These headings of the author's are used here as local links to text on this webpage.
Lamothe Cadillac, Governor of Louisiana — Situation of the Colony in 1713 — Feud between Cadillac and Bienville — Character of Richebourg — First Expedition against the Natchez — De l'Epinay succeeds Cadillac — The Curate de la Vente — Expedition of St. Denis to Mexico — His Adventures — Jallot, the Surgeon — In 1717 Crozat gives up his Charter — His Death
When Crozat obtained the royal charter, granting him so many commercial privileges in Louisiana, the military forces which were in the colony, and which constituted its only protection, did not exceed two companies of infantry of fifty men each. There were also seventy-five Canadians in the pay of the king, and they were used for every species of service. The balance of the population hardly came up to three hundred souls, and that population, small as it was, and almost imperceptible, happened to be scattered over a boundless territory, where they could not communicate together without innumerable difficulties, frightful dangers, and without delays which, in these our days of rapid locomotion, can scarcely be sufficiently appreciated. As to the blacks, who now have risen to such importance in our social polity, they did not number more than twenty heads. It is probable, that of this scanty population, there were not fifty persons in the present limits of the State of Louisiana, and the contrast, which now presents itself to the mind, affords a rich treat to the imagination, and particularly to our p116 national pride, since we were the wonder-working power.
The possession of the province of Louisiana, if possession it can be called, France had secured by the construction of five forts. They were located at Mobile, at Biloxi, Ship Island, Dauphine Island, and on the bank of the Mississippi. These fortifications were of a very humble nature, and their materials were chiefly composed of stakes, logs, and clay. They sufficed, however, to intimidate the Indians. Such were the paltry results, after fifteen years, of the attempt made by a powerful government to colonize Louisiana; and now, one single man, a private individual, was daring enough to grapple and struggle with an undertaking, which, so far, had proved abortive in the hands of the great Louis the XIVth!
It must be remembered that De Muys, who had been appointed to supersede Bienville, had died in Havana in 1707, and that the youthful founder of the colony had, by that event, remained Governor ad interim of Louisiana. But on the 17th of May, 1713, a great change had come over the face of things, and the colonists stood on the tiptoe of expectation, when they were informed that a ship had arrived with Lamothe Cadillac, as Governor, Duclos as Commissary in the place of D'Artaguette, who had returned to France, Lebas as Comptroller, Dirigoin and La Loire des Ursins, as the agents of Crozat in the colony. Bienville was retained as Lieutenant Governor, and it was expected that, in that subordinate office, he would, from his knowledge of the state of affairs in the province, be of signal use to his successor, and be a willing instrument, which the supposed superior abilities of Lamothe Cadillac would turn to some goodly purpose. This certainly was a compliment paid to the patriotism of Bienville, but p117 was it not disregarding too much the frailties of human nature? Cheerfully to obey, where one formerly had nothing to do but to issue the word of command, is not an every-day occurrence, and it is a trial to which politic heads ought not to expose the virtue of man.
The principal instructions given by Crozat to Lamothe Cadillac were, that he should diligently look after mines, and endeavor to find out an opening for the introduction of his goods and merchandise into the Spanish colonies in Mexico, either with the consent of the authorities, or without it, by smuggling. If he succeeded in these two enterprises, Crozat calculated that he would speedily obtain inexhaustible wealth, such wealth as would enable him to throw a large population into Louisiana, as it were by magic, and to realize the fond dreams of his paternal heart. Impatient of delay, he had, in order to stimulate the exertions of Lamothe Cadillac, secured to him a considerable share in the profits which he hoped to realize. Lamothe Cadillac had fought with valor in Canada, and as a reward for his services (so, at least, his commission declared) had been appointed by the king, governor of Louisiana. Had Crozat known the deficiencies of that officer's intellect, he, no doubt, would have strongly remonstrated against such a choice.
Lamothe Cadillac was born on the banks of the Garonne, in the province of Gascony, in France. He was of an ancient family, which for several centuries, had, by some fatality or other, been rapidly sliding down from the elevated position which it had occupied. When Lamothe Cadillac was ushered into life, the domains of his ancestors had, for many past generations, been reduced to a few acres of land. That small estate was dignified, however, with an old dilapidated edifice, which bore the name of castle, although, at a p118 distance, to an unprejudiced eye, it presented some unlucky resemblance to a barn. A solitary tower dressed, as it were, in a gown of moss and ivy, raised its gray head to a height which might have been called respectable, and which appeared to offer special attraction to crows, swallows, and bats. Much to the mortification of the present owner, it had been called by the young wags of the neighborhood, "Cadillac's Rookery," and was currently known under this ungenteel appellation. Cadillac had received a provincial and domestic education, and had, to his twenty-fifth year, moved in a very contracted sphere. Nay, it may be said that he had almost lived in solitude, for he had lost both his parents, when hardly eighteen summers had passed over his head, and he had since kept company with none but the old tutor to whom he was indebted for such classical attainments as he had acquired. His mind being as much curtailed in its proportions, as his patrimonial acres, his intellectual vision could not extend very far, and if Cadillac was not literally a dunce, it was well known that Cadillac's wits would never run away with him.
Whether it was owing to this accidental organization of his brain, or not, certain it is that one thing afforded the most intense delight to Cadillac:— it was, that no blood so refined as his own ran in the veins of any other human being, and that his person was the very incarnation of nobility. With such a conviction rooted in his heart, it is not astonishing that his tall, thin, and emaciated body should have stiffened itself into the most accurate observation of the perpendicular. Indeed, it was exceedingly pleasant and exhilarating to the lungs, to see Cadillac, on a Sunday morning, strutting along in full dress, on his way to church, through the meager village attached to his hereditary domain. p119 His bow to the mayor and to the curate was something rare, an exquisite burlesque of infinite majesty, thawing into infinite affability. His ponderous wig, the curls of which spread like a peacock's tail, seemed to be alive with conscious pride at the good luck it had of covering a head of such importance to the human race. His eyes, in whose favor nature had been pleased to deviate from the oval into the round shape, were possessed with a stare of astonishment, as if they meant to convey the expression that the spirit within was in a trance of stupefaction at the astounding fact that the being it animated did not produce a more startling effect upon the world. The physiognomy which I am endeavoring to depict, was rendered more remarkable by a stout, cocked up, snub nose, which looked as if it had hurried back, in a fright, from the lips, to squat in rather too close proximity to the eyes, and which, with its dilated nostrils, seemed always on the point of sneezing at something thrusting itself between the wind and its nobility. His lips wore a mocking smile, as if sneering at the strange circumstance that a Cadillac should be reduced to be an obscure, penniless individual. But, if Cadillac had his weak points, it must also be told that he was not without his strong ones. Thus, he had a great deal of energy, bordering, it is true, upon obstinacy; — he was a rigidly moral and pious man; — and he was too proud not to be valiant.
With a mind so framed, was it to be wondered at that Cadillac deemed it a paramount duty to himself and to his Maker, not to allow his race to become extinct? Acting under a keen sense of this duty, and impressed with a belief that he might, by a rich alliance, restore his house to that ancient splendor which he considered as its birthright, but of which evil tongues said, that it was indeed to truly ancient, that it had long p120 ceased to be recorded in the memory of man, he, one day, issued in state and in his gayest apparel, from his feudal tower, and for miles around, paid formal visits to all the wealthy patricians of his neighborhood. He was everywhere received with that high-bred courtesy, which those of that class extend to all, and particularly to such as belong to their own order, but he was secretly voted a quiz. After a few months of ineffectual efforts, Cadillac returned to his pigeon-hole, in the most disconsolate mood; and, after a year's repining, he was forced to content himself with the hand of a poor spinster, who dwelt in the neighboring town, where, like Cadillac, she lingered in all the pride of unsullied descent and hereditary poverty. Shortly after her marriage, the lady, who was a distant relation to the celebrated Duke of Lauzun, recommended herself and her husband to the patronage of that nobleman, who was then one of the brightest of that galaxy of stars that adorned the court of Louis the XIVth. Her letter was written in a quaint, fantastic style, and Lauzun, who received it on his way to the king's morning levee, showed it to the monarch, and was happy enough, by the drollery of his comments, to force a smile from those august lips. Availing himself of that smile, Lauzun, who was in one of his good fits, for the kindness of his nature was rather problematical, and the result of accident rather than of disposition, obtained for his poor connection the appointment of captain to one of the companies of infantry, which had been ordered to Canada.
The reception of this favor, with a congratulatory letter from Lauzun, added stilts to Cadillac's pomposity, and his few dependents and vassals became really astounded at the sublimity of his attitudes. On that occasion, the increased grandeur of his habitual carriage was but the translation of the magnificence of p121 his cogitations. He had heard of the exploits of Cortez and Pizarro, and he came to the logical conclusion, in his own mind, that Canada would be as glorious a field as Peru or Mexico, and that he would at least rival the achievements of the Spanish heroes. Fame and wealth were at last within his grasp, and the long-eclipsed star of the Cadillacs would again blaze out with renewed luster!
The dreams of Cadillac were soon put to flight by sad realities, when he landed in Canada, where hardships of every kind assailed him. The snows and blasts of Siberian winters, the heat of summers equal to those of Africa, endless marches and counter-marches after a wary and perfidious enemy, visible only when he could attack with tenfold chances in his favor, the sufferings of hunger and thirst which were among the ordinary privations of his every-day life, the wants of civilization so keenly felt amid all the destitution of savage existence, days of bodily and mental labor, and nights of anxious vigil, hair-breadth escapes on water and on land, the ever-recurring danger of being tomahawked and scalped, the war-whoops and incessant attacks of the Indians, the honorable distinctions of wounds and a broken constitution in the service of his country — these were the concomitants and the results of Cadillac's career in Canada during twenty years! All this Cadillac had supported with remarkable fortitude, although not without impatience, wondering all the time that something or other did not happen to make him what he thought nature and his birth intended and entitled him to be — a great man!
But twenty years had elapsed, and at their expiration, he found himself no better than a lieutenant-colonel. To increase his vexation, he had no other issue by his marriage than a daughter, now eighteen years of age, p122 and thus he remained without the prospect of having an heir to continue his line, and to bear his noble name. The disappointment of his hopes in this respect was the keenest of all his afflictions; he was approaching the trying climacteric of fifty-four,a and he was as poor as when he departed from the banks of the Garonne. A lieutenant-colonel he was, and would remain, in all probability. His superior officer seemed to be marvelously tenacious of his post and of life, and would neither die nor advance one step beyond his grade: bullets spared him, and ministers never thought of his promotion. Thus it was clear, from all appearances, that Cadillac was not in a position soon to become a marshal of France, and that Canada was not the land where he could acquire that wealth he was so ambitious of, to enshrine his old gray-headed tower, as a curious relic of the feudal power of his ancestry, within the splendid architecture of a new palace, and to revive the glories of his race. Hence he had imbibed the most intense contempt for the barren country where so much of his life had been spent in vain, and he would sneer at the appellation of New France given to Canada; he thought it was a disparagement to the beautiful and noble kingdom of which he boasted to be a native, and he frequently amused his brother officers with his indignation on this subject. "This world may revolve on its axis to all eternity," he would say, "and Canada will no more be made to resemble France, than a dwarf will ever be the personification of a giant!" This was a favorite phrase with which he loved to close his complaints against the object of his abomination, whenever he was betrayed into an expression of his feelings; for of late, he had become silent and moody, and only talked when he could not do otherwise. It was evident that his mind was wrapped up within itself, and absorbed in the solution p123 of some problem, or the contemplation of a subject which taxed all its powers of thought. What could it be? But at last it was discovered that the object of Cadillac's abstracted cogitations was the constant blasting of all his hopes, in spite of his mighty efforts to realize them. So strange did it appear to him, that he could come to no other conclusion than that, if he had not risen higher on the stage of life, it was necessarily because he was spell-bound.
Cadillac, since his arrival in Canada, had kept up, with the great connection he had acquired by his marriage, the Duke of Lauzun, a regular correspondence, in which, to the infinite glee of that nobleman, he used to enumerate his manifold mishaps. Now, acting under the impression that he was decidedly the victim of fate or witchcraft, he wrote to Lauzun a long letter, in which he surpassed himself in his bombastic style, and out-heroding Herod, poured out on paper, in incoherent declamations, the vexed spirit which ailed him, and cut such antics in black and white, that Lauzun, on the perusal of this epistolary elegy, laughed himself into tears, and almost screamed with delight. It happened, at that time, that the ministry was in search for a governor of Louisiana, and the mischievous Lauzun, who thought that the more he exalted Cadillac, the greater source of merriment he prepared for himself, had sufficient power to have him appointed to that office. This profligate nobleman never troubled his wits about what would become under Louisiana under such an administration. Provided he found out a fit theater, and had it properly illuminated, to enjoy, at his ease, the buffooneries of a favorite actor, what cared he for the rest?
