THE POLE AND AMERICA

Cavelier de la Sale could not allow himself to remain exposed to these calumnious imputations. On the one side, honour prompted him to return to France to exculpate himself; on the other, he would not leave others to reap the profit of his discoveries. He set out, therefore, and received from Seignelay a kindly welcome. The minister had not been much influenced by the letters of M. de la Barre; he was aware that men could not accomplish great achievements without wounding much self-love, nor without making numerous enemies. La Sale took the opportunity to explain to him his project of discovering the mouth of the Mississippi by sea, in order to open a way for French vessels, and to found an establishment there. The minister entered into these views, and gave him a commission which placed Frenchmen and savages under his orders, from Fort St. Louis to the sea. At the same time the commandant of the squadron which was to transport him to America, was to be under his authority, and to furnish him on his disembarkation with all the succours which he might require, provided that nothing was done to the prejudice of the king. Four vessels, one of them a frigate of forty guns, commanded by M. de Beaujeu were to carry 280 persons, including the crews, to the mouth of the Mississippi, to form the nucleus of the new colony. Soldiers and artisans had been very badly chosen, as was perceived when too late, and no one knew his business. Setting sail from La Rochelle, on July 24th, 1684, the little squadron was almost immediately obliged to return to port, the bowsprit of the frigate having broken suddenly in the very finest weather. This inexplicable accident was the commencement of misunderstanding between M. de Beaujeu and M. de la Sale. The former could scarcely be pleased to see himself subordinated to a private individual, and did not forgive Cavelier this. Nothing however would have been more easy than to decline the command. La Sale had not the gentleness of manner and the politeness necessary to conciliate his companions. The disagreement did but gather force during the voyage by reason of the obstacles raised by M. de Beaujeu to the rapidity and secrecy of the expedition. The annoyances of La Sale had indeed become so great when he arrived at St. Domingo, that he fell seriously ill. He recovered, however, and the expedition set sail again on November 25th. A month later, it was off Florida; but, as "La Sale had been assured that in the Gulf of Mexico, all the currents bore eastwards, he did not doubt that the mouth of the Mississippi must be far to the west; an error which was the source of all his misfortunes."