A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
VOL. XII.—NOVEMBER, 1863.—NO. LXXIII.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1863, by TICKNOR AND FIELDS, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
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THE SPANIARD AND THE HERETIC.
[In the August number of the "Atlantic," under the title of "The Fleur-de-Lis in Florida," will be found a narrative of the Huguenot attempts to occupy that country, which, exciting the jealousy of Spain, gave rise to the crusade whose history is recorded below.]
The monk, the inquisitor, the Jesuit, these were the lords of Spain,—sovereigns of her sovereign, for they had formed and fed the dark and narrow mind of that tyrannical recluse. They had formed and fed the minds of her people, quenched in blood every spark of rising heresy, and given over a noble nation to bigotry, dark, blind, inexorable as the doom of fate. Linked with pride, ambition, avarice, every passion of a rich, strong nature, potent for good and ill, it made the Spaniard of that day a scourge as dire as ever fell on man.
Day was breaking on the world. Light, hope, freedom, pierced with vitalizing ray the clouds and the miasma that hung so thick over the prostrate Middle Age, once noble and mighty, now a foul image of decay and death. Kindled with new life, the nations teemed with a progeny of heroes, and the stormy glories of the sixteenth century rose on awakened Europe. But Spain was the citadel of darkness,—a monastic cell, an inquisitorial dungeon, where no ray could pierce. She was the bulwark of the Church, against whose adamantine front the wrath of innovation beat in vain. In every country of Europe the party of freedom and reform was the national party, the party of reaction and absolutism was the Spanish party, leaning on Spain, looking to her for help. Above all, it was so in France; and while within her bounds there was a semblance of peace, the national and religious rage burst forth on a wilder theatre. Thither it is for us to follow it, where, on the shores of Florida, the Spaniard and the Frenchman, the bigot and the Huguenot, met in the grapple of death.
In a corridor of the Escurial, Philip II. was met by a man who had long stood waiting his approach, and who with proud reverence placed a petition in the hand of the pale and sombre King. The petitioner was Pedro Menendez de Aviles, one of the ablest and most distinguished officers of the Spanish marine. He was born of an ancient Asturian family. His boyhood had been wayward, ungovernable, and fierce. He ran off at eight years of age, and when, after a search of six months, he was found and brought back, he ran off again. This time he was more successful, escaping on board a fleet bound against the Barbary corsairs, when his precocious appetite for blood and blows had reasonable contentment. A few years later, he found means to build a small vessel in which he cruised against the corsairs and the French, and, though still little more than a boy, displayed a singular address and daring. The wonders of the New World now seized his imagination. He made a voyage thither, and the ships under his charge came back freighted with wealth. War with France was then at its height. As captain-general of the fleet, he was sent with troops to Flanders, and to their prompt arrival was due, it is said, the victory of St. Quentin, Two years later, he commanded the luckless armada which bore back Philip to his native shore, and nearly drowned him in a storm off the port of Laredo. This mischance, or his own violence and insubordination, wrought to the prejudice of Menendez. He complained that his services were ill repaid. Philip lent him a favoring ear, and despatched him to the Indies as general of the fleet and army. Here he found means to amass vast riches; and, in 1561, returning to Spain, charges were brought against him of a nature which his too friendly biographer does not explain. The Council of the Indies arrested him. He was imprisoned and sentenced to a heavy fine, but, gaining his release, hastened to Madrid to throw himself on the royal clemency.
His petition was most graciously received. Philip restored his command, but remitted only half his fine, a strong presumption of his guilt.
Menendez kissed the royal hand; he had still a petition in reserve. His son had been wrecked near the Bermudas, and he would fain go thither to find tidings of his fate. The pious King bade him trust in God, and promised that he should be despatched without delay to the Bermudas and to Florida with a commission to make an exact survey of those perilous seas for the profit of future voyagers; but Menendez was ill content with such an errand. He knew, he said, nothing of greater moment to His Majesty than the conquest and settlement of Florida. The climate was healthful, the soil fertile; and, worldly advantages aside, it was peopled by a race sunk in the thickest shades of infidelity. "Such grief," he pursued, "seizes me, when I behold this multitude of wretched Indians, that I should choose the conquest and settling of Florida above all commands, offices, and dignities which your Majesty might bestow." Those who think this hypocrisy do not know the Spaniard of the sixteenth century.
The King was edified by his zeal. An enterprise of such spiritual and temporal promise was not to be slighted, and Menendez was empowered to conquer and convert Florida at his own cost. The conquest was to be effected within three years. Menendez was to take with him five hundred men, and supply them with five hundred slaves, besides horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs. Villages were to be built, with forts to defend them; and sixteen ecclesiastics, of whom four should be Jesuits, were to form the nucleus of a Floridian church. The King, on his part, granted Menendez free trade with Hispaniola, Porto Rico, Cuba, and Spain, the office of Adelantado of Florida for life, joined to the right of naming his successor, and large emoluments to be drawn from the expected conquest.
The compact struck, Menendez hastened to his native Asturias to raise money among his relatives. Scarcely was he gone, when tidings for the first time reached Madrid that Florida was already occupied by a colony of French Protestants, and that a reinforcement, under Ribaut, was on the point of sailing thither. A French historian of high authority declares that these advices came from the Catholic party at the French court, in whom all sense of the national interest and honor was smothered under their hatred of Coligny and the Huguenots. Of this there can be little doubt, though information also came from the buccaneer Frenchmen captured in the West Indies.
Foreigners had invaded the territory of Spain. The trespassers, too, were heretics, foes of God and liegemen of the Devil. Their doom was fixed. But how would France endure an assault, in time of peace, on subjects who had gone forth on an enterprise sanctioned by the crown, undertaken in its name, and under its commission?
The throne of France, where the corruption of the nation seemed gathered to a head, was trembling between the two parties of the Catholics and the Huguenots, whose chiefs aimed at royalty. Flattering both, caressing both, betraying both, playing one against the other, Catherine de Medicis, by a thousand crafty arts and expedients of the moment, sought to retain the crown on the heads of her weak and vicious sons. Of late her crooked policy had drawn her towards the Catholic party, in other words, the party of Spain; and already she had given ear to the savage Duke of Alva, urging her to the course which, seven years later, led to the carnage of St. Bartholomew. In short, the Spanish policy was ascendant, and no thought of the national interest or honor could restrain that basest of courts from consigning by hundreds to the national enemy those whom, itself, it was meditating to immolate by thousands.
Menendez was summoned back in haste to the court. There was counsel, deep and ominous, in the chambers of the Escurial. His force must be strengthened. Three hundred and ninety-four men were added at the royal charge, and a corresponding number of transport and supply ships. It was a holy war, a crusade, and as such was preached by priest and monk along the western coasts of Spain. All the Biscayan ports flamed with zeal, and adventurers crowded to enroll themselves; since to plunder heretics is good for the soul as well as the purse, and broil and massacre have double attraction, when promoted to a means of salvation: a fervor, deep and hot, but not of celestial kindling; nor yet that buoyant and inspiring zeal, which, when the Middle Age was in its youth and prime, glowed in the soul of Tancred, Godfrey, and St. Louis, and which, when its day was long since past, could still find its home in the great heart of Columbus. A darker spirit urged the new crusade,—born, not of hope, but of fear, slavish in its nature, the creature and the tool of despotism. For the typical Spaniard of the sixteenth century was not in strictness a fanatic; he was bigotry incarnate.
Heresy was a plague-spot, an ulcer to be eradicated with fire and the knife, and this foul abomination was infecting the shores which the Vicegerent of Christ had given to the King of Spain, and which the Most Catholic King had given to the Adelantado. Thus would countless heathen tribes be doomed to an eternity of flame, shut out from that saving communion with Holy Church, to which, by the sword and the whip and the fagot, dungeons and slavery, they would otherwise have been mercifully driven, to the salvation of their souls, and the greater glory of God. And, for the Adelantado himself, should the vast outlays, the vast debts, of his bold Floridian venture be all in vain? Should his fortunes be wrecked past redemption through these tools of Satan? As a Catholic, as a Spaniard, as an adventurer, his course was clear. Woe, then, to the Huguenot in the gripe of Pedro Menendez!
But what was the scope of this enterprise, and the limits of the Adelantado's authority? He was invested with power almost absolute, not merely over the peninsula which now retains the name of Florida, but over all North America, from Labrador to Mexico,—for this was the Florida of the old Spanish geographers, and the Florida designated in the commission of Menendez. It was a continent which he was to conquer and occupy out of his own purse. The impoverished King contracted with his daring and ambitious subject to win and hold for him the territory of the future United States and British Provinces. His plan, as subsequently developed and exposed at length in his unpublished letters to Philip II., was, first, to plant a garrison at Port Royal, and next to fortify strongly on Chesapeake Bay, called by him St. Mary's. He believed that this bay was an arm of the sea, running northward and eastward, and communicating with the Gulf of St. Lawrence, thus making New England, with adjacent districts, an island. His proposed fort on the Chesapeake, giving access, by this imaginary passage, to the seas of Newfoundland, would enable the Spaniards to command the fisheries, on which both the French and the English had long encroached, to the great prejudice of Spanish rights. Doubtless, too, these inland waters gave access to the South Sea, and their occupation was necessary to prevent the French from penetrating thither; for that ambitious people, since the time of Cartier, had never abandoned their schemes of seizing this portion of the dominions of the King of Spain. Five hundred soldiers and one hundred sailors must, he urges, take possession, without delay, of Port Royal and the Chesapeake.