Before taking possession of his government, Cadillac went to France to receive the instructions of the ministry, and to visit his paternal domain. His return produced p124 no slight sensation within a radius of forty miles round his so long-deserted hearth. If the waggish boys who used to torment him with their pranks had grown into manhood, tradition had handed down so much of Cadillac's peculiarities to their successors, that when have appeared before them, it was not as a stranger, but rather as an old acquaintance. Dressed in the fashion which prevailed at the time he left his native province, twenty years before, and which at present helped to set off with more striking effect the oddities of his body and mind, he was, as before, an object of peculiar attraction to the mischievous propensities of the juvenility of his neighborhood. One of them, still fresh from the university, where he had won academical honors, availing himself, in order to display the powers of his muse, of Cadillac's reappearance at home, composed a ballad which he called "The Return of the Iroquois Chief," and which was a parody of a celebrated one, well known as "The Knight's Return from Palestine." It met with great success, and was sung more than once under the Gothic windows of Cadillac's tower. But he listened to the sarcastic composition with a smile of ineffable contempt. "Let them laugh at my past misfortunes," he would say to himself; "the future will avenge my wrongs, and my enemies will be jaundiced with the bile of envy. I am now governor of Louisiana, of that favored land, of which so many wonders are related. This is no longer the frozen climate of Canada, but a genial region, which, from its contiguity, must be akin to that of Mexico, where the hot rays of the sun make the earth teem with gold, diamonds, and rubies!" Working himself into a paroxysm of frenzied excitement, he struck passionately, with the palm of his hand, the wall of the room he was pacing to and fro, and exclaimed, "O venerable pile, which derision calls Cadillac's Rookery, I will yet make p125 thee a tower of strength and go! I will gild each of thy moss-coated stones, and thou shalt be a tabernacle for men to wonder at and to worship!" As he spoke, his eyes became suffused with tears, and there was so much feeling and pathos in his action, and in the expression of his aspirations, that, for the first time in his life, not only he momentarily ceased to be ridiculous, but, to one who had seen him then, would have appeared not destitute of a certain degree of dignity, and perhaps not unworthy of respectful sympathy. Such is the magic of deep sentiment!
When Cadillac landed on the bleak shore of Dauphine or Massacre Island, what he saw was very far from answering his expectations. From the altitude of flight to which his imagination had risen, it is easy to judge of the rapidity of its precipitate descent. The shock received from its sudden fall, was such as to produce a distraction of the mind, bordering on absolute madness. As soon as Cadillac recovered from the bewildered state of astonishment into which he had been thrown, he sent to the minister of the marine department a description of the country, of which I shall only give this short abstract: "The wealth of Dauphine Island," said he, "consists of a score of fig-trees, three wild pear-trees, and three apple-trees of the same nature, a dwarfish plum-tree, •three feet high, with seven bad-looking plums, thirty plants of vine, with nine bunches of half-rotten and half-dried‑up grapes, forty stands of French melons, and some pumpkins. This is the terrestrial paradise of which we had heard so much! Nothing but fables and lies!"
It will be recollected that Lamothe Cadillac had arrived on the 13th of May. He had since been exploring the country, and with his usual sagacity, he passed this remarkable judgment on Lower Louisiana: p126 "This is a very wretched country, good for nothing, and incapable of producing either tobacco, wheat, or vegetables, even as high as Natchez." It is fortunate that from this oracular decision there has been an appeal, and we now know whether it has been confirmed or annulled.
The 1st of January, 1714, had come in due time, and Cadillac had not allowed his unfavorable opinions of Louisiana to depart with the expiring year, if we may judge from the dispatch in which he said: "The inhabitants are no better than the country; they are the very scum and refuse of Canada, ruffians, who have thus far cheated the gibbet of its due, vagabonds, who are without subordination to the laws, without any respect for religion or for the government, graceless profligates, who are so steeped in vice that they prefer the Indian females to French women! How can I find a remedy for such evils, when his Majesty instructs me to behave with extreme lenity, and in such a manner as not to provoke complaints! But what shall I say of the troops, who are without discipline, and scattered among the Indians, at whose expense they subsist?" Cadillac went on in this strain, in no sparing style, and summed up the whole with this sweeping declaration: "The colony is not worth a straw for the moment; but I shall endeavor to make something of it, if God grants me health."
God granted the worthy governor as robust health as he could have wished, but without enabling him to redeem his word, with regard to bettering the condition of the colony; and at the expiration of the year 1714, Cadillac found out that his situation, as an administrator, was far from being an enviable one. He had quarrelled with Dirigoin, one of Crozat's agents, because, if we take his representations as true, that agent was a fool; and p127 with the comptroller, Lebas, because he, Lebas, was dissipated; with the inhabitants, because they were dissolute and had hitherto refused to build a church, which was a thing not yet to be found in the whole colony; with the soldiers, because they were without discipline; with the officers, and particularly with Bienville, Boisbriant, Chateaugué, and Sérigny, because they neglected to apply for the holy sacrament, even at Easter; with the commissary, Duclos, because the views of that dignitary had differed from his own on more than one occasion; with Richebourg, a captain of dragoons, who had come with him in a ship of the line, because that officer had seduced most of the girls who had embarked with them for Louisiana, and who ought to have been respected; with the girls themselves, because they had suffered their virtue to be seduced, which was the cause of their remaining on his hands, inasmuch as every one refused to marry them on account of their own misconduct. Is it astonishing that, under such untoward circumstances, Cadillac's displeasure at his situation should have swelled into such gigantic proportions as to induce him to allow his gathering indignation to embrace the whole of America within the scope of his animadversion? Is it not to be supposed that his understanding must have been a little confused by his perplexities, when he wrote to the ministry — "Believe me, this whole continent is not worth having, and our colonists are so dissatisfied that they are all disposed to run away?"
The feud between the magnates of the land grew every day more fierce, and the colony presented the aspect of two hostile camps, Trojans and Greeks, tugging in irreconcilable enmity. On one side, there was the governor who was the Agamemnon of his party, and who was backed by Marigny de Mandeville, Bagot, Blondel, Latour, Villiers, and Terrine, scions of noble p128 houses, and all of them young and brilliant officers, who would have joined in any strife merely for the sake of excitement. The fanatic Curate de la Vente was their Calchas, and stimulated them to the contest. On the other side stood Lieutenant-Governor Bienville, the Hector of the opposition, with the king's commissary Duclos, Boisbriant, Chateaugué, Richebourg, Du Tisné, Sérigny, and others of some note or influence, who were at least fully a match for their antagonists. Thus, on this small theater, the human passions were as keenly at work, and there was as hot a struggle for petty power, as if the stage for their display had been a more elevated one, and the objects of contention more exciting to ambition.
From the annals of the Dutch settlements of New York, or rather from the overflowing richness of his own imagination, which, to be prolific, had only to alight on and to be connected with a favorite subject, Washington Irving drew those humorous sketches, which first gave celebrity to his name. But in the early history of Louisiana, which has nothing to borrow from the fields of fiction, there spring up characters and incidents, fraught with as much originality, and tinged with as much romance, as any so felicitously described by him in his productions, or by any other authors in any work of fancy. What writer could pretend, in his most whimsical creations, to produce a being more fantastical than Lamothe Cadillac? What powers of invention could match his style and the sentiments expressed in his letters? But let us follow the erratic course pursued by this eccentric personage.
He had come to Louisiana to acquire sudden wealth by the discovery of mines, and not to superintend and foster the slow and tedious progress of civilization. Hence, it is not to be wondered at, that, on his receiving, p129 one day, positive orders to assist the agents of Crozat in establishing trading settlements or posts on the Wabash and on the Illinois, he got out of humor, and in a fit of impatience, had the hardihood to write back to the ministry, in these terms: "I have seen Crozat's instructions to his agents. I thought they issued from a lunatic asylum, and there appeared to me to be no more sense in them than in the Apocalypse. What! Is it expected that, for any commercial or profitable purposes, boats will ever be able to run up the Mississippi, into the Wabash, the Missouri, or the Red River? One might as well try to bite a slice off the moon!b Not only are these rivers as rapid as the Rhone, but in their crooked course, they imitate to perfection a snake's undulations. Hence, for instance, on every turn of the Mississippi, it is would be necessary to wait for a change of wind, if wind could be had, because this river is so lined up with thick woods, that very little wind has access to its bed."
As to the ministerial expectations that he should devote most of his time to favoring agricultural pursuits among the colonists, Cadillac took it in high dudgeon, that such recommendations should ever be addressed to him, as if he had not something better to attend to — the discovery of gold, diamonds and pearls! To trouble himself about conceding and locating lands, was a thing concerning which he never admitted the possibility of his being seriously employed, and he treated the matter very lightly in one of his dispatches, in which he said to the ministry, "Give the colonists as much land as they please. Why stint the measure? The lands are so bad that there is no necessity to care for the number of acres. A copious distribution of them would be cheap liberality."
Thus, agriculture and commerce had failed to engage p130 the sympathies of Cadillac, who, since the first day he landed in Louisiana, had bent all his energies and all the means at his command toward the discovery of mines. He had sent Canadians in every direction to explore for the hidden treasures of the earth, but months had elapsed without gratifying the cravings of Cadillac's appetite for gold. Some of the Canadians had been killed by the Indians:— others found so much amusement in their favorite avocations of fishing and hunting, that they forgot the duties imposed upon them, and for the discharge of which they were paid:— there were more than one who, having gone so far as the Illinois and the Missouri, suddenly bethought themselves of some love-sick maid, some doting mother or aged father, whom they had left pining on the banks of the St. Lawrence, and instead of returning down the Mississippi, to give to Cadillac an account of their mission, they pursued their way up to their native villages. It must be confessed that all were little compete and too ignorant to investigate properly the object of their inquiries. The few who came back had but "a beggarly account of empty boxes" to lay before Cadillac. But if he had been favored with a romantic turn of mind, he would have found some indemnification in the recital of their marvelous adventures.
Cadillac came at last to the conclusion that he was in a sorry predicament. Sancho, when assailed with the cares of his insular government, never felt the tenth part of his embarrassment. So much so, that Cadillac deeply regretted that he could not be forever asleep; because, when awake, he could not but be aware that he had spent all the funds he could command, and had no more left to consecrate to his favorite scheme. The sad reality stared him in the face:— his purse was empty, and his Canadians were gone. But when he p131 was asleep, his dreams beggared the wonders of the Arabian Nights. Then Queen Mab would drive, four in hand, her tiny cobweb carriage through his brain: some merry elf of her court would tickle his nose with a feather from a humming-bird's tail, and instantly Cadillac would see a thousand fairy miners, extracting from the bowels of the earth and heaping upon its surface enormous piles of gold and silver, having a fantastic resemblance to those Indian mounds which, in our days, make such strong appeals to our curiosity. Heated by these visions, Cadillac addressed himself to Duclos, the king's commissary, for more funds to prosecute his researches after the precious metals for which he thirsted. Duclos replied that the treasury had been pumped dry. "Borrow," answered Cadillac. "I can not," observed Duclos. "Well, then!" said the governor very pithily, "what is the use of your being a financier, if you can not raise money by borrowing, and what is the use of my being a governor, if I have no funds to carry on the purposes of my government!"
Low did Cadillac hang his head, in spite of all his pride, when he found himself so cramped up in his operations. But it would require a more powerful pen than mine to describe his indignation, when Duclos, the king's commissary, requested him to render his accounts for all the funds which had been put in his hands, and for all the goods and trinkets which had been delivered to him for distribution among the Indians. It was long before he could be made to understand what was expected from him, so strange and unnatural did such a pretension, as Cadillac called it, really seem on the part of the commissary. There was to him something stupendous in the idea that there should ever be the possibility of any such event happening, as that of a commissary calling upon him, Cadillac, the noblest p132 among the noble, him, the governor, him, the representative of the Lord's anointed, to furnish his accounts, just in the same way that such a call might have been made upon any ordinary biped of the human species. Was not such a pretension the forerunner of some extraordinary convulsion of nature? Be it as it may, Cadillac immediately wrote to the ministry to inform them of this astounding fact, which, in his opinion, was a demonstration of the wild notions that had crept into the colony. Evidently, the commissary was "non compos mentis!"
The tribulations of Cadillac were destined to pursue a progressive course, and he was hardly out of one difficulty, when another and still another came in quick succession, like the ghosts that haunted Macbeth. To increase his perplexities, the troops refused to go through all the duties of their regular service, on the ground that they had nothing to eat but corn, when they were entitled to wheat bread. "A deputation of twenty of them," said Cadillac, in his communications to the ministry, "had the impudence to address me on this subject. I immediately sent the spokesman to prison, and having convened the officers, I told them that the troops in Canada were satisfied with corn for their food, that those in Louisiana had, as I had been informed, lived on it three years, and that I saw no reason why they should not continue. None of the officers dissented from me, except the commissary, who expressed a different point, which he supported with the most puerile reasoning: but I chid him and gave him a good rapping on the knuckles."
The spirit of discontent was not confined to the soldiery, but had spread through the minds of the colonists themselves. "They have dared to meet without my permission," said he, in another dispatch, "and p133 to frame a petition to demand that all nations should be permitted to trade freely with the colony, and that the inhabitants should have the right to move out of this province, according to their pleasure. Freedom of trade, and freedom of action! — a pretty thing! What would become of Crozat's privileges? The colonists also insist on Crozat's monopoly of trade being confined to the wholesale disposition of his goods and merchandise. They pretend that he should in no case be allowed to retail his goods, and that his gains should be limited to fifty per cent on the original cost. Their petition contains several other demands equally absurd. In order to cut all these intrigues in the bud, I declared that if this petition were ever presented to me, I would hang the bearer. A certain fellow, by the name of Miragoin, had taken charge of this precious piece of composition, and had assumed the responsibility of its presentation, but on his being informed of my intentions, he tore it to pieces."
