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How long this friendship would have lasted may well be doubted. With the perception that the dependants on their bounty were no demigods, but a crew of idle and helpless beggars, respect would soon have changed to contempt, and contempt to ill-will. But it was not to Indian war-clubs that the infant colony was to owe its ruin. It carried within itself its own destruction. The ill-assorted band of lands-men and sailors, surrounded by that influence of the wilderness which wakens the dormant savage in the breasts of men, soon fell into quarrels. Albert, a rude soldier, with a thousand leagues of ocean betwixt him and responsibility, grew harsh, domineering, and violent beyond endurance. None could question or oppose him without peril of death. He hanged with his own hands a drummer who had fallen under his displeasure, and banished a soldier, named La Chore, to a solitary island, three leagues from the fort, where he left him to starve. For a time his comrades chafed in smothered fury. The crisis came at length. A few of the fiercer spirits leagued together, assailed their tyrant, murdered him, delivered the famished soldier, and called to the command one Nicolas Barre, a man of merit. Barre took the command, and thenceforth there was peace.
On Thursday, the twenty-second of June, Laudonniere saw the low coast-line of Florida, and entered the harbor of St. Augustine, which he named the River of Dolphins, "because that at mine arrival I saw there a great number of Dolphins which were playing in the mouth thereof." Then he bore northward, following the coast till, on the twenty-fifth, he reached the mouth of the St. John's or River of May. The vessels anchored, the boats were lowered, and he landed with his principal followers on the south shore, near the present village of Mayport. It was the very spot where he had landed with Ribaut two years before. They were scarcely on shore when they saw an Indian chief, "which having espied us cryed very far off, Antipola! Antipola! and being so joyful that he could not containe himselfe, he came to meet us accompanied with two of his sonnes, as faire and mightie persons as might be found in al the world. There was in their trayne a great number of men and women which stil made very much of us, and by signes made us understand how glad they were of our arrival. This good entertainment past, the Paracoussy [chief] prayed me to goe see the pillar which we had erected in the voyage of John Ribault." The Indians, regarding it with mysterious awe, had crowned it with evergreens, and placed baskets full of maize before it as an offering.
A fortnight later, an officer named Vasseur went up the river to pursue the adventure. The fever for gold had seized upon the French. As the villages of the Thimagoas lay between them and the imagined treasures, they shrank from a quarrel, and Laudonniere repented already of his promised alliance with Satouriona.
On a Sunday morning, Francois de la Caille came to Laudonniere's quarters, and, in the name of the whole company, requested him to come to the parade ground. He complied, and issuing forth, his inseparable Ottigny at his side, he saw some thirty of his officers, soldiers, and gentlemen volunteers waiting before the building with fixed and sombre countenances. La Caille, advancing, begged leave to read, in behalf of the rest, a paper which he held in his hand. It opened with protestations of duty and obedience; next came complaints of hard work, starvation, and broken promises, and a request that the petitioners should be allowed to embark in the vessel lying in the river, and cruise along the Spanish Main, in order to procure provisions by purchase "or otherwise." In short, the flower of the company wished to turn buccaneers.
Accordingly, as each party landed, they were led out of sight behind the sand-hill, and their hands tied behind their backs with the match-cords of the arquebuses, though not before each had been supplied with food. The whole day passed before all were brought together, bound and helpless, under the eye of the inexorable Adelantado. But now Mendoza interposed. "I was a priest," he says, "and had the bowels of a man." He asked that if there were Christians—that is to say, Catholics—among the prisoners, they should be set apart. Twelve Breton sailors professed themselves to be such; and these, together with four carpenters and calkers, "of whom," writes Menendez, "I was in great need," were put on board the boat and sent to St. Augustine. The rest were ordered to march thither by land.
Hour after hour the sailors pulled at the oar. They glided slowly by the sombre shores in the shimmering moonlight, to the sound of the surf and the moaning pine-trees. In the gray of the morning, they came to the mouth of a river, probably the Nassau; and here a northeast wind set in with a violence that almost wrecked their boats. Their Indian allies were waiting on the bank, but for a while the gale delayed their crossing. The bolder French would lose no time, rowed through the tossing waves, and, landing safely, left their boats, and pushed into the forest. Gourgues took the lead, in breastplate and back-piece. At his side marched the young chief Olotoraca, with a French pike in his hand; and the files of arquebuse-men and armed sailors followed close behind. They plunged through swamps, hewed their way through brambly thickets and the matted intricacies of the forests, and, at five in the afternoon, almost spent with fatigue and hunger, came to a river or inlet of the sea, not far from the first Spanish fort. Here they found three hundred Indians waiting for them.