Preparation for his enterprise was pushed with a furious energy. His force amounted to two thousand six hundred and forty-six persons, in thirty-four vessels, one of which, the San Pelayo, bearing Menendez himself, was of more than nine hundred tons' burden, and is described as one of the finest ships afloat. There were twelve Franciscans and eight Jesuits, besides other ecclesiastics; and many knights of Galicia, Biscay, and the Asturias bore part in the expedition. With a slight exception, the whole was at the Adelantado's charge. Within the first fourteen months, according to his admirer, Barcia, the adventure cost him a million ducats.
Before the close of the year, Sancho de Arciniega was commissioned to join Menendez with an additional force of fifteen hundred men.
Red-hot with a determined purpose, he would brook no delay. To him, says the chronicler, every day seemed a year. He was eager to anticipate Ribaut, of whose designs and whose force he seems to have been informed to the minutest particular, but whom he hoped to thwart and ruin by gaining Fort Caroline before him. With eleven ships, then, he sailed from Cadiz on the 29th of June, 1565, leaving the smaller vessels of his fleet to follow with what speed they might. He touched first at the Canaries, and on the eighth of July left them, steering for Dominica. A minute account of the voyage has come down to us from the pen of Mendoza, chaplain of the expedition, a somewhat dull and illiterate person, who busily jots down the incidents of each passing day, and is constantly betraying, with a certain awkward simplicity, how the cares of this world and the next jostle each other in his thoughts.
On Friday, the twentieth of July, a storm fell upon them with appalling fury. The pilots lost head, the sailors gave themselves up to their terrors. Throughout the night, they beset Mendoza for confession and absolution, a boon not easily granted, for the seas swept the crowded decks in cataracts of foam, and the shriekings of the gale in the rigging drowned the exhortations of the half-drowned priest. Cannon, cables, spars, water-casks, were thrown overboard, and the chests of the sailors would have followed, had not the latter, despite their fright, raised such a howl of remonstrance that the order was revoked. At length day dawned. At least there was light to die by. Plunging, reeling, half submerged, quivering under the crashing shock of the seas, whose mountain ridges rolled down upon her before the gale, the ship lay in deadly jeopardy from Friday till Monday noon. Then the storm abated; the sun broke forth; and again she held her course.
They reached Dominica on Sunday, the fifth of August. The chaplain tells us how he went on shore to refresh himself,—how, while his Italian servant washed his linen at a brook, he strolled along the beach and picked up shells,—and how he was scared, first, by a prodigious turtle, and next by a vision of the cannibal natives, which caused his prompt retreat to the boats.
On the tenth, they anchored in the harbor of Porto Rico, where they found two of their companion-ships, from which they had parted in the storm. One of them was the San Pelayo, with Menendez on board. Mendoza informs us that in the evening the officers came on board his ship, when he, the chaplain, regaled them with sweetmeats, and that Menendez invited him not only to supper that night, but to dinner the next day, "for the which I thanked him, as reason was," says the gratified churchman.
Here thirty men deserted, and three priests also ran off, of which Mendoza bitterly complains, as increasing his own work. The motives of the clerical truants may perhaps be inferred from a worldly temptation to which the chaplain himself was subjected. "I was offered the service of a chapel where I should have got a peso for every mass I said, the whole year round; but I did not accept it, for fear that what I hear said of the other three would be said of me. Besides, it is not a place where one can hope for any great advancement, and I wished to try whether, in refusing a benefice for the love of the Lord, He will not repay me with some other stroke of fortune before the end of the voyage; for it is my aim to serve God and His blessed Mother."
The original design had been to rendezvous at Havana, but, with the Adelantado, the advantages of despatch outweighed every other consideration. He resolved to push directly for Florida. Five of his scattered ships had by this time rejoined company, comprising, exclusive of officers, a force of about five hundred soldiers, two hundred sailors, and one hundred colonists. Bearing northward, he advanced by an unknown and dangerous course along the coast of Hayti and through the intricate passes of the Bahamas. On the night of the twenty-sixth, the San Pelayo struck three times on the shoals; "but," says the chaplain, "inasmuch as our enterprise was undertaken for the sake of Christ and His blessed Mother, two heavy seas struck her abaft, and set her afloat again."
At length the ships lay becalmed in the Bahama Channel, slumbering on the dead and glassy sea, torpid with the heats of a West-Indian August. Menendez called a council of the commanders. There was doubt and indecision. Perhaps Ribaut had already reached the French fort, and then to attack the united force would be a stroke of desperation. Far better to await their lagging comrades. But the Adelantado was of another mind; and, even had his enemy arrived, he was resolved that he should have no time to fortify himself.
"It is God's will," he said, "that our victory should be due, not to our numbers, but to His all-powerful aid. Therefore has He stricken us with tempests and scattered our ships." And he gave his voice for instant advance.
There was much dispute; even the chaplain remonstrated; but nothing could bend the iron will of Menendez. Nor was a sign of celestial approval wanting. At nine in the evening, a great meteor burst forth in mid-heaven, and, blazing like the sun, rolled westward towards the Floridian coast. The fainting spirits of the crusaders were kindled anew. Diligent preparation was begun. Prayers and masses were said; and, that the temporal arm might not be wanting, the men were daily practised on deck in shooting at marks, in order, says the chronicle, that the recruits might learn not to be afraid of their guns.
The dead calm continued. "We were all very tired," says the chaplain, "and I above all, with praying to God for a fair wind. To-day, at about two in the afternoon, He took pity on us, and sent us a breeze." Before night they saw land,—the faint line of forest, traced along the watery horizon, that marked the coast of Florida. But where in all this vast monotony was the lurking-place of the French? Menendez anchored, and sent fifty men ashore, who presently found a band of Indians in the woods, and gained from them the needed information. He stood northward, till, on the afternoon of Tuesday, the fourth of September, he descried four ships anchored near the mouth of a river. It was the river St. John's, and the ships were four of Ribaut's squadron. The prey was in sight. The Spaniards prepared for battle, and bore down upon the Lutherans; for, with them, all reformers alike were branded with the name of the arch-heretic. Slowly, before the faint breeze, the ships glided on their way; but while, excited and impatient, the fierce crews watched the decreasing space, and while they were still three leagues from their prize, the air ceased to stir, the sails flapped against the mast, a black cloud with thunder rose above the coast, and the warm rain of the South descended on the breathless sea. It was dark before the wind moved again, and the ships resumed their course. At half past eleven they reached the French. The San Pelayo slowly moved to windward of Ribaut's flag-ship, the Trinity, and anchored very near her. The other ships took similar stations. While these preparations were making, a work of two hours, the men labored in silence, and the French, thronging their gangways, looked on in equal silence. "Never, since I came into the world," writes the chaplain, "did I know such a stillness."
It was broken, at length, by a trumpet from the deck of the San Pelayo. A French trumpet answered. Then Menendez, "with much courtesy," says his Spanish eulogist, demanded, "Gentlemen, whence does this fleet come?"
"From France," was the reply.
"What are you doing here?" pursued the Adelantado.
"Bringing soldiers and supplies for a fort which the King of France has in this country, and for many others which he soon will have."
"Are you Catholics or Lutherans?"
Many voices cried together, "Lutherans, of the new religion"; then, in their turn, they demanded who Menendez was, and whence he came. The latter answered,—
"I am Pedro Menendez, General of the fleet of the King of Spain, Don Philip the Second, who have come to this country to hang and behead all Lutherans whom I shall find by land or sea, according to instructions from my King, so precise that I have power to pardon none whomsoever; and these commands I shall fulfil, as you shall know. At daybreak I shall board your ships, and if I find there any Catholic, he shall be well treated; but every heretic shall die."
The French with one voice raised a cry of wrath and defiance.
"If you are a brave man, don't wait till day. Come on now, and see what you will get!"
And they assailed the Adelantado with a shower of scoffs and insults.
Menendez broke into a rage, and gave the order to board. The men slipped the cables, and the sullen black hulk of the San Pelayo drifted down upon the Trinity. The French by no means made good their defiance. Indeed, they were incapable of resistance, Ribaut with his soldiers being ashore at Fort Caroline. They cut their cables, left their anchors, made sail, and fled. The Spaniards fired, the French replied. The other Spanish ships had imitated the movement of the San Pelayo; "but," writes the chaplain, Mendoza, "these devils run mad are such adroit sailors, and manoeuvred so well, that we did not catch one of them." Pursuers and pursued ran out to sea, firing useless volleys at each other.
