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Le Moyne, Brevis Narratio eorum qucs in Florida Americce Provincia Gallis acciderunt. Le Moyne was Laudonniere's artist. His narrative forms the Second Part of the Grands Voyages of De Bry (Frankfort, 1591). It is illustrated by numerous drawings made by the writer from memory, and accompanied with descriptive letter-press.
Famine and desperation now reigned at Fort Caroline. The Indians had killed two of the carpenters; hence long delay in the finishing of the new ship. They would not wait, but resolved to put to sea in the "Breton" and the brigantine. The problem was to find food for the voyage; for now, in their extremity, they roasted and ate snakes, a delicacy in which the neighborhood abounded.
On the third of August, Laudonniere, perturbed and oppressed, was walking on the hill, when, looking seaward, he saw a sight that sent a thrill through his exhausted frame. A great ship was standing towards the river's mouth. Then another came in sight, and another, and another. He despatched a messenger with the tidings to the fort below. The languid forms of his sick and despairing men rose and danced for joy, and voices shrill with weakness joined in wild laughter and acclamation, insomuch, he says, "that one would have thought them to bee out of their wittes."
They reached Dominica on Sunday, the fifth of August. The chaplain tells us how he went on shore to refresh himself; how, while his Italian servant washed his linen at a brook, he strolled along the beach and picked up shells; and how he was scared, first, by a prodigious turtle, and next by a vision of the cannibal natives, which caused his prompt retreat to the boats.
"Senores, what shall we resolve on? Our ammunition and provisions are gone. Our case is desperate." And he urged a bold rush on the fort.
Again Menendez returned triumphant to St. Augustine, and behind him marched his band of butchers, steeped in blood to the elbows, but still unsated. Great as had been his success, he still had cause for anxiety. There was ill news of his fleet. Some of the ships were lost, others scattered, or lagging tardily on their way. Of his whole force, less than a half had reached Florida, and of these a large part were still at Fort Caroline. Ribaut could not be far off; and, whatever might be the condition of his shipwrecked company, their numbers would make them formidable, unless taken at advantage. Urged by fear and fortified by fanaticism, Menendez had well begun his work of slaughter; but rest for him there was none,—a darker deed was behind.
Ribaut was much encouraged. Menendez could scarcely forego such a prize, and he thought, says the Spanish narrator, that the lives of his followers would now be safe. He asked to be allowed the night for deliberation, and at sunset recrossed the river. In the morning he reappeared among the Spaniards, and reported that two hundred of his men had retreated from the spot, but that the remaining hundred and fifty would surrender. At the same time he gave into the hands of Menendez the royal standard and other flags, with his sword, dagger, helmet, buckler, and the official seal given him by Coligny. Menendez directed an officer to enter the boat and bring over the French by tens. He next led Ribaut among the bushes behind the neighboring sand-hill, and ordered his hands to be bound fast. Then the scales fell from the prisoner's eyes. Face to face his fate rose up before him. He saw his followers and himself entrapped,—the dupes of words artfully framed to lure them to their ruin. The day wore on; and, as band after band of prisoners was brought over, they were led behind the sand-hill out of sight from the farther shore, and bound like their general. At length the transit was finished. With bloodshot eyes and weapons bared, the Spaniards closed around their victims.
The stony-hearted bigot gave the signal; and those who will may paint to themselves the horrors of the scene.
It was night when the Adelantado again entered St. Augustine. There were some who blamed his cruelty; but many applauded. "Even if the French had been Catholics,"—such was their language,—"he would have done right, for, with the little provision we have, they would all have starved; besides, there were so many of them that they would have cut our throats."
In vain the relatives of the slain petitioned him for redress; and had the honor of the nation rested in the keeping of its King, the blood of hundreds of murdered Frenchmen would have cried from the ground in vain. But it was not to be so. Injured humanity found an avenger, and outraged France a champion. Her chivalrous annals may be searched in vain for a deed of more romantic daring than the vengeance of Dominique de Gourgues.
They were hanged where the French had hung before them; and over them was nailed the inscription, burned with a hot iron on a tablet of pine, "Not as to Spaniards, but as to Traitors, Robbers, and Murderers."
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