THE POLE AND AMERICA

Nevertheless, it was necessary, at all cost, to attach to himself these Indians, who from their situation, were able to hinder all communication between La Sale and Canada. In order to strike their imagination, Cavelier de la Sale proceeds to their encampment, where more than 3000 men are assembled. He has but twenty men, but he traverses their village haughtily, and stops at some distance. The Illinois, who have not yet declared war, are surprised. They advance towards him, and overwhelm him with pacific demonstrations. So versatile is the spirit of the savages! Such an impression does every mark of courage make upon them! Without delay, La Sale takes advantage of their friendly dispositions, and erects upon the very site of their camp, a small fort, which he calls Crèvecoeur, in allusion to the troubles which he has already experienced. There he leaves Tonti with all his people, and he himself, anxious about the fate of the Griffon, returns with three Frenchmen and one Indian, to the fort of Catarocouy, separated by 500 leagues from Crèvecoeur. Before setting out, he had detached with Father Hennepin, one of his companions named Dacan, on a mission to reascend the Mississippi beyond the river of the Illinois, and if possible, to its source. "These two travellers," says Father Charlevoix, "set out from the fort of Crèvecoeur, on February 28th, and having entered the Mississippi, ascended it as far as 46° of north latitude. There they were stopped by a considerable waterfall, extending quite across the river, to which Father Hennepin gave the name of St. Anthony of Padua. Then they fell, I know not by what mischance, into the hands of the Sioux, who kept them for a long time prisoners."

On his journey back to Catarocouy, La Sale, having discovered a new site appropriate to the construction of a fort, summoned Tonti thither, who immediately set to work, while La Sale continued his route. This is Fort St. Louis. On his arrival at Catarocouy, La Sale learned news which would have broken down a man of a less hardy temperament. Not only had the Griffon, on board of which he had furs of the value of 10,000 crowns, been lost, but a vessel which was bringing him from France a cargo worth 880l. had been shipwrecked, and his enemies had spread a report of his death. Having no further business at Catarocouy, and having proved by his presence that the reports of his disappearance were all false, he arrived again at the fort of Crèvecoeur, where he was much astonished to find no one.

This is what had happened. While the Chevalier Tonti was employed in the construction of Fort St. Louis, the garrison of Fort Crèvecoeur had mutinied, had pillaged the magazines, had done the same at Fort Miami, and then fled to Machillimackinac. Tonti, almost alone in face of the Illinois, who were roused against him by the depredations of his men, and judging that he could not resist in his fort of Crèvecoeur, had left it on September 11th, 1680, with the five Frenchmen who composed his garrison, and had retired as far as the bay of the Lake Michigan. After having placed a garrison at Crèvecoeur and at Fort St. Louis, La Sale came to Machillimackinac, where he rejoined Tonti, and together they set out again from thence towards the end of August for Catarocouy, whence they embarked on the Lake Erie with fifty-five persons, on August 28th, 1681. After a journey of 240 miles along the frozen river of the Illinois, they reached Fort Crèvecoeur, where the water, free from ice, permitted the use of their canoes. On February 6th, 1682, La Sale arrived at the confluence of the Illinois and the Mississippi. He descended the river, sighted the mouth of the Missouri, and that of the Ohio, where he raised a fort, penetrated into the country of the Arkansas, of which he took possession in the name of France, crossed the country of the Natchez, with whom he made a treaty of friendship, and finally passed out into the Gulf of Mexico on April 9th, after a navigation of 1050 miles in a mere bark. The anticipations so skilfully conceived by Cavelier de la Sale, were realized. He immediately took formal possession of the country, to which he gave the name of Louisiana, and called the immense river which he had just discovered the St. Louis.

La Sale's return to Canada occupied not less than one year and a half. There is no ground for astonishment, when all the obstacles scattered in his path are considered. What energy, what strength of mind were requisite in one of the greatest travellers of whom France has reason to be proud, to succeed in such an enterprise!

Unhappily, a man, otherwise well intentioned, but who allowed himself to be prejudiced against La Sale by his numerous enemies, M. Lefèvre de la Barre, who had succeeded M. de Frontenac as governor of Canada, wrote to the Minister of Marine, that the discoveries of La Sale were not to be regarded as of much importance. "This traveller," he said "was actually, with about twenty French vagabonds and savages, at the extremity of the bay, where he played the part of sovereign, plundered and ransomed those of his own nation, exposed the people to the incursions of the Iroquois, and covered all these acts of violence with the pretext of the permission, which he had from His Majesty, to carry on commerce alone in the countries which he might be able to discover."