One would have thought that Cadillac had supped full of annoyances, if not of horrors. But another cause of deep mortification, particularly for one so pious and so strictly moral as he was, had been kept in reserve; which was, his finding himself under the necessity of resisting the solicitations of his friend, the Curate de la Vente, and of the other missionaries, who insisted upon his expelling out of the colony, two women of bad character, that had lately arrived. "I have refused to do so," said he, in one of his dispatches, "because if I sent away all women of loose habits, there would be no females left, and this would not meet the views of the government. Besides (he slyly observed), one of these girls occupies the position of a servant in the household of the king's commissary, who will no doubt reclaim her from her vicious propensities. p134 After all, I think that the members of the clergy here are perhaps too rigid, and too fond of exacting long and repeated confessions. A little more lenity would better suit the place and time. Let me add, in conclusion, that if you do not check the intrigues of Bienville and of the commissary, who have gained over to their side most of the officers and of the inhabitants, Crozat will soon be obliged to abandon his enterprise."
We see that there was a deep feeling of animosity between Cadillac and Bienville, which threatened to be of long continuance. But Cadillac had a daughter, and Bienville was a young man, and one of such as are framed by nature to win the affections of the fair descendants of Mother Eve. Would not a novel-writer imagine, under such circumstances, a love story, either to soothe the two chiefs into a reconciliation, or to fan into more sparkling flames the slow burning fire of their inextinguishable hatred? Is it not strange that what would certainly be devised to increase the interest of the dramatic plot, did actually turn out to be an historical occurrence? But what fact or transaction, commonplace as it would appear anywhere else according to the ordinary run of things, does not, when connected with Louisiana, assume a romantic form and shape?
Thus Cadillac's daughter did really fall in love with Bienville. But although her eyes spoke plainly the sentiment of her heart, Bienville did not seem to be conscious of his good fortune, and kept himself wrapped up in respectful blindness. The lady's love, however, made itself so apparent, that it at last flashed upon Cadillac's mind. This was indeed a discovery! How he did wince at the idea that one whom he looked upon as so inferior to himself in birth and rank, and particularly that a Canadian should have won the p135 heart of his daughter! Vehemently and long did he remonstrate with his progeny on the unnatural passion which she had conceived; but the love-sick maid thought it perfectly natural, and showed a pertinacity which greatly shocked her equally obstinate parent. Nay, she did what others had done before her, and became so pale and emaciated that she frightened her father's opposition into an acquiescence with her wishes. So much so, that Cadillac brought himself, at last, to think that this match would not be so disproportionate as he had conceived it at first. Bienville, after all, was a gentleman by birth, he was the founder of a colony, and had been a governor! — That was something to begin with, and he might, in the course of time, rise to an eminence which would show him worthy of an alliance with the illustrious Cadillac family. Besides, Cadillac was getting old, and had so far had a poor chance of acquiring the wealth he had been in quest of so long. If he died, what would become of his daughter? These reflections settled the question, and Cadillac said to himself, "Bienville shall be my son-in‑law." Never did he, for one single moment, dream of any obstacle. Nothing remained but to encourage Bienville's fancied timidity, and to lift up the curtain which concealed from him the bliss awaiting his unconscious innocence.
One morning, Bienville, much to his astonishment, received a friendly invitation to the governor's closet. There, the great man proffered to his subordinate the olive branch of reconciliation, and by slow degrees, gave him to understand that the god Hymen might seal the bond of their amity. Bienville received this communication with low and reverential obeisance. Much delighted did he show himself at this offer of reconciliation, and much honored with the prospect, however distant, of an alliance so far beyond his humble p136 aspirations; but, at the same time, he plainly intimated to Cadillac his firm determination, for reasons best known to himself, forever to undergo the mortifications of celibacy! So unexpected this answer was, that Cadillac reeled in his seat, as if he had been stunned by a sudden blow. There he stood in a trance, with his mouth gaping wide, with his eyes starting from their sockets, and with dilating nostrils, while Bienville and the very walls, and every thing that was in the room, seemed to spin and whirl madly around him with electric rapidity. Now, indeed, he had known the worst, fate had entered the lists, and Birnam wood had come to Dunsinane! What! his daughter, a Cadillac, to be refused by a Canadian adventurer! No doubt a screw had broken loose in the machinery of the universe, and our whole world was to be flung back into the womb of old chaos again! Before Cadillac had recovered from this paroxysm, Bienville had made his exit, and had gone to tell the anecdote to some confidential friends. The fact which I have related is thus briefly mentioned by Bienville in one of his dispatches: "I can assure your excellency that the cause of Cadillac's enmity to me is my having refused to marry his daughter."
Bienville did not wait long to receive a signal proof of Cadillac's vindictive spirit, and he anticipated a manifestation of it, when summoned a second time to appear before his chief. Nor was he deceived; and when he was ushered into Cadillac's presence, that dignitary's countenance, which looked more than usually solemn and stern, indicated that he had matured his revenge for the insult he had undergone. "Sir," said he to Bienville, "I have received secret information that four Canadians, on their way to Illinois, have been massacred by the Natchez. You must punish the murderers, p137 and build a fort on the territory of that perfidious nation, to keep it in check. Take Richebourg's company of thirty-four men, fifteen sailors to man your boats, and proceed to execute my commands." "What!" exclaimed Bienville, "do you really intend to send me with thirty-four men to encounter a hostile tribe that numbers eight hundred warriors!" "A truce to your observations," continued Cadillac, with a bitter smile, "to hear must be to obey. I can not dispose of a greater force. I have myself good grounds to expect being attacked by the neighboring nations, who, as I am informed, have entered into a conspiracy against us. Yet the offense committed by the Natchez must be instantly requited, or they would be emboldened into the perpetration of worse outrages. Go then, with such means as I can give; in case of success, your merit will be greater, but if you should meet with any reverse, you will be at no loss for an excuse, and all the responsibility will be mine. Besides, you and Richebourg have such talents and courage as will easily extricate you out of any difficulty. You are a very Hercules, and he is a perfect Theseus, in licentious propensities, at least. What is this mission I send you upon, compared with the twelve labors of the mythological hero, who, like you on this occasion, was sent forth to redress wrongs and punish crimes!" To the studied sarcasm of this set speech, Bienville made no answer. In those days of adventurous and almost mad exploits in America, in an age when the disciplinarian rules of hierarchy commanded such respect and obedience, none, without disgrace, could have questioned the word of his superior, when that word was to brave danger, however foolish and reckless this exercise of authority might be. Moreover, Bienville saw that his ruin had been deliberately planned, and that remonstrance was useless. Therefore, p138 signifying mute assent to Cadillac's wishes, he withdrew to betake himself to the execution of the orders which he had received, and to advise with Richebourg on the best means of defeating Cadillac's malicious designs.
Richebourg was a brave officer, full of intelligence and of cool daring, whose career in Europe, as a military man, had been interrupted by several duels, which at last had forced him to leave his country. He was so amiable, so obliging, so exceedingly conciliatory, that it was difficult for one who did not know a certain eccentric peculiarity of his mind, to understand how he had come to have so many quarrels. Who more gifted than he with suavity of manners and the art of pleasing? He never was fretted by contradiction, and ever smiled at opposition. Popular among men, a favorite with women, he never allowed words of blame to fall from his lips, but on the contrary was remarkable for the good nature of his remarks on all occasions except one. How could this milk of human kindness, which was the dominant element of his disposition, be suddenly soured into offensive acidity, or turned into gall? It was passing strange! But it was nevertheless true, that, for some cause which he never explained, he had conceived the most inveterate hatred for all that smacked of philanthropy. There suddenly sprung up in his heart a sort of diseased aversion for the man, who, in his presence, either went by the name of philanthropist, or expressed sentiments which gave him a claim to that character. Richebourg, on such occasions, would listen with exemplary composure, and, treasuring up in his memory every philanthropic declaration that fell from the lips of the speaker, he would, as soon as he found the opportunity, put him to the test, as to whether his practice corresponded with his theory. Alas! few stood the test, and then Richebourg was not p139 sparing of the words, humbug, impostor, and hypocrite. What was the consequence? A quarrel; and invariably the philanthropist was run through. On this inexplicable whim, on this Quixotic tilting with all pretenders to philanthropy, Richebourg's friends frequently remonstrated, but found him intractable. No answer would he give to their observations, but he kept steadily on the same course of action. At last it became evident to them, that it was an incurable mania, a crotchet which had got into his brain and was incapable of eradication. With this imperfection they put up with good humor, on account of his many noble qualities, and he became generally known and designated as the philanthropist hater. His companions in arms, who loved him — although with some of them he had actually fought, because, either in earnest or in jest, they had hoisted the red flag that was sure to rouse the bull — had, in a joking manner, convened one day all the officers and inhabitants of Mobile and Massacre Island, and had passed, with mock gravity, a resolution, which was, however, seriously adhered to, and in which they declared that, for the future, no one would allow himself, either directly or indirectly, to be a philanthropist within a radius of •three miles of Richebourg. This secured peace; but woe to the imprudent or uninformed stranger who trespassed on that sacred ground, with the slightest visible sign of the heresy which the fanatic Richebourg held in utter abomination!
On the 24th of April, 1716, Bienville, with the small force which had been allotted to him, encamped on an island, situated in the Mississippi, opposite the village p140 of the Tunicas, at the distance of •about eighteen leagues from the Natchez. He immediately sent a Tunica to convey to the Natchez the intelligence that he was coming to establish a factory among them, to trade in furs, and to supply them, in exchange, with all the European merchandise they might want. Bienville had been informed that the Natchez believed that the late murders they had committed on the persons of some French traders had not been discovered, and he resolved to avail himself of this circumstance to accomplish his purposes without the risk of a collision. He affected, therefore, to have come on the most friendly errand, and gave out that he had encamped on the island merely to afford rest to his men, and to minister to the wants of some that were sick. He nevertheless took the precaution to have an intrenchment made with stakes or posts, within which he erected three log-houses. One he intended as a store-house for his provisions and ammunition, the other as a guard-house, and the third for a prison.
On the 27th, three Natchez came, under the ostensible purpose of complimenting Bienville on the part of their tribe, but in reality to act as spies, and they tendered to him the calumet, that mystic pipe which the Indians use for fumigation, as the ensign of peace. Bienville refused to smoke with them, and pretended to consider himself as not treated with the respect to which he was entitled, because their chiefs had not come in person, to greet him, the chief of the French. "I see," said he, "that your people are not pleased with the idea of my forming a settlement on their territory, for trading with them. Otherwise they would have expressed their satisfaction in a more becoming manner. Be it so. If the Natchez are so thankless for what I meant to be a favor, I will alter my determination, p141 and give my preference to the Tunicas, who have always shown themselves such great friends to the French."
After this speech, Bienville ordered the three envoys to be well feasted and treated with kindness. The next day, they returned to their villages, with a Frenchman sent by Bienville, and whose mission was to address a formal invitation to the Natchez chiefs to a conference on the Tunicas Island. On this occasion, the Natchez felt greatly embarrassed, and many consultations were had on the best course to be pursued. Some were of opinion, that it would be imprudent for their chiefs to put themselves in the power of the French, who might have received information of what had lately occurred, and who might have come, under the garb of peace, to entrap their great men and wreak vengeance upon them. Others maintained that, from the circumstance of the French having come in such small number, it was evident that they were ignorant of the death of their countrymen, and did not intend to act as foes. "This inference," they said, "was confirmed by the information which had been carefully collected by their spies. They had no pretext to treat the French with indignity, and therefore it was proper for the chiefs of their tribe to go to meet and escort to their villages the wise and valiant pale-faced chief, who had already visited them on preceding occasions. A different course might excite suspicion, and investigation might lead to the discovery of what it was desirable to conceal. At any rate, the chiefs, by refusing to accept Bienville's invitation, would certainly incur his displeasure, and he might, by forming a trading establishment at the Tunicas, enrich that rival nation, to the detriment of the Natchez." These arguments prevailed, and in an evil p142 hour for the Indian chiefs, their visit to Bienville's camp was resolved on.
On the very day Bienville had dismissed the three Indian envoys, he had dispatched one of his most skillful Canadian boatmen, to ascend the river with the utmost secrecy, during the night, and proceeding to a certain distance beyond and above the villages of the Natchez, to give notice to the French who might be coming down the river of the danger that threatened them from the Natchez. That man was provided with a score of parchment rolls, which he was to append to trees in places where they were likely to meet the eyes of those descending the Mississippi, and which bore this inscription: "The Natchez have declared war against the French, and M. de Bienville is encamped at the Tunicas."
