The Collected Complete Works of Mary Hartwell Catherwood - Mary Hartwell Catherwood - ebook

Mary Hartwell Catherwood was an American writer of historical romances. Born in Ohio in 1847, she published both novels and short stories in periodicals such as Lippincott's Magazine, Harper’s Magazine, and the Atlantic Monthly.Collection of 18 Works of Mary Hartwell Catherwood________________________________________A British IslanderHeroes of the Middle WestLazarreMariansonOld Caravan DaysOld KaskaskiaThe Black FeatherThe Blue ManThe Chase Of Saint-Castin And Other Stories Of The French In The New WorldThe Cobbler In The Devil's KitchenThe Cursed PatoisThe Indian On The TrailThe King Of Beaver, and Beaver LightsThe Lady of Fort St. JohnThe Mothers Of HonoréThe Romance of DollardThe Skeleton On Round IslandThe Story of Tonty 

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The Collected Complete Works of Mary Hartwell Catherwood

A British Islander

Heroes of the Middle West



Old Caravan Days

Old Kaskaskia

The Black Feather

The Blue Man

The Chase Of Saint-Castin And Other Stories Of The French In The New World

The Cobbler In The Devil's Kitchen

The Cursed Patois

The Indian On The Trail

The King Of Beaver, and Beaver Lights

The Lady of Fort St. John

The Mothers Of Honoré

The Romance of Dollard

The Skeleton On Round Island

The Story of Tonty


From “Mackinac And Lake Stories”, 1899  By Mary Hartwell Catherwood

* This story is set down exactly as it was told by the

Island Chronicler.

Well, I wish you could have been here in Mrs. Gunning’s day. She was the oddest woman on Mackinac. Not that she exerted herself to attract attention. But she was such a character, and her manners were so astonishing, that she furnished perennial entertainment to the few families of us constituting island society.

She was an English woman, born in South Africa, and married to an American army surgeon, and had lived over a large part of the world before coming to this fort. She had no children. But her sister had married Dr. Gunning’s brother. And the good-for-nothing pair set out to follow the English drum-beat around the world, and left a child for the two more responsible ones to rear. Juliana Gunning was so deaf she could not hear thunder. But she was quits with nature, for all that; a wonderfully alluring kind of girl, with big brown eyes that were better than ears, and that could catch the meaning of moving lips. It seemed to strangers that she merely evaded conversation; for she had a sweet voice, a little drawling, and was witty when she wanted to speak. Juliana couldn’t step out of the surgeon’s quarters to walk across the parade-ground without making every soldier in the fort conscious of her. She was well-shaped and tall, and a slight pitting of the skin only enhanced the charm of her large features. She used to dress unlike anybody else, in foreign things that her aunt gave her, and was always carrying different kinds of thin scarfs to throw over her face and tantalize the men.

Everybody knew that Captain Markley would marry her if he could. But along comes Dr. Mc-Curdy, a wealthy widower from the East, and nothing will do but he must hang about Mackinac week after week, pretending to need the climate—and he weighing nearly two hundred—to court Juliana Gunning. The lieutenant’s wife said of Juliana that she would flirt with a half-breed if nothing better offered. But the lieutenant’s wife was a homely, jealous little thing, and could never have had all the men hanging after her. And if she had had the chance she might have been as aggravating about making up her mind between two as Juliana was.

We used to think the girl very good-natured. But those three people made a queer family. Dr. Gunning was the remnant of a magnificent man, and he always had a courtly air. He paid little attention to the small affairs of life, and rated money as nothing. Dr. Gunning had his peculiarities; but I am not telling you about him. He was a kind man, and would cross the strait in any weather to attend a sick half-breed or any other ailing creature, who probably never paid him a cent. He was fond of the island, and quite satisfied to spend his life here.

