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La Salle in Texas.
expedition he did not return until March, 1686, when he came to his fort again, ragged, hatless, and worn down, with six or seven followers at his heels, his travels having been all in vain. It was not very encouraging; but, says Joutel, “we thought only of making ourselves as merry as we could.” The next day came the rest of the party, who had been sent to find the little frigate, which should have been in the bay. They came mournfully, for the little frigate could not be found, and she had all La Salle's best effects on board.
The bark was gone; but our hero's heart was still beating in his bosom, a little cracked and shaken, but strong and iron-bound still. So, borrowing some changes of linen from Joutel, toward the latter end of April, he again set forth, he and twenty men, each with his pack, “to look for his river,” as our writer aptly terms it. Some days after his departure, the bark La Belle came to light again ; for she was not lost, but only ashore. Deserted by her forlorn and diminished crew, however, she seems to have been suffered to break up and go to pieces in her own way, for we hear no more of the little frigate.
And now, for a time, things went on pretty smoothly. There was even a marriage at the fort; and “Monsieur le Marquis la Sabloniere” wished to act as groom in a second, but Joutel absolutely refused. By and by, however, the men, seeing that La Salle did not return, “ began to mutter.” There were even proposals afloat to make away with Joutel, and start upon a new enterprise; the leader in which half-formed plan was one Sieur Duhaut, an unsafe man, and inimical to La Salle, who had, probably, maltreated him somewhat. Joutel, however, learned the state of matters, and put a stop to all such proceedings. Knowing idleness to be a root of countless evils, he made his men work and dance as long as there was vigor enough in them to keep their limbs in motion ; and in such manner the summer passed away, until in August La Salle returned. He had been as far as the sources of the Sabine, probably, but had suffered greatly; of the twenty men he had taken with him, only eight came back, some having fallen sick, some having died, and others deserted to the Indians. He had not found “his river,” though he had been so far in that direction; but he came back full of spirits, “ which,” says our writer, “revived the lowest ebb of hope.” He was all ready, too, to start again at once, to seek the Mississippi, and go onward to Canada, and thence to France, to get new
25 tecruits and supplies; but, “it was determined to let the great heats pass before that enterprise was taken in hand.” And the heats passed, but with them our hero's health, so that the proposed journey was delayed from time to time until the 12th of January, 1687.
On that day started the last company of La Salle's adventurers. Among them went Joutel, and also the discontented Duhaut; and all took their “leaves with so much tenderness and sorrow as if they had all presaged that they should never see each other more.” They went northwest along the bank of the river on which their fort stood, until they came to where the streams running toward the coast were fordable, and then turned eastward. From the 12th of January until the 15th of March did they thus journey across that southern country, crossing “ curious meadows,” through which ran" several little brooks, of very clear and good water,” which, with the tall trees, all of a size, and planted as if by a line, “afforded a most delightful landskip.” They met many Indians too, with whom La Salle established relations of peace and friendship. Game was abundant, “plenty of fowl and particularly of turkeys,” was there, which was “an ease to their sufferings”; and so they still toiled on in shoes of green bullocks' hide, which, dried by the sun, pinched cruelly, until, following the tracks of the buffaloes, who choose by instinct the best ways, they had come to a pleasanter country than they had yet passed through, and were well on toward the long-sought Father of Waters.
On the 15th of March, La Salle, recognising the spot where they then were as one through which he had passed in his former journey, and near which he had hidden some beans and Indian wheat, ordered the Sieurs Duhaut, Hiens, Liotot the Surgeon, and some others, to go and seek them. This they did, but found that the food was all spoiled, so they turned toward the camp again. While coming campward they chanced upon two bullocks, which were killed by one of La Salle's hunters, who was with them. So they sent the commander word that they had killed some meat, and that, if he would have the flesh dried, he might send horses to carry it to the place where he lay; and, meanwhile, they cut up the bullocks, and took out the marrow-bones, and laid them aside for their own choice eating, as was usual to do. When La Salle heard of the meat that had been taken, he sent his nephew and chief confidant, M. Moranget, with one De Male and his own footman, giving them orders to send all that was fit to the camp at
1687. M. Moranget, when he came to where Duhaut and the rest were, and found that they had laid by for themselves the marrowbones, became angry, took from them their choice pieces, threatened them, and spoke harsh words. This treatment touched these men, already not well pleased, to the quick; and, when it was night, they took counsel together how they might best have their revenge.
The end of such counselling, where anger is foremost, and the wilderness is all about one, needs scarce to be told ; “we will have their blood, all that are of that party shall die,” said these malcontents. So, when M. Moranget and the rest had supped and fallen asleep, Liotot the surgeon took an axe, and with few strokes killed them all ; all that were of La Salle's party, even his poor Indian hunter, because he was faithful; and, lest De Male might not be with them (for him they did not kill,) they forced him to stab M. Moranget, who had not died by the first blow of Liotot's axe, and then threw them out for the carrion-birds to feast on.
