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the extent of the village, and on most of which were stuck dead men's heads, half eaten by the crows. The fields were strewn with carcasses, gnawed by wolves. The scaffolds on which the dead had been placed in the cemetery were all torn down, and such of the bodies as had been buried were dug up and scattered over the ground. The wolves were tearing them before our eyes with strange howlings." La Salle and his men sought till night for traces of Tonty and the Frenchmen who had remained with him, but the search was fruitless, and darkness soon forced them to abandon it. They encamped on the spot. "I passed the night full of trouble, which you can imagine better than I can write it. I could not sleep, but tried in vain to make up my mind as to what I ought to do. In my ignorance of the fate of those for whom I was searching, and my anxiety as to what would become of those who were to follow me, if they came to the town and did not find me, I was met on all sides by difficulties and saw disastrous consequences from whatever course I might choose. At last I resolved to push forward, leaving some of my people with the goods, which it was not only useless but dangerous to carry with me." Accordingly, with four men, he followed the Illinois to its mouth, finding the most frightful traces of the ferocious conquerors, but none whatever of Tonty. It was not till long after that he learned that he had escaped the carnage.
His enterprise was ruined a second time; but not a thought of despair seems to have crossed his mind. He set himself again to his task, again overcame a thousand obstacles, and made at last one long step towards success by exploring the Mississippi to its mouth, and proving to others, what he himself had long believed, that it was navigable to the sea. Such was the indomitable nature of this man, whom no peril could deter and no failure discourage. So he remained to the end, battling against destiny with the same unflinching mettle. Fate hounded him to death, but could not shake his courage. A few passages from his letters will enable us to know him better in some respects than most of those to whom his features and his voice were familiar.
A correspondent had pressed him for the expected dividends. "You repeat continually," he answers, "that you will not be satisfied unless I make you large returns of profit. Though I have reason to thank you for what you have done for this enterprise, it seems to me that I have done still more, since I have put everything at stake, and it would be hard to reproach me either with fool
ish outlays or with that pretended ostentation which is laid to my charge. Let my accusers explain themselves. Since I have been in this country, I have had neither servants, nor clothes, nor fare that did not savor more of meanness than of ostentation, and if there is anything with which either you or the court are disposed to find the least fault, I will give it up at once; for the life I am leading has no other attraction for me than that of honor, of which I think that enterprises of this sort are worthy in proportion to their danger and difficulty."
He goes on to answer the aspersions cast against him both in Canada and in France. 'Above all, if you want me to continue this undertaking, do not compel me to answer all the questions and all the fancies of priests and Jesuits. They have more leisure than I, and I am not subtile enough to anticipate all their windy stories. I could easily give you the information you ask, but I have a right to expect that you will not believe all you hear, and will not require me to prove to you that I am not a lunatic. That is the first point to which you should have given attention before entering into business relations with me, and, in our long acquaintance, either you must have found me out, or else I must have had long intervals of sanity."
He begs his correspondent to send out an agent of his own. "It is not necessary that he should be very accomplished, but he must be faithful and indefatigable, and love neither gambling, women, nor good cheer, for he will find none of these with me. Trusting to what he will write, you will then take no further notice of what the priests and Jesuits tell you." And as a further inducement to send out the agent, La Salle makes the curious statement that he himself "has neither the habit nor the inclination to keep books, nor anybody with him who knows how," a strange admission for a man burdened with a vast pecuniary responsibility.
His correspondent had been alarmed lest other interests should distract him from the work in hand. I am told that you are uneasy about the marriage which it was pretended that I had made. I had not even thought of marrying at the time, and I will not make any engagement of the sort till after I have given you reason to be satisfied with me. It is a little strange that I must render account of a matter which is free to all the world.” After his discovery of the mouth of the Mississippi, he returned
to Canada, to find himself the object of renewed accusations and intrigues. At this time he wrote from Fort Frontenac a letter to an associate in France, explaining the motives of his conduct and defending himself against the charges of his enemies; and it is here that he reveals the secrets of a nature prone above that of most men to veil itself in proud reserve. Answering a charge of coldness and severity towards his followers, he says:
"The facility which I am said to want is out of place with this sort of men, who, in the main, are libertines, like most people in this country, with whom indulgence means the toleration of blasphemy, dissoluteness, and a license incompatible with any sort of order, without which success is impossible. I never maltreated a single one of them, except for blasphemies and the like crimes which, when committed openly, I cannot tolerate; first, because this compliance would give reason for much more just complaints against me; secondly, if I allowed such disorders to become habitual, I should find it hard to hold them to their obedience in what concerns the execution of my work; thirdly, the impurities too common with this rabble are the source of theft and utter neglect of duty; and, finally, I am a Christian, and do not want to bear the burden of their crimes. The twenty-two men who deserted and stole my goods by the instigation of persons who make excuses for them as a cover for their own fault are not to be believed on their word, being thieves and deserters. Martin Chartier, who was one of those who set on the rest to what they did, was never in my company, and the others concocted their plot before seeing me, and were but fifteen days with me before their desertion. Those who stood by me are the first I had in my service, and for six years they have never left
"I do not know what you mean by having popular manners. There is nothing different from the rest in my food, clothing, or lodging. All that is the same for me as for my people. How can it be that I do not talk with them? I have nobody else to talk to. M. de la Forest has often found fault with me because I stopped to talk with them too often. You do not know the sort of men one must employ here when you exhort me to make merry with them. Of that they are not capable, for they are only pleased when one gives free rein to their drunkenness and their filth. Bad advice, impunity, and the gains which the coureurs de bois can make without being constrained to obey anybody, are influences capable of debauching libertines with little sense of honor or duty, and I flatter myself that, among so much intrigue and treachery, other men would have found it hard to retain so many of them as I have done.
