Transcriber's note: in this pure-ASCII edition, a small number of non-ASCII characters have been encoded as follows: é and è for accented E; ê and ô for E and O with circumflex; and ï for I with an ulaut.
The Romance of Reality
Author of "Half-Hours with the Best American Authors," "Tales from the Dramatists," etc.
IN FIFTEEN VOLUMES
J.B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY PHILADELPHIA AND LONDON
Copyright, 1893, by J.B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY. Copyright, 1904, by J.B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY. Copyright, 1908, by J.B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.
It has become a commonplace remark that fact is often stranger than fiction. It may be said, as a variant of this, that history is often more romantic than romance. The pages of the record of man's doings are frequently illustrated by entertaining and striking incidents, relief points in the dull monotony of every-day events, stories fitted to rouse the reader from languid weariness and stir anew in his veins the pulse of interest in human life. There are many such,—dramas on the stage of history, life scenes that are pictures in action, tales pathetic, stirring, enlivening, full of the element of the unusual, of the stuff the novel and the romance are made of, yet with the advantage of being actual fact. Incidents of this kind have proved as attractive to writers as to readers. They have dwelt upon them lovingly, embellished them with the charms of rhetoric and occasionally with the inventions of fancy, until what began as fact has often entered far into the domains of legend and fiction. It may well be that some of the narratives in the present work have gone through this process. If so, it is simply indicative of the interest they have awakened in generations of readers and writers. But the bulk of them are fact, so far as history in general can be called fact, it having been our design to cull from the annals of the nations some of their more stirring and romantic incidents, and present them as a gallery of pictures that might serve to adorn the entrance to the temple of history, of which this work is offered as in some sense an illuminated ante-chamber. As such, it is hoped that some pilgrims from the world of readers may find it a pleasant halting-place on their way into the far-extending aisles of the great temple beyond.
VINELAND AND THE VIKINGS 9 FROBISHER AND THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE 26 CHAMPLAIN AND THE IROQUOIS 34 SIR WILLIAM PHIPS AND THE SILVER-SHIP 53 THE STORY OF THE REGICIDES 69 HOW THE CHARTER WAS SAVED 80 HOW FRANKLIN CAME TO PHILADELPHIA 90 THE PERILS OF THE WILDERNESS 98 SOME ADVENTURES OF MAJOR PUTNAM 111 A GALLANT DEFENCE 128 DANIEL BOONE, THE PIONEER OF KENTUCKY 138 PAUL'S REVERE'S RIDE 157 THE GREEN MOUNTAIN BOYS 172 THE BRITISH AT NEW YORK 180 A QUAKERESS PATRIOT 189 THE SIEGE OF FORT SCHUYLER 195 ON THE TRACK OF A TRAITOR 211 MARION, THE SWAMP-FOX 223 THE FATE OF THE PHILADELPHIA 237 THE VICTIM OF A TRAITOR 249 HOW THE ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH WAS INVENTED 259 THE MONITOR AND THE MERRIMAC 275 STEALING A LOCOMOTIVE 285 AN ESCAPE FROM LIBBY PRISON 298 THE SINKING OF THE ALBEMARLE 314 ALASKA, A TREASURE HOUSE OF GOLD, FURS, AND FISHES 327 HOW HAWAII LOST ITS QUEEN AND ENTERED THE UNITED STATES 338
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
AMERICAN. VOLUME I.
WASHINGTON CROSSING THE DELAWARE. Frontispiece. VIKING SHIPS AT SEA. 11 LAKE CHAMPLAIN AND ITS SURROUNDINGS. 41 POND ISLAND, MOUTH OF THE KENNEBEC. 54 THE CAVE OF THE REGICIDES. 76 THE CHARTER OAK, HARTFORD. 85 PRINTING-PRESS AT WHICH FRANKLIN WORKED WHEN A BOY. 90 WASHINGTON'S HOME AT MT. VERNON. 98 SHORE OF LAKE GEORGE. 118 INDIAN ATTACK AND GALLANT DEFENCE. 128 THE OLD NORTH CHURCH, BOSTON. 158 THE SPIRIT OF '76. 166 ETHAN ALLEN'S ENTRANCE, TICONDEROGA. 172 THE OLD STATE HOUSE, PHILADELPHIA. 191 THE BENEDICT ARNOLD MANSION. 220 THE MONITOR AND THE MERRIMAC. 280 LIBBY PRISON, RICHMOND. 298 SINKING OF THE ALBEMARLE. 319 MUIR GLACIER IN ALASKA. 328 A NATIVE GRASS HUT, HAWAII. 340
VINELAND AND THE VIKINGS.
The year 1000 A.D. was one of strange history. Its advent threw the people of Europe into a state of mortal terror. Ten centuries had passed since the birth of Christ. The world was about to come to an end. Such was the general belief. How it was to reach its end,—whether by fire, water, or some other agent of ruin,—the prophets of disaster did not say, nor did people trouble themselves to learn. Destruction was coming upon them, that was enough to know; how to provide against it was the one thing to be considered.
Some hastened to the churches; others to the taverns. Here prayers went up; there wine went down. The petitions of the pious were matched by the ribaldry of the profligate. Some made their wills; others wasted their wealth in revelry, eager to get all the pleasure out of life that remained for them. Many freely gave away their property, hoping, by ridding themselves of the goods of this earth, to establish a claim to the goods of Heaven, with little regard to the fate of those whom they loaded with their discarded wealth.
It was an era of ignorance and superstition. Christendom went insane over an idea. When the year ended, and the world rolled on, none the worse for conflagration or deluge, green with the spring leafage and ripe with the works of man, dismay gave way to hope, mirth took the place of prayer, man regained their flown wits, and those who had so recklessly given away their wealth bethought themselves of taking legal measures for its recovery.
Such was one of the events that made that year memorable. There was another of a highly different character. Instead of a world being lost, a world was found. The Old World not only remained unharmed, but a New World was added to it, a world beyond the seas, for this was the year in which the foot of the European was first set upon the shores of the trans-Atlantic continent. It is the story of this first discovery of America that we have now to tell.
In the autumn of the year 1000, in a region far away from fear-haunted Europe, a scene was being enacted of a very different character from that just described. Over the waters of unknown seas a small, strange craft boldly made its way, manned by a crew of the hardiest and most vigorous men, driven by a single square sail, whose coarse woollen texture bellied deeply before the fierce ocean winds, which seemed at times as if they would drive that deckless vessel bodily beneath the waves.
This crew was of men to whom fear was almost unknown, the stalwart Vikings of the North, whose oar-and sail-driven barks now set out from the coasts of Norway and Denmark to ravage the shores of southern Europe, now turned their prows boldly to the west in search of unknown lands afar.
Shall we describe this craft? It was a tiny one in which to venture upon an untravelled ocean in search of an unknown continent,—a vessel shaped somewhat like a strung bow, scarcely fifty feet in length, low amidships and curving upwards to high peaks at stem and stern, both of which converged to sharp edges. It resembled an enormous canoe rather than aught else to which we can compare it. On the stem was a carved and gilt dragon, the figurehead of the ship, which glittered in the bright rays of the sun. Along the bulwarks of the ship, fore and aft, hung rows of large painted wooden shields, which gave an Argus-eyed aspect to the craft. Between them was a double row of thole-pins for the great oars, which now lay at rest in the bottom of the boat, but by which, in calm weather, this "walker of the seas" could be forced swiftly through the yielding element.
Near the stern, on an elevated platform, stood the commander, a man of large and powerful frame and imposing aspect, one whose commands not the fiercest of his crew would lightly venture to disobey. A coat of ring-mail encircled his stalwart frame; by his side, in a richly-embossed scabbard, hung a long sword, with hilt of gilded bronze; on his head was a helmet that shone like pure gold, shaped like a wolf's head, with gaping jaws and threatening teeth. Land was in sight, an unknown coast, peopled perhaps by warlike men. The cautious Viking leader deemed it wise to be prepared for danger, and was armed for possible combat.
Below him, on the rowing-benches, sat his hardy crew, their arms—spears, axes, bows, and slings—beside them, ready for any deed of daring they might be called upon to perform. Their dress consisted of trousers of coarse stuff, belted at the waist; thick woollen shirts, blue, red, or brown in color; iron helmets, beneath which their long hair streamed down to their shoulders; and a shoulder belt descending to the waist and supporting their leather-covered sword-scabbards. Heavy whiskers and moustaches added to the fierceness of their stern faces, and many of them wore as ornament on the forehead a band of gold.
