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At dawn of day, marshalled and accoutred, they marched for Hochelaga. An Indian path led them through the forest which covered the site of Montreal. The morning air was chill and sharp, the leaves were changing hue, and beneath the oaks the ground was thickly strewn with acorns. They soon met an Indian chief with a party of tribesmen, or, as the old narrative has it, "one of the principal lords of the said city," attended with a numerous retinue. Greeting them after the concise courtesy of the forest, he led them to a fire kindled by the side of the path for their comfort and refreshment, seated them on the ground, and made them a long harangue, receiving in requital of his eloquence two hatchets, two knives, and a crucifix, the last of which he was invited to kiss. This done, they resumed their march, and presently came upon open fields, covered far and near with the ripened maize, its leaves rustling, and its yellow grains gleaming between the parting husks. Before them, wrapped in forests painted by the early frosts, rose the ridgy back of the Mountain of Montreal, and below, encompassed with its corn-fields, lay the Indian town. Nothing was visible but its encircling palisades. They were of trunks of trees, set in a triple row. The outer and inner ranges inclined till they met and crossed near the summit, while the upright row between them, aided by transverse braces, gave to the whole an abundant strength. Within were galleries for the defenders, rude ladders to mount them, and magazines of stones to throw down on the heads of assailants. It was a mode of fortification practised by all the tribes speaking dialects of the Iroquois. Meules La Barre, 15 July, 1684.
The secular motives for the war were in themselves strong enough; for the growth of the colony absolutely demanded the cessation of Iroquois raids, and the French had begun to learn the lesson that, in the case of hostile Indians, no good can come of attempts to conciliate, unless respect is first imposed by a sufficient castigation. It is true that the writers of the time paint Iroquois hostilities in their worst colors. In the innumerable letters which Mother Mary of the Incarnation sent home every autumn, by the returning ships, she spared no means to gain the sympathy and aid of the devout; and, with similar motives, the Jesuits in their printed Relations, took care to extenuate nothing of the miseries which the pious colony endured. Avaugour, too, in urging the sending out of a strong force to fortify and hold the country, had advised that, in order to furnish a pretext and disarm the jealousy of the English and Dutch, exaggerated accounts should be given of danger from the side of the savage confederates. Yet, with every allowance, these dangers and sufferings were sufficiently great.
* Denonville au Ministre, 13 Nov. 1685.From copies of other documents before me, it appears that in 1659 the reserved portion of the island was also ceded to the Company of Montreal.
It is unnecessary to specify the authorities for the introductory and subordinate portions of the narrative.This success was followed by a calamity. La Salle had gone up the Niagara to find a suitable place for a ship-yard, when he learned that the pilot in charge of the vessel he had left had disobeyed his orders, and ended by wrecking it on the coast. Little was saved except the anchors and cables destined for the new vessel to be built above the cataract. This loss threw him into extreme perplexity, and, as Hennepin says, "would have made anybody but him give up the enterprise." The whole party were now gathered [Pg 143] at the palisaded house which La Motte had built, a little below the mountain ridge of Lewiston. They were a motley crew of French, Flemings, and Italians, all mutually jealous. La Salle's enemies had tampered with some of the men; and none of them seemed to have had much heart for the enterprise. The fidelity even of La Motte was doubtful. "He served me very ill," says La Salle; "and Messieurs de Tonty and de la Forest knew that he did his best to debauch all my men." His health soon failed under the hardships of these winter journeyings, and he returned to Fort Frontenac, half-blinded by an inflammation of the eyes. La Salle, seldom happy in the choice of subordinates, had, perhaps, in all his company but one man whom he could fully trust; and this was Tonty. He and Hennepin were on indifferent terms. Men thrown together in a rugged enterprise like this quickly learn to know each other; and the vain and assuming friar was not likely to commend himself to La Salle's brave and loyal lieutenant. Hennepin says that it was La Salle's policy to govern through the dissensions of his followers; and, from whatever cause, it is certain that those beneath him were rarely in perfect harmony.
** Rglement de Police, 1676. Art. xxxvii. Lettre du P. De Quen au R. P. Lallemant; no date. MS.