe became thickly dotted with
their convents. At the end of the eighteenth century, the three Orders
of Saint Francis numbered a hundred and fifteen thousand friars and
twenty-eight thousand nuns. Four popes, forty-five cardinals, and
forty-six canonized martyrs were enrolled on their record, besides about
two thousand more who had shed their blood for the faith. Their missions
embraced nearly all the known world; and, in 1621, there were in Spanish
America alone five hundred Franciscan convents.

In process of time the Franciscans had relaxed their ancient rigor; but
much of their pristine spirit still subsisted in the Recollets, a
reformed branch of the Order, sometimes known as Franciscans of the
Strict Observance.

Four of their number were named for the mission of New France,--Denis
Jamay, Jean Dolbean, Joseph le Caron, and the lay brother Pacifique du
Plessis. "They packed their church ornaments," says Champlain, "and we,
our luggage." All alike confessed their sins, and, embarking at
Honfleur, reached Quebec at the end of May, 1615. Great was the
perplexity of the Indians as the apostolic mendicants landed beneath the
rock. Their garb was a form of that common to the brotherhood of Saint
Francis, consisting of a rude garment of coarse gray cloth, girt at the
waist with the knotted cord of the Order, and furnished with a peaked
hood, to be drawn over the head. Their naked feet were shod with wooden
sandals, more than an inch thick.

Their first care was to choose a site for their convent, near the
fortified dwellings and storehouses built by Champlain. This done, they
made an altar, and celebrated the first mass ever said in Canada.
Dolbean was the officiating priest; all New France kneeled on the bare
earth around him, and cannon from the ship and the ramparts hailed the
mystic rite. Then, in imitation of the Apostles, they took counsel
together, and assigned to each his province in the vast field of their
mission,--to Le Caron the Hurons, and to Dolbean the Montagnais; while
Jamay and Du Plessis were to remain for the present near Quebec.

Dolbean, full of zeal, set out for his post, and in the next winter
tried to follow the roving hordes of Tadoussac to their frozen
hunting-grounds. He was not robust, and his eyes were weak. Lodged in a
hut of birch bark, full of abominations, dogs, fleas, stench, and all
uncleanness, he succumbed at length to the smoke, which had wellnigh
blinded him, forcing him to remain for several days with his eyes
closed. After debating within himself whether God required of him the
sacrifice of his sight, he solved his doubts with a negative, and
returned to Quebec, only to depart again with opening spring on a tour
so extensive that it brought him in contact with outlying bands of the
Esquimaux. Meanwhile Le Caron had long been absent on a more noteworthy

While his brethren were building their convent and garnishing their
altar at Quebec, the ardent friar had hastened to the site of Montreal,
then thronged with a savage concourse come down for the yearly trade. he
mingled with them, studied their manners, tried to learn their
languages, and, when Champlain and Pontgrave arrived, declared his
purpose of wintering in their villages. Dissuasion availed nothing.
"What," he demanded, "are privations to him whose life is devoted to
perpetual poverty, and who has no ambition but to serve God?"

The assembled Indians were more eager for temporal than for spiritual
succor, and beset Champlain with clamors for aid against the Iroquois.
He and Pontgrave were of one mind. The aid demanded must be given, and
that from no motive of the hour, but in pursuance of a deliberate
policy. It was evident that the innumerable tribes of New France,
otherwise divided, were united in a common fear and hate of these
formidable bands, who, in the strength of their fivefold league, spread
havoc and desolation through all the surrounding wilds. It was the aim
of Champlain, as of his successors, to persuade the threatened and
endangered hordes to live at peace with each other, and to form against
the common foe a virtual league, of which the French colony would be the
heart and the head, and which would continually widen with the widening
area of discovery. With French soldiers to fight their battles, French
priests to baptize them, and French traders to supply their increasing
wants, their dependence would be complete. They would become assured
tributaries to the growth of New France. It was a triple alliance of
soldier, priest, and trader. The soldier might be a roving knight, and
the priest a martyr and a saint; but both alike were subserving the
interests of that commerce which formed the only solid basis of the
colony. The scheme of English colonization made no account of the Indian
tribes. In the scheme of French colonization they were all in all.

In one point the plan was fatally defective, since it involved the
deadly enmity of a race whose character and whose power were as yet but
ill understood,--the fiercest, boldest, most politic, and most
ambitious savages to whom the American forest has ever given birth.

The chiefs and warriors met in council,--Algonquins of the Ottawa, and
Hurons from the borders of the great Fresh-Water Sea. Champlain promised
to join them with all the men at his command, while they, on their part,
were to muster without delay twenty-five hundred warriors for an inroad
into the country of the Iroquois. He descended at once to Quebec for
needful preparation; but when, after a short delay, he returned to
Montreal, he found, to his chagrin, a solitude. The wild concourse had
vanished; nothing remained but the skeleton poles of their huts, the
smoke of their fires, and the refuse of their encampments. Impatient at
his delay, they had set out for their villages, and with them had gone
Father Joseph le Caron.