They numbered thirty-five in all, this crew who had set out to brave the terrors and solve the mysteries of the great Atlantic. Their leader, Leif by name, was the son of Eirek the Red, the discoverer of Greenland, and a Viking as fierce as ever breathed the air of the north land. Outlawed in Norway, where in hot blood he had killed more men than the law could condone, Eirek had made his way to Iceland. Here his fierce temper led him again to murder, and flight once more became necessary. Manning a ship, he set sail boldly to the west, and in the year 982 reached a land on which the eye of European had never before gazed. To this he gave the name of Greenland, with the hope, perhaps, that this inviting name would induce others to follow him.
Such proved to be the case. Eirek returned to Iceland, told the story of his discovery, and in 985 set sail again for his new realm with twenty-five ships and many colonists. Others came afterwards, among them one Biarni, a bold and enterprising youth, for whom a great adventure was reserved. Enveloped in fogs, and driven for days from its course by northeasterly winds, his vessel was forced far to the south. When at length the fog cleared away, the distressed mariners saw land before them, a low, level, thickly-wooded region, very different from the ice-covered realm they had been led to expect.
"Is this the land of which we are in search?" asked the sailors.
"No," answered Biarni; "for I am told that we may look for very large glaciers in Greenland.
"At any rate, let us land and rest."
"Not so; my father has gone with Eirek. I shall not rest till I see him again."
And now the winds blew northward, and for seven days they scudded before a furious gale, passing on their way a mountainous, ice-covered island, and in the end, by great good fortune, Biarni's vessel put into the very port where his father had fixed his abode.
Biarni had seen, but had not set foot upon, the shores of the New World. That was left for bolder or more enterprising mariners to perform. About 995 he went to Norway, where the story of his strange voyage caused great excitement among the adventure-loving people. Above all, it stirred up the soul of Leif, eldest son of Eirek the Red, then in Norway, who in his soul resolved to visit and explore that strange land which Biarni had only seen from afar.
Leif returned to Greenland with more than this idea in his mind. When Eirek left Norway he had left a heathen land. When Leif visited it he found it a Christian country. Or at least he found there a Christian king, Olaf Tryggvason by name, who desired his guest to embrace the new faith. Leif consented without hesitation. Heathenism did not seem very firmly fixed in the minds of those northern barbarians. He and all his sailors were baptized, and betook themselves to Greenland with this new faith as their most precious freight. In this way Christianity first made its way across the seas. And thus it further came about that the ship which we have seen set sail for southern lands.
This ship was that of Biarni. Leif had bought it, it may be with the fancy that it would prove fortunate in retracing its course. Not only Leif, but his father Eirek, now an old man, was fired with the hope of new discoveries. The aged Viking had given Greenland, to the world; it was a natural ambition to desire to add to his fame as a discoverer. But on his way to the vessel his horse stumbled. Superstitious, as all men were in that day, he looked on this as an evil omen.
"I shall not go," he said. "It is not my destiny to discover any other lands than that on which we now live. I shall follow you no farther, but end my life in Greenland." And Eirek rode back to his home.
Not so the adventurers. They boldly put out to sea, turned the prow of their craft southward, and battled with the waves day after day, their hearts full of hope, their eyes on the alert for the glint of distant lands.
At length land was discovered,—a dreary country, mountainous, icy; doubtless the inhospitable island which Biarni had described. They landed, but only to find themselves on a shore covered with bare, flat rocks, while before them loomed snow-covered heights.
"This is not the land we seek," said Leif; "but we will not do as Biarni did, who never set foot on shore. I will give this land a name, and will call it Helluland,"—a name which signifies the "land of broad stones."
Onward they sailed again, their hearts now filled with ardent expectation. At length rose again the stirring cry of "Land!" or its Norse equivalent, and as the dragon-peaked craft glided swiftly onward there rose into view a long coast-line, flat and covered with white sand in the foreground, while a dense forest spread over the rising ground in the rear.
"Markland [land of forest] let it be called," cried Leif. "This must be the land which Biarni first saw. We will not be like him, but will set foot on its promising shores."
They landed, but tarried not long. Soon they took ship again, and sailed for two days out of sight of land. Then there came into view an island, with a broad channel between it and the mainland. Up this channel they laid their course, and soon came to where a river poured its clear waters into the sea. They decided to explore this stream. The boat was lowered and the ship towed up the river, until, at a short distance inland, it broadened into a lake. Here, at Leif's command, the anchor was cast, and their good ship, the pioneer in American discovery, came to rest within the inland waters of the New World.
Not many minutes passed before the hardy mariners were on shore, and eagerly observing the conditions of their new-discovered realm. River and lake alike were full of salmon, the largest they had ever seen, a fact which agreeably settled the question of food. The climate seemed deliciously mild, as compared with the icy shores to which they were used. The grass was but little withered by frost, and promised a winter supply of food for cattle. Altogether they were so pleased with their surroundings that Leif determined to spend the winter at that place, exploring the land so far as he could.
For some time they dwelt under booths, passing the nights in their leather sleeping-bags; but wood was abundant, axes and hands skilful to wield them were at hand, and they quickly went to work to build themselves habitations more suitable for the coming season of cold.
No inhabitants of the land were seen. So far as yet appeared, it might be a region on which human foot had never before been set. But Leif was a cautious leader. He bade his men not to separate until the houses were finished. Then he divided them into two parties, left one to guard their homes and their ship, and sent the other inland to explore.
"Beware, though," he said, "that you risk not too much. We know not what perils surround us. Go not so far inland but that you can get back by evening, and take care not to separate."
Day after day these explorations continued, the men plunging into the forest that surrounded them and wandering far into its hidden recesses, each evening bringing back with them some story of the marvels of this new land, or some sample of its productions strange to their eyes.
An evening came in which one of the explorers failed to return. He had either disobeyed the injunctions of Leif and gone too far to get back by evening, or some peril of that unknown land had befallen him. This man was of German birth, Tyrker by name, a southerner who had for years dwelt with Eirek and been made the foster-father of Leif, who had been fond of him since childhood. He was a little, wretched-looking fellow, with protruding forehead, unsteady eyes, and tiny face, yet a man skilled in all manner of handicraft.
Leif, on learning of his absence, upbraided the men bitterly for losing him, and called on twelve of them to follow him in search. Into the forest they went, and before long had the good fortune to behold Tyrker returning. The little fellow, far from showing signs of disaster, was in the highest of spirits, his face radiant with joy.
"How now, foster-father!" cried Leif. "Why are you so late? and why have you parted from the others?"
Tyrker was too excited to answer. He rolled his eyes wildly and made wry faces. When words came to him, he spoke in his native German, which none of them understood. Joy seemed to have driven all memory of the language of the north from his mind. It was plain that no harm had come to him. On the contrary, he seemed to have stumbled upon some landfall of good luck. Yet some time passed before they could bring him out of his ecstasy into reason.
"I did not go much farther than you," he at length called out, in their own tongue "and if I am late I have a good excuse. I can tell you news."
"What are they?"
"I have made a grand discovery. See, I have found vines and grapes," and he showed them his hands filled with the purple fruit. "I was born in a land where grapes grow in plenty. And this land bears them! Behold what I bring you!"
The memory of his childhood had driven for the time all memory of the Norse language from his brain. Grapes he had not seen for many years, and the sight of them made him a child again. The others beheld the prize with little less joy. They slept where they were that night, and in the morning followed Tyrker to the scene of his discovery, where he gladly pointed to the arbor-like vines, laden thickly with wild grapes, a fruit delicious to their unaccustomed palates.
"This is a glorious find," cried Leif. "We must take some of this splendid fruit north. There are two kinds of work now to be done. One day you shall gather grapes the next you shall cut timber to freight the ship. We must show our friends north what a country we have found. As for this land, I have a new name for it. Let it be called Vineland, the land of grapes and wine."
After this discovery there is little of interest to record. The winter, which proved to be a very mild one, passed away, and in the spring they set sail again for Greenland, their ship laden deeply with timber, so useful a treasure in their treeless northern home, while the long-boat was filled to the gunwale with the grapes they had gathered and dried.
Such is the story of the first discovery of America, as told in the sagas of the North. Leif the Lucky was the name given the discoverer from that time forward. He made no more visits to Vineland, for during the next winter his father died, and he became the governing head of the Greenland settlements.