On the 8th of May, at 10 o'clock in the morning, the Indian chiefs were seen coming with great state in four pirogues. The chiefs were seated under parasols, and were accompanied by twelve men, swimming. At this sight, Bienville ordered half of his men to keep themselves well armed and concealed in the guard-house, but ready for sudden action. The other half he instructed to appear without any weapons, to assist the Indians in landing, and to take charge of all their war apparel, as it were to relieve them from an encumbrance, and under the pretext that it would be improper to go in such a guise to the awaiting feast and carousal. He further commanded that eight of the principal chiefs, whom he named, should be introduced into his tent, and the rest be kept outside until his pleasure was made known. All this was carried into execution without the slightest difficulty. The chiefs entered the tent, singing and dancing, and presented the calumet to Bienville. But he waved it off with contempt, p143 and sternly told them that, before drawing one whiff from the smoking pipe, he desired to know what they had to say, and that he was willing to listen to their harangue. At this unexpected treatment, the chiefs were highly disconcerted: they went out of the tent in dismay, and seemed, with great ceremony, to be offering their calumet to the sun. Their great priest, with extended arms, made a solemn appeal to their god, supplicating him to pour his rays into the heart of the pale-faced chief, to dispel the clouds which had there accumulated, and had prevented Bienville from seeing his way and doing justice to the feelings of his red friends. After all this religious display, they returned to the tent, and again tendered their calumet to Bienville, who, tired of all these proceedings, thought proper at once to take the bull by the horns and to come out with his charges. "Before I receive your token of amity," said he abruptly, "and pledge my faith in return, tell me what satisfaction you offer for the death of the Frenchmen you have murdered." The Indians, who had really thought that Bienville knew nothing of that crime, appeared to be struck aghast by this direct and sudden apostrophe: they hung down their heads and answered not. "Let them be carried to the prison prepared for them," exclaimed Bienville impatiently, "and let them be secured with chains, stocks, and fetters."
On this demonstration of hostility, out came the Indians with their death-songs, which, much to the annoyance of the French, they kept repeating the whole day:— they refused all food, and appeared determined to meet their expected doom with the dauntless energy so common in that race of men. Toward evening, Bienville sent for the great chief, called "The Great Sun," and for two of his brothers, whose names were, p144 "The Stung Serpent"c and "The Little Sun." They were the three most influential rulers of the nation. Bienville thus addressed them: "I know that it was not by your order, or with your consent, that the French whose death I come to avenge have been murdered. Therefore, your lives are safe, but I want the heads of the murderers, and of the chiefs who ordered or sanctioned the deed. I will not be satisfied with their scalps:— I wish for the very heads, in order that I may be sure that deceit has not been practiced. This whole night I give you for consultation on the best mode of affording me satisfaction. If you refuse, woe to your tribe! You know the influence which I have over all the Indian nations of this country. They respect, love and trust me, because from the day, seventeen summers ago, when I appeared among them, to the present hour, I have always been just and upright. You know that if I raise my little finger against you, and give one single war-whoop, the father of rivers will hear, and will carry it, up and down stream, to all his tributaries. The woods themselves will prick up their leafy ears, from the big salt lake, south, to the fresh water lakes at the north, and raising their mighty voice as when struggling with the hurricane, they will summon from the four quarters of the horizon the children of the forests, who will crush you with their united and overwhelming powers.
"You know that I do not boast, and that those red allies will gladly march against you, and destroy the eight beautiful villages of which you are so proud, without my risking the life of one single Frenchman. Do you not remember that, in 1704, the Tchioumaqui killed a missionary and three other Frenchmen? They refused to deliver the murderers to me — my wrath was kindled, and I said to the neighboring Indian nations: p145 'Bienville hates the Tchioumaquis, and he who kills a Tchioumaqui is Bienville's friend.' When I passed this sentence upon them, you know that their tribe was composed of three hundred families. A few months elapsed, and they were reduced to eighty! they sued for peace at last, yielded to my demands, and it was only then that the tomahawk, the arrow and the rifle ceased to drink their blood. Justice was satisfied:— and has Bienville's justice a smaller foot and a slower gait when it stalks abroad in the pursuit of the white man who has wronged the red man? No! In 1702, two Pascagoulas were killed by a Frenchman. Blood for blood, I said, and the guilty one, although he was one of my people, no longer lived. Thus, what I have exacted from the Indians, I have rendered upon them. Thus have I behaved, and thus have I deserved the reputation which I enjoy in the wigwams of the red men, because I never deviated from the straight path of honesty. Hence I am called by them the arrow of uprightness and the tomahawk of justice.
"Measure for measure! — this is my rule. When the Indians have invoked my arbitration between themselves, they have been invariably subject to this same rule. Thus, in 1703, two Taouachas having killed a Chickasaw, I obliged their chiefs to put them to death. Blood will have blood. When the Choctaws murdered two Chactioumans in 1715, I said, tooth for tooth, lives for lives, and the satisfaction was granted. In 1707, the Mobilians, by my order, carried to the Taouachas, the head of one of their tribe in expiation of an offense of similar nature; and, in 1709, the Pascagoulas having assassinated a Mobilian, 'an eye for an eye,' was my award, and he who was found guilty forfeited his life. The Indians have always recognized the equity of law, and have complied with it, not only between themselves, p146 but between them and the French. In 1703, the Coiras made no difficulty to put to death four of their warriors, who had murdered a missionary and two other Frenchmen. I could quote many other instances, — but the cause of truth does not require long speeches, and few words will convince an honest heart. I have done. I do not believe that you will refuse to abide by the law and custom which has always existed among the Indians, and between them and the French. There would be iniquity and danger in the breach of that law: honor, justice, peace and safety lie in its observance. Your white brother waits for an answer."
The Indians listened to this speech with profound attention, but made no reply, and Bienville ordered them to be remanded to prison. The next morning, at daybreak, they requested to speak to Bienville, and they were conducted to his presence. The Indian who was the first of the chiefs by rank, addressed him in these terms: "The voice of the Great Spirit made itself heard within us last night. We have listened to his dictate, and we come to give our white brother whatever satisfaction he desires. But we wish him to observe that we, the great chiefs, being all prisoners, there is no man left behind who has the power to accomplish the mission of bringing the heads thou demandest. Let, therefore, the Stung Serpent be liberated, and thy will shall be done." To this request Bienville refused his assent, because he knew the energy of that chief, and doubted his intentions; but he consented that Little Sun should go in his brother's place.
Five days had elapsed, when Little Sun returned, and brought three heads. After a careful examination of their features, Bienville sent again for all the chiefs, and ordering one of the heads to be flung at their feet; "The eye of the white chief," said he, "sees clear through p147 the fog of your duplicity, and his heart is full of sorrow at your conduct. This is not the head of the guilty, but of the innocent who has died for the guilty. This is not the head of Oyelape, him whom ye call the Chief of the White Clay. "True," answered the Indians, "we do not deny they word, but Oyelape has fled, and his brother was killed in his place." "Even if it be so," observed Bienville, "this substitution can not be accepted."
The next day, the 15th of May, Bienville allowed two other chiefs and the great priest to depart for their villages, and try if they would not be more successful than the Little Sun. They returned on the 25th, and informed Bienville that they could not discover the place of Oyelape's concealment, but they brought along with them some slaves and part of the goods which had belonged to the murdered Frenchmen. In the mean time, twenty-two Frenchmen and Canadians who were coming down the river in separate detachments, having seen the parchment signs posted up along its banks by the order of Bienville, had given a wide berth to the side occupied by the Natchez, and, using proper precaution, had arrived safely at Bienville's camp. Thus he found himself at the head of seventy-one men, well armed, of tried hardihood, and used to Indian warfare. This was a fortunate accession to his forces; for the Indians had almost determined to make, in their canoes, a night attack upon the island, and to rescue their chiefs or perish. The Tunicas had given to Bienville notice of what was brewing among the Natchez, and offered forty of their best warriors to assist the French in the defense of the island. But Bienville, who, although he affected to put great trust in them, feared that they might prove traitors, refused with apparent thankfulness their proffered assistance, and replied that, with his small force, he p148 could make the island good against the whole tribe of the Natchez. This manifestation of confidence in his strength, and the timely arrival of the twenty-two white men, with some Illinois, no doubt prevented the Natchez from carrying their project into execution. It is probable that they were also deterred by the consideration, that the French, if hard pressed, would put their prisoners to death.
The Great Sun, the Stung Serpent, and the Little Sun, who, perhaps, had so far delayed any to make any confession, because they entertained the expectation of being rescued, having at last given up this hope, came out with a frank avowal. They maintained that they never had any previous knowledge of the intended murder of the French, and declared that four of the assassins were among Bienville's prisoners. One of them was called the Chief of the Beard; the other was named Alahoflechia, the Chief of the Walnut Village; the two others were ordinary warriors. They affirmed that these were the only guilty ones, with the exception of Oyelape, the Chief of the White Clay, who had fled. "The Great Spirit," they said, "has blinded them, has turned their wits inside out, and they have, of their own accord, delivered themselves into thy hands. It is fortunate that it be so; otherwise the two warriors might have fled, and the two chiefs are such favorites with the nation, that they would have successfully resisted our demand for their heads, and to give thee satisfaction would have been impossible. As it is, it shows that our Great Spirit has shaken hands with the God of the Cross, and has passed on the side of our white brother."
It was then the 1st of June, and the river, which was rising daily, had overflowed the island •one foot deep, and made the quarters of the French more than uncomfortable. Humidity, combined with heat, had engendered p149 disease, and half of Bienville's men were stretched on the couch of sickness. It was then high time for him to put an end to the situation he was in. Summoning to his presence all his prisoners, with the exception of the four men who had been designated as the assassins, he said to them: "Your people, after having invited my people to trade with them, suddenly violated the laws of hospitality, and treacherously murdered four Frenchmen who were their guests. They thought the atrocious deed would remain unknown, and that they would quietly enjoy their blood-stained plunder. But the souls of the dead spoke to me, and I came, and I invited you to my camp, as you had invited the French to your villages, and you became my guests, as they had been yours, and I rose upon you, as you rose upon them. Measure for measure. But I shall not butcher you, as you butchered them. You killed the innocent and the confiding — I shall kill only the treacherous and the guilty. Who can say that this is not justice? Now, let us bury the hatchet of war. I am satisfied with and believe your last declarations. Hear, then, on what conditions I consent to release you and grant you peace. You will swear to put to death, as soon as possible, Oyelape, the Chief of the White Clay; and you will bring his head to the French officer whom I shall station among you. You will consent, also, to my putting to death the two chiefs and the two warriors who are in my hands. You will restore every object that you may ever have taken for the French; for what has been lost or wasted, you will force your people to pay the equivalent in furs and provisions. You will oblige them to cut two thousand five hundred stakes of acacia-wood, •thirteen feet long by a diameter of ten inches, and to convey the whole to the bank of the Mississippi, at such a spot as it will please the French p150 to erect a fort; and furthermore, you will bind yourselves to furnish us, as a covering for our buildings, with the barks of three thousand trees. This is to be executed before the first day of July; and above all, you will also swear, never, under any pretext or color whatever, to entertain the slightest commercial or friendly relations with the British, whom you know to be the eternal enemies of the French."
The chiefs assented to these terms, swore by the sun that they would, for the future, be the best friends of the French, and urged Bienville to smoke the pipe of peace. Bienville knew well what to think of these hollow protestations, but affected to believe in the return of the Natchez to the sentiments they professed. He refused, however, to smoke, because he considered that the treaty of peace would not be valid, until ratified in a meeting with the whole nation, but he dismissed all the Indians with the exception of the Stung Serpent, the Little Sun, and the four criminals who were doomed to death. With the departing Indians he sent Aid-major Pailloux, accompanied by three soldiers, to be present at the ratification of the treaty. On the 7th of July, nine old men came with great ceremony and pomp, to give to Bienville official information of the expected ratification.
On the 12th, the two Indian chiefs were put to death, the two warriors having already met their fate on the 9th. When the Chief of the Beard saw that the moment had come for the execution of the sentence passed upon him, he ceased his death-song which he had been chanting for some time, and took up a sort of war-song, while he looked fiercely at the threatening muskets of the French, and at the few Indians of his tribe whom Bienville had detained to witness the death of the culprit.
"Let there be joy in the hearts of the Natchez! A child is born to them of the race of their Suns. A boy is born with beard on his chin! The prodigy still works on from generation to generation." So sang the warriors of my tribe when I sprung from my mother's womb, and the shrill cry of the eagle in the heavens was heard in joyous response. Hardly fifteen summers had passed over my head, when long and glossy my beard had grown. I looked round, and I saw that I was the only red man that had this awful mark on his face, and I interrogated my mother, and she said:
Son of the Chiefs of the Beard,
Thou shalt know this mystery,
In which thy curious eye wishes to pry,
When thy beard from black becomes red.
"Let there be joy in the hearts of the Natchez! A hunter is born to them, a hunter of the race of their Suns. Ask of the bears, of the buffaloes, of the tigers, and of the swift-footed deer, whose arrows they fear most. They tremble and cower when the footstep of the hunter with beard on his chin is heard on the heath. But I was born too with brains in my head, as well as beard on my chin, and I pondered on my mother's words. One day, when a leopard, whom I strangled, had torn my breast, I painted my beard with my own blood, and I stood smiling before her. She said nothing, but her eye gleamed with wild delight, and she took me to the temple, where, standing by the sacred fire, she thus sang to me:
Son of the Chiefs of the Beard,
Thou shalt know the mystery,
Since, true to thy nature, with thy own blood,
Thy black beard thou hast turned to red.