The day I am telling you about, Mrs. Gunning had driven with me into the village to make some calls. She was very punctilious about calling upon strangers. If she intended to recognize a newcomer she called at once. We drove around to the rear of the fort and entered at the back sallyport, where carriages always enter; but instead of letting me put her down at the surgeon’s quarters, she ordered the driver to stop in the middle of the parade-ground. Then she got out and, with never a word, marched down the steps to Captain Markley, where he was leaning against the front sally-port, looking below into the town. I didn’t know what to do, so I sat and waited. It was the loveliest autumn morning you ever saw. I remember the beeches and oaks and maples were spread out like banners to the very height of the island, all crimson and yellow splashes in the midst of evergreens. There had been an awful storm the night before, and you could see down the sally-port how drenched the fort garden was at the foot of the hill.

Captain Markley had a fearfully depressed look. He was so down in the mouth that the sentinels noticed it. I saw the one in front of the western block-house stick his tongue in his cheek and wink at one pacing below. We heard afterwards that Captain Markley had been out alone to inspect target-ranges in the pine woods, and almost ran against Juliana Gunning and Dr. McCurdy sitting on a log. Before he could get out of the way he overheard the loudest proposal ever made on Mackinac. It used to be told about in mess, though how it got out Captain Markley said he did not know, unless they heard it at the fort.

“I have brought you out here,” the doctor shouted to Juliana, as loud as a cow lowing, “to tell you that I love you! I want you to be my wife!”

She behaved as if she didn’t hear—I think that minx often had fun with her deafness—and inclined her head to one side.

So he said it all over again.

“I have brought you to this secluded spot to tell you that I love you! I want you to be my wife!”

It was like a steamer bellowing on the strait. Then Juliana threw her scarf over her face, and Captain Markley broke away through the bushes.

Mrs. Gunning never said a word to me about either of the suitors. It wasn’t because she didn’t talk, for she was a great talker. We had to postpone a card-party one evening, on account of the continuous flow of Mrs. Gunning’s conversation, which never ceased until it was time for refreshments, there being not a moment’s pause for the tables to be set out.

I was startled to see her rush down at Captain Markley, brandishing her parasol as if she were going to knock him down. I thought if she had any preference it would be for an army man; for you know an army woman’s contempt of civilian money and position. Army women continually want to be moving on; and they hate bothering with household stuff, such as we prize.

Captain Markley did look poor-spirited, drooping against the sally-port, for a man who in his uniform was the most conspicuous figure to Mackinac girls in a ball-room. Maybe if he had been courting anything but a statue he might have made a better figure at it. Juliana was worse than a statue, though; for she could float through a thousand graceful poses, and drive a man crazy with her eyes. He wasn’t the lover to go out in the woods and shoot a proposal as loud as a cannon at a girl; and it seems he couldn’t get any satisfaction from her by writing notes.

Mrs. Gunning was drawing off her gloves as she marched at him with her parasol, and I remember how her emeralds and diamonds flashed in the sun—old heirlooms. I never saw another woman who had so many precious stones. She was tall, with that robust English quality that sometimes goes with slenderness. She and Juliana were not a bit alike. When she walked, her feet came down pat. I pitied Captain Markley. By leaning over the carriage I could see him give a start as Mrs. Gunning pounced at him.

“It’s a fine day after the storm, Captain Markley,” says she; and he lifted his cap and said it was.

Then she made a rush that I thought would drive him down the cliff, and whirled her parasol around his head like sword-play, talking about the havoc of the storm. She rippled him from head to foot and poked at his eyes, and jabbed him, to show how lightning struck the rocks, Captain Markley all the time moving back and dodging; and to save my life I couldn’t help laughing, though the sentinels above him saw it. They were pretty well used to her, and rolled their quids in their cheeks, and winked at one another.

When she had all but thrown him down-hill, she stuck the ferrule right under his nose and shook it, and says she: “Yet it is now as fine a day as if no such convulsion had ever threatened the island. It is often so in this world.”

He couldn’t deny that, miserable as he looked. And I thought she would let him alone and come and say good-day to me. But no, indeed! She took him by the arm. Soldiers off duty were lounging on the benches, and Captain Markley wouldn’t let them see him haled like a prisoner. He marched square-shouldered and erect; and Mrs. Gunning says to me as they reached the carriage:

“The captain will help you down if you will come with us. I am going to show him my Shanghai rooster.”