In the morning Menendez gave over the chase, turned, and, with the San Pelayo alone, ran back for the St. John's. But here a welcome was prepared for him. He saw bands of armed men drawn up on the beach, and the smaller vessels of Ribaut's squadron, which had crossed the bar several days before, anchored behind it to oppose his landing. He would not venture an attack, but, steering southward, skirted the coast till he came to an inlet which he named St. Augustine.
Here he found three of his ships, already debarking their troops, guns, and stores. Two officers, Patino and Vicente, had taken possession of the dwelling of Seloy, an Indian chief, a huge barn-like structure, strongly framed of entire trunks of trees, and thatched with palmetto-leaves. Around it they were throwing up intrenchments of fascines and sand. Gangs of negroes, with pick, shovel, and spade, were toiling at the work. Such was the birth of St. Augustine, the oldest town of the United States, and such the introduction of slave-labor upon their soil.
On the eighth, Menendez took formal possession of his domain. Cannon were fired, trumpets sounded, and banners displayed, as, at the head of his officers and nobles, he landed in state. Mendoza, crucifix in hand, came to meet him, chanting, "Te Deum laudamus," while the Adelantado and all his company, kneeling, kissed the cross, and the congregated Indians gazed in silent wonder.
Meanwhile the tenants of Fort Caroline were not idle. Two or three soldiers, strolling along the beach in the afternoon, had first seen the Spanish ships and hastily summoned Ribaut. He came down to the mouth of the river, followed by an anxious and excited crowd; but, as they strained their eyes through the darkness, they could see nothing but the flashes of the distant guns. The returning light showed them at length, far out at sea, the Adelantado in hot chase of their flying comrades. Pursuers and pursued were soon out of sight. The drums beat to arms. After many hours of suspense, the San Pelayo reappeared, hovering about the mouth of the river, then bearing away towards the south. More anxious hours ensued, when three other sail came in sight, and they recognized three of their own returning ships. Communication was opened, a boat's crew landed, and they learned from Captain Cosette, that, confiding in the speed of his ship, he had followed the Spaniards to St. Augustine, reconnoitred their position, and seen them land their negroes and intrench themselves.
In his chamber at Fort Caroline, Laudonniere lay sick in bed, when Ribaut entered, and with him La Grange, Ste. Marie, Ottigny, Yonville, and other officers. At the bedside of the displaced commandant they held their council of war. There were three alternatives: first, to remain where they were and fortify; next, to push overland for St. Augustine, and attack the invaders in their intrenchments; and, finally, to embark, and assail them by sea. The first plan would leave their ships a prey to the Spaniards; and so too, in all likelihood, would the second, besides the uncertainties of an overland march through an unknown wilderness. By sea, the distance was short and the route explored. By a sudden blow they could capture or destroy the Spanish ships, and master the troops on shore before their reinforcements could arrive, and before they had time to complete their defences.
Such were the views of Ribaut, with which, not unnaturally, Laudonniere finds fault, and Le Moyne, judging by results, echoes the censures of his chief. And yet the plan seems as well-conceived as it was bold, lacking nothing but success. The Spaniards, stricken with terror, owed their safety to the elements, or, as they affirm, to the special interposition of the Holy Virgin. Let us be just to Menendez. He was a leader fit to stand with Cortes and Pizarro; but he was matched with a man as cool, skilful, prompt, and daring as himself. The traces that have come down to us indicate, in Ribaut, one far above the common stamp: "a distinguished man, of many high qualities," as even the fault-finding Le Moyne calls him, devout after the best spirit of the Reform, and with a human heart under his steel breastplate.
La Grange and other officers took part with Laudonniere and opposed the plan of an attack by sea; but Ribaut's conviction was unshaken, and the order was given. All his own soldiers fit for duty embarked in haste, and with them went La Caille, Arlac, and, as it seems, Ottigny, with the best of Laudonniere's men. Even Le Moyne, though wounded in the fight with Outina's warriors, went on board to bear his part in the fray, and would have sailed with the rest, had not Ottigny, seeing his disabled condition, ordered him back to the fort.
On the tenth, the ships, crowded with troops, set sail. Ribaut was gone, and with him the pith and sinew of the colony. The miserable remnant watched his receding sails with dreary foreboding, a foreboding which seemed but too just, when, on the next day, a storm, more violent than the Indians had ever known, howled through the forest and lashed the ocean into fury, Most forlorn was the plight of these exiles, left, it might be, the prey of a band of ferocious bigots more terrible than the fiercest hordes of the wilderness. And when night closed on the stormy river and the gloomy waste of pines, what dreams of terror may not have haunted the helpless women who crouched under the hovels of Fort Caroline!
The fort was in a ruinous state, the palisade on the water side broken down, and three breaches in the rampart. In the driving rain, urged by the sick Laudonniere, the men, bedrenched and disheartened, labored as they might to strengthen their defences. Their muster-roll shows but a beggarly array. "Now," says Laudonniere, "let them which have bene bold to say that I had men ynongh left me, so that I had meanes to defend my selfe, give care a little now vnto mee, and if they have eyes in their heads, let them see what men I had." Of Ribaut's followers left at the fort, only nine or ten had weapons, while only two or three knew how to use them. Four of them were boys, who kept Ribaut's dogs, and another was his cook. Besides these, he had left a brewer, an old crossbow-maker, two shoemakers, a player on the spinet, four valets, a carpenter of threescore—Challeux, no doubt, who has left us the story of his woes,—and a crowd of women, children, and eighty-six camp-followers. To these were added the remnant of Laudonniere's men, of whom seventeen could bear arms, the rest being sick or disabled by wounds received in the fight with Outina.
Laudonniere divided his force, such as it was, into two watches, over which he placed two officers, St. Cler and La Vigne, gave them lanterns to go the rounds, and an hour-glass to set the time; while he himself, giddy with weakness and fever, was every night at the guard-room.
It was the night of the nineteenth of September; floods of rain bedrenched the sentries on the rampart, and as day dawned on the dripping barracks and deluged parade, the storm increased in violence. What enemy could have ventured forth on such a night? La Vigne, who had the watch, took pity on the sentries and on himself, dismissed them, and went to his quarters. He little knew what mortal energies, urged by ambition, avarice, bigotry, desperation, will dare and do.
To return to the Spaniards at St. Augustine. On the morning of the eleventh, the crew of one of their smaller vessels, lying outside the bar, saw through the twilight of early dawn two of Ribaut's ships close upon them. Not a breath of air was stirring. There was no escape, and the Spaniards fell on their knees in supplication to Our Lady of Utrera, explaining to her that the heretics were upon them, and begging her to send them a little wind. "Forthwith," says Mendoza, "one would have said that Our Lady herself came down upon the vessel." A wind sprang up, and the Spaniards found refuge behind the bar. The returning day showed to their astonished eyes all the ships of Ribaut, their decks black with men, hovering off the entrance of the port; but Heaven had them in its charge, and again they experienced its protecting care. The breeze sent by Our Lady of Utrera rose to a gale, then to a furious tempest; and the grateful Adelantado saw through rack and mist the ships of his enemy tossed wildly among the raging waters as they struggled to gain an offing. With exultation at his heart the skilful seaman read their danger, and saw them in his mind's eye dashed to utter wreck among the sand-bars and breakers of the lee-shore.
A bold thought seized him. He would march overland with five hundred men and attack Fort Caroline while its defenders were absent. First he ordered a mass; then he called a council. Doubtless, it was in that great Indian lodge of Seloy, where he had made his head-quarters; and here, in this dim and smoky concave, nobles, officers, priests, gathered at his summons. There were fears and doubts and murmurings, but Menendez was desperate. Not the mad desperation that strikes wildly and at random, but the still red heat that melts and burns and seethes with a steady, unquenchable fierceness. "Comrades," he said, "the time has come to show our courage and our zeal. This is God's war, and we must not flinch. It is a war with Lutherans, and we must wage it with blood and fire."
But his hearers would not respond. They had not a million of ducats at stake, and were nowise ready for a cast so desperate. A clamor of remonstrance rose from the circle. Many voices, that of Mendoza among the rest, urged waiting till their main forces should arrive. The excitement spread to the men without, and the swarthy, black-bearded crowd broke into tumults mounting almost to mutiny, while an officer was heard to say that he would not go on such a hare-brained errand to be butchered like a beast. But nothing could move the Adelantado. His appeals or his threats did their work at last; the confusion was quelled, and preparation was made for the march.
Five hundred arquebusiers and pikemen were drawn up before the camp.
To each was given a sack of bread and a flagon of wine. Two Indians and a renegade Frenchman, called Francois Jean, were to guide them, and twenty Biscayan axe-men moved to the front to clear the way. Through floods of driving rain, a hoarse voice shouted the word of command, and the sullen march began.
