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again swept the diminutive squadron, the shallop outsailing the canoes, and making its way up the Richelieu, Champlain being too ardent with the fever of discovery to await the slow work of the paddles. He had not, however, sailed far up that forest-enclosed stream before unwelcome sounds came to his ears. The roar of rushing and tumbling waters sounded through the still air. And now, through the screen of leaves, came a vision of snowy foam and the flash of leaping waves. The Indians had lied to him. They had promised him an unobstructed route to the great lake ahead, and here already were rapids in his path.
How far did the obstruction extend ? That must be learned. Leaving the shallop, he set out with part of his men to explore the wilds. It was no easy journey. Tangled vines, dense thickets, swampy recesses crossed the way. Here lay half-decayed tree-trunks; there beaps of rocks lifted their mossy tops in the path. And ever, as they went, the roar of the rapids followed, while through the foliage could be seen the hurrying waters, pouring over rocks, stealing amid drift-logs, eddying in chasms, and shooting in white lines of foam along every open space.
Was this the open river of which he had been told; this the ready route to the great lake beyond ? In anger and dismay, Champlain retraced his steps, to find, when he reached the shallop, that the canoes of the savages had come up, and now filled the stream around it. The disappointed adventurer did not hesitate to tell them that they had lied to him; but he went on to say that though they had broken their word he would keep hiş. In truth, the vision of the mighty lake, with its chain of islands, its fertile shores, and bordering forests, of which they had told him, rose alluringly before his eyes, and with all the ardor of the pioneer he was determined to push onward into that realm of the unknown.
But their plans must be changed. Nine of the men were sent back to Quebec with the shallop. Champlain, with two others, determined to proceed in the Indian canoes. At his command the warriors lifted their light boats from the water, and bore them on their shoulders over the difficult portage past the rapids, to the smooth stream above. Here, launching them again, the paddles once more broke the placid surface of the stream, and onward they went, still through the primeval forest, which stretched away in an unbroken expanse of green.
It was a virgin solitude, unmarked by habitation, destitute of human inmate, abundant with game; for it was the debatable land between warring tribes, traversed only by hostile bands, the battleground of Iroquois and Algonquin hordes. None could dwell here in safety; even hunting-parties had to be constantly prepared for war. Through this region of blood and terror the canoes made their way, now reduced to twenty-four in number, manned by sixty warriors and three white allies. The advance was made with great caution, for danger was in the air. Scouts were sent in advance through the forests; others were thrown out on the flanks and rear, hunting for game as they went; for the store of pounded and parched maize which the warriors had brought with them was to be kept for food when the vicinity of the foe should render hunting impossible.
The scene that night, as described by Champlain, was one to be remembered. The canoes were drawn up closely, side by side. Active life pervaded the chosen camp. Here some gathered dry wood for their fires; there others stripped off sheets of bark, to cover their forest wigwams; yonder the sound of axes was followed by the roar of falling trees. The savages had steel axes, obtained from the French, and, with their aid, in two hours a strong defensive work, constructed of the felled trunks, was built, a half-circle in form, with the river at its two ends.
This was the extent of their precautions. The returning scouts reported that the forest in advance was empty of foes. The tawny host cast themselves in full security on the grassy soil, setting no guards, and were soon lost in slumber, with that blind trust in fortune which has ever been one of the weak features of Indian warfare.
They had not failed, however, to consult their oracles, those spirits which the medicine-man was looked upon as an adept at invoking, and whose counsel was ever diligently sought by the superstitious natives. The conjurer crept within his skincovered lodge, where, crouched upon the earth, he filled the air with inarticulate invocations to the surrounding spirits; while outside, squatted on the ground, the dusky auditors looked and listened with
awe, Suddenly the lodge began to rock violently, by the power of the spirits, as the Indians deemed, though Champlain fancied that the arm of the medicine-man was the only spirit at work. “Look on the peak of the lodge,” whispered the
“ You will see fire and smoke rise into the air." Champlain looked, but saw nothing.
The medicine-man by this time had worked himself into convulsions. He called loudly upon the spirit in an unknown language, and was answered in squeaking tones like those of a young puppy. This powerful spirit was deemed to be present in the form of a stone. When the conjurer reappeared his body streamed with perspiration, while the story he had to tell promised an auspicious termination of the enterprise.
This was not the only performance of the warriors. There was another of a more rational character. Bundles of sticks were collected by the leading chief, which he stuck in the earth in a fixed order, calling each by the name of some warrior, the taller ones representing the chiefs. The arrangement of the sticks indicated the plan of battle. Each warrior was to occupy the position indicated by his special stick. The savages gathered closely round, intently studied the plan, then formed their ranks in accordance therewith, broke them, reformed them, and continued the process with a skill and alacrity that surprised and pleased their civilized observer.
With the early morning light they again advanced, following the ever-widening stream, in whose midst