Twelve Frenchmen, well armed, had attended him. Summer was at its
height, and as his canoe stole along the bosom of the glassy river, and
he gazed about him on the tawny multitude whose fragile craft covered
the water like swarms of gliding insects, he thought, perhaps, of his
whitewashed cell in the convent of Brouage, of his book, his table, his
rosary, and all the narrow routine of that familiar life from which he
had awakened to contrasts so startling. That his progress up the Ottawa
was far from being an excursion of pleasure is attested by his letters,
fragments of which have come down to us.

"It would be hard to tell you," he writes to a friend, "how tired I was
with paddling all day, with all my strength, among the Indians; wading
the rivers a hundred times and more, through the mud and over the sharp
rocks that cut my feet; carrying the canoe and luggage through the woods
to avoid the rapids and frightful cataracts; and half starved all the
while, for we had nothing to eat but a little sagantite, a sort of
porridge of water and pounded maize, of which they gave us a very small
allowance every morning and night. But I must needs tell you what
abundant consolation I found under all my troubles; for when one sees so
many infidels needing nothing but a drop of water to make them children
of God, one feels an inexpressible ardor to labor for their conversion,
and sacrifice to it one's repose and life."

Another Recollet, Gabriel Sagard, followed the same route in similar
company a few years later, and has left an account of his experience, of
which Le Caron's was the counterpart. Sagard reckons from eighty to a
hundred waterfalls and rapids in the course of the journey, and the task
of avoiding them by pushing through the woods was the harder for him
because he saw fit to go barefoot, "in imitation of our seraphic father,
Saint Francis." "We often came upon rocks, mudholes, and fallen trees,
which we had to scramble over, and sometimes we must force our way with
head and hands through dense woods and thickets, without road or path.
When the time came, my Indians looked for a good place to pass the
night. Some went for dry wood; others for poles to make a shed; others
kindled a fire, and hung the kettle to a stick stuck aslant in the
ground; and others looked for two flat stones to bruise the Indian corn,
of which they make sagamite."

This sagamite was an extremely thin porridge; and, though scraps of fish
were now and then boiled in it, the friar pined away daily on this weak
and scanty fare, which was, moreover, made repulsive to him by the
exceeding filthiness of the cookery. Nevertheless, he was forced to
disguise his feelings. "One must always keep a smiling, modest,
contented face, and now and then sing a hymn, both for his own
consolation and to please and edify the savages, who take a singular
pleasure in hearing us sing the praises of our God." Among all his
trials, none afflicted him so much as the flies and mosquitoes. "If I
had not kept my face wrapped in a cloth, I am almost sure they would
have blinded me, so pestiferous and poisonous are the bites of these
little demons. They make one look like a leper, hideous to the sight. I
confess that this is the worst martyrdom I suffered in this country;
hunger, thirst, weariness, and fever are nothing to it. These little
beasts not only persecute you all day, but at night they get into your
eyes and mouth, crawl under your clothes, or stick their long stings
through them, and make such a noise that it distracts your attention,
and prevents you from saying your prayers." He reckons three or four
kinds of them, and adds, that in the Montagnais country there is still
another kind, so small that they can hardly be seen, but which "bite
like devils' imps." The sportsman who has bivouacked in the woods of
Maine will at once recognize the minute tormentors there known as

While through tribulations like these Le Caron made his way towards the
scene of his apostleship, Champlain was following on his track. With two
canoes, ten Indians, Etienne Brule his interpreter, and another
Frenchman, he pushed up the Ottawa till he reached the Algonquin
villages which had formed the term of his former journeying. He passed
the two lakes of the Allumettes; and now, for twenty miles, the river
stretched before him, straight as the bee can fly, deep, narrow, and
black, between its mountain shores. He passed the rapids of the Joachims
and the Caribou, the Rocher Capitamne, and the Deux Rivieres, and
reached at length the trihutary waters of the Mattawan. He turned to the
left, ascended this little stream forty miles or more, and, crossing a
portage track, well trodden, reached the margin of Lake Nipissing. The
canoes were launched again, and glided by leafy shores and verdant
islands till at length appeared signs of human life and clusters of bark
lodges, half hidden in the vastness of the woods. It was the village of
an Algonquin band, called the Nipissings,--a race so beset with
spirits, infested by demons, and abounding in magicians, that the
Jesuits afterwards stigmatized them as "the Sorcerers." In this
questionable company Champlain spent two days, feasted on fish, deer,
and bears. Then, descending to the outlet of the lake, he steered his
canoes westward down the current of French River.