With dire misgiving, Mendoza watched the last files as they vanished in the tempestuous forest. Two days of suspense ensued, when a messenger came back with a letter from the Adelantado announcing that he had nearly reached the French fort, and that on the morrow, September twentieth, at sunrise, he hoped to assault it. "May the Divine Majesty deign to protect us, for He knows that we have need of it," writes the scared chaplain; "the Adelantado's great zeal and courage make us hope he will succeed, but for the good of His Majesty's service he ought to be a little less ardent in pursuing his schemes."
Meanwhile the five hundred had pushed their march through forest and quagmire, through swollen streams and inundated savannas, toiling knee-deep through mud, rushes, and the rank, tangled grass,—hacking their way through thickets of the yucca or Spanish bayonet, with its clumps of dagger-like leaves, or defiling in gloomy procession through the drenched forest, to the moan, roar, and howl of the storm-racked pines. As they bent before the tempest, the water trickling from the rusty headpiece crept clammy and cold betwixt the armor and the skin; and when they made their wretched bivouac, their bed was the spongy soil, and the exhaustless clouds their tent.
The night of Wednesday, the nineteenth, found their vanguard in a deep forest of pines, less than a mile from Fort Caroline, and near the low hills which extended in its rear, and formed a continuation of St. John's Bluff. All around was one great morass. In pitchy darkness, knee-deep in weeds and water, half starved, worn with toil and lack of sleep, drenched to the skin, their provision spoiled, their ammunition wet, their spirit chilled out of them, they stood in shivering groups, cursing the enterprise and the author of it. Menendez heard an ensign say aloud to his comrades,—
"This Asturian corito, who knows no more of war on shore than an ass, has ruined us all. By ——, if my advice had been followed, he would have had his deserts the day he set out on this cursed journey!"
The Adelantado pretended not to hear.
Two hours before dawn he called his officers about him. All night, he said, he had been praying to God and the Virgin.
"Senores, what shall we resolve on? Our ammunition and provisions are gone. Our case is desperate." And he urged a bold rush on the fort.
But men and officers alike were disheartened and disgusted. They listened coldly and sullenly; many were for returning at every risk; none were in a mood for fight. Menendez put forth all his eloquence, till at length the dashed spirits of his followers were so far rekindled that they consented to follow him.
All fell on their knees in the marsh; then, rising, they formed their ranks and began to advance, guided by the renegade Frenchman, whose hands, to make sure of him, were tied behind his back. Groping and stumbling in the dark among trees, roots, and underbrush, buffeted by wind and rain, and slashed in the face by the recoiling boughs which they could not see, they soon lost their way, fell into confusion, and came to a stand, in a mood more savagely desponding than before. But soon a glimmer of returning day came to their aid, and showed them the dusky sky, and the dark columns of the surrounding pines. Menendez ordered the men forward on pain of death. They obeyed, and presently, emerging from the forest, could dimly discern the ridge of a low hill, behind which, the Frenchman told them, was the fort. Menendez, with a few officers and men, cautiously mounted to the top. Beneath lay Fort Caroline, three gunshots distant; but the rain, the imperfect light, and a cluster of intervening houses prevented his seeing clearly, and he sent two officers to reconnoitre. Descending, they met a solitary Frenchman, a straggler from the fort. They knocked him down with a sheathed sword, took him prisoner, then stabbed him in cold blood. This done, and their observations made, they returned to the top of the hill, behind which, clutching their weapons in fierce expectancy, all the gang stood waiting.
"Santiago!" cried Menendez. "At them! God is with us!"
And, shouting their hoarse war-cries, the Spaniards rushed down the slope like starved wolves.
Not a sentry was on the rampart. La Vigne, the officer of the guard, had just gone to his quarters, but a trumpeter, who chanced to remain, saw, through sheets of rain, the black swarm of assailants sweeping down the hill. He blew the alarm, and at his shrill summons a few half-naked soldiers ran wildly out of the barracks. It was too late. Through the breaches, over the ramparts, the Spaniards came pouring in.
"Santiago! Santiago! Down with the Lutherans!"
Sick men leaped from their beds. Women and children, blind with fright, darted shrieking from the houses. A fierce gaunt visage, the thrust of a pike or blow of a rusty halberd,—such was the greeting that met all alike. Laudonniere snatched his sword and target, and ran towards the principal breach, calling to his soldiers. A rush of Spaniards met him; his men were cut down around him; and he, with a soldier named Bartholomew, was forced back into the courtyard of his house. Here a tent was pitched, and as the pursuers stumbled among the cords, he escaped behind Ottigny's house, sprang through the breach in the western rampart, and fled for the woods.
Le Moyne had been one of the guard. Scarcely had he thrown himself into a hammock which was slung in his room, when a savage shout, and a wild uproar of shrieks, outcries, and the clash of weapons, brought him to his feet. He rushed past two Spaniards in the door-way, ran behind the guard-house leaped through an embrasure into the ditch, and escaped to the forest.
Challeux, the carpenter, was going betimes to his work, a chisel in his hand. He was old, but pike and partisan brandished at his back gave wings to his flight. In the ecstasy of his terror, he leaped upward at the top of the palisade, and, clutching it, threw himself over with the agility of a boy. He ran up the hill, no one pursuing, and as he neared the edge of the forest, turned and looked back. From the high ground where he stood he could see the butchery, the fury of the conquerors, the agonized gestures of the victims. He turned again in horror, and plunged into the woods. As he tore his way through the briers and thickets, he met several fugitives, escaped like himself. Others presently came up, haggard and wild, like men broke loose from the jaws of fate. They gathered and consulted together. One of them, in great repute for his knowledge of the Bible, was for returning and surrendering to the Spaniards. "They are men," he said; "perhaps when their fury is over they will spare our lives, and even if they kill us, it will only be a few moments' pain. Better so than to starve here in the woods or be torn to pieces by wild beasts."
The greater part of the naked and despairing company assented, but Challeux was of a different mind. The old Huguenot quoted Scripture, and called up the names of prophets and apostles to witness, that, in direst extremity, God would not abandon those who rested their faith in Him. Six of the fugitives, however, still held to their desperate purpose. Issuing from the woods, they descended towards the fort, and as with beating hearts their comrades watched the result, a troop of Spaniards rushed forth, hewed them down with swords and halberds, and dragged their bodies to the brink of the river, where the victims of the massacre were already flung in heaps.
Le Moyne, with a soldier named Grandchemin, whom he had met in his flight, toiled all day through the woods, in the hope of reaching the small vessels anchored behind the bar. Night found them in a morass. No vessels could be seen, and the soldier, in despair, broke into angry upbraidings against his companion,—saying that he would go back and give himself up. Le Moyne at first opposed him, then yielded. But when they drew near the fort, and heard the howl of savage revelry that rose from within, the artist's heart failed him. He embraced his companion, and the soldier advanced alone. A party of Spaniards came out to meet him. He kneeled, and begged for his life. He was answered by a death-blow; and the horrified Le Moyne, from his hiding-place in the thickets, saw his limbs hacked apart, thrust on pikes, and borne off in triumph.
Meanwhile, Menendez, mustering his followers, had offered thanks to God for their victory; and this pious butcher wept with emotion as he recounted the favors which Heaven had showered upon their enterprise. His admiring historian gives it in proof of his humanity, that, after the rage of the assault was spent, he ordered that women, infants, and boys under fifteen should thenceforth be spared. Of these, by his own account, there were about fifty. Writing in October to the King, he says that they cause him great anxiety, since he fears the anger of God, should he now put them to death, while, on the other hand, he is in dread lest the venom of their heresy should infect his men.
A hundred and forty-two persons were slain in and around the fort, and their bodies lay heaped together on the shore. Nearly opposite was anchored a small vessel, called the Pearl, commanded by James Ribaut, son of the Admiral. The ferocious soldiery, maddened with victory and drunk with blood, crowded to the beach, shouting insults to those on board, mangling the corpses, tearing out their eyes, and throwing them towards the vessel from the points of their daggers. Thus did the Most Catholic Philip champion the cause of Heaven in the New World.
It was currently believed in France, and, though no eye-witness attests it, there is reason to think it true, that among those murdered at Fort Caroline there were some who died a death of peculiar ignominy. Menendez, it is affirmed, hanged his prisoners on trees, and placed over them the inscription, "I do this, not as to Frenchmen, but as to Lutherans."
The Spaniards gained a great booty: armor, clothing, and provision. "Nevertheless," says the devout Mendoza, after closing his inventory of the plunder, "the greatest profit of this victory is the triumph which our Lord has granted us, whereby His holy gospel will be introduced into this country, a thing so needful for saving so many souls from perdition." Again, he writes in his journal,—"We owe to God and His Mother, more than to human strength, this victory over the adversaries of the holy Catholic religion."
To whatever influence, celestial or other, the exploit may best be ascribed, the victors were not yet quite content with their success. Two small French vessels, besides that of James Ribaut, still lay within range of the fort. When the storm had a little abated, the cannon were turned on them. One of them was sunk, but Ribaut, with the others, escaped down the river, at the mouth of which several light craft, including that bought from the English, had been anchored since the arrival of his father's squadron.