I thanked her, and gladly let him help me down. I wasn’t going to desert the poor fellow when Mrs.

Gunning was dealing with him; and, besides, I wanted to see that rooster myself. We heard such stories of the way she kept her chickens and labored over all the domestic animals she gathered around herself at the fort.

By ascending a steep bank on which the western block-house stands, you know you can look down into the drill-ground—that wide meadow behind the fort, with quarters at the back. Mrs. Gunning had an enclosure built outside the wall for her chickens; and there they were, walking about, scratching the ground, and diverting themselves as well as they could in their clothes. She had a shed at one end of the enclosure, and all the hens, walking about or sitting on nests, wore hoods! Holes were made for their eyes but none for their beaks, and the eyelets seemed to magnify so that they looked wrathy as they stretched their necks and quavered in those bags. Captain Markley and I both burst out laughing, but Mrs. Gunning explained it all seriously.

“They eat their eggs,” says she; “so I tie hoods on them until I have collected the eggs for the day.”

I remember some were clawing their head-gear, trying alternate feet, and two determined hens were trying to peck each other free. But they wore generally resigned, and we might have grown so after the first minute, if it hadn’t been for the rooster.

Captain Markley roared, and I leaned against the lower part of the block-house and held my sides. That long-legged, awkward, high-stepping Shanghai cock was dressed like a man in a suit of clothes—all but a hat. His coat-sleeves extended over his wings, and when he flapped them to crow, and stuck his claws out of his trousers-legs, I wept tears on my handkerchief. Mrs. Gunning talked straight ahead without paying any attention to our laughter. If it ever had been funny to her it had ceased to be so. She had not brought Captain Markley there to amuse him.

“Look at that Shanghai rooster now,” says she. “I brought him up from the South. I put him among the hens and they picked all his feathers off. He was as bare, captain, as your hand. He was literally hen-pecked. First one would step up to him and pull out a feather; then another; and he, poor fool, did nothing but cower against the fence. It never seemed to enter his brain-pan he could put a stop to the torture. There he was, without a feather to cover himself with, and the cool autumn nights coming on. So I took some gray cloth and made him these clothes. He would have been picked to the bone if I hadn’t. But they put spunk into him. That Shanghai rooster has found out he has to assert himself, captain, and he does assert himself.”

I saw Captain Markley turn red, and I knew he wished the sentinel wasn’t standing guard a few feet away in front of that block-house.

She might have let him alone after she had given him that thrust, and gone on to her house, and said good-bye in the usual way. But just as he was helping me down it happened that Juliana and Dr. Mc-Curdy appeared through the rear sally-port, which they must have reached by skirting the wall instead of crossing the drill-field. As soon as Mrs. Gunning saw them she stiffened, and clubbed her umbrella at Captain Markley again. He couldn’t get away, so he stood his ground.

“See that creature begin to curvet and roll her eyes!” says Mrs. Gunning. “If the parade-ground were full of men I think she would prance over the parapet. At my age she may have some sense and feeling. But I would be glad to see her in the hands of a man who knew how to assert himself.”

“May I ask,” says Captain Markley, “what you mean by a man’s asserting himself, Mrs. Gunning?”

She made such a pounce at him with the parasol that her waist began to rip in the back.

“My dear boy, I am a full-blooded Briton, and Juliana is what you may call an English half-breed. In the bottom of our hearts we have a hankering for monarchy. The lion, who permits nobody else to poach on his preserves, is our symbol. While the vexatious child and I are not at all alike in other things, I know she admires as much as I do a man who asserts himself.”

Though it was said Juliana Gunning could not hear thunder, she generally understood her aunt’s voice, and could tell when she was being talked about. She came straight to her own rescue, as you might say, and Dr. McCurdy, poor man, was very polite, but not cheerful. If we had known then what he had been yelling in the woods, we should have understood better why Captain Markley seemed to pluck up and strut at the sight of him.

I think Mrs. Gunning determined to finish the business that very hour. She met Dr. McCurdy with all the sweetness she could put into her manner just before she intended to pounce the hardest.