But the adventurous Northmen were not the men to rest at ease with an untrodden continent so near at hand. Thorvald, Leif's brother, one of the boldest of his race, determined to see for himself the wonders of Vineland. In the spring of 1002 he set sail with thirty companions, in the pioneer ship of American discovery, the same vessel which Biarni and Leif had made famous in that service. Unluckily the records fail to give us the name of this notable ship.
Steering southward, they reached in due time the lake on whose shores Leif and his crew had passed the winter. The buildings stood unharmed, and the new crew passed a winter here, most of their time being spent in catching and drying the delicious salmon which thronged river and lake. In the spring they set sail again, and explored the coast for a long distance to the south. How far they went we cannot tell, for all we know of their voyage is that nearly everywhere they found white sandy shores and a background of unbroken forest. Like Leif, they saw no men.
Back they came to Vineland, and there passed the winter again. Another spring came in the tender green of the young leafage, and again they put to sea. So far fortune had steadily befriended them. Now the reign of misfortune began. Not far had they gone before the vessel was driven ashore by a storm, and broke her keel on a protruding shoal. This was not a serious disaster. A new keel was made, and the old one planted upright in the sands of the coast.
"We will call this place Kial-ar-ness" [Keel Cape], said Thorvald.
On they sailed again, and came to a country of such attractive aspect that Thorvald looked upon it with longing eyes.
"This is a fine country, and here I should like to build myself a home," he said, little deeming in what gruesome manner his words were to be fulfilled.
For now, for the first time in the story of these voyages, are we told of the natives of the land,—the Skroelings, as the Norsemen called them. Passing the cape which Thorvald had chosen for his home, the mariners landed to explore the shore, and on their way back to the ship saw, on the white sands, three significant marks. They were like those made by a boat when driven ashore. Continuing their observation, they quickly perceived, drawn well up on the shore, three skin-canoes turned keel upward. Dividing into three parties, they righted these boats, and to their surprise saw that under each three men lay concealed.
The blood-loving instinct of the Norsemen was never at fault in a case like this. Drawing their swords, they assailed the hidden men, and of the nine only one escaped, the other being stretched in death upon the beach.
The mariners had made a fatal mistake. To kill none, unless they could kill all, should have been their rule, a lesson in practical wisdom which they were soon to learn. But, heedless of danger and with the confidence of strength and courage, they threw themselves upon the sands, and, being weary and drowsy, were quickly lost in slumber.
And now came a marvel. A voice, none knew whence or of whom, called loudly in their slumbering ears,—
"Wake, Thorvaldt! Wake all your men, if you would save your life and theirs! Haste to your ship and fly from land with all speed, for vengeance and death confront you."
Suddenly aroused, they sprang to their feet, looking at each other with astounded eyes, and asking who had spoken those words. Little time for answer remained. The woods behind them suddenly seemed alive with fierce natives, who had been roused to vengeful fury by the flying fugitive, and now came on with hostile cries. The Norsemen sprang to their boats and rowed in all haste to the ship; but before they could make sail the surface of the bay swarmed with skin-boats, and showers of arrows were poured upon them.
The warlike mariners in turn assailed their foes with arrows, slings, and javelins, slaying so many of them that the remainder were quickly put to flight. But they fled not unrevenged. A keen-pointed arrow, flying between the ship's side and the edge of his shield, struck Thorvald in the armpit, wounding him so deeply that death threatened to follow the withdrawal of the fatal dart.
"My day is come," said the dying chief. "Return home to Greenland as quickly as you may. But as for me, you shall carry me to the place which I said would be so pleasant to dwell in. Doubtless truth came out of my mouth, for it may be that I shall live there for awhile. There you shall bury me and put crosses at my head and feet, and henceforward that place shall be called Krossanes" [Cross Cape].
The sorrowing sailors carried out the wishes of their dying chief, who lived but long enough to fix his eyes once more on the place which he had chosen for his home, and then closed them in the sleep of death. They buried him here, placing the crosses at his head and feet as he had bidden, and then set sail again for the booths of Leif at Vineland, where part of their company had been left to gather grapes in their absence. To these they told the story of what had happened, and agreed with them that the winter should be spent in that place, and that in the spring they should obey Thorvald's request and set sail for Greenland. This they did, taking on board their ship vines and an abundance of dried grapes. Ere the year was old their good ship again reached Eireksfjord, where Leif was told of the death of his brother and of all that had happened to the voyagers.
The remaining story of the discoveries of the Northmen must be told in a few words. The next to set sail for that far-off land was Thorstein, the third son of Eirek the Red. He failed to get there, however, but made land on the east coast of Greenland, where he died, while his wife Gudrid returned home. Much was this woman noted for her beauty, and as much for her wisdom and prudence, so the sagas tell us.
In 1006 came to Greenland a noble Icelander, Thorfinn by name. That winter he married Gudrid, and so allied himself to the family of Eirek the Red. And quickly he took up the business of discovery, which had been pursued so ardently by Eirek and his sons. He sailed in 1007, with three ships, for Vineland, where he remained three years, having many adventures with the natives, now trading with them for furs, now fighting with them for life. In Vineland was born a son to Thorfinn and Gudrid, the first white child born in America. From him—Snorri Thorfinnson he was named—came a long line of illustrious descendants, many of whom made their mark in the history of Iceland and Denmark, the line ending in modern times in the famous Thorwaldsen, the greatest sculptor of the nineteenth century.
The sagas thus picture for us the natives: "Swarthy they were in complexion, short and savage in aspect, with ugly hair, great eyes, and broad cheeks." In a battle between the adventurers and these savages the warlike blood of Eirek manifested itself in a woman of his race. For Freydis, his daughter, when pursued and likely to be captured by the natives, snatched up a sword which had been dropped by a slain Greenlander, and faced them so valiantly that they took to their heels in affright and fled precipitately to their canoes.
One more story, and we are done. In the spring of 1010 Thorfinn sailed north with the two ships which he still had. One of them reached Greenland in safety. The other, commanded by Biarni Grimolfson, was driven from its course, and, being worm-eaten, threatened to sink.
There was but one boat, and this capable of holding but half the ship's company. Lots were cast to decide who should go in the boat, and who stay on the sinking ship. Biarni was of those to whom fortune proved kindly. But he was a man of noble strain, fit for deeds of heroic fortitude and self-sacrifice. There was on board the ship a young Icelander, who had been put under Biarni's protection, and who lamented bitterly his approaching fate.
"Come down into the boat," called out the noble-hearted Viking. "I will take your place in the ship; for I see that you are fond of life."
So the devoted chieftain mounted again into the ship, and the youth, selfish with fear, took his place in the boat. The end was as they had foreseen. The boat reached land, where the men told their story. The worm-eaten ship must have gone down in the waves, for Biarni and his comrades were never heard of again. Thus perished one of the world's heroes.
Little remains to be told, for all besides is fragment and conjecture. It is true that in the year 1011 Freydis and her husband voyaged again to Vineland, though they made no new discoveries; and it is probable that in the following centuries other journeys were made to the same land. But as time passed on Greenland grew colder; its icy harvest descended farther and farther upon its shores; in the end its colonies disappeared, and with them ended all intercourse with the grape-laden shores of Vineland.
Just where lay this land of the vine no one to-day can tell. Some would place it as far north as Labrador; some seek to bring it even south of New England; the Runic records simply tell us of a land of capes, islands, rivers, and vines. It is to the latter, and to the story of far-reaching forest-land, and pasturage lasting the winter through, that we owe the general belief that the Vikings reached New England's fertile shores, and that the ship of Biarni and Leif, with its war-loving crews, preceded by six centuries the Mayflower, with its peaceful and pious souls.
FROBISHER AND THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE.
Hardly had it been learned that Columbus was mistaken in his belief, and that the shores he had discovered were not those of India and Cathay, when vigorous efforts began to find some easy route to the rich lands of the Orient. Balboa, in 1513, crossed the continent at its narrow neck, and gazed, with astounded eyes, upon the mighty ocean that lay beyond,—the world's greatest sea. Magellan, in 1520, sailed round the continent at its southern extremity, and turned his daring prows into that world of waters of seemingly illimitable width. But the route thus laid out was far too long for the feeble commerce of that early day, and various efforts were made to pass the line of the continent at some northern point. The great rivers of North America, the James, the Hudson, and others, were explored in the eager hope that they might prove to be liquid canals between the two great seas. But a more promising hope was that which hinted that America might be circumnavigated at the north as well as at the south, and the Pacific be reached by way of the icy channel of the northern seas.