While this was passing, the wretched fugitives were flying from the scene of massacre through a tempest, of whose pertinacious violence all the narratives speak with wonder. Exhausted, starved, half-clothed,—for most of them had escaped in their shirts,—they pushed their toilsome way amid the ceaseless howl of the elements. A few sought refuge in Indian villages; but these, it is said, were afterwards killed by the Spaniards. The greater number attempted to reach the vessels at the mouth of the river. Of the latter was Le Moyne, who, despite his former failure, was toiling through the maze of tangled forests when he met a Belgian soldier with the woman described as Laudonniere's maid-servant, the latter wounded in the breast, and, urging their flight towards the vessels, they fell in with other fugitives, among them Laudonniere himself. As they struggled through the salt-marsh, the rank sedge cut their naked limbs, and the tide rose to their waists. Presently they descried others, toiling like themselves through the matted vegetation, and recognized Challeux and his companions, also in quest of the vessels. The old man still, as he tells us, held fast to his chisel, which had done good service in cutting poles to aid the party to cross the deep creeks that channelled the morass. The united band, twenty-six in all, were relieved at length by the sight of a moving sail. It was the vessel of Captain Mallard, who, informed of the massacre, was standing along-shore in the hope of picking up some of the fugitives. He saw their signals, and sent boats to their rescue; but such was their exhaustion, that, had not the sailors, wading to their armpits among the rushes, borne them out on their shoulders, few could have escaped. Laudonniere was so feeble that nothing but the support of a soldier, who held him upright in his arms, had saved him from drowning in the marsh.
Gaining the friendly decks, the fugitives counselled together. One and all, they sickened for the sight of France.
After waiting a few days, and saving a few more stragglers from the marsh, they prepared to sail. Young Ribaut, though ignorant of his father's fate, assented with something more than willingness; indeed, his behavior throughout had been stamped with weakness and poltroonery. On the twenty-fifth of September, they put to sea in two vessels; and, after a voyage whose privations were fatal to many of them, they arrived, one party at Rochelle, the other at Swansea, in Wales.
In suspense and fear, hourly looking seaward for the dreaded fleet of John Ribaut, the chaplain Mendoza and his brother priests held watch and ward at St. Augustine, in the Adelantado's absence. Besides the celestial guardians whom they ceased not to invoke, they had as protectors Bartholomew Menendez, the brother of the Adelantado, and about a hundred soldiers. Day and night, the latter toiled to throw up earthworks and strengthen their position.
A week elapsed, when they saw a man running towards their fort, shouting as he ran.
Mendoza went out to meet him.
"Victory! Victory!" gasped the breathless messenger. "The French fort is ours!" And he flung his arms about the chaplain's neck.
"To-day," writes the latter in his journal, "Monday, the twenty-fourth, came our good general himself, with fifty soldiers, very tired, like all those who were with him. As soon as they told me he was coming, I ran to my lodging, took a new cassock, the best I had, put on my surplice, and went out to meet him with a crucifix in my hand; whereupon he, like a gentleman and a good Christian, kneeled down with all his followers, and gave the Lord a thousand thanks for the great favors he had received from Him."
In solemn procession, four priests in front chanting the Te Deum, the victors entered St. Augustine in triumph.
On the twenty-eighth, when the weary Adelantado was taking his siesta under the sylvan roof of Seloy, a troop of Indians came in with news that quickly roused him from his slumbers. They had seen a French vessel wrecked on the coast towards the south. Those who escaped from her were some four leagues off, on the banks of a river or arm of the sea, which they could not cross.
Menendez instantly sent forty or fifty men in boats to reconnoitre. Next, he called the chaplain,—for he would fain have him at his elbow to countenance the devilish deeds he meditated,—and embarked, with him, twelve soldiers, and two Indian guides, in another boat. They rowed along the channel between Anastasia Island and the main shore; then landed, struck across the country on foot, traversed plains and marshes, readied the sea towards night, and searched along-shore till ten o'clock to find their comrades who had gone before. At length, with mutual joy, the two parties met, and bivouacked together on the sands. Not far distant they could see lights. They were the camp-fires of the shipwrecked French.
And now, to relate the fortunes of these unhappy men. To do so with precision is impossible, for henceforward the French narratives are no longer the narratives of eye-witnesses.
It has been seen how, when on the point of assailing the Spaniards of St. Augustine, John Ribaut was thwarted by a gale which the former hailed as a divine interposition. The gale rose to a tempest of strange fury. Within a few days, all the French ships were cast on shore, the greater number near Cape Canaveral. According to the letter of Menendez, many of those on board were lost, but others affirm that all escaped but the captain, La Grange, an officer of high merit, who was washed from a floating mast. One of the ships was wrecked at a point farther northward than the rest, and it was her company whose camp-fires were seen by the Spaniards at their bivouac among the sands of Anastasia Island. They were endeavoring to reach Fort Caroline, of whose fate they knew nothing, while Ribaut with the remainder was farther southward, struggling through the wilderness towards the same goal. What befell the latter will appear hereafter. Of the fate of the former party there is no French record. What we know of it is due to three Spanish writers, Mendoza, Doctor Solis de las Meras, and Menendez himself. Solis was a priest, and brother-in-law to Menendez. Like Mendoza, he minutely describes what he saw, and, like him, was a red-hot zealot, lavishing applause on the darkest deeds of his chief. Before me lie the long despatches, now first brought to light from the archives of Seville, which Menendez sent from Florida to the King, a cool record of atrocities never surpassed, and inscribed on the back with the royal indorsement,—"Say to him that he has done well."
When the Adelantado saw the French fires in the distance, he lay close in his bivouac, and sent two soldiers to reconnoitre. At two in the morning they came back and reported that it was impossible to get at the enemy, since they were on the farther side of an arm of the sea, probably Matanzas Inlet. Menendez, however, gave orders to march, and before daybreak reached the hither bank, where he hid his men in a bushy hollow. Thence, as it grew light, they could discern the enemy, many of whom were searching along the sands and shallows for shell-fish, for they were famishing. A thought struck Menendez, an inspiration, says Mendoza, of the Holy Spirit. He put on the clothes of a sailor, entered a boat which had been brought to the spot, and rowed towards the shipwrecked men, the better to learn their condition. A Frenchman swam out to meet him. Menendez demanded what men they were.
"Followers of Ribaut," answered the swimmer, "Viceroy of the King of France."
"Are you Catholics or Lutherans?"
A brief dialogue ensued, during which the Adelantado declared his name and character. The Frenchman swam back to his companions, but soon returned, and asked safe conduct for his captain and four other gentlemen who wished to hold conference with the Spanish general. Menendez gave his word for their safety, and, returning to the shore, sent his boat to bring them over. On their landing, he met them very courteously. His followers were kept at a distance, so disposed behind hills and clumps of bushes as to give an exaggerated idea of their force,—a precaution the more needful as they were only about sixty in number, while the French, says Solis, were above two hundred, though Menendez declares that they did not exceed a hundred and forty. The French officer told him the story of their shipwreck, and begged him to lend them a boat to aid them in crossing the rivers which lay between them and a fort of their King, whither they were making their way.
Then came again the ominous question,—
"Are you Catholics or Lutherans?"
"We are Lutherans."
"Gentlemen," pursued Menendez, "your fort is taken, and all in it put to the sword." And in proof of his declaration he caused articles plundered from Fort Caroline to be shown to the unhappy petitioners. He then left them, to breakfast with his officers, first ordering food to be placed before them. His repast over, he returned to them.
"Are you convinced now," he asked, "that what I have told you is true?"
The French captain assented, and implored him to lend them ships in which to return home. Menendez answered, that he would do so willingly, if they were Catholics, and if he had ships to spare, but he had none. The supplicants then expressed the hope, that, at least, they and their followers would be allowed to remain with the Spaniards till ships could be sent to their relief, since there was peace between the two nations, whose kings were friends and brothers.
"All Catholics," retorted the Spaniard, "I will befriend; but as you are of the New Sect, I hold you as enemies, and wage deadly war against you; and this I will do with all cruelty [crueldad] in this country, where I command as Viceroy and Captain-General for my King. I am here to plant the holy gospel, that the Indians may be enlightened and come to the knowledge of the holy Catholic faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Roman Church teaches it. If you will give up your arms and banners, and place yourselves at my mercy, you may do so, and I will act towards you as God shall give me grace. Do as you will, for other than this you can have neither truce nor friendship with me."
Such were the Adelantado's words, as reported by a by-stander, his admiring brother-in-law; and that they contain an implied assurance of mercy has been held, not only by Protestants, but by Catholics and Spaniards. The report of Menendez himself is more brief and sufficiently equivocal:—
"I answered, that they could give up their arms and place themselves under my mercy,—that I should do with them what our Lord should order; and from that I did not depart, nor would I, unless God our Lord should otherwise inspire."
