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in a victory for which the French were to pay dearly in future days, at the hands of their now vanquished foes. With the dawn of the next day the victors began their retreat. A few days of rapid paddling brought them to the Richelieu. Here they separated, the Hurons and Algonquins returning to their homes by way of the Ottowa, the Montagnais, who dwelt in the vicinity of Quebec, accompanying Champlain to his new-built city.
The Iroquois, however, were not the men to be quelled by a single defeat. In June of the ensuing year a war-party of them advanced to the mouth of the Richelieu, and a second fierce battle took place. As another vivid example of the character of Indian warfare, the story of this conflict may be added to that already given.
On an island in the St. Lawrence near the mouth of the Richelieu was gathered a horde of Montagnais Indians, Champlain and others of the whites being with them. A war-party of Algonquins was expected, and busy preparations were being made for feast and dance, in order that they might be received with due honor. In the midst of this festal activity an event occurred that suddenly changed thoughts of peace to those of war. At a distance on the stream appeared a single canoe, approaching as rapidly as strong arms could drive it through the water. On coming near, its inmates called out loudly that the Algonquins were in the forest, engaged in battle with a hundred Iroquois, who, outnumbered, were fighting from behind a barricade of trees which they had hastily erected.
In an instant the air was filled with deafening cries. Tidings of battle were to the Indians like a fresh scent to hounds of the chase. The Montagnais flew to their canoes, and paddled with frantic haste to the opposite shore, loudly calling on Champlain and his fellow-whites to follow. They obeyed, crossing the stream in canoes. As the shore was reached the warriors flung down their paddles, snatched up their weapons, and darted into the woods with such speed that the Frenchmen found it impossible to keep them in sight. It was a hot and oppressive day; the air was filled with mosquitoes,—“so thick," says Champlain,“ that we could hardly draw breath, and it was wonderful how cruelly they persecuted us,”— their route lay through swampy soil, where the water at places stood knee-deep; over fallen logs, wet and slimy, and under entangling vines; their heavy armor added to their discomfort; the air was close and heavy; altogether it was a progress fit to make one sicken of warfare in the wilderness. After struggling onward till they were almost in despair, they saw two Indians in the distance, and by vigorous shouts secured their aid as guides to the field of battle.
An instinct seemed to guide the savages through that dense and tangled forest. In a short time they led the laboring whites to a point where the wood. land grew thinner, and within hearing of the wild war-whoops of the combatants. Soon they emerged into a partial clearing, which had been made by the axes of the Iroquois in preparing their breastwork of defence. Champlain gazed upon the scene before him with wondering eyes. In front was a circular barricade, composed of trunks of trees, boughs, and matted twigs, behind which the Iroquois stood like tigers at bay. In the edge of the forest around were clustered their yelling foes, screaming shrill defiance, yet afraid to attack, for they had already been driven back with severe loss. Their hope now lay in their white allies, and when they saw Champlain and his men a yell arose that rent the air, and a cloud of winged arrows was poured into the woodland fort. The beleaguered Iroquois replied with as fierce a shout, and with a better-aimed shower of arrows. At least Champlain had reason to think so, for one of these stone-headed darts split his ear, and tore a furrow through the muscles of his neck. One of his men received a similar wound.
Furious with pain, Champlain, secure in his steel armor, rushed to the woodland fort, followed by his men, and discharged their arquebuses through its crevices upon the dismayed savages within, who, wild with terror at this new and deadly weapon, flung themselves flat upon the earth at each report.
At each moment the scene of war grew more animated. The assailing Indians, yelling in triumph, ran up under cover of their large wooden shields, and began to tug at the trees of the barricade, while others of them gathered thickly in the bushes for the final onset. And now, from the forest depths, came hurrying to the scene a new party of French allies,-a boat's crew of fur-traders, who had heard the firing and flown with warlike eagerness to take part in the fight.
The bullets of these new assailants added to the terror of the Iroquois. They writhed and darted to and fro to escape the leaden missiles that tore through their frail barricade. At a signal from Champlain the allies rushed from their leafy covert, flew to the breastwork, tore down or clambered over the boughs, and precipitated themselves into the fort, while the French ceased their firing and led a party of Indians to the assault on the opposite side.
The howls of defiance, screams of pain, deafening war-whoops, and dull sound of deadly blows were now redoubled. Many of the Iroquois stood their ground, hewing with tomahawks and war-clubs, and dying not unrevenged. Some leaped the barrier, and were killed by the crowd outside ; others sprang into the river and were drowned; of them all not one escaped, and at the end of the conflict but fifteen remained alive, prisoners in the hands of their deadly foes, destined victims of torture and flame.
On the next day a large party of Hurons arrived, and heard with envy the story of the fight, in which they were too late to take part. The forest and river shore were crowded with Indian huts. Hun. dreds of warriors assembled, who spent the day in wild war-dances and songs, then loaded their canoes and paddled away in triumph to their homes, without a thought of following up their success and striking yet heavier blows upon their dreaded enemy. Even Champlain, who was versed in civilized warfare, made no attempt to lead them to an invasion of the Iroquois realm. He did not dream of the deadly reprisal which the now defeated race would exact for this day of disaster.
Of the further doings of Champlain we shall relate but one incident,—a thrilling adventure which he tells of his being lost in the interminable woodland depths. Year after year he continued his explorations; now voyaging far up the Ottawa; now reaching the mighty inland sea of Lake Huron, voyaging upon its waters, and visiting the Indian villages upon its shores; now again battling with the Iroquois, who, this time, drove their assailants in baffled confusion from their fort; now joining an Indian hunting party, and taking part with them in their annual deer-hunt. For this they constructed two lines of posts interlaced with boughs, each more than balf a mile long, and converging to a point where a strong enclosure was built. The hunters drove the deer before them into this enclosure, where others despatched them with spears and arrows. It was during this expedition that the incident referred to took place.
Champlain had gone into the forest with the hunters. Here he saw a bird new to him, and wbose brilliant hue and strange shape struck him with surprise and admiration. It was, to judge from his description, a red-headed woodpecker. Bent on possessing this winged marvel, he pursued it, gun in hand. From bough to bough, from tree to tree, the bird flitted onward, leading the unthinking hunter step by step deeper into the wilderness. Then, when he surely thought to capture his prize, the luring wonder took wing and vanished in the forest depths.
Disappointed, Champlain turned to seek his friends. But in what direction should he go? The day was