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quench the ardor of the missionaries. Not at all! They pressed forward anew.
While the savage nations were carrying on cruel wars one with another, and converting all the paths through the forest of the West into paths of death, the Bishop of Quebec, Francis de Laval, was animated by the desire of conveying the doctrines of peace to the shores of the Great River. He desired to go himself; but the lot fell on René Mesnard. Every personal consideration seemed to retain him at Quebec, but powerful instincts urged him to risk his life in the enterprise. He was already old when he entered on the path still red with the blood of his prede
“In three or four months,” wrote he to a friend, on his journey, “and you may add my name to those of the dead.''
He went, never again to return. Afar off in the wilderness of the West, while his attendant was one day occupied in the transport of a boat, he entered a forest and was never more seen: his cassock and breviary were long retained as amulets among the Sioux! Another missionary was killed by the arrows of the Indians during a fight between two hostile tribes.
It is a refreshment to turn from these bloody and cruel scenes,
which marked the first introduction of Christianity by Europe into the West, to the idyllian and peaceful episode of the Jesuit missionary, Marquette, and his labors amid those savage, warlike Indian tribes. It is like a sunbeam between thunder-clouds.
Already had the indefatigable Father Aloüez visited most of the Indian tribes around Lake Superior, and during two residences among them had taught the Chippewas to chant the Paternoster and Ave Maria, had been invited by the Potawatomies, the worshipers of the sun, to their huts; had smoked the pipe of peace with the Illinois tribes, who told him of their great fields overgrown with tall grass, where troops of wild deer and buffaloes grazed;
he had even met the quarrelsome and mighty Sioux, who lived on wild rice, covered their huts with skins of animals instead of bark, and dwelt upon the prairie near the Great River, which they called Messipi.
Marquette determined to discover and sail down the Great River.
He had gathered around him the remains of the Huron nation, and settled down with them on the shores of Lake Michigan, where there was abundance of fish. There they built themselves huts.
It was from this place that Marquette, accompanied by a Frenchman named Joliet, and a young Indian of the Illinois tribe as guide, set forth on his journey of discovery. The French intendant of Canada, Talon, favored Marquette's enterprise, wishing to ascertain whether the banner of France could be carried down the Great River as far as the Pacific Ocean, or planted side by side with that of Spain on the Gulf of Mexico.
Marquette sought by his journey the honor of a higher master than an earthly sovereign : “I shall gladly lay down
my life for the salvation of souls," said he, in answer to a messenger of the Potawatomies, who warned him " that these distant nations never spared strangers; that their mutual wars filled the shores with warriors; and that the Great River abounded with monsters which devoured both men and canoes; and that the excessive heat was mortal.” And on hearing his reply, the children of the wilderness united with him in prayer for his preservation.
“At the last village on Fox River ever visited by the French,” using the words of Bancroft the historian, for I can not have a better guide, “where Kickapoos, Mascoutins, and Miamis dwelt together on a beautiful hill, in the centre of the prairies and magnificent groves that extended as far as the eye could reach, and where Aloüez had already raised the cross, which the savages ornamented with
brilliant skins and crimson belts, a thanksgiving offering to the great Manitou, the ancients assembled in council to receive the pilgrims.
My companion,' said Marquette, 'is an envoy of France to discover new countries, and I am embassador from God to enlighten them with the Gospel ;' and offer. ing presents, he begged two guides for the morrow. The wild men answered courteously, and gave in return a mat, to serve as a couch during the long voyage.
“Behold then, in 1673, on the 10th of June, the meek, single-hearted, unpretending, illustrious Marquette, with Joliet for his associate, five Frenchmen as his companions, and two Algonquins as guides, lifting their canoes on their backs, and walking across the narrow portage that divides the Fox River from the Wisconsin. They reach the water-shed; uttering a special prayer to the immaculate Virgin, they leave the streams that, flowing onward, could have borne their greetings to the castle of Quebec; already they stand by the Wisconsin.