One of the Frenchmen recrossed to consult with his companions. In two hours he returned, and offered fifty thousand ducats to secure their lives; but Menendez, says his brother-in-law, would give no pledges. On the other hand, expressions in his own despatches point to the inference that a virtual pledge was given, at least to certain individuals.
The starving French saw no resource but to yield themselves to his mercy. The boat was again sent across the river. It returned, laden with banners, arquebuses, swords, targets, and helmets. The Adelantado ordered twenty soldiers to bring over the prisoners by tens at a time. He then took the French officers aside behind a ridge of sand, two gunshots from the bank. Here, with courtesy on his lips and murder reeking at his heart, he said,—
"Gentlemen, I have but few men, and you are so many, that, if you were free, it would be easy for you to take your satisfaction on us for the people we killed when we took your fort. Therefore it is necessary that you should go to my camp, four leagues from this place, with your hands tied."
Accordingly, as each party landed, they were led out of sight behind the sand-hill, and their hands tied at their backs with the match-cords of the arquebuses,—though not before each had been supplied with food. The whole day passed before all were brought together, bound and helpless, under the eye of the inexorable Adelantado. But now Mendoza interposed. "I was a priest," he says, "and had the bowels of a man." He asked, that, if there were Christians, that is to say Catholics, among the prisoners, they should be set apart. Twelve Breton sailors professed themselves to be such; and these, together with four carpenters and calkers, "of whom," writes Menendez, "I was in great need," were put on board the boat and sent to St. Augustine. The rest were ordered to march thither by land.
The Adelantado walked in advance till he came to a lonely spot, not far distant, deep among the bush-covered hills. Here he stopped, and with his cane drew a line in the sand. The sun was set when the captive Huguenots, with their escort, reached the fatal goal thus marked out. And now let the curtain drop; for here, in the name of Heaven, the hounds of hell were turned loose, and the savage soldiery, like wolves in a sheepfold, rioted in slaughter. Of all that wretched company, not one was left alive.
"I had their hands tied behind their backs," writes the chief criminal, "and themselves passed under the knife. It appeared to me, that, by thus chastising them, God our Lord and your Majesty were served; whereby in future they will leave us more free from their evil sect, to plant the gospel in these parts."
Again Menendez returned triumphant to St. Augustine, and behind him marched his band of butchers, steeped in blood to the elbows, but still unsated. Great as had been his success, he still had cause for anxiety. There was ill news of his fleet. Some of the ships were lost, others scattered, or lagging tardily on their way. Of his whole force, but a fraction had reached Florida, and of this a large part was still at Fort Caroline. Ribaut could not be far off; and whatever might be the condition of his shipwrecked company, their numbers would make them formidable, unless taken at advantage. Urged by fear and fortified by fanaticism, Menendez had well begun his work of slaughter; but rest for him there was none; a darker deed was behind.
On the next day, Indians came with the tidings that at the spot where the French had been found was now another party, still larger. This murder-loving race looked with great respect on Menendez for his wholesale butchery of the night before,—an exploit rarely equalled in their own annals of massacre. On his part, he doubted not that Ribaut was at hand. Marching with a hundred and fifty men, he reached the inlet at midnight, and again, like a savage, ambushed himself on the bank. Day broke, and he could plainly see the French on the farther side. They had made a raft, which lay in the water, ready for crossing. Menendez and his men showed themselves, when, forthwith, the French displayed their banners, sounded drums and trumpets, and set their sick and starving ranks in array of battle. But the Adelantado, regardless of this warlike show, ordered his men to seat themselves at breakfast, while he with three officers walked unconcernedly along the shore. His coolness had its effect. The French blew a trumpet of parley, and showed a white flag. The Spaniards replied. A Frenchman came out upon the raft, and, shouting across the water, asked that a Spanish envoy should be sent over.
"You have a raft," was the reply; "come yourselves."
An Indian canoe lay under the bank on the Spanish side. A French sailor swam to it, paddled back unmolested, and presently returned, bringing with him La Caille, Ribaut's sergeant-major. He told Menendez that the French were three hundred and fifty in all, on their way to Fort Caroline; and, like the officers of the former party, begged for boats to aid them in crossing the river.
"My brother," said Menendez, "go and tell your general, that, if he wishes to speak with me, he may come with four or six companions, and that I pledge my word he shall go back safe."
La Caille returned; and Ribaut, with eight gentlemen, soon came over in the canoe. Menendez met them courteously, caused wine and preserved fruits to be placed before them,—he had come with well-stocked larder on his errand of blood,—and next led Ribaut to the reeking Golgotha, where, in heaps upon the sands, lay the corpses of his slaughtered followers. Ribaut was prepared for the spectacle; La Caille had already seen it; but he would not believe that Fort Caroline was taken till a part of the plunder was shown him. Then, mastering his despair, he turned to the conqueror.
"What has befallen us," he said, "may one day befall you." And, urging that the kings of France and Spain were brothers and close friends, he begged, in the name of that friendship, that the Spaniard would aid him in conveying his followers home. Menendez gave him the same equivocal answer that he had given the former party, and Ribaut returned to consult with his officers. After three hours of absence, he came back in the canoe, and told the Adelantado that some of his people were ready to surrender at discretion, but that many refused.
"They can do as they please," was the reply.
In behalf of those who surrendered Ribaut offered a ransom of a hundred thousand ducats.
"It grieves me much," said Menendez, "that I cannot accept it; for I have great need of it."
Ribaut was much encouraged. Menendez could scarcely forego such a prize, and he thought, says the Spanish narrator, that the lives of his followers would now be safe. He asked to be allowed the night for deliberation, and at sunset recrossed the river. In the morning he reappeared among the Spaniards and reported that two hundred of his men had retreated from the spot, but that the remaining one hundred and fifty would surrender. At the same time he gave into the hands of Menendez the royal standard and other flags, with his sword, dagger, helmet, buckler, and his official seal, given him by Coligny. Menendez directed an officer to enter the boat and bring over the French by tens. He next led Ribaut among the bushes behind the neighboring sand-hill, and ordered his hands to be bound fast. Then the scales fell from the prisoner's eyes. Face to face his hideous fate rose up before him. He saw his followers and himself entrapped,—the dupe of words artfully framed to lure them to their ruin. The day wore on; and, as band after band of prisoners was brought over, they were led behind the sand-hill, out of sight from the farther shore, and bound like their general. At length the transit was complete. With bloodshot eyes and weapons bared, the fierce Spaniards closed around their victims.
"Are you Catholics or Lutherans? and is there any one among you who will go to confession?"
"I and all here are of the Reformed Faith."
And he recited the Psalm, "Domine, memento mei."
"We are of earth," he continued, "and to earth we must return; twenty years more or less can matter little"; and, turning to the Adelantado, he bade him do his will.
The stony-hearted bigot gave the signal; and those who will may paint to themselves the horrors of the scene. A few, however, were spared.
"I saved," writes Menendez, "the lives of two young gentlemen of about eighteen years of age, as well as of three others, the fifer, the drummer, and the trumpeter; and I caused Jean Ribaut with all the rest to be passed under the knife, judging this to be expedient for the service of God our Lord, and of your Majesty. And I consider it great good fortune that he (Jean Ribaut) should be dead, for the King of France could effect more with him and five hundred ducats than with other men and five thousand, and he would do more in one year than another in ten, for he was the most experienced sailor and naval commander ever known, and of great skill in this passage to the Indies and the coast of Florida. He was, besides, greatly liked in England, in which kingdom his reputation is such that he was appointed Captain-General of all the British fleet against the French Catholics in the war between England and France some years ago."
Such is the sum of the Spanish accounts,—the self-damning testimony of the author and abettors of the crime. A picture of lurid and awful coloring; and yet there is reason to believe that the truth was more hideous still. Among those spared was one Christophe le Breton, who was carried to Spain, escaped to France, and told his story to Challeux. Among those struck down in the carnage was a sailor of Dieppe, stunned and left for dead under a heap of corpses. In the night he revived, contrived to draw his knife, cut the cords that bound his hands, and make his way to an Indian village. The Indians, though not without reluctance, abandoned him to the Spaniards. The latter sold him as a slave; but on his way in fetters to Portugal, the ship was taken by the Huguenots, the sailor set free, and his story published in the narrative of Le Moyne. When the massacre was known in France, the friends and relatives of the victims sent to the King, Charles IX., a vehement petition for redress; and their memorial recounts many incidents of the tragedy. From these three sources is to be drawn the French version of the story. The following is its substance:—
Famished and desperate, the followers of Ribaut were toiling northward to seek refuge at Fort Caroline, when they found the Spaniards in their path. Some were filled with dismay; others, in their misery, almost hailed them as deliverers. La Caille, the sergeant-major, crossed the river. Menendez met him with a face of friendship, and protested that he would spare the lives of the shipwrecked men, sealing the promise with an oath, a kiss, and many signs of the cross. He even gave it in writing, under seal. Still, there were many among the French who would not place themselves in his power. The most credulous crossed the river in a boat. As each successive party landed, their hands were bound fast at their backs; and thus, except a few who were set apart, they were all driven towards the fort, like cattle to the shambles, with curses and scurrilous abuse. Then, at sound of drums and trumpets, the Spaniards fell upon them, striking them down with swords, pikes, and halberds. Ribaut vainly called on the Adelantado to remember his oath. By the latter's order, a soldier plunged a dagger into his heart; and Ottigny, who stood near, met a similar fate. Ribaut's beard was cut off, and portions of it sent in a letter to Philip II. His head was hewn into four parts, one of which was displayed on the point of a lance at each corner of Fort St. Augustine. Great fires were kindled, and the bodies of the murdered burned to ashes.