"Let there be joy in the hearts of the Natchez! for a witted chief, worthy of the race of their Suns, has been born to them, in thee, my son; a p152 noble chief with beard on his chin! Listen to the explanation of this prodigy. In days of old, a Natchez maid of the race of their Suns, was on a visit to the Mobilians. There, she soon loved the youthful chief of that nation, and her wedding-day was nigh, when there came from the big salt lake, south, a host of bearded men, who sacked the town, slew the red chief with their thunder, and one of those accursed evil spirits used violence to the maid, when her lover's corpse was hardly cold in death. She found, in sorrow, her way back to the Natchez hills, where she became a mother; and lo! the boy had beard on his chin! and when he grew to understand his mother's words, she whispered in his ear:
Son of the Chiefs of the Beard,
Born from a bloody day,
Bloody be thy hand, bloody be thy life,
Until thy black beard with blood becomes red.
"Let there be joy in the hearts of the Natchez! In my first ancestor, a long line of the best of hunters, of chiefs, and of warriors of the race of their Suns, had been born to them, with beard on their chin! What chase was ever unsuccessful, when over it they presided? When they spoke in the council of the wise men of the nation, did it not always turn out that their advice, whether adopted or rejected, was the best in the end? In what battle were they ever defeated? When were they known to be worn out with fatigue, hardships, hunger or thirst, heat or cold, either on land or on water? Who ever could stem, as they, the rushing current of the father of rivers? Who can count the number of scalps which they brought from distant expeditions? Their names have always been famous in the wigwams of all the red nations. They have struck terror into the boldest breasts of the enemies of the Natchez; and mothers, when their sons paint their bodies in the colors of war, say to them:
Fight where and with whom you please,
But beware, oh! beware of the Chiefs of the Beard!
Give way to them, as you would to death,
Or their black beards with your blood will be red!
"Let there be joy in the hearts of the Natchez! When the first Chief of the Beard first trimmed the sacred fire in the temple, a voice was p153 heard, which said: "As long as there lives a chief, of the race of the Suns, with beard on his chin, no evil can happen to the Natchez nation; but if the white race should ever resume the blood which it gave in a bloody day, woe, three times woe to the Natchez! of them nothing will remain but the shadow of a name!" Thus spoke the invisible prophet. Years rolled on, years thick on years, and none of the accursed white faces were seen! But they appeared at last, wrapped up in their pale skins like shrouds of the dead; and the father of my father, whom tradition had taught to guard against the predicted danger, slew two of the hated strangers, and my father, in his turn, killed four!
Praise be to the Chiefs of the Beard,
Who knew how to avenge their old ancestral injury!
When with the sweet blood of a white foe,
Their black beard they proudly painted red.
"Let there be joy in the hearts of the Natchez! When I saw the glorious light of day, there was born to them a great warrior, of the race of their Suns, a warrior and a chief with beard on his chin! The pledge of protection, of safety, and of glory stood embodied in me. When I shouted my first war-whoop, the owl hooted and smelt the ghosts of my enemies! — the wolves howled, and the carrion vultures shrieked with joy, for they knew their food was coming! — and I fed them with Chickasaw flesh, with Choctaw flesh, until they were gorged with the flesh of the red men! A kind master and purveyor I was to them, the poor dumb creatures that I loved! But lately, I have given them more dainty food. I boast of having done better than my father: five Frenchmen have I killed, and my only regret at dying is, that it will prevent me from killing more!
Ha! ha! ha! that was game worthy of the Chief of the Beard!
How lightly he danced! ho! ho! ho!
How gladly he shouted! ha! ha! ha!
Each time with French blood his black beard became red!
"Let sorrow be in the hearts of the Natchez! The great hunter is no more! The wise chief is going to meet his forefathers: the indomitable warrior will no longer raise his hatchet in the defence of the children of the sun. O burning shame! — he was betrayed by his brother chiefs, who p154 sold his blood. If they had followed his advice, they would have united with the Choctaws, with the Chickasaws, and all the other red nations, and they would have slain all the French dogs that came prowling and stealing over the beautiful face of our country. But there was too much of the woman in their cowardly hearts. Well and good! Let the will of fate be accomplished! The white race will soon resume the blood which they gave, and then the glory and the very existence of the Natchez nation will have departed forever with the Chief of the Beard; for I am the last of my race, and my blood flows in no other human veins. O Natchez! Natchez! remember the prophet's voice! I am content to die, for I leave behind me none but the doomed, and I go to revel with my brave ancestors!
They will recognize their son in the Chief of the Beard,
They will welcome him to their glorious homestead,
When they see so many scalps at his girdle,
And his black beard with French blood painted red!
He ceased, and stood up before the admiring eyes of the French with a look of exulting defiance, and with his fine athletic form measuring •seven feet high, and seemingly dilated into more gigantic proportions by the excitement which convulsed his soul. The French officer who commanded the platoon of soldiers chosen on this occasion to fulfill a melancholy duty, gave the word, "fire!" and the Chief of the Beard passed into another world.
On the 3rd of August, the fortifications ordered by bien had been completed, the Indians having strictly complied with the terms of the treaty. They did more: they not only furnished all the materials which had been stipulated, but labored with great zeal in cutting ditches, in raising the parapets and bastions of the fort, and in constructing the buildings required by the French. Stung Serpent even sent one hundred and fifty men to the French, to transport all their baggage, ammunition, and provisions, from the Tunicas to the Natchez. On the 25th of August, Bienville p155 found himself comfortably and securely established in the strong position which he had in such a wily manner obtained, as we know, from the Natchez. However, they appeared to have dropped all resentment at the mode by which Bienville had got such advantages over them, and they behaved as if they were extremely desirous to impress upon him the belief that they were delighted at his forming a settlement among them. Five or six hundred men of that tribe, accompanied by three hundred women, came one day to dance under the walls of the fort, in manifestation of their joy at the termination of their quarrel with the French, and at the determination of the pale faces to establish themselves among their red friends. Bienville invited the chiefs to come into the fort, and treated them with due honors. It is evident that the Indians wished to propitiate the strangers whom they could not shake off, and whom, from instinct alone, they must have regarded as their most dangerous enemies, and as the future cause of their ultimate ruin. But that they felt any satisfaction at the intrusion of these new-comers, the knowledge of human nature forbids us to believe. Two distinct and antagonistical races had met front to front, and at the very moment they appeared to embrace in amity, and joined in the carousing feast, the one was secretly meditating subjugation, and the other resistance and revenge.
On the 28th of August, seeing no signs of hostility from the Indians, Bienville left aid-major Pailloux in command of the new fort, which was called "Rosalie," and departed for Mobile, where he arrived on the 4th of October, with the satisfaction of having accomplished the difficult task with which he had been charged. This was one cause of triumph over his adversary, Cadillac, but he there found another cause of gratulation p156 in a letter to him from the minister of the marine department, in which he was instructed to resume the government of the colony, in the absence of De l'Epinay, appointed to succeed Cadillac. This was fortunate for Bienville, for he found his quondam superior in a towering rage at his success, and at what he called Bienville's execrable perfidy in taking forcible possession of the Indian chiefs, as he did. But Bienville contented himself with laughing at his impotent vituperation.
Before closing with Cadillac's administration, I shall briefly relate some other curious incidents, with which it was signalized. In 1715, a man by the name of Dutigné, who loved a joke, wishing to amuse himself with Cadillac's inordinate passion for the discovery of mines, exhibited to him some pieces of ore, which contained certain proportions of silver, and persuaded them that they had been found in the neighborhood of the Kaskaskias. This was enough to fire Cadillac's over-heated imagination. Anticipating the realization of all his dreams, he immediately set off for the Illinois, where, much to his mortification, he learned that he had been imposed upon by Dutigné, to whom the deceptive pieces of ore had been given by a Mexican, who had brought them from his country. After an absence of eight months, spent in fruitless researches, he returned to Mobile, where he found himself the laughing-stock of the community. This was not calculated to soothe his mind, and in one of his dispatches, in which he gave an account of the colony, he said:
"There are as many governors here as there are officers. Every one of them would like to perform his duties according to his own interpretation. As to the superior council of this province, allow me to represent to your grace, that its assuming the authority to modify p157 his Majesty's orders is fraught with injury to the royal interest, and precludes the possibility of establishing here a good government, because the language of its members smacks more of the independence of republicans than of the subordination of loyal subjects. 'I will or will not', — 'it shall or shall not be,' are words of daily utterance in their mouths. A governor must be clothed with power superior to any other, in order that he may act with effect, and cause to be executed with prompt exactitude the commands of his Majesty, instead of his being checked by any controlling or opposing influence; which is always the case, when he is forced to consult subaltern officers, who are swayed entirely by their own interest, and care very little for the service of the king, or for the prosperity of the colony." These were stones flung at Bienville, at the commissary Duclos, and at the superior council, who threw obstacles in his way, and interfered with the exercise of the absolute power which he thought that he possessed, because, as governor, he considered himself to be an emanation from, and a representation of the king!
On his way up the river, to search for gold and silver, Cadillac stopped at Natchez. As soon as he was known to approach, the Indian chiefs came out in barbaric state to meet him, and according to their usages, presented to him their calumet, in token of peace and amity. Highly incensed Cadillac was at the presumption of the savages, in supposing that he would contaminate his patrician lips with the contact of their vile pipe. He accordingly treated the poor Indians very little better than he would uncouth animals, thrusting themselves into his presence. His having departed without having consented to smoke with them, had impressed the Natchez, who could not understand the nature of his pride, with the idea that he meditated p158 war upon their tribe. Then, they resolved to anticipate the expected blow, and they secretly massacred some Frenchmen who happened to be in their villages. Hence the origin of the first quarrel of the Natchez with the French, to which Bienville put an end with such signal success, but with a little sprinkling of treachery.
It was not the Natchez alone whom Cadillac had offended. He had alienated from the French the affections of the Choctaws, who had always been their friends, but who, latterly, had invited the English to settle among them. Cadillac ordered them to expel their new guests, but the Choctaws answered that they did not care for him, nor for the forty or fifty French rogues whom he had under his command. This was the kick of the ass, and Cadillac resolved not to bear it, but to show them that the lion was not yet dead. After deep cogitations, he conceived, for their punishment, a politic stroke, which he carried into execution, and of which he informed his government with Spartan brevity: "I have persuaded," said he, "the brother of the great chief of the Choctaws to kill his sovereign and brother, pledging myself to recognize him as his successor. He did so, and came here with an escort of one hundred men. I gave him presents, and secured from him an advantageous peace."
Thus it is seen that Cadillac, with a very bad grace, pretended that his tender sensibilities were shocked at the treatment of the Natchez chiefs by Bienville. In his case it was the eye with the beam finding fault with the mote in his neighbor's eye.
On the 22d of June, 1716, the exasperation of Cadillac, who found himself in a hornet's nest, had become such, that he vented his feelings in these terms, in one of his dispatches: "Decidedly, this colony is a monster p159 without head or tail, and its government is a shapeless absurdity. The cause of it is, that the fictions of fabulists have been believed in preference to the veracity of my declarations. Ah! why is there in falsehood a charm which makes it more acceptable than truth? Has it not been asserted that there are mines in Arkansas and elsewhere? It is a deliberate error. Has not a certain set of novel-writers published that this country is a paradise, when its beauty or utility is a mere phantasm of the brain? I protest that, having visited and examined the whole of it with care, I never saw anything so worthless. This I must say, because my conscience forbids me to deceive his Majesty. I have always regarded truth as a queen, whose laws I was bound to obey, like a devoted knight and a faithful subject. This is, no doubt, the cause of my having stuck fast in the middle of my career, and not progressed in the path of promotion, while others, who had more political skill, understood how to frame, at my expense, pleasing misrepresentations. I know how to govern as well as any body, but poverty and impotence are two ugly scars on the face of a governor. What can I do with a force of forty soldiers, out of whom five or six are disabled? A pretty army that is, and well calculated to make me respected by the inhabitants or by the Indians! As a climax to my vexation, they are badly fed, badly paid, badly clothed, and without discipline. As to the officers, they are not much better. Verily, I do not believe that there is in the whole universe such another government."
