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'L'Histoire Notable de la Floride, mise en lumiere par M. Basanier' (Paris, 1586). The most valuable portion of this work consists of the letters of Rene de Laudonniere, the French commandant in Florida in 1564-65. They are interesting, and, with necessary allowance for the position and prejudices of the writer, trustworthy.
to the younger son of the impoverished seigneur whose patrimony was his sword. More than this, the restless, the factious, and the discontented, began to link their fortunes to a party whose triumph would involve confiscation of the wealth of the only rich class in France. An element of the great revolution was already mingling in the strife of religions.
Two of the ships meanwhile returned to France, the third, the "Breton," remaining at anchor opposite the fort. The malcontents took the opportunity to send home charges against Laudonniere of peculation, favoritism, and tyranny.
And now, in ample measure, the French began to reap the harvest of their folly. Conquest, gold, and military occupation had alone been their aims. Not a rod of ground had been stirred with the spade. Their stores were consumed, and the expected supplies had not come. The Indians, too, were hostile. Satouriona hated them as allies of his enemies; and his tribesmen, robbed and maltreated by the lawless soldiers, exulted in their miseries. Yet in these, their dark and subtle neighbors, was their only hope.
The alarm spread. Excited warriors, bedaubed with red, came thronging from all his villages. The forest along the shore was full of them; and the wife of the chief, followed by all the women of the place, uttered moans and outcries from the strand. Yet no ransom was offered, since, reasoning from their own instincts, they never doubted that, after the price was paid, the captive would be put to death.
Before the English top-sails had sunk beneath the horizon, the colonists bestirred themselves to depart. In a few days their preparations were made. They waited only for a fair wind. It was long in coming, and meanwhile their troubled fortunes assumed a new phase.
He answered: "I am Pedro Menendez, General of the fleet of the King of Spain, Don Philip the Second, who have come to this country to hang and behead all Lutherans whom I shall find by land or sea, according to instructions from my King, so precise that I have power to pardon none; and these commands I shall fulfil, as you will see. At daybreak I shall board your ships, and if I find there any Catholic, he shall be well treated; but every heretic shall die."
Such were the views of Ribaut, with which, not unnaturally, Laudonniere finds fault, and Le Moyne echoes the censures of his chief. And yet the plan seems as well conceived as it was bold, lacking nothing but success. The Spaniards, stricken with terror, owed their safety to the elements, or, as they say, to the special interposition of the Holy Virgin. Menendez was a leader fit to stand with Cortes and Pizarro; but he was matched with a man as cool, skilful, prompt, and daring as himself. The traces that have come down to us indicate in Ribaut one far above the common stamp,—"a distinguished man, of many high qualities," as even the fault-finding Le Moyne calls him; devout after the best spirit of the Reform; and with a human heart under his steel breastplate.
On this, Charles wrote to Forquevaulx "It is my will that you renew your complaint, and insist urgently that, for the sake of the union and friendship between the two crowns, reparation be made for the wrong done me and the cruelties committed on my subjects, to which I cannot submit without too great loss of reputation." And, jointly with his mother, he ordered the ambassador to demand once more that Menendez and his men should be punished, adding, that he trusts that Philip will grant justice to the King of France, his brother-in-law and friend, rather than pardon a gang of brigands. "On this demand," concludes Charles, "the Sieur de Forquevaulx will not fail to insist, be the answer what it may, in order that the King of Spain shall understand that his Majesty of France has no less spirit than his predecessors to repel an insult." The ambassador fulfilled his commission, and Philip replied by referring him to the Duke of Alva. "I have no hope," reports Forquevaulx, "that the Duke will give any satisfaction as to the massacre, for it was he who advised it from the first." A year passed, and then he reported that Menendez had returned from Florida, that the King had given him a warm welcome, and that his fame as a naval commander was such that he was regarded as a sort of Neptune.
The next day was Quasimodo Sunday, or the Sunday after Easter. Gourgues and his men remained quiet, making ladders for the assault on Fort San Mateo. Meanwhile the whole forest was in arms, and, far and near, the Indians were wild with excitement. They beset the Spanish fort till not a soldier could venture out. The garrison, aware of their danger, though ignorant of its extent, devised an expedient to gain information; and one of them, painted and feathered like an Indian, ventured within Gourgues's outposts. He himself chanced to be at hand, and by his side walked his constant attendant, Olotoraca. The keen-eyed young savage pierced the cheat at a glance. The spy was seized, and, being examined, declared that there were two hundred and sixty Spaniards in San Mateo, and that they believed the French to be two thousand, and were so frightened that they did not know what they were doing.
Just below where now are seen the quays and storehouses of Montreal, a thousand Indians thronged the shore, wild with delight, dancing, singing, crowding about the strangers, and showering into the boats their gifts of fish and maize; and, as it grew dark, fires lighted up the night, while, far and near, the French could see the excited savages leaping and rejoicing by the blaze.
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