Days passed, and no sign of man enlivened the rocky desolation. Hunger
was pressing them hard, for the ten gluttonous Indians had devoured
already nearly all their provision for the voyage, and they were forced
to subsist on the blueberries and wild raspberries that grew abundantly
in the meagre soil, when suddenly they encountered a troop of three
hundred savages, whom, from their strange and startling mode of wearing
their hair, Champlain named the Cheveux Releves. "Not one of our
courtiers," he says, "takes so much pains in dressing his locks." Here,
however, their care of the toilet ended; for, though tattooed on various
parts of the body, painted, and armed with bows, arrows, and shields of
bison-hide, they wore no clothing whatever. Savage as was their aspect,
they were busied in the pacific task of gathering blueberries for their
winter store. Their demeanor was friendly; and from them the voyager
learned that the great lake of the Hurons was close at hand.

Now, far along the western sky was traced the watery line of that inland
ocean, and, first of white men except the Friar Le Caron, Champlain
beheld the "Mer Douce," the Fresh-Water Sea of the Hurons. Before him,
too far for sight, lay the spirit-haunted Manitonalins, and, southward,
spread the vast bosom of the Georgian Bay. For more than a hundred
miles, his course was along its eastern shores, among islets countless
as the sea-sands,--an archipelago of rocks worn for ages by the wash of
waves. He crossed Byng Inlet, Franklin Inlet, Parry Sound, and the wider
bay of Matchedash, and seems to have landed at the inlet now called
Thunder Bay, at the entrance of the Bay of Matchedash, and a little west
of the Harbor of Penetanguishine.

An Indian trail led inland, through woods and thickets, across broad
meadows, over brooks, and along the skirts of green acclivities. To the
eye of Champlain, accustomed to the desolation he had left behind, it
seemed a land of beauty and abundance. He reached at last a broad
opening in the forest, with fields of maize, pumpkins ripening in the
sun, patches of sunflowers, from the seeds of which the Indians made
hair-oil, and, in the midst, the Huron town of Otonacha. In all
essential points, it resembled that which Cartier, eighty years before,
had seen at Montreal,--the same triple palisade of crossed and
intersecting trunks, and the same long lodges of bark, each containing
several families. Here, within an area of thirty or forty miles, was the
seat of one of the most remarkable savage communities on the continent.
By the Indian standard, it was a mighty nation; yet the entire Huron
population did not exceed that of a third or fourth class American city.

To the south and southeast lay other tribes of kindred race and tongue,
all stationary, all tillers of the soil, and all in a state of social
advancement when compared with the roving bands of Eastern Canada: the
Neutral Nation west of the Niagara, and the Eries and Andastes in Western
New York and Pennsylvania; while from the Genesee eastward to the Hudson
lay the banded tribes of the Iroquois, leading members of this potent
family, deadly foes of their kindred, and at last their destroyers.

In Champlain the Hurons saw the champion who was to lead them to
victory. There was bountiful feasting in his honor in the great lodge at
Otonacha; and other welcome, too, was tendered, of which the Hurons were
ever liberal, but which, with all courtesy, was declined by the virtuous
Champlain. Next, he went to Carmaron, a league distant, and then to
Tonagnainchain and Tequenonquihayc; till at length he reached
Carhagouha, with its triple palisade thirty-five feet high. Here he
found Le Caron. The Indians, eager to do him honor, were building for
him a bark lodge in the neighboring forest, fashioned like their own,
but much smaller. In it the friar made an altar, garnished with those
indispensable decorations which he had brought with him through all the
vicissitudes of his painful journeying; and hither, night and day, came
a curious multitude to listen to his annunciation of the new doctrine.
It was a joyful hour when he saw Champlain approach his hermitage; and
the two men embraced like brothers long sundered.

The twelfth of August was a day evermore marked with white in the
friar's calendar. Arrayed in priestly vestments, he stood before his
simple altar; behind him his little band of Christians,--the twelve
Frenchmen who had attended him, and the two who had followed Champlain.
Here stood their devout and valiant chief, and, at his side, that
pioneer of pioneers, Etienne Brule the interpreter. The Host was raised
aloft; the worshippers kneeled. Then their rough voices joined in the
hymn of praise, Te Deum laudamus; and then a volley of their guns
proclaimed the triumph of the faith to the okies, the manitous, and all
the brood of anomalous devils who had reigned with undisputed sway in
these wild realms of darkness. The brave friar, a true soldier of the
Church, had led her forlorn hope into the fastnesses of hell; and now,
with contented heart, he might depart in peace, for he had said the
first mass in the country of the Hurons.

Part Six

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