• The guides returned,' says the gentle Marquette, leaving us alone, in this unknown land, in the hands of Providence.'
“France and Christianity stood in the valley of the Mississippi.
“Embarking on the broad Wisconsin, the discoverers as they sailed west went solitarily down the stream, between alternate prairies and hill-sides, beholding neither man nor the wonted beasts of the forests. No sound broke the appalling silence, but the ripple of their canoe and the lowing of the buffalo. In seven days they entered happily the Great River with a joy that could not be expressed ;' and the two birch-bark canoes, raising their happy sails under new skies and to unknown breezes, floated down the calm magnificence of the ocean stream over the broad, clear sand-bars, the resort of innumerable water-fowl; gliding past islets that swelled from the bosom of the stream, with their tufts of massive thickets, and
between the wide plains of Illinois and Iowa, all garlanded with majestic forests, or checkered by island groves and the open vastness of the prairie,
“About sixty leagues below the mouth of the Wisconsin, the western bank of the Mississippi bore on its sands the trail of men; a little foot-path was discerned leading into a beautiful prairie, and, leaving the canoes, Joliet and Marquette resolved alone to brave a meeting with the savages. After walking six miles they beheld a village on the banks of a river, and two others on a slope at a distance of a mile and a half from the first. The river was the Meu-in-gou-e-na, or Moingona, of which we have corrupted the name into Des Moines. Marquette and Joliet were the first white men who trod the soil of Iowa. Commending themselves to God, they uttered a loud cry. The Indians hear; four old men advance slowly to meet them, bearing the peace-pipe, brilliant with many-colored plumes.
"We are Illinois,' said they ; that is, when translated, we are men; and they offered the calumet. An aged chief received them at his cabin with upraised hands, exclaiming, "How beautiful is the sun, Frenchman, when thou comest to visit us! Our whole village awaits thee; thou shalt enter in peace into all our dwellings.'
“At the great council, Marquette published to them the one true God, their Creator. He spoke also of the great captain of the French, the governor of Canada, who had chastised the Five Nations and commanded peace; and he questioned them respecting the Mississippi, and the tribes that possessed its banks. For the messengers who announced the subjection of the Iroquois, a magnificent festival was prepared of hominy and fish, and the choicest viands from the prairies.
“After six days' festivities among these wild people, the little band proceeded onward. "I did not fear death, said Marquette; “I should have esteemed it the greatest happiness to have died for the glory of God.'
“They passed the perpendicular rocks, which wore the appearance of monsters; they heard at a distance the noise of the waters of the Missouri, known to them by its Algonquin name of Pekitanoni; and when they came to the most beautiful confluence of rivers in the world, where the swifter Missouri rushes like a conqueror, into the calmer Mississippi, dragging it, as it were, hastily to the sea, the good Marquette resolved in his heart one day to ascend the mighty river to its source; to cross the ridge that divides the oceans, and, descending a westerly flowing stream, to publish the Gospel to all the people of this New World.
“In a little less than forty leagues the canoes floated past the Ohio, which was then and long afterward called the Wabash. Its banks were tenanted by numerous villages of the peaceful Shawnees, who quailed under the incursions of the Iroquois.
“The thick canes began to appear so close and strong that the buffalo could not break through them, and the insects became intolerable. The prairies vanished, and forests of white wood, admirable for their vastness and height, crowded even to the skirts of the pebbly shore. It was also observed that, in the land of the Chickasaws, the Indians had guns.
“They reached the village of Mitchigamea, in a region which had not been visited by Europeans since the days of De Soto. Now,' thought Marquette, 'we must indeed ask the aid of the Virgin. Armed with bows and arrows, with clubs, axes, and bucklers, amid continual whoops, the natives, bent on war, embarked in vast canoes made out of the trunks of hollow trees; but at the sight of the mysterious peace-pipe held aloft, God touched the hearts of the old men, who checked the impetuosity of the young; and, throwing their bows and quivers into the canoes as a token of peace, they prepared a hospitable welcome.'