This hope, born so long ago, has but died out in our own days. Much of the most thrilling literature of adventure of the nineteenth century comes from the persistent efforts to traverse these perilous Arctic ocean wastes. Let us go back to the oldest of the daring navigators of this frozen sea, the worthy knight Sir Martin Frobisher, and tell the story of his notable efforts to discover a Northwest Passage, "the only thing left undone," as he quaintly says, "whereby a notable mind might become famous and fortunate."
As an interesting preface to our story we may quote from that curious old tome, "Purchas his Pilgrimage," the following quaintly imaginative passage,—
"How shall I admire your valor and courage, yee Marine Worthies, beyond all names of worthinesse; that neither dread so long either presense nor absence of the Sunne, nor those foggie mists, tempestuous windes, cold blasts, snowes and haile in the aire; nor the unequal Seas, where the Tritons and Neptune's selfe would quake with chilling feare to behold such monstrous Icie Islands, mustering themselves in those watery plaines, where they hold a continuall civill warre, rushing one upon another, making windes and waves give back; nor the rigid, ragged face of the broken landes, sometimes towering themselves to a loftie height, to see if they can finde refuge from those snowes and colds that continually beat them, sometimes hiding themselves under some hollow hills or cliffes, sometimes sinking and shrinking into valleys, looking pale with snowes and falling in frozen and dead swounes: sometimes breaking their neckes into the sea, rather embracing the waters' than the aires' crueltie," and so on with the like labored fancies. "Great God," he concludes, "to whom all names of greatnesse are little, and lesse than nothing, let me in silence admire thy greatnesse, that in this little heart of man (not able to serve a Kite for a break-fast) hast placed such greatness of spirit as the world is too little to fill."
Thus in long-winded meed of praise writes Master Samuel Purchas. Of those bold mariners of whom he speaks our worthy knight, Sir Martin, is one of the first and far from the least.
An effort had been made to discover a northwest passage to the Pacific as early as 1527, and another nine years later; but these were feeble attempts, which ended in failure and disaster, and discovered nothing worthy of record. It was in 1576 that Frobisher, one of the most renowned navigators of his day, put into effect the project he had cherished from his youth upward, and for which he had sought aid during fifteen weary years, that of endeavoring to solve the ice-locked secret of the Arctic seas.
The fleet with which this daring adventure was undertaken was a strangely insignificant one, consisting of three vessels which were even less in size than those with which Columbus had ventured on his great voyage. Two of these were but of twenty tons burden each, and the third only of ten, while the aggregate crews numbered but thirty-five men. With this tiny squadron, less in size than a trio of fishing-smacks, the daring adventurer set out to traverse the northern seas and face the waves of the great Pacific, if fortune should open to him its gates.
On the 11th of July, 1576, the southern extremity of Greenland was sighted. It presented a more icy aspect than that which the Norsemen had seen nearly six centuries before. Sailing thence westward, the land of the continent came into view, and for the first time by modern Europeans was seen that strange race, now so well known under the name of Eskimo. The characteristics of this people, and the conditions of their life, are plainly described. The captain "went on shore, and was encountered with mightie Deere, which ranne at him, with danger of his life. Here he had sight of the Savages, which rowed to his Shippe in Boates of Seales Skinnes, with a Keele of wood within them. They eate raw Flesh and Fish, or rather devoured the same: they had long black hayre, broad faces, flat noses, tawnie of color, or like an Olive."
His first voyage went not beyond this point. He returned home, having lost five of his men, who were carried off by the natives. But he brought with him that which was sure to pave the way to future voyages. This was a piece of glittering stone, which the ignorant goldsmiths of London confidently declared to be ore of gold.
Frobisher's first voyage had been delayed by the great difficulty in obtaining aid. For his new project assistance was freely offered, Queen Elizabeth herself, moved by hope of treasure, coming to his help with a hundred and eighty-ton craft, the "Ayde," to which two smaller vessels were added. These being provisioned and manned, the bold navigator, with "a merrie wind" in his sails, set out again for the desolate north.
His first discovery here was of the strait now known by his name, up which he passed in a boat, with the mistaken notion in his mind that the land bounding the strait to the south was America, and that to the north was Asia. The natives proved friendly, but Frobisher soon succeeded in making them hostile. He seized some of them and attempted to drag them to his boat, "that he might conciliate them by presents." The Eskimos, however, did not approve of this forcible method of conciliation, and the unwise knight reached the boat alone, with an arrow in his leg.
But, to their great joy, the mariners found plenty of the shining yellow stones, and stowed abundance of them on their ships, deeming, like certain Virginian gold-seekers of a later date, that their fortunes were now surely made. They found also "a great dead fish, round like a porepis [porpoise], twelve feet long, having a Horne of two yardes, lacking two ynches, growing out of the Snout, wreathed and straight, like a Waxe-Taper, and might be thought to be a Sea-Unicorne. It was reserved as a Jewell by the Queens' commandment in her Wardrobe of Robes."
A northwest wind having cleared the strait of ice, the navigators sailed gayly forward, full of the belief that the Pacific would soon open to their eyes. It was not long before they were in battle with the Eskimos. They had found European articles in some native kyacks, which they supposed belonged to the men they had lost the year before. To rescue or revenge these unfortunates, Frobisher attacked the natives, who valiantly resisted, even plucking the arrows from their bodies to use as missiles, and, when mortally hurt, flinging themselves from the rocks into the sea. At length they gave ground, and fled to the loftier cliffs, leaving two of their women as trophies to the assailants. These two, one "being olde," says the record, "the other encombred with a yong childe, we took. The olde wretch, whom divers of our Saylors supposed to be eyther the Divell, or a witch, had her buskins plucked off, to see if she were cloven-footed; and for her ougly hewe and deformitie, we let her goe; the young woman and the childe we brought away."
This was not the last of their encounters with the Eskimos, who, incensed against them, made every effort to entrap them into their power. Their stratagems consisted in placing tempting pieces of meat at points near which they lay in ambush, and in pretending lameness to decoy the Englishmen into pursuit. These schemes failing, they made a furious assault upon the vessel with arrows and other missiles.
Before the strait could be fully traversed, ice had formed so thickly that further progress was stopped, and, leaving the hoped-for Cathay for future voyagers, the mariners turned their prows homeward, their vessels laden with two hundred tons of the glittering stone.
Strangely enough, an examination of this material failed to dispel the delusion. The scientists of that day declared that it was genuine gold-ore, and expressed their belief that the road to China lay through Frobisher Strait. Untold wealth, far surpassing that which the Spaniards had obtained in Mexico and Peru, seemed ready to shower into England's coffers. Frobisher was now given the proud honor of kissing the queen's hand, his neck was encircled with a chain of gold of more value than his entire two hundred tons of ore, and, with a fleet of fifteen ships, one of them of four hundred tons, he set sail again for the land of golden promise. Of the things that happened to him in this voyage, one of the most curious is thus related. "The Salamander (one of their Shippes), being under both her Courses and Bonets, happened to strike upon a great Whale, with her full Stemme, with suche a blow that the Shippe stood still, and neither stirred backward or forward. The whale thereat made a great and hideous noyse, and casting up his body and tayle, presently sank under water. Within two days they found a whale dead, which they supposed was this which the Salamander had stricken."
Other peril came to the fleet from icebergs, through the midst of which they were driven by a tempest, but they finally made their way into what is now known as Hudson Strait, up which, filled with hope that the continental limits would quickly be passed and the route to China open before them, they sailed some sixty miles. But to their disappointment they found that they were being turned southward, and, instead of crossing the continent, were descending into its heart.
Reluctantly Frobisher turned back, and, after many buffetings from the storms, managed to bring part of his fleet into Frobisher Bay. So much time had been lost that it was not safe to proceed. Winter might surprise them in those icy wilds. Therefore, shipping immense quantities of the "fools' gold" which had led them so sadly astray, they turned their prows once more homeward, reaching England's shores in early October.
