CHAPTER 15: The Indian Assault and the Arrival at a Great River

WITH MORNING came Indians in many canoes [twenty - Joint Report ], calling on us to give up our two hostages. The Governor replied that he would when the Indians brought the two Christians.

Five or six chiefs were distinguishable in the array of natives, who looked comelier, more commanding, and better disciplined than any Indians we had yet seen, although not as big as some spoken of before. Their hair hung loose and very long, and they wore marten robes like those we had lately taken, except that some of the robes exhibited a strange combination of marten and lion skin in a handsome pattern.

They entreated us to go with them, saying they would give us the Christians, water, and many other things. All the while, additional canoes kept reinforcing the first-comers, obviously bent on blocking the mouth of that inlet. This avenue closed and the country apparently hazardous to remain in, we betook ourselves back to open sea.

There the canoes and our barges floated side by side till noon. As the Indians would not return our men, we would not release theirs. They began to hurl stones and darts as us (using slings for the stones) and threatened to shoot arrows, though we saw no more than three or four bows among them. In the midst of this commotion the wind freshened and they departed.

We went on that day [two days, says the Joint Report] till nightfall, when my barge, which kept the lead, discovered a promontory, on the other side of which flowed a vast river [the Mississippi]. Off a little island at the point, I anchored and awaited the other barges.