It is not surprising that, under such circumstances, and with the ideas which fermented in his head, Cadillac should have thought that a terrible crisis was at hand. Laboring under this impression, he took refuge in Dauphine Island, where he issued a proclamation, in p160 which he stated that, considering the spirit of revolt and sedition which reigned in the colony, and the many quarrels and duels which occurred daily, and were produced by hasty or imprudent words, by drunkenness, or the presence of loose women, he prohibited all plebeians from wearing a sword, or carrying other weapons, either by day or by night, under the penalty of one month's imprisonment and a fine of 300 livres, to be applied to the construction of a church. As to persons of noble birth, they were to prove their right to wear a sword, by depositing their titles in the archives of the superior council, to be there examined and registered. Cadillac's enemies, and he had many, availed themselves of this proclamation to turn him into ridicule. They fabricated every sort of mock papers of nobility, to submit them to the superior council, the members of which, from ignorance or from a desire to annoy Cadillac, referred the whole of them to him, who, as governor, was their president. Sadly puzzled was Cadillac on these occasions, and his judgments afforded infinite amusement to the colonists. His waggish tormentors went farther, and, pretending to have formed an order of chivalry, they elected him, in a solemn meeting, grand master of that order, under the title of the Knight of the golden calf. They declared, with feigned gravity, that this was done in commemoration of the wonderful achievements and labors of their illustrious governor in his researches for precious metals. This piece of pleasantry stung him to the quick; but he winced particularly at a song which, in alternate couplets, compared the merits of the Knight of the golden calf with those of the celebrated Knight of the doleful countenance, and gave the preference to the first.
Cadillac was preparing to repress these rebellious and heinous disorders, when he received a letter from Crozat, p161 in which the great merchant told him bluntly, that all the evils of which he complained originated from his own bad administration. At the foot of the letter, the minister of the marine department had written these words: "The governor, Lamothe Cadillac, and the commissary, Duclos, whose dispositions and humors are incompatible, and whose intellects are not equal to the functions with which his Majesty has intrusted them, are dismissed from office." I leave it to a more graphic pen to describe Cadillac's look and Cadillac's feelings when this thunderbolt fell on his head. Suffice it to say, that he contemptuously shook off his feet the colonial dust which had there gathered, and bundling up his household goods, removed himself and them out of Louisiana, which he pronounced to be hell-doomed.
At that time, there were only a few negroes in the colony, and they were all to be found about Mobile or in Dauphine Island. These were the only persons in whom some sympathy was discovered for the departing governor. This sympathy arose from a ludicrous cause. Cadillac had carried to America the fondest remembrance of his home in Europe, and he loved to dilated on the merits of France, of his native province of Gascony, of the beautiful river Garonne, and particularly of his old feudal tower, in which he pretended that one of his ancestors had been blessed with the inestimable honor of receiving the famous Black Prince, the boast of England. There was hardly one day in the week that he did not harp upon this favorite theme, which he always resumed with new exultation. There was not a human creature in the colony, with the exception of the Indians, who was not familiar with this oft-repeated anecdote, which had gained for Cadillac the nickname of the Black Prince. It became a sort of designation by which he was as well known as by his own family p162 name; and the poor Africans, who frequently heard it, had supposed that Cadillac drew his origin from a prince of their blood and color. This was to them a source of no little pride, and to the colonists a cause of endless merriment.
There was another person who highly appreciated Cadillac, and who keenly regretted his dismissal from office: that person was the Curate de la Vente. No Davion was he, nor did he resemble a Montigny. With a pale face and an emaciated body; with a narrow forehead, which went up tapering like a pear; with thin compressed lips, never relaxed by a smile; with small gray eyes, occupying very diminutive sockets, which seemed to have been bored with a gimlet; and with heavy and shaggy eyebrows, from beneath which issued, habitually, cold and even stern looks; he would have struck the most unobserving, as being the very personification of fanaticism. When he studied, to qualify himself for his profession, he had, several times, read the Bible and the Gospels through; but his little mind had then stuck to the letter, and had never been able to comprehend the spirit, of the holy books. Like a fly, it had moved all round the flask which contained the sweet liquor, without being able to extract the slightest particle of it. When ordained a priest, the Bible and the Gospels were consigned to oblivion. For him, kneeling was prayer, and prayer was religion. Christianity, which is the triumph of reason, because it exacts no belief but that which flows from rational conviction, was, according to his conception, nothing but a mysterious and inexplicable hodge-podge of crude and despotic dictates, to be accepted on trust and submitted to without reflection, discussion, or analysis of any kind: for him, thought in such matters would have been a grievous sin; his breviary was the only book which he p163 had read for many years, and he laid to his soul the flattering unction that he was a pious man, because he minutely complied with the ritual of his church. He fasted, did penance, and never failed reciting, in due time, all the litanies. Thus, observing strict all the forms and discipline of the Roman Catholic faith, he thought himself a very good Christian. But every man who did not frequently confess to a priest, and did not receive the sacraments as often as the catechism of his creed required, was, in his opinion, no better than a pagan, and was entirely out of the pale of salvation. Animated with the fierce zeal of a bigot, he would not have scrupled, if in his power, to use the strong hand of violence to secure converts, and to doom to the stake and to the fagot the unbeliever in all the tenets, whether fundamental or incidental, of Catholicism: for his religion consisted in implicit belief in all the prescriptions of his church, and his church was God. Hence, all government which was not theocratical, or bordering on it, he looked upon as an unlawful and sinful assumption of power, which the church, by all means, was bound to take back, as its legitimate property.
With such dispositions, the Curate de la Vente soon became the terror of his flock, whose frailties he denounced with the epileptic violence of a maniac, and whose slightest delinquencies he threatened with eternal damnation. A fanatic disciplinarian, he had been shocked at the laxity with which the soldiers, the officers, the Canadian boatmen and traders, and the other colonists, performed their religious duties. He did not take into consideration that a judicious allowance ought to be made for the want of education of some, for the temptations which peculiar circumstances threw in the way of others, and for the particular mode of life to p164 which all were condemned, and which might be received in extenuation, if not in justification of many faults. He might have reclaimed some by the soothing gentleness of friendly admonition: he discouraged or disgusted all by the roughness of intemperate reproach. Aware of the aversion which he had inspired, and indignant at the evil practices in which some indulged openly from inclination, and others, out of vain bravado to a minister they detested, he had supported Cadillac in all the acts of his administration, in all his representations of the state of the country; and he had himself more than once written to the ministry, that God would never smile upon a colony inhabited by such demons, heathens, and scoffers at the Holy Church; and he had recommended, not a Saint Bartholomew execution, it is true, but a general expulsion of all the people that were in the colony, in order to replace them with a more religious-minded community. As to the Indians, he considered them as sons of perdition, who offered few hopes, if any, of being redeemed from the bondage of Satan.
Seeing that the Ministry had paid no attention to his recommendations, he had determined to make, out of the infidels by whom he was surrounded, as much money as he could, which he intended to apply to the purpose of advancing the interests of the church, in some more favorable spot for the germination of ecclesiastical domination. With this view, he made no scruple to fatten upon the Philistines, and he opened a shop, where he kept for sale, barter, or exchange, a variety of articles of trade. He disposed of them at a price of which the purchasers complained as being most unconscionable; and he also loaned money to the Gentiles, at a rate of interest which was extravagantly usurious. As a salvo to his conscience, he had adopted the comfortable motto that the end justifies the means. The p165 benighted Indians and the unchristian Christians (to use his own expressions) were not spared by him. When the circumstance was too tempting, and he had to deal with notorious unbelievers, he would even indulge in what he would have called actual cheating, if coming from a Christian dealing with a Christian. On these occasions, he would groan piteously, cross himself devoutly, fall on his knees before the image of our Savior, and striking his breast with compunction, he would exclaim, "O sweet Jesus, if this be an infraction of thy law, it is at least a trifling one, and it is done for the benefit of thy church: forgive me, O Lamb of mercy, and I will, in expiation, say twelve paters and twelve aves at the foot of the altar of thy Virgin Mother, or I will abstain a whole day from all food, in thy honor." After this soliloquy, he would get up, perfectly reconciled with himself and with his Maker, to whom, in these cases, he always took care to keep his plighted word. Many a time, his worldly transactions for the glorification of the church, and for the increase of church property at the expense of those he considered as infidels, forced him to enter into such strange compromises with his conscience and with his God. Hence the origin of the accusation brought against him by Bienville, in one of his dispatches, and which I have already reported, "that he kept open shop, and was a shrewd compound of the Jew and of the Arab." The truth is, that he was sincere in his mistaken faith, pious to the best of his understanding, a Christian in will although not in fact, a zealous priest in his way, which he thought a correct one, and a lamentable compound of fanaticism and imbecility.
In August, 1716, a short time before the recall of Cadillac, there had returned to Mobile a young man named St. Denis, who was a relation of Bienville, and p166 whom, two years before, Cadillac had sent to Natchitoches,º to oppose the Spaniards in an establishment which it was reported they intended to make in that part of the country.d His orders were, to proceed afterward to New Mexico, to ascertain if it would not be possible to establish in that direction internal relations of commerce between Louisiana and the Mexican provinces, where it was hoped that Crozat would find a large outlet for his goods. When St. Denis arrived at the village of the Natchitoches, hearing no tidings of the supposed expedition of the Spaniards, he left there a few Canadians, whom he ordered to form a settlement; and, accompanied by twelve others, who were picked men, and by a few Indians, he undertook to accomplish the more difficult part of his mission.
I would recommend this expedition of St. Denis, and his adventures, to any one in search of a subject for literary composition. It is a fruitful theme, affording to the writer the amplest scope for the display of talent of the most varied order. St. Denis is one of the most interesting characters of the early history of Louisiana.
"He hither came, a private gentleman,
But young and brave, and of a family
Ancient and noble."
He was a knight-errant in his feelings and in his doings throughout life, and every thing connected with him, or that came within the purview of his existence, was imbued with the spirit of romance. The noble bearing of his tall, well-proportioned, and remarkably handsome person was in keeping with the lofty spirit of his soul. He was one in whom nature had given the world assurance of a man, and that assurance was so strongly marked in the countenance of St. Denis, that p167 wherever he appeared, he instantaneous commanded love, respect, and admiration. There are beings who carry in their lineaments the most legible evidence of their past and future fate. Such was St. Denis, and nobody, not even the wild and untutored Indian, could have left his presence, without at least a vague impression that he had seen one not born for the common purposes of ordinary life.
The laborious journey of St. Denis from Mobile to Natchitoches, the incidents connected with it, the description of the country he passed through, and of all the tribes of Indians he visited, would furnish sufficient materials for an interesting book. But what an animated picture might be drawn of that little band of Canadians, with St. Denis and his friend Jallot, the eccentric surgeon, when they crossed the Sabine, and entered upon the ocean-like prairies of the present state of Texas! How they hallooed with joy when they saw the immense surface which spread before them, blackened with herds of buffaloes, that wallowed lazily in the tall luxuriant grass which afforded them such luscious food, and such downy couches for repose! For the sake of variety, the travelers would sometimes turn from nobler to meaner game, from the hunchbacked buffalo to the timid deer that crossed their path. Sometimes they would stumble on a family of bears, and make at their expense a delicious repast, which they enjoyed comfortably seated on piled‑up skins, the testimonials of their hunting exploits. Oh! there is sweetness in the prairie air, there is a richness of health and an elasticity of spirit,
"Which bloated ease ne'er deigned to taste."
But these pleasures, exciting as they were, would perhaps have palled upon St. Denis and his companions, p168 and might in the end have been looked upon as tame by them, from the frequency of their repetition, if they had not been intermingled with nobler sport, which consisted in oft-recurring skirmishes with the redoubtable Comanches, upon whose hunting-grounds they had intruded. On these occasions, St. Denis, protected against the arrows of the enemy by a full suit of armor, which he had brought from Europe, and mounted on a small black jennet, as strong as an ox and as fleet as the wind, would rush upon the astonished Indians, and perform such feats with his battle-axe, as those poor savages had never dreamed of. These encounters gave infinite satisfaction to Jallot, who was a passionate lover of his art, and who never was seen in a good humor, except when he was tending a wound. But he had more frequently the chance of dissecting than of curing the poor Indians, for, in most cases, the stroke of the white man's weapon was certain and instantaneous death. Still, he found some compensation in the numerous wounds inflicted by the Indians on his own companions; he had a fondness for arrow wounds, which he declared to be the nicest and genteelest of all wounds. One day, he was so delighted with a wound of this kind, which he pronounced, much to the exasperation of his patient, to be supremely beautiful, that he actually smiled with self-gratulation and cracked a joke! — to do this, his excitement must have been immense. Another day, when an Indian had been struck down by the battle-axe of St. Denis, without, however, being killed outright, he felt such a keen professional emotion at the prosper of probing and nursing a gash which he thought rare and extraordinary, that he frantically jumped upon St. Denis, hugged him with enthusiasm, called him his best friend, passionately thanked him for the most valuable p169 case he had given him, and swore that his Indian should be carried on, whatever impediment it might be to their march, until he died or was cured. Who would have thought that this man, when he was not wielding his surgical instruments, was the most humane being in the world, and concealed, under an appearance of crabbed malignity, the tenderest sensibilities of the heart? Such are the mysteries of human nature!