“I have been showing the captain my chickens,” she says, “and now I want to show you my cows.”

Dr. McCurdy thanked her, and said he would be delighted to see the cows, but he stuck to Juliana like a shadow. Maybe he expected the cows would give him a further excuse for being with her. But Mrs. Gunning cut him off there. She gave her keys to her niece, and says she:

“Go in the house, my dear, and set out the decanter and glasses, and give Captain Markley a glass of wine to keep him until we come back. I want to tell him something more about that Shanghai rooster.”

Juliana understood, and took the keys, and rolled her eyes tantalizingly at Dr. McCurdy. The poor fellow made a stand, and said the cows would do some other time, and mightn’t he beg for a glass of wine too, after his walk?

“Certainly, doctor, certainly,” says Mrs. Gunning, leading the way to the front sally-port. “We expect you to take a glass with us. But while Juliana sets out the decanter, let us look at the cows.”

She hadn’t mentioned me, but I didn’t care for that, knowing Mrs. Gunning as I did. I should have followed if she Hadn’t beckoned to me, for I was as determined to see the affair through as she was to finish it.

We had to go down that long path from the front sally-port to the street, and then turn into the field at the foot of the hill, where the fort stables are. Mrs. Gunning talked all the time about cattle, flourishing her parasol and flashing her diamonds and emeralds in the sun, and telling Dr. McCurdy she had intended to ask his opinion about them ever since his arrival on the island. He answered yes, and no, and seemed to be thinking of anything but cattle.

Mackinac cows tinkled their bells in every thicket. But Mrs. Gunning’s pets were brought in morning and afternoon to clean, well-lighted stalls. There they stood in a row, sleek as if they had been curried—and I have heard that she did curry them herself—all switching natural tails except one. And, as sure as you live, that cow had a false tail that Mrs. Gunning had made for her!

She took hold of it and showed it to us. It did not seem very funny to Dr. McCurdy, but he had to listen to what she said.

“Spotty was a fine cow, but by some accident she had lost her tail, and I got her cheaper on that account,” says Mrs. Gunning. “You don’t know how distressing it was to see her switching a stump. So I made her a tail of whalebone and India-rubber and yarn. I knit it myself.”

The poor fellow looked up at the fort and said: “Yes. It is very interesting/ Mrs. Gunning.”

“I am aware,” says she, “that the expedient was never hit upon before. But Spotty’s brush is a great success. It used to make me unhappy to think of leaving this post. All the other cows might find good homes with new owners; but who would care for Spotty? Since I have supplied her deficiency, however, and know that the supply can constantly be renewed, my mind is easy about her. If you ever have to knit a cow’s tail, doctor, remember the foundations are whalebone and India-rubber; and I would advise you to use the coarsest yarn you can find for the brush.”

“I will, Mrs. Gunning,” he says, like a man who wanted to lie down in the straw and die. And I couldn’t laugh and relieve myself, because it was like laughing at him.

“Now that shows,” says Mrs. Gunning, and she pounced at him and shook her parasol in his face so vigorously that she ripped in the back the same as a chrysalis, “how easy it is to remedy a seemingly incurable injury.”

If he didn’t understand her then, he did afterwards. But he looked as if he couldn’t endure it any longer, and made for the door.

“Stop, Dr. McCurdy,” says she. “You haven’t heard these cows’ pedigrees.”

He stopped, and said: “How long are the pedigrees?”

“Here are four generations,” says Mrs. Gunning—“grandmother, mother, daughter, and grandchild.” And on she went, tracing their lineage through blooded stock for more than half an hour. She was enthusiastic, too, and got between the doctor and the door, and emphasized all her points with the parasol. Her back kept ripping until I ought to have told her, but I knew the man was too mad to look at her, and she was so happy herself, I said, “I will let her alone.”

I had forgotten all about my half-breed driver, sitting on the parade-ground in the waiting carriage. But he was enjoying himself too, when we climbed to the fort again, with a soldier lounging on the front wheel.