Meanwhile the "ore" had been found to be absolutely worthless, the golden dreams which had roused England to exultation had faded away, and the new ship-loads they brought were esteemed to be hardly worth their weight as ballast. For this disappointment the unlucky Frobisher, who had been appointed High Admiral of all lands and waters which he might discover, could not be held to blame. It was not he that had pronounced the worthless pyrites gold, and he had but obeyed orders in bringing new cargoes of this useless rubbish to add to the weight of Albion's rock-bound shores. But he could not obtain aid for a new voyage to the icy north, England for the time had lost all interest in that unpromising region, and Frobisher was forced to employ in other directions his skill in seamanship.
With the after-career of this unsuccessful searcher for the Northwest Passage we have no concern. It will suffice to say that fortune attended his later ventures upon the seas, and that he died in 1594, from a wound which he received in a naval battle off the coast of France.
CHAMPLAIN AND THE IROQUOIS.
On a bright May morning in the year 1609, at the point where the stream then known as the Rivière des Iroquois—and which has since borne the various names of the Richelieu, the Chambly, the St. Louis, the Sorel and the St. John—poured the waters of an unknown interior lake into the channel of the broad St. Lawrence, there was presented a striking spectacle. Everywhere on the liquid surface canoes, driven by the steady sweep of paddles wielded by naked and dusky arms, shot to and fro. Near the shore a small shallop, on whose deck stood a group of armed whites, had just cast anchor, and was furling its sails. Upon the strip of open land bordering the river, and in the woodland beyond, were visible great numbers of savage warriors, their faces hideously bedaubed with war-paint, their hands busy in erecting the frail habitations of a temporary camp.
The scene was one of striking beauty, such as only the virgin wilderness can display. The river ran between walls of fresh green leafage, here narrowed, yonder widened into a broad reach which was encircled by far sweeping forests. The sun shone broadly on the animated scene, while the whites, from the deck of their small craft, gazed with deep interest on the strange picture before them, filled as it was with dusky natives, some erecting their forest shelters, others fishing in the stream, while still others were seeking the forest depths in pursuit of game.
The scene is of interest to us for another reason. It was the prelude to the first scene of Indian warfare which the eyes of Europeans were to behold in the northern region of the American continent. The Spaniards had been long established in the south, but no English settlement had yet been made on the shores of the New World, and the French had but recently built a group of wooden edifices on that precipitous height which is now crowned with the walls and the spires of Quebec.
Not long had the whites been there before the native hunters of the forests came to gaze with wondering eyes on those pale-faced strangers, with their unusual attire and surprising powers of architecture. And quickly they begged their aid in an expedition against their powerful enemies, the confederated nations of the Iroquois, who dwelt in a wonderful lake-region to the south, and by their strength, skill, and valor had made themselves the terror of the tribes.
Samuel de Champlain, an adventurous Frenchman who had already won himself reputation by an exploration of the Spanish domain of the West Indies, was now in authority at Quebec, and did not hesitate to promise his aid in the coming foray, moved, perhaps, by that thirst for discovery and warlike spirit which burned deeply in his breast. The Indians had told him of great lakes and mighty rivers to the south, and doubtless the ardent wish to be the first to traverse these unknown waters was a moving impulse in his ready assent.
With the opening season the warriors gathered, Hurons and Algonquins, a numerous band. They paddled to Quebec; gazed with surprise on the strange buildings, the story of which had already been told in their distant wigwams, and on their no less strange inmates; feasted, smoked, and debated; and shrank in consternation from the piercing report of the arquebuse and the cannon's frightful roar.
Their savage hearts were filled with exultation on learning the powers of their new allies. Surely these wonderful strangers would deal destruction on their terrible foes. Burning with thirst for vengeance, they made their faces frightful with the war-paint, danced with frenzied gestures round the blaze of their camp-fires, filled the air with ear-piercing war-whoops, and at the word of command hastened to their canoes and swept in hasty phalanx up the mighty stream, accompanied by Champlain and eleven other white allies.
Two days the war-party remained encamped at the place where we have seen them, hunting, fishing, fasting, and quarrelling, the latter so effectually that numbers of them took to their canoes and paddled angrily away, scarce a fourth of the original array being left for the march upon the dreaded enemy.
It was no easy task which now lay before them. The journey was long, the way difficult. Onward again swept the diminutive squadron, the shallop outsailing the canoes, and making its way up the Richelieu, Champlain being too ardent with the fever of discovery to await the slow work of the paddles. He had not, however, sailed far up that forest-enclosed stream before unwelcome sounds came to his ears. The roar of rushing and tumbling waters sounded through the still air. And now, through the screen of leaves, came a vision of snowy foam and the flash of leaping waves. The Indians had lied to him. They had promised him an unobstructed route to the great lake ahead, and here already were rapids in his path.
How far did the obstruction extend? That must be learned. Leaving the shallop, he set out with part of his men to explore the wilds. It was no easy journey. Tangled vines, dense thickets, swampy recesses crossed the way. Here lay half-decayed tree-trunks; there heaps of rocks lifted their mossy tops in the path. And ever, as they went, the roar of the rapids followed, while through the foliage could be seen the hurrying waters, pouring over rocks, stealing amid drift-logs, eddying in chasms, and shooting in white lines of foam along every open space.
Was this the open river of which he had been told; this the ready route to the great lake beyond? In anger and dismay, Champlain retraced his steps, to find, when he reached the shallop, that the canoes of the savages had come up, and now filled the stream around it.
The disappointed adventurer did not hesitate to tell them that they had lied to him; but he went on to say that though they had broken their word he would keep his. In truth, the vision of the mighty lake, with its chain of islands, its fertile shores, and bordering forests, of which they had told him, rose alluringly before his eyes, and with all the ardor of the pioneer he was determined to push onward into that realm of the unknown.
But their plans must be changed. Nine of the men were sent back to Quebec with the shallop. Champlain, with two others, determined to proceed in the Indian canoes. At his command the warriors lifted their light boats from the water, and bore them on their shoulders over the difficult portage past the rapids, to the smooth stream above. Here, launching them again, the paddles once more broke the placid surface of the stream, and onward they went, still through the primeval forest, which stretched away in an unbroken expanse of green.
It was a virgin solitude, unmarked by habitation, destitute of human inmate, abundant with game; for it was the debatable land between warring tribes, traversed only by hostile bands, the battle-ground of Iroquois and Algonquin hordes. None could dwell here in safety; even hunting-parties had to be constantly prepared for war. Through this region of blood and terror the canoes made their way, now reduced to twenty-four in number, manned by sixty warriors and three white allies. The advance was made with great caution, for danger was in the air. Scouts were sent in advance through the forests; others were thrown out on the flanks and rear, hunting for game as they went; for the store of pounded and parched maize which the warriors had brought with them was to be kept for food when the vicinity of the foe should render hunting impossible.
The scene that night, as described by Champlain was one to be remembered. The canoes were drawn up closely, side by side. Active life pervaded the chosen camp. Here some gathered dry wood for their fires; there others stripped off sheets of bark, to cover their forest wigwams; yonder the sound of axes was followed by the roar of falling trees. The savages had steel axes, obtained from the French, and, with their aid, in two hours a strong defensive work, constructed of the felled trunks, was built, a half-circle in form, with the river at its two ends. This was the extent of their precautions. The returning scouts reported that the forest in advance was empty of foes. The tawny host cast themselves in full security on the grassy soil, setting no guards, and were soon lost in slumber, with that blind trust in fortune which has ever been one of the weak features of Indian warfare.
They had not failed, however, to consult their oracles, those spirits which the medicine-man was looked upon as an adept at invoking, and whose counsel was ever diligently sought by the superstitious natives. The conjurer crept within his skin-covered lodge, where, crouched upon the earth, he filled the air with inarticulate invocations to the surrounding spirits; while outside, squatted on the ground, the dusky auditors looked and listened with awe. Suddenly the lodge began to rock violently, by the power of the spirits, as the Indians deemed, though Champlain fancied that the arm of the medicine-man was the only spirit at work.
"Look on the peak of the lodge," whispered the awed savages. "You will see fire and smoke rise into the air." Champlain looked, but saw nothing.
The medicine-man by this time had worked himself into convulsions. He called loudly upon the spirit in an unknown language, and was answered in squeaking tones like those of a young puppy. This powerful spirit was deemed to be present in the form of a stone. When the conjurer reappeared his body streamed with perspiration, while the story he had to tell promised an auspicious termination of the enterprise.
