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In the morning, the party shouldered their canoes and baggage and began their march for the sources of the river Illinois, some five miles distant. Around them stretched a desolate plain, half-covered with snow and strewn with the skulls and bones of buffalo; while, on its farthest verge, they could see the lodges of the Miami Indians, who had made this place their abode. As they filed on their way, a man named Duplessis, bearing a grudge against La Salle, who walked just before him, raised his gun to shoot him through the back, but was prevented by one of his comrades. They soon reached a spot where the oozy, saturated soil quaked beneath their tread. All around were clumps of alder-bushes, tufts of rank grass, and pools of glistening water. In the midst a dark and lazy current, which a tall man might [Pg 167] bestride, crept twisting like a snake among the weeds and rushes. Here were the sources of the Kankakee, one of the heads of the Illinois. They set their canoes on this thread of water, embarked their baggage and themselves, and pushed down the sluggish streamlet, looking, at a little distance, like men who sailed on land. Fed by an unceasing tribute of the spongy soil, it quickly widened to a river; and they floated on their way through a voiceless, lifeless solitude of dreary oak barrens, or boundless marshes overgrown with reeds. At night, they built their fire on ground made firm by frost, and bivouacked among the rushes. A few days brought them to a more favored region. On the right hand and on the [Pg 168] left stretched the boundless prairie, dotted with leafless groves and bordered by gray wintry forests, scorched by the fires kindled in the dried grass by Indian hunters, and strewn with the carcasses and the bleached skulls of innumerable buffalo. The plains were scored with their pathways, and the muddy edges of the river were full of their hoof-prints. Yet not one was to be seen. At night, the horizon glowed with distant fires; and by day the savage hunters could be descried at times roaming on the verge of the prairie. The men, discontented and half-starved, would have deserted to them had they dared. La Salle's Mohegan could kill no game except two lean deer, with a few wild geese and swans. At length, in their straits, they made a happy discovery. It was a buffalo bull, fast mired in a slough. They killed him, lashed a cable about him, and then twelve men dragged out the shaggy monster, whose ponderous carcass demanded their utmost efforts.
In New France, spiritual and temporal interests were inseparably blended, and, as will hereafter appear, the conversion of the Indians was used as a means of commercial and political growth. But, with the single-hearted founder of the colony, considerations of material advantage, though clearly recognized, were no less clearly subordinate. He would fain rescue from perdition a people living, as he says, "like brute beasts, without faith, without law, without religion, without God." While the want of funds and the indifference of his merchant associates, who as yet did not fully see that their trade would find in the missions its surest ally, were threatening to wreck his benevolent schemes, he found a kindred spirit in his friend Houd, secretary to the King, and comptroller-general of the salt-works of Bronage. Near this town was a convent of Recollet friars, some of whom were well known to Houel. To them he addressed himself; and several of the brotherhood, "inflamed," we are told, "with charity," were eager to undertake the mission. But the Recollets, mendicants by profession, were as weak in resources as Champlain himself. He repaired to Paris, then filled with bishops, cardinals, and nobles, assembled for the States-General. Responding to his appeal, they subscribed fifteen hundred livres for the purchase of vestments, candles, and ornaments for altars. The King gave letters patent in favor of the mission, and the Pope gave it his formal authorization. By this instrument the papacy in the person of Paul the Fifth virtually repudiated the action of the papacy in the person of Alexander the Sixth, who had proclaimed all America the exclusive property of Spain.
The majority of the procession returned to Polycles house and there, as the dead mans guests, partook of a festal banquet. Some few, among them Lycon, remained until the ashes were collected and the bones committed to the bosom of the earth.LA SALLE AND THE INDIANS.
 Zenobe Membr in Le Clerc, ii. 202.Ossossan ? The New Chapel ? A Triumph of the Faith ? The Nether Powers ? Signs of a Tempest ? Slanders ? Rage against the Jesuits ? Their Boldness and Persistency ? Nocturnal Council ? Danger of the Priests ? Brbeuf's Letter ? Narrow Escapes ? Woes and Consolations
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 naught. 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 seadoubtless meaning the St. Lawrencewould give them access to the Moluccas and other parts of the East Indies. He adds, in a later despatch, that 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 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. 24