This murder was done upon the 17th of March. And at once the murderers would have killed La Salle, but he and his men were on the other side of a river, and the water for two days was so high that
hey could not cross. La Salle, meantime, was growing anxious also; his nephew so long absent, what meant it? and he went about asking if Duhaut had not been a malcontent; but none said, Yes. Doubtless there was something in La Salle's heart, which told him his followers had cause to be his foes. It was now the 20th of the month, and he could not forbear setting out to seek his lost relative. Leaving Joutel in command, therefore, he started with a Franciscan monk and one Indian. Coming near the hut which the murderers had put up, though still on the opposite side of the river, he saw carrion-birds hovering near, and to call attention if any were there, fired a shot. There were keen and watching ears and eyes there; the gun told them to be quick, for their prey was in the net; so, at once, Duhaut and another crossed the river, and, while the first hid himself among the tall weeds, the latter showed himself to La Salle at a good distance off. Going instantly to meet him, the fated man passed near to the spot where Duhaut was hid. The traitor lay still till he came opposite; then, raising his piece, shot his commander through the head; after lingering an hour, he died.
Thus fell La Salle, on the threshold of success. No man had
27 more strongly all the elements that would have borne him safe through, if we except that element which insures affection. “He had a capacity and talent," says Joutel, one of his staunchest friends, “to make his enterprise successful; his constancy, and courage, and extraordinary knowledge in arts and sciences, which rendered him fit for any thing, together with an indefatigable body, which made him surmount all difficulties, would have procured a glorious issue to his undertaking, had not all those excellent qualities been counterbalanced by too haughty a behavior, which sometimes made him insupportable, and by a rigidness toward those that were under his command, which at last drew on him an implacable hatred, and was the occasion of his death.”
La Salle died, as far as can be judged, upon a branch of the Brazos.
And now, the leader being killed, his followers toiled on mournfully, and in fear, each of the others, - Duhaut assuming the command,- until May. Then there arose a difference among them as to their future course; and, by and by, things coming to extremities, some of La Salle's murderers turned upon the others, and Duhaut and Liotot were killed by their comrades. This done, the now dominant party determined to remain among the Indians, with whom they then were, and where they found some who had been with La Salle in his former expedition, and had deserted. These were living among the savages, painted, and shaved, and naked, with great store of squaws and scalps. But Joutel was not of this way of thinking; he and some others still wished to find the Great River and get to Canada. At last, all consenting, he did, with six others, leave the main body, and take up his march for the Illinois, where he hoped to find Tonti, who should have been all this while at Fort St. Louis. This was in May, 1687.
With great labor this little band forced their heavy-laden horses over the fat soil, in which they often stuck fast; and, daring countless dangers, at length, upon the 24th of July, reached the Arkansas, where they found a post containing a few Frenchmen who had been placed there by Tonti. Here they stayed a little while, and then went forward again, and on the 14th of September, reached Fort St. Louis, upon the Illinois. At this post, Joutel remained until the following March, - that of 1688, –
• Sparks, 158.
Tonti in Nlinois.
when he set off for Quebec, which city he reached on the last of July, just four years having passed since he sailed from Rochelle.
Thus ended La Salle's third and last voyage, producing no permanent settlement; for the Spaniards came, dismantled the fort upon the Bay of St. Louis, and carried away its garrison, and the Frenchmen who had been left elsewhere in the southwest intermingled with the Indians, until all trace of them was lost.
And so closed his endeavors, in defeat. Yet he had not worked and suffered in vain. He had thrown open to France and the world an immense and most valuable country; had established several permanent forts, and laid the foundation of more than one settlement there. Peoria, Kaskaskia, Cahokia, to this day, are monuments of La Salle's labors; for, though he founded neither of them, (unless Peoria, which was built nearly upon the site of Fort Crevecæur,) it was by those whom he led into the West, that these places were peopled and civilized. He was, if not the discoverer, the first settler of the Mississippi Valley, and as such deserves to be known and honored.*
Tonti, left by La Salle when he sailed for France after reaching the Gulf Mexico in 1682, remained as commander of that Rock Fort of St. Louis, which he had begun in 1680. Here he stayed, swaying absolutely the Indian tribes, and acting as viceroy over the unknown and uncounted Frenchmen who were beginning to wander through that beautiful country, making discoveries of which we have no records left. In 1686, looking to meet La Salle, he went down to the mouth of the Mississippi; but discovering no signs of his old comrade, turned northward again, and reaching his fort on the Illinois, found work to do; for the Iroquois, long threatening, were now in the battle-field, backed by the English, and Tonti, with his western wild allies, was forced to march and fight. Engaged in this business, he appears to us at intervals in the pages of Charlevoix; in the fall of 1687 we have him with Joutel, at Fort St. Louis; in April, 1689, he suddenly appears to us at Crevecæur, revealed by the Baron La Hontan; and again, early in 1700, D'Iberville is visited by him at the mouth of the Mississippi. After that we see him no more, and the Biographie Universelle tells us, that, though he remained
* The authorities in relation to La Salle are Hennepin ; a narrative published in the name of Tonti in 1697, but disclaimed by him ; (Charlevoix iii. 365.—Lettres edifiantes letter of Marest, xi. 308, original edition. Introduction to Sparks' Life of La Salle :) the work of Le Clercq, already mentioned; Joutel's Journal; and Sparks' Life: the last is especially valuable.