St. Denis and his troop reached at last the Rio Bravo, at a Spanish settlement then called the Fort of St. John the Baptist, or Presidio del Norte. Don Pedro de Villescas was the commander of that place. He received the French with the most courteous hospitality, and informed them that he could not make any commercial arrangements with them, but that he would submit their propositions to a superior officer, who was governor of the town of Caouis, situated at the distance of •one hundred and eighty miles in the interior. Spaniards are not famous for rapidity of action. Before the message of Villescas was carried to Caouis, and before the expected answer came back to the Presidio Del Norte, St. Denis had loved, not without reciprocity, the beautiful daughter of the old Don. What a pretty tale might be made of it, which would deserve to be written with a feather dropped from Cupid's wing!e But when the lovers were still hesitating as to the course they would pursue, and discussing the propriety of making a full disclosure to him who, in the shape of a father, was the arbiter of their destiny, there arrived twenty-five men, sent by Don Gaspardo Anaya, the governor of Caouis, with secret instructions, which were soon made manifest, to the dismay of the lovers; for these emissaries seized St. Denis and his friend Jallot, and conveyed them to Caouis, where they p170 were detained in prison until the beginning of 1715. From this place of confinement, St. Denis, fearing that the hostility evinced towards him might be extended to the rest of his companions, ordered them to return speedily to Natchitoches.
Ye Bulwers of America, I invite your attention! Here history presents you with the ready-made ground-work for whatever superstructure and embellishments you may choose to imagine for the amusement of your readers.
Don Gaspardo Anaya had been the unsuccessful suitor of Doña Maria, the daughter of Villescas. What must have been his rage, when he was informed by his spies that the new-comer, the brilliant Frenchman, had triumphed, where he had failed! But now he had that hated rival in his clutches, and he was omnipotent, and if the stranger died in the dungeon of Caouis, who, in these distant and rugged mountains, would bring him, the governor, to an account? Perilous indeed was the situation of St. Denis, and heavy must have been his thoughts in his solitary confinement! But what must have been his indignation when, one day, Anaya descended into his dark cell, and told him that he should be set free on condition that he withdraw his plighted faith to the daughter of Villescas! How swelled the loyal heart of the captive at this base proposal! He vouchsafed no answer, but he gave his oppressor such a look as made him stagger back and retreat with as much precipitation as if the hand of immediate punishment had been lifted up against him.
For six months, St. Denis was thus detained prisoner, and the only consideration which saved his life was the hope, on the part of Anaya, that prolonged sufferings would drive his victim to comply with his request. At the same time, he repeatedly sent secret messages to p171 Doña Maria, whose mission was to inform her that her lover would be put to death if she did not wed Anaya. But the noble Castilian maid invariably returned the same answer: "Tell Anaya that I can not marry him as long as St. Denis lives, because St. Denis I love; and tell him that if St. Denis dies, this little Moorish dagger, which was my mother's gift, shall be planted, either by myself or my agent's hand, in the middle of his dastardly heart, wherever he may be." This was said with a gentle voice, with a calm mien, as if had been an ordinary message, but with such a gleam in the eye as is nowhere to be seen except in Spain's or Arabia's daughters. The words, the look, and the tone, were minutely reported to Anaya, and he paused! — and it is well that he did so, and a bolder heart than his would have hesitated; he knew the indomitable spirit of his race — he knew the old Cantabrian blood — and that Spain's sweetest doves will, when roused, dare the eagle to mortal combat!
The Spanish maid did not remain inactive, and satisfied with deploring her lover's captivity. She dispatched to Mexico a trusty servant, such as is only found in Spanish households, one of those menials that never question the will of their lord or lady, dogs for fidelity, lions for courage, who will tear to pieces whatever is designated to them, if such be the order of their masters. His mission was to find out the means of informing the Viceroy that a Frenchman, a presumed spy, had been for several months in the hands of the governor of Caouis, who was suspected of concealing his captive from the knowledge of the higher authorities, in order to tamper with his prisoner for a ransom. The object of this false information was to excite the jealous attention of the government, and to withdraw St. Denis, at all risks, from the dangerous situation he was in. p172 This stratagem succeeded, and much to his astonishment, Anaya received a peremptory order to send his prisoner to Mexico, with a sure escort, and at the peril of his head, if he failed!
One morning St. Denis found himself suddenly seated on a strong, powerful horse, amid a detachment of twenty men, who were evidently prepared for a long journey. He asked whither he was to be carried, and was particularly inquisitive about his friend Jallot, who had been put into a separate dungeon, and of whom he had heard nothing since his captivity, but he was dragged away without any answer being given to his inquiries. •Seven hundred and fifty miles did he travel without stopping, except it be for such time as was absolutely necessary to take a hurried rest, when the magnificent city of Mexico burst upon his sight in all its imperial splendor. There, he flattered himself that he would obtain justice, but he soon experienced that change of place had been for him no more than a change of captivity. Look at the woe-begone prisoner in that horrible dungeon, where he is chained to the wall like a malefactor! His constitution is completely broken down; his body is so emaciated by his long sufferings, and by the want of wholesome food, that it presents the appearance of a skeleton; his long matted hair shrouds his face, and his shaggy beard hangs down to his breast. Who would have recognized the brilliant St. Denis in this miserable object, in this hideous-looking, iron-bound felon — a felon in aspect, if not in reality!
One day, an unusual stir was observed in front of his prison. The short, brief word of command outside, the clashing of arms, the heavy trampling of horses, St. Denis could distinctly hear in his dismal abode. The noise approached; the doors of his cell turned slowly on their rusty hinges; on came the bustling and obsequious p173 jailer, ushering in an officer who was escorted by a file of soldiers. It was one whom the Viceroy had ordered to examine into the situation of all the prisons of Mexico, and to make a report on their unfortunate tenants. "Who have we here?" said the officer, in an abrupt tone. "I," exclaimed St. Denis, starting to his feet, "I, Juchereau de St. Denis, a gentleman by birth, a prisoner by oppression, and now a suitor for justice." On hearing these words, the officer started back and looked wild with astonishment; then, rushing to St. Denis, and putting his face close to his face, removing with his trembling hand the disheveled locks that concealed the prisoner's features, and scanning every lineament with rapid but intense look, he said, with a quivering voice, which, through emotion, had sunk to a whisper, "You were born in Canada?" "Yes." "Educated in France, at the Royal College of Paris?" "Yes." "You left France to seek your fortune in Louisiana?" "I did." "By heaven, jailer, off with those accursed chains! quick! set those noble limbs free!" And he threw himself sobbing into the arms of the astonished St. Denis, who thought himself the dupe of a dream, but who at last recognized in his liberator one of the companions of his youth, his best early friend, the Marquis de Larnage, who, with some other young Frenchmen, had entered into the Spanish army, and who had risen to be the Viceroy's favorite aid-de‑camp. What a dramatic scene! And would not this incident of Louisianian history be welcomed on the stage by an American audience!
What a change! Here we are in the gorgeous halls of Montezuma, where the barbaric splendor of the Aztec emperors has been improved by the more correct and tasteful application of Spanish magnificence: there is a festival at the place of the Viceroy:—
Noble and beautiful dames! — Silk, brocade, and diamonds! — Gentlemen of high birth — renowned soldiers — glittering uniforms, studded with stars and other decorations — breasts scarred with wounds — brains teeming with aspirations — grave magistrates — sage councillors — subtle diplomatists — scheming heads! What subjects for observation! The walls are alive with paintings which court the eye, or ornamented with mirrors which multiply the reflected beauty of the glorious pageantry. Now and then, scions of the greatest houses of Spain; younger sons, that had been sent to Mexico to better their fortunes; men whose names, when pronounced, sound like a trumpet inciting to heroic exploits, would make their appearance, and to let them pass, the crowd of brilliant guests would reverentially open their ranks. Such is the involuntary respect paid, mechanically as it were, to those who carry round their foreheads the agglomerated rays derived, through the magnifying focus of one thousand years, from the historical distinction of a long, uninterrupted line of illustrious ancestors!
Suddenly, the large folding doors of an inner apartment are thrown open, and the Viceroy is seen at table, with a few favored and envied guests, enjoying the delicacies of the most gorgeous banquet. What an accumulated treasure of gold and silver, under every form that convivial imagination can fancy, and in the shape of plates, dishes, chandeliers, and every sort of admirably chiseled vases! But who is that noble-looking cavalier on the right-hand side of the Viceroy? Can it be St. Denis, the late tenant of a gloomy jail? It is. Presented by his friend, the aid-de‑camp, to the representative of the Majesty of Spain, to the Duke of Linares, p175 he has become such a favorite that his daily and constant attendance is required at court. Nay, the affection which the Viceroy had conceived for St. Denis, had so grown upon that nobleman, that he had insisted upon the young Frenchmen being lodged inside the palace, where every favor was at his command. The whole city of Mexico had been convulsed with astonishment at the unexpected turn of fortune, which was the lot of the foreign adventurer. Marvelous, indeed, and inexplicable did the fascination exercised by St. Denis on the Viceroy seem to the multitude! Instead of attributing it, perhaps to its true cause, to the congenial affinity of mind to mind, and of heart to heart, they indulged in a thousand wild conjectures. At last, these surmises had settled in the belief that St. Denis had saved the life of the Viceroy, in a nocturnal adventure. It was positively ascertained, however, that St. Denis, a short time after his liberation, passing in a secluded street, heard the clashing of swords. Rushing to the spot from which the noise of the conflict came, he saw a man with a mask on his face, and with his back to the wall of a house, who was sorely pressed by three other men, masked also, who were attacking him with the weaker party, and put to flight the cowardly assassins. He never said to whom he had rendered such an eminent service, and if he knew —
— "He shunned to show,
As hardly worth a stranger's care to know;
If still more prying such inquiry grew,
His brow fell darker, and his words more few."
His secret died with him!
Amid all the festivities of the vice-regal court, St. Denis had but one thought, one aspiration, that of returning to his lady love, and to his friend Jallot. He p176 had even refused the most brilliant proposals from the Viceroy, such as a high grade in the Spanish army, saying, "I can serve but one God and one king. I am a Frenchman, and highly as I esteem the Spaniards, I can not become one." "But," replied the Viceroy, "you are already half a Spaniard, for you have confessed to me that you love a Spanish maid." "True," observed St. Denis, "but it is not certain that I can marry her, because I consider her father's consent as doubtful." "Well, then, accept my offers," exclaimed the Viceroy, "and I pledge my knightly word to remove every obstacle that may lie in your way." St. Denis expressed his thanks, as one overwhelmed with gratitude at such kindness, but could not be shaken from his determination. "At least," continued the Viceroy, "do me one favor. Do not depart now. Take two months for reflection on what you reject. When this delay shall have expired, I will again put this question to you — will you attach yourself to my person, and transfer your allegiance from the Bourbons of France to the Bourbons of Spain?" The two months rapidly flew by, and the chivalric St. Denis remained firm to his purpose. "To lose such a man as you are," said the Viceroy, "is a serious trial to me, but I admire, even in its exaggeration, the sentiment by which you are actuated. Farewell, then, and may God bless you and yours forever. My last hope is, that Doña Maria will induce you to adopt New Spain for your country. With regard to the commercial relations, which, in the name of the governor of Louisiana, you have asked me to permit between that province and those of my government, tell him that it is not in my power to accede to his propositions." The preparations of St. Denis for his departure were not of long duration, for the lady of his heart beckoned to him from the walls of the Presidio del p177 Norte. The Viceroy presented him with a large sum in gold, which, he graciously said, was intended to pay for his wedding expenses. He also sent him, for his journey, a superb Andalusian steed, ordering at the same time that he should be escorted by an officer and two dragoons from the city of Mexico to Caouis.
On the forced departure of St. Denis for the city of Mexico, Jallot had been set at liberty, and had ever since remained at Caouis waiting for the decision of the fate of St. Denis. He was known to be a physician, and as he was the only one within a radius of •one hundred miles, he was soon in full practice. In the course of a few months, he had performed so many cures and rendered so many services, that he was looked upon as something almost supernatural. One day, he was summoned to the house of the governor, Don Gaspardo Anaya, whither he went with such a grim smile as clearly indicated that his feelings were in a violent state of excitement. He examined with the most minute care the body of that dignitary, and on his being asked his opinion on the situation of his patient, he went into the most luminous exposition of his disease, and declared that if a certain operation, which he described with much apparent gusto, was not performed, the sick man would certainly die within one month. "Well then," said the governor, "go on with the operation, as soon as you please." "It shall never please me," cried Jallot, in a voice of thunder; and shaking his fist at the enemy of St. Denis, whom, in his turn, he had now in his power, he doggedly withdrew from the house of the infuriated governor. Remonstrances, entreaties, large offerings of money, threats, could not bring him back. At last, the governor swore that he would hang Jallot, and sent some soldiers to arrest him. But the people, who loved Jallot, and feared being deprived p178 of his invaluable services, rose upon the soldiery, beat them off, and proclaimed that they would hang the governor himself, if he persisted in his intention of hanging Jallot. Matters were in this ticklish situation, when St. Denis returned to Caouis.
In company with his friend Jallot, who was almost distracted with joy at his safe return, St. Denis immediately waited upon the governor, to whom he communicated a letter patent, by which the Viceroy gave authority to St. Denis to inflict upon Anaya, for his abuse of power, any punishment which he might think proper, provided it stopped short of death. The terror of the governor may easily be conceived, but after enjoying his enemy's confusion for a short time, St. Denis tore to pieces the Viceroy's letter, and retired, leaving the culprit, whom he despised, to the castigation of heaven and to the stings of his own conscience. He did more: he had the generosity to request Jallot to perform the operation which this worthy had hitherto so obstinately refused to do. The surgeon, who was mollified by his friend's return, consented, not however without terrific grumblings, to use his surgical skill to relieve the bed-ridden governor, and he admirably succeeded in the difficult operation upon which the fate of his patient depended. But he peremptorily and contemptuously refused the fee that was tendered him, and informed the governor, face to face, and with his roughest tone, that he deserved no remuneration for the cure, because he had saved his life merely out of spite, and under the firm conviction that he would ere long die on the gallows.