This was not the only performance of the warriors. There was another of a more rational character. Bundles of sticks were collected by the leading chief, which he stuck in the earth in a fixed order, calling each by the name of some warrior, the taller ones representing the chiefs. The arrangement of the sticks indicated the plan of battle. Each warrior was to occupy the position indicated by his special stick. The savages gathered closely round, intently studied the plan, then formed their ranks in accordance therewith, broke them, reformed them, and continued the process with a skill and alacrity that surprised and pleased their civilized observer.
With the early morning light they again advanced, following the ever-widening stream, in whose midst islands leagues in extent now appeared. Beyond came broad channels and extended reaches of widening waters, and soon the delighted explorer found that the river had ended and that the canoes were moving over the broad bosom of that great lake of which the Indians had told him, and which has ever since borne his name. It was a charming scene which thus first met the eyes of civilized man. Far in front spread the inland sea. On either side distant forests, clad in the fresh leafage of June, marked the borders of the lake. Far away, over their leafy tops, appeared lofty heights; on the left the Green Mountains lifted their forest-clad ridges, with patches of snow still whitening their tops; on the right rose the clustering hills of the Adirondacks, then the hunting-grounds of the Iroquois, and destined to remain the game-preserves of the whites long after the axe and plough had subdued all the remainder of that forest-clad domain.
They had reached a region destined to play a prominent part in the coming history of America. The savages told their interested auditors of another lake, thickly studded with islands, beyond that on which they now were; and still beyond a rocky portage over which they hoped to carry their canoes, and a great river which flowed far down to the mighty waters of the sea. If they met not the foe sooner they would press onward to this stream, and there perhaps surprise some town of the Mohawks, whose settlements approached its banks. This same liquid route in later days was to be traversed by warlike hosts both in the French and Indian and the Revolutionary Wars, and to be signalized by the capture of Burgoyne and his invading host, one of the most vital events in the American struggle for liberty.
The present expedition was not to go so far. Hostile bands were to be met before they left the sheet of water over which their canoes now glided. Onward they went, the route becoming hourly more dangerous. At length they changed their mode of progress, resting in the depths of the forest all day long, taking to the waters at twilight, and paddling cautiously onward till the crimsoning of the eastern sky told them that day was near at hand. Then the canoes were drawn up in sheltered coves, and the warriors, chatting, smoking, and sleeping, spent on the leafy lake borders the slow-moving hours of the day.
The journey was a long one. It was the 29th of July when they reached a point far down the lake, near the present site of Crown Point. They had paddled all night. They hid here all day. Champlain fell asleep on a heap of spruce boughs, and in his slumber dreamed that he had seen the Iroquois drowning in the lake, and that when he tried to rescue them he had been told by his Algonquin friends to leave them alone, as they were not worth the trouble of saving.
The Indians believed in the power of dreams. They had beset Champlain daily to learn if he had had any visions. When now he told them his dream they were filled with joy. Victory had spoken into his slumbering ear. With gladness they re-embarked when night came on, and continued their course down the lake.
They had not far to go. At ten o'clock, through the shadows of the night, they beheld a number of dark objects on the lake before them. It was a fleet of Iroquois canoes, heavier and slower craft than those of the Algonquins, for they were made of oak-or elm-bark, instead of the light paper-birch used by the latter.
Each party saw the other, and recognized that they were in the presence of foes. War-cries sounded over the shadowy waters. The Iroquois, who preferred to do their fighting on land and who were nearer shore, hastened to the beach and began at once to build a barricade of logs, filling the air of the night with yells of defiance as they worked away like beavers. The allies meanwhile remained on the lake, their canoes lashed together with poles, dancing with a vigor that imperilled their frail barks, and answering the taunts and menaces of their foes with equally vociferous abuse.
It was agreed that the battle should be deferred till daybreak. As day approached Champlain and his two followers armed themselves, their armor consisting of cuirass, or breast-plate, steel coverings for the thighs, and a plumed helmet for the head. By the side of the leader hung his sword, and in his hand was his arquebuse, which he had loaded with four balls. The savages of these woods were now first to learn the destructive power of that weapon, for which in the years to come they would themselves discard the antiquated bow.
The Iroquois much outnumbered their foes. There were some two hundred of them in all, tall, powerful men, the boldest warriors of America, whose steady march excited Champlain's admiration as he saw them filing from their barricade and advancing through the woods. As for himself and his two companions, they had remained concealed in the canoes, and not even when a landing was made did the Iroquois behold the strangely-clad allies of their hereditary enemies.
Not until they stood face to face, ready for the battle-cry, did the Algonquin ranks open, and the white men advance before the astonished gaze of the Iroquois. Never before had they set eyes on such an apparition, and they stood in mute wonder while Champlain raised his arquebuse, took aim at a chief, and fired. The chief fell dead. A warrior by his side fell wounded in the bushes. As the report rang through the air a frightful yell came from the allies, and in an instant their arrows were whizzing thickly through the ranks of their foes. For a moment the Iroquois stood their ground and returned arrow for arrow. But when from the two flanks of their adversaries came new reports, and other warriors bit the dust, their courage gave way to panic terror, and they turned and fled in wild haste through the forest, swiftly pursued by the triumphant Algonquins.
Several of the Iroquois were killed. A number were captured. At night the victors camped in triumph on the field of battle, torturing one of their captives till Champlain begged to put him out of pain, and sent a bullet through his heart.
Thus ended the first battle between whites and Indians on the soil of the northern United States, in a victory for which the French were to pay dearly in future days, at the hands of their now vanquished foes. With the dawn of the next day the victors began their retreat. A few days of rapid paddling brought them to the Richelieu. Here they separated, the Hurons and Algonquins returning to their homes by way of the Ottowa, the Montagnais, who dwelt in the vicinity of Quebec, accompanying Champlain to his new-built city.
The Iroquois, however, were not the men to be quelled by a single defeat. In June of the ensuing year a war-party of them advanced to the mouth of the Richelieu, and a second fierce battle took place. As another vivid example of the character of Indian warfare, the story of this conflict, may be added to that already given.
On an island in the St. Lawrence near the mouth of the Richelieu was gathered a horde of Montagnais Indians, Champlain and others of the whites being with them. A war-party of Algonquins was expected, and busy preparations were being made for feast and dance, in order that they might be received with due honor. In the midst of this festal activity an event occurred that suddenly changed thoughts of peace to those of war. At a distance on the stream appeared a single canoe, approaching as rapidly as strong arms could drive it through the water. On coming near, its inmates called out loudly that the Algonquins were in the forest, engaged in battle with a hundred Iroquois, who, outnumbered, were fighting from behind a barricade of trees which they had hastily erected.
In an instant the air was filled with deafening cries. Tidings of battle were to the Indians like a fresh scent to hounds of the chase: The Montagnais flew to their canoes, and paddled with frantic haste to the opposite shore, loudly calling on Champlain and his fellow-whites to follow. They obeyed, crossing the stream in canoes. As the shore was reached the warriors flung down their paddles, snatched up their weapons, and darted into the woods with such speed that the Frenchmen found it impossible to keep them in sight. It was a hot and oppressive day; the air was filled with mosquitoes,—"so thick," says Champlain, "that we could hardly draw breath, and it was wonderful how cruelly they persecuted us,"—their route lay through swampy soil, where the water at places stood knee-deep; over fallen logs, wet and slimy, and under entangling vines; their heavy armor added to their discomfort; the air was close and heavy; altogether it was a progress fit to make one sicken of warfare in the wilderness. After struggling onward till they were almost in despair, they saw two Indians in the distance, and by vigorous shouts secured their aid as guides to the field of battle.
An instinct seemed to guide the savages through that dense and tangled forest. In a short time they led the laboring whites to a point where the woodland grew thinner, and within hearing of the wild war-whoops of the combatants. Soon they emerged into a partial clearing, which had been made by the axes of the Iroquois in preparing their breastwork of defence. Champlain gazed upon the scene before him with wondering eyes. In front was a circular barricade, composed of trunks of trees, boughs, and matted twigs, behind which the Iroquois stood like tigers at bay. In the edge of the forest around were clustered their yelling foes, screaming shrill defiance, yet afraid to attack, for they had already been driven back with severe loss. Their hope now lay in their white allies, and when they saw Champlain and his men a yell arose that rent the air, and a cloud of winged arrows was poured into the woodland fort. The beleaguered Iroquois replied with as fierce a shout, and with a better-aimed shower of arrows. At least Champlain had reason to think so, for one of these stone-headed darts split his ear, and tore a furrow through the muscles of his neck. One of his men received a similar wound.