Everybody tries to make them desert. The humblest man on earth would have justice against a servant who had robbed him of five sous, while my followers receive assurances of impunity from our Intendant, who forgets that he ought to be their judge, and encourages them to do worse than ever.
"As for what you write me, that even my friends say I am not a man of popular manners, I do not know what friends they are. I know of no such in this country. To all appearance they are enemies more subtle and secret than the rest. I except nobody, because I know that those who apparently give me support do not do so out of friendship, but because they are in some sort bound in honor, and that in their hearts they think I have treated them ill. M. Plet can tell you what he himself has heard about it, and the reasons they give. I have seen it for a long time, and the secret stabs they give me show it very plainly. After that, it is not surprising that I open my heart to no one and distrust everybody.
"As for what you say of my deportment, I acknowledge it myself. But, naturam expellas, and if I fail in not being demonstrative and cordial towards those in whose company I am, it is solely through a timidity that is natural to me, and that has caused me to quit various employments where, except for this, I might have succeeded. Judging myself unfit for them because of this defect, I have chosen a life somewhat congenial to my solitary disposition, which nevertheless does not make me harsh towards my people, though, joined to my life among savages, it makes me perhaps less polished and complaisant than the air of Paris demands. I well believe that there is self-love in this, and that, knowing how little I have the habits of polite life, the dread of making mistakes gives me more reserve than at all suits my inclination. So I do not often expose myself to conversation with those in whose company I have reason to fear mistakes which it is hard for me to avoid. Abbé Renaudot knows with what repugnance I had the honor to appear before Monseigneur le Prince de Conty, and sometimes it took me a week to make up my mind to go to the audience. It is a failing of which I shall never rid myself as long as I live, often as I am on ill terms with myself, and often as I am angry with myself for it."
When La Salle made this confession, it was wrung from him by the pressure of new and heavy calamity. He had just returned, with shattered health, from the discovery that has given him a name in history, to find his patron, Count Frontenac, replaced by a hostile successor, his allies cast down, and his enemies triumphant. All the official power of Canada was thrown into the scale against
He might have carried his confession further. It is clear enough that to the painful shyness of which he accuses himself was added that unresponding temperament, or incapacity to express, and much less to simulate, feeling which is sometimes found in those with whom feeling is most deep and strong. He lacked that sympathetic power over others, the want of which is irreparable in a leader of men. This solitary being, hiding shyness under a veil of reserve, could kindle no enthusiasm in his followers. Few could comprehend him, and there were few indeed to whom he could open his heart. He lived in the purpose which he had made a part of himself, nursed his plans in secret, and seldom asked advice or accepted it. He trusted himself, and learned more and more to distrust others. It does not necessarily follow that he was naturally suspicious. Bitter experience had schooled him to distrust, for snares and pitfalls and intriguing enemies were always about him. He doubted even the associates and helpers who, under representations made by him in perfect good faith, had staked their money on his enterprise and lost it, or seemed likely to lose it. They pursued him with advice and complaint, and half believed that he was what his maligners called him, a visionary or a madman. It galled him that they had suffered for their trust in him, and that they repented their trust. His lonely and shadowed nature needed the mellowing sunshine of success, and his whole life was a fight with adversity.
All that appears to the eye is his dauntless battling with external foes; but the silent inward conflict of a nature at war with itself was perhaps no less arduous; the pride, aspiration, and bold energies that formed the basis of his character struggling with the superficial weakness that mortified and angered him. In such a man the effect of such an infirmity is to concentrate and intensify the force within. Discordant natures are common enough in one form or another; but rarely is the antagonism so irreconcilable as in Cavelier de la Salle. And the greater the antagonism, the greater the pain. Sometimes the sort of timidity from which he suffered is mated with no quality that strongly revolts against it. Such gentle natures may at least have peace; but for him there was no peace. He stands in history like a statue cast in iron; but his own unwilling pen betrays the man, and reveals in the stern sad figure an object of human sympathy.