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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.
Charlevoix, in his Histoire de la Nouvelle France, speaks of another narrative of this expedition in manuscript, preserved in the Gourgues family. A copy of it, made in 1831 by the Vicomte de Gourgues, has been placed at the writer's disposal.
We turn to New France, and all is reversed. Here was a bold attempt to crush under the exactions of a grasping hierarchy, to stifle under the curbs and trappings of a feudal monarchy, a people compassed by influences of the wildest freedom,—whose schools were the forest and the sea, whose trade was an armed barter with savages, and whose daily life a lesson of lawless independence. But this fierce spirit had its vent. The story of New France is from the first a story of war: of war—for so her founders believed—with the adversary of mankind himself; war with savage tribes and potent forest commonwealths; war with the encroaching powers of Heresy and of England. Her brave, unthinking people were stamped with the soldier's virtues and the soldier's faults; and in their leaders were displayed, on a grand and novel stage, the energies, aspirations, and passions which belong to hopes vast and vague, ill-restricted powers, and stations of command.
De Soto, says one of those who accompanied him, was a "stern man, and of few words." Even in the midst of reverses, his will had been law to his followers, and he had sustained himself through the depths of disappointment with the energy of a stubborn pride. But his hour was come. He fell into deep dejection, followed by an attack of fever, and soon after died miserably. To preserve his body from the Indians, his followers sank it at midnight in the river, and the sullen waters of the Mississippi buried his ambition and his hopes.
All, gentle and simple, labored with equal zeal. They calked the seams with the long moss which hung in profusion from the neighboring trees; the pines supplied them with pitch; the Indians made for them a kind of cordage; and for sails they sewed together their shirts and bedding. At length a brigantine worthy of Robinson Crusoe floated on the waters of the Chenonceau. They laid in what provision they could, gave all that remained of their goods to the Indians, embarked, descended the river, and put to sea. A fair wind filled their patchwork sails and bore them from the hated coast. Day after day they held their course, till at length the breeze died away and a breathless calm fell on the waters. Florida was far behind; France farther yet before.
Meanwhile Satouriona, "lord of all that country," as the narratives style him, was seized with misgivings on learning these proceedings. The work was scarcely begun, and all was din and confusion around the incipient fort, when the startled Frenchmen saw the neighboring height of St. John's swarming with naked warriors. Laudonniere set his men in array, and for a season, pick and spade were dropped for arquebuse and pike. The savage chief descended to the camp. The artist Le Moyne, who saw him, drew his likeness from memory, a tall, athletic figure, tattooed in token of his rank, plumed, bedecked with strings of beads, and girdled with tinkling pieces of metal which hung from the belt which formed his only garment. He came in regal state, a crowd of warriors around him, and, in advance, a troop of young Indians armed with spears. Twenty musicians followed, blowing hideous discord through pipes of reeds, while he seated himself on the ground "like a monkey," as Le Moyne has it in the grave Latin of his Brevis Narratio. A council followed, in which broken words were aided by signs and pantomime; and a treaty of alliance was made, Laudonniere renewing his rash promise to aid the chief against his enemies. Satouriona, well pleased, ordered his Indians to help the French in their work. They obeyed with alacrity, and in two days the buildings of the fort were all thatched, after the native fashion, with leaves of the palmetto.
They returned to the fort, in the words of Laudonniere, "angry and pricked deepely to the quicke for being so mocked," and, joined by all their comrades, fiercely demanded to be led against Outina, to seize him, punish his insolence, and extort from his fears the supplies which could not be looked for from his gratitude. The commandant was forced to comply. Those who could bear the weight of their armor put it on, embarked, to the number of fifty, in two barges, and sailed up the river under Laudonniere himself. Having reached Outina's landing, they marched inland, entered his village, surrounded his mud-plastered palace, seized him amid the yells and howlings of his subjects, and led him prisoner to their boats. Here, anchored in mid-stream, they demanded a supply of corn and beans as the price of his ransom.
The compact struck, Menendez hastened to his native Asturias to raise money among his relatives. Scarcely was he gone, when tidings reached Madrid that Florida was already occupied by a colony of French Protestants, and that a reinforcement, under Ribaut, was on the point of sailing thither. A French historian of high authority declares that these advices came from the Catholic party at the French court, in whom every instinct of patriotism was lost in their hatred of Coligny and the Huguenots. Of this there can be little doubt, though information also came about this time from the buccaneer Frenchmen captured in the West Indies.
Not a sentry was on the rampart. La Vigne, the officer of the guard, had just gone to his quarters; but a trumpeter, who chanced to remain, saw, through sheets of rain, the swarm of assailants sweeping down the hill. He blew the alarm, and at the summons a few half-naked soldiers ran wildly out of the barracks. It was too late. Through the breaches and over the ramparts the Spaniards came pouring in, with shouts of "Santiago! Santiago!"
A brief dialogue ensued, during which the Adelantado declared his name and character, and the Frenchman gave an account of the designs of Ribaut, and of the disaster that had thwarted them. He then swam back to his companions, but soon returned, and asked safe conduct for his captain and four other gentlemen, who wished to hold conference with the Spanish general. Menendez gave his word for their safety, and, returning to the shore, sent his boat to bring them over. On their landing, he met them very courteously. His followers were kept at a distance, so disposed behind hills and among bushes as to give an exaggerated idea of their force,—a precaution the more needful, as they were only about sixty in number, while the French, says Solfs, were above two hundred. Menendez, however, declares that they did not exceed a hundred and forty. The French officer told him the story of their shipwreck, and begged him to lend them a boat to aid them in crossing the rivers which lay between them and a fort of their King, whither they were making their way.
His true design was locked within his own breast. He mustered his followers,—not a few of whom were of rank equal to his own, feasted them, and, on the twenty-second of August, 1567, sailed from the mouth of the Charente. Off Cape Finisterre, so violent a storm buffeted his ships that his men clamored to return; but Gourgues's spirit prevailed. He bore away for Africa, and, landing at the Rio del Oro, refreshed and cheered them as he best might. Thence he sailed to Cape Blanco, where the jealous Portuguese, who had a fort in the neighborhoods set upon him three negro chiefs. Gourgues beat them off, and remained master of the harbor; whence, however, he soon voyaged onward to Cape Verd, and, steering westward, made for the West Indies. Here, advancing from island to island, he came to Hispaniola, where, between the fury of a hurricane at sea and the jealousy of the Spaniards on shore, he was in no small jeopardy,—"the Spaniards", exclaims the indignant journalist, "who think that this New World was made for nobody but them, and that no other living man has a right to move or breathe here!" Gourgues landed, however, obtained the water of which he was in need, and steered for Cape San Antonio, at the western end of Cuba. There he gathered his followers about him, and addressed them with his fiery Gascon eloquence. For the first time, he told them his true purpose, inveighed against Spanish cruelty, and painted, with angry rhetoric, the butcheries of Fort Caroline and St. Augustine.
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