Such is the sum of the French accounts. The charge of breach of faith contained in them was believed by Catholics as well as Protestants, and it was as a defence against this charge that the narrative of the Adelantado's brother-in-law was published. That Ribaut, a man whose good sense and bravery were both reputed high, should have submitted himself and his men to Menendez without positive assurance of safety is scarcely credible; nor is it lack of charity to believe that a miscreant so savage in heart and so perverted in conscience would act on the maxim, current among the bigots of the day, that faith ought not to be kept with heretics.
It was night when the Adelantado again entered St. Augustine. Some there were who blamed his cruelty; but many applauded. "Even if the French had been Catholics,"—such was their language,—"he would have done right, for, with the little provision we have, they would all have starved; besides, there were so many of them that they would have cut our throats."
And now Menendez again addressed himself to the despatch, already begun, in which he recounts to the King his labors and his triumphs, a deliberate and business-like document, mingling narratives of butchery with recommendations for promotions, commissary details, and petitions for supplies; enlarging, too, on the vast schemes of encroachment which his successful generalship had brought to nought. The French, he says, had planned a military and naval depot at Los Martires, whence they would make a descent upon Havana, and another at the Bay of Ponce de Leon, whence they could threaten Vera Cruz. They had long been encroaching on Spanish rights at Newfoundland, from which a great arm of the sea—the St. Lawrence—would give them access to the Moluccas and other parts of the East Indies. Moreover, he adds in a later despatch, by this passage they may reach the mines of Zacatecas and St. Martin, as well as every part of the South Sea. And, as already mentioned, he urges immediate occupation of Chesapeake Bay, which, by its supposed water-communication with the St. Lawrence, would enable Spain to vindicate her rights, control the fisheries of Newfoundland, and thwart her rival in her vast designs of commercial and territorial aggrandizement. Thus did France and Spain dispute the possession of North America long before England became a party to the strife.
Some twenty days after Menendez returned to St. Augustine, the Indians, enamored of carnage, and exulting to see their invaders mowed down, came to tell him that on the coast southward, near Cape Canaveral, a great number of Frenchmen were intrenching themselves. They were those of Ribaut's party who had refused to surrender. Retreating to the spot where their ships had been cast ashore, they were endeavoring to build a vessel from the fragments of the wrecks.
In all haste Menendez despatched messengers to Fort Caroline,—named by him San Mateo,—ordering a reinforcement of a hundred and fifty men. In a few days they came. He added some of his own soldiers, and, with a united force of two hundred and fifty, set forth, as he tells us, on the second of November, pushing southward along the shore with such merciless energy that some of his men dropped dead with wading night and day through the loose sands. When, from behind their frail defences, the French saw the Spanish pikes and partisans glittering into view, they fled in a panic, and took refuge among the hills. Menendez sent a trumpet to summon them, pledging his honor for their safety. The commander and several others told the messenger that they would sooner be eaten by the savages than trust themselves to Spaniards; and, escaping, they fled to the Indian towns. The rest surrendered; and Menendez kept his word. The comparative number of his own men made his prisoners no longer dangerous. They were led back to St. Augustine, where, as the Spanish writer affirms, they were well treated. Those of good birth sat at the Adelantado's table, eating the bread of a homicide crimsoned with the slaughter of their comrades. The priests essayed their pious efforts, and, under the gloomy menace of the Inquisition, some of the heretics renounced their errors. The fate of the captives may be gathered from the indorsement, in the handwriting of the King, on the back of the despatch of Menendez of December twelfth.
"Say to him," writes Philip II., "that, as to those he has killed, he has done well, and as for those he has saved, they shall be sent to the galleys."
Thus did Spain make good her claim to North America, and crush the upas of heresy in its germ. Within her bounds the tidings were hailed with acclamation, while in France a cry of horror and execration rose from the Huguenots, and found an echo even among the Catholics. But the weak and ferocious son of Catherine de Medicis gave no response. The victims were Huguenots, disturbers of the realm, followers of Coligny, the man above all others a thorn in his side. True, the enterprise was a national enterprise, undertaken at the national charge, with royal commission, and under the royal standard. True, it had been assailed in time of peace by a power professing the closest amity. Yet Huguenot influence, had prompted and Huguenot hands executed it. That influence had now ebbed low; Coligny's power had waned; and the Spanish party was ascendant. Charles IX., long vacillating, was fast subsiding into the deathly embrace of Spain, for whom, at last, on the bloody eve of St. Bartholomew, he was destined to become the assassin of his own best subjects.
In vain the relatives of the slain petitioned him for redress; and had the honor of the nation rested in the keeping of her king, the blood of hundreds of murdered Frenchmen would have cried from the ground in vain. But it was not so to be. Injured humanity found an avenger, and outraged France a champion. Her chivalrous annals may be searched in vain for a deed of more romantic daring than the vengeance of Dominic de Gourgue.
* * * * *
O little feet, that such long years Must wander on through doubts and fears, Must ache and bleed beneath your load! I, nearer to the way-side inn Where toil shall cease and rest begin, Am weary, thinking of your road.
O little hands, that, weak or strong, Have still to serve or rule so long, Have still so long to give or ask! I, who so much with book and pen Have toiled among my fellow-men, Am weary, thinking of your task.
O little hearts, that throb and beat With such impatient, feverish heat, Such limitless and strong desires! Mine, that, so long has glowed and burned, With passions into ashes turned, Now covers and conceals its fires.
O little souls, as pure and white And crystalline as rays of light Direct from heaven, their source divine! Refracted through the mist of years, How red my setting sun appears, How lurid looks this soul, of mine!
* * * * *
A STORY IN THREE PARTS.
When we returned from our journey, Lulu was among the first to greet us, and with a cordial animation quite unlike the gentle, dawdling way she used to have. Indeed, I was struck the first evening with a new impulse, and a healthful mental current, that gave glow and freshness to everything she said. Mr. Lewis was gone to Cuba, she told us, and would be away a month more, but "George" was with her continually, and the days were all too short for what they had to do. She seemed to have attacked all the arts and sciences simultaneously, and with an eagerness very amusing to see. George had begun a numismatic collection for her, and she had made out an historic table from the coins, writing down all that was most important under each king's reign. George had brought home some fine specimens of stones, and had interested her much in mineralogy. George liked riding, and had taught her to ride; and she now perpetually made her appearance in her riding-habit and little jockey-cap, wishing she could do something for me here or there. George moulded, and taught her to mould; and she was dabbling in clay and plaster of Paris all the morning. George painted beautifully in water-colors, and taught her to sketch from Nature, which she often did now, in their rides, when the days were pleasant enough. George not only thrummed a Spanish guitar, but liked singing; so music went on with wonderful force and improvement. Nothing that George liked better than botany, metaphysics, and micrology. And now Lulu was screaming at dreadful dragons' heads on a pin's point, or delighted with diamond-beetles and spiders' eyes. She fairly revelled in the new worlds that were opened to her eager eye and hungry mind. No more long, tiresome mornings now. Every hour was occupied. Intelligent smiles dimpled her beautiful mouth; the weary, unoccupied, childish look vanished from her eyes; and her talk was animated and animating. For though she might not tell much that was new, she told it in a new way and with the fresh light of recent experience. Thus she became in a wonderfully short time a quite different woman from the Lulu of the early winter.
We acknowledged that she was become an agreeable companion. In a few weeks of home-education her soul had expanded to a tropical and rich growth. This we were talking over one night, when Lulu had been with us, and when George had come for her and extinguished us with his great hearty laugh and abundant health and activity, as the sun's effulgence does a house-candle.
"I don't like that Remington, either," said the minister, after we were left in this state of darkness.
"But, surely, he has given Lulu's mind a most desirable impulse and direction. How glad Mr. Lewis will be to see her so happy, so animated, and so sensible, when he comes home!"
"If that makes him happy, he could have had it before, I suppose. But do you notice anything unhealthy in this mental cultivation,—anything forced in this luxuriant flowering? Now the light of heaven expands the whole nature, I hold, into healthy and proportioned beauty. If anything is lacking or exuberant, the influence is not heavenly, be sure. What do you think of this statement?"