Furious with pain, Champlain, secure in his steel armor, rushed to the woodland fort, followed by his men, and discharged their arquebuses through its crevices upon the dismayed savages within, who, wild with terror at this new and deadly weapon, flung themselves flat upon the earth at each report.
At each moment the scene of war grew more animated. The assailing Indians, yelling in triumph, ran up under cover of their large wooden shields, and began to tug at the trees of the barricade, while other of them gathered thickly in the bushes for the final onset. And now, from the forest depths, came hurrying to the scene a new party of French allies,—a boat's crew of fur-traders, who had heard the firing and flown with warlike eagerness to take part in the fight.
The bullets of these new assailants added to the terror of the Iroquois. They writhed and darted to and fro to escape the leaden missiles that tore through their frail barricade. At a signal from Champlain the allies rushed from their leafy covert, flew to the breastwork, tore down or clambered over the boughs, and precipitated themselves into the fort, while the French ceased their firing and led a party of Indians to the assault on the opposite side.
The howls of defiance, screams of pain, deafening war-whoops, and dull sound of deadly blows were now redoubled. Many of the Iroquois stood their ground, hewing with tomahawks and war-clubs, and dying not unrevenged. Some leaped the barrier and were killed by the crowd outside; others sprang into the river and were drowned; of them all not one escaped, and at the end of the conflict but fifteen remained alive, prisoners in the hands of their deadly foes, destined victims of torture and flame.
On the next day a large party of Hurons arrived, and heard with envy the story of the fight, in which they were too late to take part. The forest and river shore were crowded with Indian huts. Hundreds of warriors assembled, who spent the day in wild war-dances and songs, then loaded their canoes and paddled away in triumph to their homes, without a thought of following up their success and striking yet heavier blows upon their dreaded enemy. Even Champlain, who was versed in civilized warfare, made no attempt to lead them to an invasion of the Iroquois realm. He did not dream of the deadly reprisal which the now defeated race would exact for this day of disaster.
Of the further doings of Champlain we shall relate but one incident,—a thrilling adventure which he tells of his being lost in the interminable woodland depths. Year after year he continued his explorations; now voyaging far up the Ottawa; now reaching the mighty inland sea of Lake Huron, voyaging upon its waters, and visiting the Indian villages upon its shores; now again battling with the Iroquois, who, this time, drove their assailants in baffled confusion from their fort; now joining an Indian hunting-party, and taking part with them in their annual deer-hunt. For this they constructed two lines of posts interlaced with boughs, each more than half a mile long, and converging to a point where a strong enclosure was built. The hunters drove the deer before them into this enclosure, where others despatched them with spears and arrows. It was during this expedition that the incident referred to took place.
Champlain had gone into the forest with the hunters. Here he saw a bird new to him, and whose brilliant hue and strange shape struck him with surprise and admiration. It was, to judge from his description, a red-headed woodpecker. Bent on possessing this winged marvel, he pursued it, gun in hand. From bough to bough, from tree to tree, the bird fitted onward, leading the unthinking hunter step by step deeper into the wilderness. Then, when he surely thought to capture his prize, the luring wonder took wing and vanished in the forest depths.
Disappointed, Champlain turned to seek his friends. But in what direction should he go? The day was cloudy; he had left his pocket-compass at the camp; the forest spread in endless lines around him; he stood in helpless bewilderment and dismay.
All day he wandered blindly, and at nightfall found himself still in a hopeless solitude. Weary and hungry, he lay down at the foot of a great tree, and passed the night in broken slumbers. The next day he wandered onward in the same blind helplessness, reaching, in late afternoon, the waters of a forest pond, shadowed by thick pines, and with water-fowl on its brink. One of these he shot, kindled a fire and cooked it, and for the first time since his misadventure tasted food. At night there came on a cold rain, drenched by which the blanketless wanderer was forced to seek sleep in the open wood.
Another day of fruitless wandering succeeded; another night of unrefreshing slumber. Paths were found in the forest, but they had been made by other feet than those of men, and if followed would lead him deeper into the seemingly endless wild. Roused by the new day from his chill couch, the lost wanderer despairingly roamed on, now almost hopeless of escape. Yet what sound was that which reached his ear? It was the silvery tinkle of a woodland rill, which crept onward unseen in the depths of a bushy glen. A ray of hope shot into his breast. This descending rivulet might lead him to the river where the hunters lay encamped. With renewed energy he traced its course, making his way through thicket and glen, led ever onwards by that musical sound, till he found himself on the borders of a small lake, within which the waters of his forest guide were lost.
This lake, he felt, must have an outlet. He circled round it, clambering over fallen trees and forcing his way through thorny vines, till he saw, amid roots of alder-bushes, a streamlet flow from the lakeside. This he hopefully followed. Not far had he gone before a dull roar met his ears, breaking the sullen silence of the woods. It was the sound of falling waters. He hastened forward. The wood grew thinner. Light appeared before him. Pushing gladly onward, he broke through the screening bushes and found himself on the edge of an open meadow, wild animals its only tenants, some browsing on the grass, others lurking in bushy coverts. Yet a more gladsome sight to his eyes was the broad river, which here rushed along in a turbulent rapid, whose roar it was which had come to his ear in the forest glades.
He looked about him. On the rocky river-bank was a portage-path made by Indian feet. The place seemed familiar. A second sweeping gaze; yes, here were points he had seen before. He was saved. Glad at heart, he camped upon the river-brink, kindled a fire, cooked the remains of his game, and passed that night, at least, in dreamless sleep. With daybreak he rose, followed the river downwards, and soon saw the smoke of the Indian camp-fires ascending in the morning air. In a few moments he had joined his dusky friends, greatly to their delight. They had sought him everywhere in vain, and now chided him gently for his careless risk, declaring that thenceforth they would never suffer him to go into the forest alone.
SIR WILLIAM PHIPS AND THE SILVER-SHIP.
The story of a poor boy, born on the edge of the wilderness,—"at a despicable plantation on the river of Kennebec, and almost the farthest village of the eastern settlement of New England,"—yet who ended his life as governor and nobleman, is what we have to tell. It is one of the most romantic stories in history. He was born in 1651, being a scion of the early days of the Puritan colony. He came of a highly prolific pioneer family,—he had twenty brothers and five sisters,—yet none but himself of this extensive family are heard of in history or biography. Genius is too rare a quality to be spread through such a flock. His father was a gunsmith. Of the children, William was one of the youngest. After his father's death, he helped his mother at sheep-keeping in the wilderness till he was eighteen years of age, then there came "an unaccountable impulse upon his mind that he was born to greater matters." The seed of genius planted in his nature was beginning to germinate.
The story of the early life of William Phips may be told in a few words. From sheep-tending he turned to carpentry, becoming an expert ship-carpenter. With this trade at his fingers' ends he went to Boston, and there first learned to read and write, accomplishments which had not penetrated to the Kennebec. His next step was to marry, his wife being a widow, a Mrs. Hull, with little money but good connections. She lifted our carpenter a step higher in the social scale. At that time, says his biographer, "he was one tall beyond the common set of men, and thick as well as tall, and strong as well as thick; exceedingly robust, and able to conquer such difficulties of diet and of travel as would have killed most men alive. He was of a very comely though a very manly countenance," and in character of "a most incomparable generosity." He hated anything small or mean, was somewhat choleric, but not given to nourish malice.
To this notable young man there soon came an adventure. He had become a master workman, and built a ship for some Boston merchants on the river Sheepscote, a few leagues from his native Kennebec. The vessel was finished, and ready to be loaded with lumber; but its first cargo proved to be very different from that which Phips had designed. For Indians attacked the settlement; the inhabitants, flying for their lives, crowded on board the vessel, and Phips set sail with a shipload of his old friends and neighbors, who could pay him only in thanks. It is not unlikely that some of his own brothers and sisters were among the rescued. Certainly the extensive family of Phips must have spread somewhat widely over the coast region of Maine.
William Phips's first adventure had proved unprofitable except in works of charity. But he was not one to be easily put down, having in his nature an abundance of the perilous stuff of ambition. He was not the man to sit down and wait for fortune to come to him. Rather, he belonged to those who go to seek fortune. He was determined, he told his wife, to become captain of a king's ship, and owner of a fair brick house in the Green Lane of North Boston. It took him some eight or nine years to make good the first of these predictions, and then, in the year 1683, he sailed into the harbor of Boston as captain of the "Algier Rose," a frigate of eighteen guns and ninety-five men.