Let us now rapidly proceed with St. Denis from Caouis to the Presidio del Norte. There he found a great change;— not that the lady of his love was not as true and as beautiful as ever, but the place looked p179 lonesome and desolate. The five Indian villages which formed a sort of belt around the Presidio, at a short distance from its walls, were deserted. A gloomy cloud had settled over the spot which he had known so brisk and thriving:— and Villescas told him, with the greatest consternation, that the Indians had withdrawn on account of their having been molested by the Spaniards, who used to go to their villages, and there commit every sort of outrage; that he confessed he was much to be blamed for not having checked sooner the disorderly practices of his subordinates; and that if the Indians persisted in their intention of removing away to distant lands, the government at Mexico, whose settled policy it was to conciliate the frontier Indians, would be informed of what had happened, and would certainly visit him with punishment for official misconduct, negligence or dereliction of duty. "I will run after the fugitives," exclaimed St. Denis, "and use my best efforts to bring them back." "Do so," replied the old man, "and if you succeeded, there is nothing in my power, which I can refuse you." On hearing these words, which made his heart thrill, as it were with an electric shock, St. Denis vaulted on his good Andalusian steed, and started full speed in the direction the Indians had taken. He was followed, far behind, by Jallot, who came trotting along, as fast as he could, on a restive, capricious, ill-looking little animal, for whom he had perversely conceived the greatest affection, perhaps on account of his bad qualities.
The Indians, encumbered with women and children, had been progressing very slowly, with the heavy baggage they were carrying with them, and St. Denis had not traveled long before he discovered from the top of a hill, the moving train; he waved a white flag and redoubled his speed; the Indians stopped and tarried for p180 his approach. When he came up to them, they formed a dense circle around him, and silently waited for his communication. "My friends!" said St. Denis, "I am sent by the governor of the Presidio del Norte, to tell you that he pleads guilty to his red children; he confesses that you have been long laboring under grievances which he neglected to redress, and that you have been frequently oppressed by those whom it was his duty to keep in the straight path of rectitude. This is a frank avowal, as you see. With regard to the governor himself, you know that he has always been kind and upright, and that, personally and intentionally, he has never wronged any one of you: the old chief has been too weak with his own people — that is all you can say against him. But now, he pledges his faith that no Spaniard shall be allowed to set his foot in your villages without your express consent, and that every sort of protection which you may claim shall be extended over your tribe. Do not, therefore, be obstinate, my friends, and do not keep shut the gates of your hearts, when the pale-faced chief, with his gray hairs, knocks for admittance, but let his words of repentance fall upon your souls, like a refreshing dew, and revive your drooping attachment for him. Do not give up your hereditary hunting-grounds, the cemeteries of your forefathers, and your ancestral villages, with rash precipitancy. Whither are you going? Your native soil does not stick to your feet, and it is the only soil which is always pleasant; and the wheat which grows upon it, is the only grain that will give you tasteful bread; and the sun which shines upon it, is the only sun whose rays do not scorch; and the refreshing showers which fall upon its bosom would elsewhere be impure and brackish water. You do not know what bitter weeds grow in the path of the stranger! You do not know p181 how heavily the air he breathes weighs on his lungs in distant lands! And what distant lands will you be permitted to occupy, without fighting desperate battles with the nations upon whose territory you will have trespassed? When you will be no longer protected by the Spaniards, how will you resist the incessant attacks of the ferocious Comanches, who carry so far and wide their predatory expeditions? Thus, my friends, the evils you are running to are certain, and behind them, lie concealed in ambush still greater ones, which the keenest eye among you can not detect. But what have you to fear, if you return to your deserted villages? There, it is true, you will meet some old evils, but you are accustomed to them. That is one advantage; and, besides, you are given the assurance that to many of them a remedy will be applied. Why not make the experiment, and see how it will work? But if you persist in going away, and if you fare for the worse, your situation will be irretrievable. On the other hand, if you return, as I advise you, should the governor of the Presidio not keep his word, and should you not be satisfied, it will always be time enough to resume your desperate enterprise of emigration."
This was the substance of what St. Denis told his red auditory, and the Indians, who, perhaps, were beginning to regret the step they had taken, spontaneously marched back, with St. Denis riding triumphantly at their head. They soon met Jallot, jogging along with impatience, cursing and spurring his favorite with desperate energy. When he saw that St. Denis, about whom he was extremely uneasy, was safe, and had succeeded so well in his embassy, he gave a shout which made the welkin ring; but he was so astonished at his own doing, and at the unusual sound which had so strangely issued from his throat, that he looked round p182 like a man who was not very sure of his own identity. Those who knew him well remained convinced that this shout had settled in his mind as the most extraordinary event of his life.
Now all is joy again at the Presidio, and the smile of contentment has lighted up the face of the country for miles around. From the Spanish battlements banners wave gayly, the cannons crack their sides with innocent roaring, muskets are discharged in every direction, but from their tubes there do not sally any murderous balls; the whole population, white and red, is dressed in its best apparel; whole sheep, oxen and buffaloes are roasted in the Homeric style; immense tables are spread in halls, bowers, and under shady trees; whole casks of Spanish wines and of the Mexican pulque are broached; the milk and honey of the land flow with unrestrained abundance; the Indians shout, dance, and cut every sort of antics. Well may all rejoice, for it is the wedding-day of St. Denis and Doña Maria! Here the long and beautiful procession which is slowly moving to the rustic parochial church, might be described with some effect, but I leave the task to future novel writers. I now dismiss this episode, and only regret that I have not done it the justice which it deserves. Let me add, however, that, after an absence of two years, St. Denis, having returned to Mobile with Don Juan de Villescas, the uncle of his wife, was appointed, in reward for the discharge of his perilous mission, a captain in the French army.
On the recommendation of Crozat, another undertaking was made to open commercial relations with the Spanish provinces of Mexico. Three Canadians, Deléry, Lafrénière and Beaujeu, were intrusted with a considerable amount of merchandise, went up Red River, and endeavored to reach the province of Nuevo Leon, p183 through Texas;— but this attempt was as unsuccessful as the one made by St. Denis.
On the 9th of March, 1717, three ships belonging to Crozat arrived with three companies of infantry and fifty colonists, with De l'Epinay, the new governor, and Hubert, the king's commissary. L'Epinay brought to Bienville the decoration of the cross of St. Louis, and a royal patent, conceding to him, by mean tenure in soccage, Horn Island, on the coast of the present State of Alabama. Bienville had demanded in vain that it be erected in his favor into a noble fief.
Hardly had L'Epinay landed, when he disagreed with Bienville, and the colony was again distracted by two factions, with L'Epinay on one side and Bienville on the other. There were not at that time in Louisiana more than seven hundred souls, including the military; and thus far, the efforts of Crozat to increase the population had proved miserably abortive. In vain had his agents resorted to every means in their power, to trade with the Spanish provinces, either by land or by sea, either legally or illegally;— several millions' worth of merchandise which he had sent to Louisiana, with the hope of their finding their way to Mexico, had been lost for want of a market. In vain also had expensive researches been made for mines and pearl fisheries. As to the trading in furs with the Indians, it hardly repaid the cost of keeping factories among them. Thus, all the schemes of Crozat had failed. The miserable European population, scattered over Louisiana, was opposed to his monopoly, and contributed, as much as they could, to defeat his plans. As to the officers, they were too much engrossed by their own interest and too intent upon their daily quarrels, to mind any thing else. There was but one thing which, to the despairing Crozat, p184 seemed destined to thrive in Louisiana — that was, the spirit of discord.
In the beginning of the month of August, 1717, Crozat, finding that under the new governor, L'Epinay, things were likely to move as lamely as before, addressed to the king a petition, in which he informed his Majesty, that his strength was not equal to the enterprise he had undertaken, and that he felt himself rapidly sinking under the weight which rested on his shoulders, and from which he begged his Majesty to relieve him. On the 13th of the same month, the Prince of Bourbon and Marshal D'Estrées accepted, in the name of the king, Crozat's proposition to give up the charter which he had obtained under the preceding reign.
Against his adverse fate Crozat had struggled for five years, but his efforts had been gradually slackening, in proportion with the declining health of his daughter. The cause of his gigantic enterprise had not escaped her penetration, and she had even extorted from him a full confession on the subject. In the first two years of her father's quasi sovereignty over Louisiana, she had participated in the excitement of the paternal breast, and had been buoyed up by hope. But although her father tried, with the utmost care, to conceal from her the ill success of his operations, she soon discovered enough to sink her down to a degree of despair, sufficient to undermine in her, slowly but surely, the frail foundations of life; and when Crozat, losing all courage, abandoned to the tossing waves of adversity the ship in which he had embarked the fortune of his house, his daughter could hardly be called a being of this world. On the very day that he had resigned the charter on which reposed such ambitious hopes, and had come back, broken-hearted, to his desolate home, he was impressing a kiss on his daughter's pale forehead, and pressing her p185 attenuated hands within his convulsive ones, when her soul suddenly disengaged itself from her body, carrying away the last paternal embrace to the foot of the Almighty's throne.
Crozat laid her gently back on the pillow from which she had half risen, smoothed her clothes, joined her fingers as it were in prayer, and sleeked her hair with the palm of his hands, behaving apparently with the greatest composure. Not a sound of complaint, not shriek of anguish was heard from him: his breast did not become convulsed with sobs; not a muscle moved in his face. He looked as if he had been changed into a statue of stone: his rigid limbs seemed to move automaton-like; his eyeballs became fixed in their sockets, and his eyelids lost their power of contraction. Calmly, but with an unearthly voice, he gave all the necessary orders for the funeral of his daughter, and even went into the examination of the most minute details of these melancholy preparations. Those who saw him, said that he looked like a dead man performing with unconscious regularity all the functions of life. It was so appalling, that his servants and the few attending friends who had remained attached to his falling fortune, receded with involuntary shudder from his approach, and from the touch of his hand; it was so icy cold! At last the gloomy procession reached the solemn place of repose. The poor father had followed it on foot, with his hand resting on his daughter's coffin, as if afraid that what remained of the being he had loved so ardently might flee away from him. When the tomb was sealed, he waved away the crowd. They dared not disobey when such grief spoke, and Crozat remained alone. For a while he stood staring, as in a trance, at his daughter's tomb: then, a slight twitch of the muscles of his face, and a convulsive quiver of the p186 lips might have been seen. Sensibility had returned! He sunk on his knees, and from those eyes, so long dry, there descended, as from a thunder-cloud, a big heavy drop, on the cold sepulchral marble. It was but one solitary tear, the condensed essence of such grief as the human body can not bear; and as this pearly fragment of the dew of mortal agony fell down on the daughter's sepulchre, the soul of the father took its flight to heaven. Crozat was no more!
"My task is done — my song hath ceased — my theme
Has died into an echo: it is fit
The spell should break of this protracted dream —
The torch shall be extinguished which hath lit
My midnight lamp — and what is writ, is writ, —
Would it were worthier! But I am not now
That which I have been — and my visions flit
Less palpably before me — and the glow,
Which in my spirit dwelt, is fluttering, faint and low."
"Farewell! a word that must be, and hath been —
A sound which makes us linger — yet — farewell!"
Note.º— Crozat died in 1738, at the age of eighty-three. He had several sons and one daughter, Marie Anne Crozat, who married Le Comte D'Evreux. I hope I shall be forgotten for having slightly deviated from historical truth in the preceding pages with regard to particulars which I deemed of no importance. For instance, I changed the name of Crozat's daughter. Why? Perhaps it was owing to some capricious whim — perhaps there is to me some spell in the name of Andrea.
a Gayarré is, as elsewhere, pushing a point here. The climacteric years, in ancient astrology and medicine, were those viewed as turning points; medically, therefore, they were often also viewed as dangerous. It is usually stated that there were two series of climacterics, based on the numbers 7 and 9: years divisible by either of these numbers were climacterics. In practice, the 7‑based series was by far the more important, the Great Climacteric being, logically enough, in a person's 63rd year. At any rate, while the 54th year is technically a climacteric — along with twenty-three other years in the first century of our lives — it was not considered to have been of any real importance or danger.
For a masterly debunking of the whole climacterical scheme, at great length and in the most beautiful English prose, see Sir Thomas Browne's chapter on the subject: Vulgar Errors, IV.12.
b Crozat was right, of course: his inductive logic was faultless, as one might expect from a Frenchman. By the time Gayarré was writing, in the mid‑19c, ships were routinely running up the great river to all these tributaries; and man bit his first slice off the moon with the Surveyor 3 mission in April, 1967.
c He is often referred to, by an alternate translation, as Tattooed Serpent.
e Gayarré's suggestion was eventually taken up, and the tale written, by a student of his; incorporating a long section of Pennicaut's diary, the main source document for it: Grace King's account is online on this site.
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