"Very sensible, but very Hebrew to me."
"I never thought Lulu's were 'household eyes,'—but now she never speaks of husband or children, of house or home. Now that is not a suitable mental condition. Let us hope that this intellectual effervescence will subside, and leave her some thoughtfulness and care for others, and the meditation which will make her accomplishments something to enrich and strengthen, rather than excite and overrun her mind."
"Ah! well, it is only a few weeks, not more than six, since she found out she had a soul. No wonder she feels she has been such a laggard in the race, she must keep on the gallop now to make up for lost time."
"But,—about the husband and children?"
"Oh, they will come in in due time and take their true place. She is a young artist, and hasn't got her perspectives arranged. Be sure they will be in the foreground presently," said I, cheerfully.
"Let us hope so. For a wife, mother, and house-mistress to be racing after so many ologies, and ignoring her daily duties, is a spectacle of doubtful utility to me."
To tell the truth, this want of domestic interest had often struck me also. One day, as we were talking about my children, Lulu had said that she believed herself destitute of the maternal instinct; for although she liked to see the children, of course, yet she did not miss them when away from her. And after the death of young Lewis, which happened while they were at Cuba, and which distressed my Johnnie so much that he could not for a long time bear either books or play, for want of his beloved playmate, his mother, apparently, did not lament him at all.
"I never liked to have him with me," she said to me,—"partly, I suppose, because he reminded me of Montalli, and of a period of great suffering in my life. I should be glad never to think of him again. But William seemed to love and pity him always. Gave him his name, and always treated him like an only and elder son. And William is fond of the little girls, too. I don't mean that I am not fond of them, but not as he is. He will go and spend a week at a time playing and driving with them."
Indeed, she very often reminded me of Undine in her soulless days.
As she scarcely went into society, during the absence of Mr. Lewis, Lulu had time for all this multifarious culture that I have been describing, and she was gradually coming also to reason and reflect on what she read and heard, though her appetite for knowledge continued with the same keenness. Her artistic eye, which naturally grouped and arranged with taste whatever was about her, stood her in good stead of experience; and with a very little instruction, she was able to do wonders in both a plastic and pictorial way.
One day she showed me a fine drawing of the Faun of Praxiteles, with some verses written beneath. The lines seemed to me full of vigor and harmony. They implied and breathed, too, such an intimacy with classical thought, that I was astonished when, in answer to my inquiry, she told me she wrote them herself.
"How delighted Mr. Lewis will be with this!" I exclaimed, looking at the beautifully finished drawing; "to think how you have improved, Lulu!"
"You think so?" she answered, with glistening eyes. "I, too, feel that I have, and am so happy!"
"I am sure Mr. Lewis will be so, too," I continued, persistently.
She answered in a sharp tone, dropping her eyes, and, as it were, all the joy out of them,—
"Surely, I have told you often enough that Mr. Lewis hates literary women! I am not goose enough to expect him to sympathize with any intellectual pursuits of mine. No. Fatima in the harem, or Nourmahal thrumming her lute under a palm-tree, is his belle-ideale; failing that, a housekeeper and drudge."
I cannot describe the scorn with which she said this. She changed the subject, however, at once, instead of pursuing it as she would formerly have done, and soon after left me for a drive over Milton Hills with George, with a hammer and sketch-book in the chaise.
Mr. Lewis's business in Cuba was prolonged into May. He had estates there, and desired to dispose of them, Lulu said, so that they might for the future live entirely at the North, which they both liked better.
I could not help seeing that her affections drifted farther and farther every week from their lawful haven, and I wished Mr. Lewis safe back again and overlooking his Northern estates. I guessed how, through her pride of awakened intellect, Lulu's gratitude had wrought a deep interest in her cousin. He had rescued her from the idleness and inanity of her daily life, pointed out to her the broad fields of literary enjoyment and excellence, and inevitably associated his own image with all the new and varied occupations with which her now busy days were filled. The poetry she read he brought to her; the songs she sang were of his selection. His mind and taste, his observations and reflections, were all written over every page she read, over every hour of her life. She had been on a desert island in her intellectual loneliness. She could hardly help loving the hand that had guided her to the palm-tree and the fountain, especially when she glanced back at the long sandy reach of her life.
Naturally enough, I watched and distrusted Mr. Remington, who was a man of the world, and knew very well what he was about. Of all things, he dearly loved to be excited, occupied, and amused. Of course, I was not disturbed about his heart, nor seriously supposed he would get into any entanglement of the affections and the duties of life, but I thought he might do a great deal of harm for all that.
At last, in the middle of May, Mr. Lewis returned, having failed in his desired arrangement for a permanent residence in New England. The first evening I saw them together without company, I perceived that he was struck with the new life in Lulu's manner and conversation. He watched and listened to her with an astonishment which he could not conceal.
I never saw anything like jealousy in Mr. Lewis's manner, either at this time, or before. He was always tender and dignified, when speaking to or of her. If he felt any uneasiness now, he did not betray it. In looking back, I am sure of this. Afterwards, in company, where he might be supposed to be proud of his wife, he often looked at her with the same astonishment, and sometimes with unaffected admiration. He could not help seeing the great change in her,—that the days were taken up with rational and elegant pursuits, and that the hours were vocal with poetry and taste. The illuminating mind had brought her tulip beauty into a brighter and more gorgeous glow, and her movements were full of graceful meaning. Everything was touched and inspired but the heart. I don't know that he felt this, or that he missed anything. She had the same easy self-possession in his presence which she had always had,—the same pet names of endearment. It was always "Willie, dear," or "Yes, my love," which makes the usual matrimonial vocabulary, and which does not reward study. But he always looked at her with a calm delight, perfectly satisfied with all she said and did, and with a Southern indolence of mind and body, that precluded effort. I think he never once lost entire confidence in her, or was jealous of the hand that had unlocked such mental treasures for her.
Meanwhile her eager lip quaffed the bright cup so cautiously presented, and drained it with ever new delight. If it was mingled with delicate flattery, it only sparkled more merrily; and if there were poison there, I am sure she never guessed it, even when it burnt in her cheek or thrilled in her dancing veins.
The Lewises, with Mr. Remington and a large party of pleasure-seekers, went about this time on a tour to Quebec and the Falls of Montmorency. They decided to shut their house in Boston, and Lulu asked me if I would employ and look after a protegee of hers, in whom she took some interest. The woman was a tolerable seamstress, she said, and would come to me the next day. She knew nothing about her except that she was poor and could sew.
When the woman came in, I was puzzled to think where I could have seen her, which I was sure I had done somewhere, though I could not recall the where or when. In answer to my particular inquiries, as she could give me no references, she told me her husband was living, but was sick and could do nothing for his family,—in fact, that she and three children were kept alive by her efforts of various sorts. These were, sewing when she could get it, washing and scrubbing when she could not. She was very poorly dressed, but had a Yankee, go-ahead expression, as if she would get a living on the top of a bare rock.
Still puzzling over the likeness in her face to somebody I had known, I continued to ask questions and to observe face, manner, and voice, in hope to catch the clue of which I was in search. When she admitted that her husband's intemperance had lost him his place and forbade his getting another, and said his name was Jim Ruggles, "a light broke in upon my brain." I remembered my vision of the fresh young girl who had sprung out on our path like a morning-glory, on our way to New York seven years before. The poor morning-glory was sadly trodden in the dust. It hadn't done "no good," as the driver had remarked, to forewarn her of the consequences of marrying a sponge. She had accepted her lot, and, strangely enough, was quite happy in it. There could be no mistake in the cheerful expression of her worn face. Whatever Jim might be to other people, she said, he was always good to her and the children; and she pitied him, loved him, and took care of him. It wasn't at all in the fashion the Temperance Society would have liked; for when I first went to the house, I found her pouring out a glass of strong waters for him, and handing it to his pale and trembling lips herself. As soon as I was seated, she locked bottle and glass carefully. Before I left her, she had given him stimulants of various sorts from the same source, which he received with grateful smiles, and then went on coughing as before.
"It's no time now for him to be forming new habits," said she, in answer to my open-eyed surprise; "and it's best he should have all the comfort and ease he can get. As long as I can get it for him, he shall have it."
She spoke very quietly, but very much as if the same will of her own which had led her to marry Jim Ruggles, when a gay, dissipated fellow, kept her determined to give him what he wanted, even to the doubtful extreme I saw. So she struggled bravely on during the next four weeks of Jim's existence, keeping herself and her three children on hasty pudding, and buying for Jim's consumptively craving appetite rich mince-pies and platefuls of good rich food from an eating-house hard by. At the end of the four weeks he died most peacefully and suddenly, having not five minutes before swallowed a glass of gin sling, prepared by the loving hand of his wife, and saying to her, with a firm, clear voice, and a grateful smile, "Good Amy! always good!" So the weak man's soul passed away. And as Amy told me about it, with sorrowful sobs, I was not ready to say or think she had done wrong, although both her conduct and my opinion were entirely uncanonical.