It was by the magic wand of sunken silver that our hero achieved this success. The treasures of Peru, loaded on Spanish ships, had not all reached the ports of Spain. Some cargoes of silver had gone to the bottom of the Atlantic. Phips had heard of such a wreck on the Bahamas, had sailed thither, and had made enough money by the enterprise to pay him for a voyage to England. While in the Bahamas he had been told of another Spanish wreck, "wherein was lost a mighty treasure, hitherto undiscovered." It was this that took him to England. He had made up his mind to be the discoverer of this sunken treasure-ship. The idea took possession of him wholly. His hope was to interest some wealthy persons, or the government itself, in his design. The man must have had in him something of that silver-tongued eloquence which makes persuasion easy, for the royalties at Whitehall heard him with favor and support, and he came back to New England captain of a king's ship, with full powers to search the seas for silver.
And now we have reached the verge of the romance of the life of William Phips. He had before him a difficult task, but he possessed the qualities which enable men to meet and overcome difficulty. The silver-ship was said to have been sunk somewhere near the Bahamas; the exact spot it was not easy to learn, for half a century had passed since its demise. Sailing thither in the "Algier Rose," Phips set himself to find the sunken treasure. Here and there he dredged, using every effort to gain information, trying every spot available, ending now in disappointment, starting now with renewed hope, continuing with unflagging energy. His frequent failures would have discouraged a common man, but Phips was not a common man, and would not accept defeat.
The resolute searcher had more than the difficulties of the sea-bottom to contend with. His men lost hope, grew weary of unprofitable labor, and at last rose in mutiny They fancied that they saw their way clear to an easier method of getting silver, and marched with drawn cutlasses to the quarterdeck, where they bade their commander to give up his useless search and set sail for the South Seas. There they would become pirates, and get silver without dredging or drudging.
It was a dangerous crisis. Phips stood with empty hands before that crew of armed and reckless men. Yet choler and courage proved stronger than sword-blades. Roused to fury, he rushed upon the mutineers with bare hands, knocked them down till the deck was strewn with fallen bodies, and by sheer force of anger and fearlessness quelled the mutiny and forced the men to return to their duty.
They were quelled, but not conquered. The daring adventurer was to have a more dangerous encounter with these would-be pirates. Some further time had passed in fruitless search. The frigate lay careened beside a rock of a Bahaman island, some eight or ten men being at work on its barnacled sides, while the others had been allowed to go on shore. They pretended that they wished to take a ramble in the tropical woods. What they wished to do was to organize a more effectual mutiny, seize the ship, leave the captain and those who held with him on that island, and sail away as lawless rovers of the deep.
Under the great trees of that Spanish island, moss-grown and bowery, in a secluded spot which nature seemed to have set aside for secret counsels, the mutinous crew perfected their plans, and signed a round-robin compact which pledged all present to the perilous enterprise. One man they needed to make their project sure. They could not do without the carpenter. He was at work on the vessel. They sent him a message to come to them in the woods. He came, heard their plans, affected to look on them favorably, but asked for a half-hour to consider the matter. This they were not disposed to grant. They must have an answer at once. The carpenter looked about him; dark and resolute faces surrounded him. Yet he earnestly declared he must have the time. They vigorously declared he should not. He was persistent, and in the end prevailed. The half-hour respite was granted.
The carpenter then said that he must return to the vessel. His absence from his work would look suspicious. They could send a man with him to see that he kept faith. The enterprise would be in danger if the captain noticed his absence. The mutineers were not men of much intelligence or shrewdness, and consented to his return. The carpenter, who had at heart no thought of joining the mutineers, had gained his point and saved the ship. In spite of the guard upon his movements he managed to get a minute's interview with Captain Phips, in which he told him what was afoot.
He was quickly at his post again, and under the eyes of his guard, but he had accomplished his purpose. Captain Phips was quick to realize the danger, and called about him those who were still in the ship. They all agreed to stand by him. By good fortune the gunner was among them. The energetic captain lost no time in devising what was to be done. During the work on the ship the provisions had been taken ashore and placed in a tent, where several pieces of artillery were mounted to defend them, in case the Spaniards, to whom the island belonged, should appear. Quickly but quietly these guns were brought back to the ship. Then they and the other guns of the ship were loaded and brought to bear on the tent, and the gangway which connected the ship with the land was drawn on board. No great time had elapsed, but Captain Phips was ready for his mutinous crew.
To avert suspicion during these preparations, the carpenter, at the suggestion of Phips, had gone ashore, and announced himself as ready to join the mutineers. This gave them great satisfaction, and after a short interval to complete their plans they issued in a body from the woods and approached the ship. As they drew near the tent, however, they looked at one another in surprise and dismay. The guns were gone!
"We are betrayed!" was the fearful whisper that ran round the circle.
"Stand off, you wretches, at your peril!" cried the captain, in stern accents.
The guns of the ship were trained upon them. They knew the mettle of Captain Phips. In a minute more cannon-balls might be ploughing deadly gaps through their midst. They dared not fly; they dared not fight. Panic fear took possession of them. They fell upon their knees in a body, begged the captain not to fire, and vowed that they would rather live and die with him than any man in the world. All they had found fault with was that he would not turn pirate; otherwise he was the man of their hearts.
The captain was stern; they were humble and beseeching. In the end he made them deliver up their arms, and then permitted them to come on board, a thoroughly quelled body of mutineers. But Captain Phips knew better than to trust these men a third time. The moment the ship was in sailing trim he hoisted anchor and sailed for Jamaica, where he turned the whole crew, except the few faithful ones, adrift, and shipped another crew, smaller, but, as he hoped, more trustworthy.
The treasure-ship still drew him like a magnet. He had not begun to think of giving up the search. Discouragement, failure, mutiny, were to him but incidents. The silver was there, somewhere, and have it he would, if perseverance would avail. From Jamaica he sailed to Hispaniola. There his fluent persuasiveness came again into play. He met a very old man, Spaniard or Portuguese, who was said to know where the ship lay, and "by the policy of his address" wormed from him some further information about the treasure-ship. The old man told him that it had been wrecked on a reef of shoals a few leagues from Hispaniola, and just north of Port de la Plata, which place got its name from the landing there of a boat-load of sailors with plate saved from the sinking vessel. Phips proceeded thither and searched narrowly, but without avail. The sea held its treasures well. The charmed spot was not to be found. The new crew, also, seemed growing mutinous. Phips had had enough of mutiny. He hoisted sail and made the best of his way back to England.
Here trouble and annoyance awaited him. He found powerful enemies. Doubtless ridicule also met his projects. To plough the bottom of the Atlantic, in search of a ship that had gone down fifty years before, certainly seemed to yield fair food for mirth. Yet the polite behavior, the plausible speech, the enthusiasm and energy of the man had their effect. He won friends among the higher nobility. The story of the mutiny and of its bold suppression had also its effect. A man who could attack a horde of armed mutineers with his bare fists, a man so ready and resolute in time of danger, so unflinchingly persevering in time of discouragement, was the man to succeed if success were possible. Finally, the Duke of Albemarle and some others agreed to supply funds for the expedition, and Captain Phips in no long time had another ship under his feet, and was once more upon the seas.
His ship was now accompanied by a tender. He had contrived many instruments to aid him in his search. It is said that he invented the diving-bell. There was certainly one used by him, but it may have been an old device, improved by his Yankee ingenuity.
Port de la Plata was reached in due time, the year being 1684 or 1685. Here Phips had a large canoe or periago made, fitted for eight or ten oars. It was hollowed out from the trunk of a cotton-tree, he using "his own hands and adze" in the work, enduring much hardship, and "lying abroad in the woods many nights together."
The shoals where search was to be made were known by the name of the "Boilers." They lay only two or three feet below the surface, yet their sloping sides were so steep that, says one author, "a ship striking on them would immediately sink down, who could say how many fathom, into the ocean?"
The tender and the periago were anchored near these dangerous shoals, and the work went on from them. Days passed, still of fruitless labor. The men, as they said, could make nothing of all their "peeping among the Boilers," Fortunately they had calm weather and a quiet sea, and could all day long pursue their labors around and among the shoals.