The French forgot their weariness, and pressed on with speed. At dawn they and their allies met on the bank of a stream, probably Sister Creek, beyond which, and very near, was the fort. But the tide was in, and they tried in vain to cross. Greatly vexed,—for he had hoped to take the enemy asleep,—Gourgues withdrew his soldiers into the forest, where they were no sooner ensconced than a drenching rain fell, and they had much ado to keep their gun-matches burning. The light grew fast. Gourgues plainly saw the fort, the defences of which seemed slight and unfinished. He even saw the Spaniards at work within. A feverish interval elapsed, till at length the tide was out,—so far, at least, that the stream was fordable. A little higher up, a clump of trees lay between it and the fort. Behind this friendly screen the passage was begun. Each man tied his powder-flask to his steel cap, held his arquebuse above his head with one hand, and grasped his sword with the other. The channel was a bed of oysters. The sharp shells cut their feet as they waded through. But the farther bank was gained. They emerged from the water, drenched, lacerated, and bleeding, but with unabated mettle. Gourgues set them in array under cover of the trees. They stood with kindling eyes, and hearts throbbing, but not with fear. Gourgues pointed to the Spanish fort, seen by glimpses through the boughs. "Look I" he said, "there are the robbers who have stolen this land from our King; there are the murderers who have butchered our countrymen!" With voices eager, fierce, but half suppressed, they demanded to be led on.
Gourgues's mission was fulfilled. To occupy the country had never been his intention; nor was it possible, for the Spaniards were still in force at St. Augustine. His was a whirlwind visitation,—to ravage, ruin, and vanish. He harangued the Indians, and exhorted them to demolish the fort. They fell to the work with eagerness, and in less than a day not one stone was left on another.
He describes the shore as consisting of small low hillocks of fine sand, intersected by creeks and inlets, and beyond these a country "full of Palme [pine?] trees, Bay trees, and high Cypresse trees, and many other sortes of trees, vnknowne in Europe, which yeeld most sweete sanours, farre from the shore." Still advancing northward, Verrazzano sent a boat for a supply of water. The surf ran high, and the crew could not land; but an adventurous young sailor jumped overboard and swam shoreward with a gift of beads and trinkets for the Indians, who stood watching him. His heart failed as he drew near; he flung his gift among them, turned, and struck out for the boat. The surf dashed him back, flinging him with violence on the beach among the recipients of his bounty, who seized him by the arms and legs, and, while he called lustily for aid, answered him with outcries designed to allay his terrors. Next they kindled a great fire,—doubtless to roast and devour him before the eyes of his comrades, gazing in horror from their boat. On the contrary, they carefully warmed him, and were trying to dry his clothes, when, recovering from his bewilderment, he betrayed a strong desire to escape to his friends; whereupon, "with great love, clapping him fast about, with many embracings," they led him to the shore, and stood watching till he had reached the boat.
Due time having been allowed for this exuberance of feminine rapture, the warriors interposed, banished the women and children to a distance, and squatted on the ground around the French, row within row of swarthy forms and eager faces, "as if," says Cartier, "we were going to act a play." Then appeared a troop of women, each bringing a mat, with which they carpeted the bare earth for the behoof of their guests. The latter being seated, the chief of the nation was borne before them on a deerskin by a number of his tribesmen, a bedridden old savage, paralyzed and helpless, squalid as the rest in his attire, and distinguished only by a red fillet, inwrought with the dyed quills of the Canada porcupine, encircling his lank black hair. They placed him on the ground at Cartier's feet and made signs of welcome for him, while he pointed feebly to his powerless limbs, and implored the healing touch from the hand of the French chief. Cartier complied, and received in acknowledgment the red fillet of his grateful patient. Then from surrounding dwellings appeared a woeful throng, the sick, the lame, the blind, the maimed, the decrepit, brought or led forth and placed on the earth before the perplexed commander, "as if," he says, "a god had come down to cure them." His skill in medicine being far behind the emergency, he pronounced over his petitioners a portion of the Gospel of St. John, made the sign of the cross, and uttered a prayer, not for their bodies only, but for their miserable souls. Next he read the passion of the Saviour, to which, though comprehending not a word, his audience listened with grave attention. Then came a distribution of presents. The squaws and children were recalled, and, with the warriors, placed in separate groups. Knives and hatchets were given to the men, and beads to the women, while pewter rings and images of the Agnus Dei were flung among the troop of children, whence ensued a vigorous scramble in the square of Hochelaga. Now the French trumpeters pressed their trumpets to their lips, and blew a blast that filled the air with warlike din and the hearts of the hearers with amazement and delight. Bidding their hosts farewells the visitors formed their ranks and defiled through the gate once more, despite the efforts of a crowd of women, who, with clamorous hospitality, beset them with gifts of fish, beans, corn, and other viands of uninviting aspect, which the Frenchmen courteously declined.
De Monts and Poutrincourt bestirred themselves to find a priest, since the foes of the enterprise had been loud in lamentation that the spiritual welfare of the Indians had been slighted. But it was Holy Week. All the priests were, or professed to be, busy with exercises and confessions, and not one could be found to undertake the mission of Acadia. They were more successful in engaging mechanics and laborers for the voyage. These were paid a portion of their wages in advance, and were sent in a body to Rochelle, consigned to two merchants of that port, members of the company. De Monts and Poutrincourt went thither by post. Lescarbot soon followed, and no sooner reached Rochelle than he penned and printed his Adieu a la France, a poem which gained for him some credit.
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