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They found a tree covered with caterpillars, and hereupon the ancient black-letter says: "Also there be Silke wormes in meruielous number, a great deale fairer and better then be our silk wormes. To bee short, it is a thing vnspeakable to consider the thinges that bee seene there, and shalbe founde more and more in this incomperable lande." 9
The spring wore away, and no relief appeared. One thought now engrossed the colonists, that of return to France. Vasseur's ship, the "Breton," still remained in the river, and they had also the Spanish brigantine brought by the mutineers. But these vessels were insufficient, and they prepared to build a new one. The energy of reviving hope lent new life to their exhausted frames. Some gathered pitch in the pine forests; some made charcoal; some cut and sawed timber. The maize began to ripen, and this brought some relief; but the Indians, exasperated and greedy, sold it with reluctance, and murdered two half-famished Frenchmen who gathered a handful in the fields.
Laudonniere waited two days, and then descended the river with his prisoner. In a rude chamber of Fort Caroline the sentinel stood his guard, pike in hand, while before him crouched the captive chief, mute, impassive, and brooding on his woes. His old enemy, Satouriona, keen as a hound on the scent of prey, tried, by great offers, to bribe Laudonniere to give Outina into his hands; but the French captain refused, treated his prisoner kindly, and assured him of immediate freedom on payment of the ransom.
Here thirty men deserted, and three priests also ran off, of which Mendoza bitterly complains, as increasing his own work. The motives of the clerical truants may perhaps be inferred from a worldly temptation to which the chaplain himself was subjected. "I was offered the service of a chapel where I should have got a peso for every mass I said, the whole year round; but I did not accept it, for fear that what I hear said of the other three would be said of me. Besides, it is not a place where one can hope for any great advancement, and I wished to try whether, in refusing a benefice for the love of the Lord, He will not repay me with some other stroke of fortune before the end of the voyage; for it is my aim to serve God and His blessed Mother."
On the eighth, Menendez took formal possession of his domain. Cannon were fired, trumpets sounded, and banners displayed, as he landed in state at the head of his officers and nobles. Mendoza, crucifix in hand, came to meet him, chanting Te Deum laudamus, while the Adelantado and all his company, kneeling, kissed the crucifix, and the assembled Indians gazed in silent wonder.
After waiting a few days, and saving a few more stragglers from the marsh, they prepared to sail. Young Ribaut, though ignorant of his father's fate, assented with something more than willingness; indeed, his behavior throughout had been stamped with weakness and poltroonery. On the twenty-fifth of September they put to sea in two vessels; and, after a voyage the privations of which were fatal to many of them, they arrived, one party at Rochelle, the other at Swansea, in Wales.
Menendez instantly sent forty or fifty men in boats to reconnoitre. Next, he called the chaplain,—for he would fain have him at his elbow to countenance the deeds he meditated,—and, with him twelve soldiers and two Indian guides, embarked in another boat. They rowed along the channel between Anastasia Island and the main shore; then they landed, struck across the island on foot, traversed plains and marshes, reached the sea towards night, and searched along shore till ten o'clock to find their comrades who had gone before. At length, with mutual joy, the two parties met, and bivouacked together on the sands. Not far distant they could see lights. These were the camp-fires of the shipwrecked French.
"We are Lutherans."
At first his startled hearers listened in silence; but soon the passions of that adventurous age rose responsive to his words. The combustible French nature burst into flame. The enthusiasm of the soldiers rose to such a pitch that Gourgues had much ado to make them wait till the moon was full before tempting the perils of the Bahama Channel. His time came at length. The moon rode high above the lonely sea, and, silvered in its light, the ships of the avenger held their course.
Gourgues gave the word. Cazenove, his lientenant, with thirty men, pushed for the fort gate; he himself, with the main body, for the glacis. It was near noon; the Spaniards had just finished their meal, and, says the narrative, "were still picking their teeth," when a startled cry rang in their ears:—"To arms! to arms! The French are coming! The French are coming!"
Gourgues returned to the forts at the mouth of the river, destroyed them also, and took up his march for his ships. It was a triumphal procession. The Indians thronged around the victors with gifts of fish and game; and an old woman declared that she was now ready to die, since she had seen the French once more.
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