Well, as soon as I entered the little parlor that Mrs. Gunning called her drawing-room—ornamented with the movable knickknacks that an army woman carries around with her, you know—I saw that Captain Markley had asserted himself. If he hadn’t asserted himself on that occasion, I do believe Mrs. Gunning would have been done with him forever. I never saw a man so anxious to show that he was accepted. Of course he couldn’t announce the engagement until it had been sanctioned by the girl’s foster-parents. But he put Juliana through the engaged drill like a veteran, and she was wonderfully meek.

I suppose one British woman knows another better than an American can. But I felt sorry for Dr. McCurdy when he saw the state of things and took his leave, and Mrs. Gunning rubbed his defeat on the raw.

“Ah, my dear friend,” says she, shaking his hand, “we see that buds will match with buds. I could never find it in my heart to wed a bud to a full-blown rose.”

I don’t doubt that the full-blown rose, as he went down the fort hill, cursed Mrs. Gunning’s cow’s tail and all her cows’ pedigrees. But she looked as serene as if he had pledged the young couple’s health (instead of going off and leaving his wine half tasted), and took me to see her chickens’ cupboard.

There were shelves with rows of cans and bottles, each can or bottle labelled “Molly,” or “Lucy,” or “Speckie,” and so on.

“I have discovered,” Mrs. Gunning says to me, “that one hen’s food may be another hen’s poison, so I mix and prepare for each fowl what that fowl seems to need. For instance, Lucy can bear more meal than Speckie, and the Shanghai cock had to be strongly encouraged. Though it sometimes happens,” says she, casting her eye back towards the drawing-room, “that such a fellow gets pampered, and has to have his diet reduced and his spirit cooled down again.”










The 17th of May, 1673, Father Jacques Marquette, the missionary priest of St. Ignace, on what is now called the north shore of Michigan, and Louis Jolliet, a trader from Montreal, set out on a journey together.

Huron and Ottawa Indians, with the priest left in charge of them, stood on the beach to see Marquette embark,—the water running up to their feet and receding with the everlasting wash of the straits. Behind them the shore line of St. Ignace was bent like a long bow. Northward, beyond the end of the bow, a rock rose in the air as tall as a castle. But very humble was the small mission station which Father Marquette had founded when driven with his flock from his post on the Upper Lakes by the Iroquois. A chapel of strong [2] cedar posts covered with bark, his own hut, and the lodges of his people were all surrounded by pointed palisades. Opposite St. Ignace, across a league or so of water, rose the turtle-shaped back of Michilimackinac Island, venerated by the tribes, in spite of their religious teaching, as a home of mysterious giant fairies who made gurgling noises in the rocks along the beach or floated vast and cloud-like through high pine forests. The evergreens on Michilimackinac showed as if newborn through the haze of undefined deciduous trees, for it was May weather, which means that the northern world had not yet leaped into sudden and glorious summer. Though the straits glittered under a cloudless sky, a chill lingered in the wind, and only the basking stone ledges reflected warmth. The clear elastic air was such a perfect medium of sight that it allowed the eye to distinguish open beach rims from massed forests two or three leagues away on the south shore, and seemed to bring within stone's throw those nearer islands now called Round and Bois Blanc.

It must have wrung Marquette's heart to leave this region, which has an irresistible charm for all who come within its horizon. But he had [3] long desired to undertake this journey for a double purpose. He wanted to carry his religion as far as possible among strange tribes, and he wanted to find and explore that great river of the west, about which adventurers in the New World heard so much, but which none had seen.

Totem of the Illinois.

A century earlier, its channel southward had really been taken possession of by the Spaniards, its first discoverers. But they made no use of their discovery, and on their maps traced it as an insignificant stream. The French did not know whether this river flowed into the Gulf of California—which was called the Red Sea—or to the western ocean, or through Virginia eastward. Illinois Indians, visiting Marquette's mission after the manner of roving tribes, described the father of waters and its tributaries. Count Frontenac, the governor of Canada, thought the matter of sufficient importance to send Louis Jolliet with an outfit to join the missionary in searching for the stream.


The explorers took with them a party of five men. Their canoes, we are told, were of birch bark and cedar splints, the ribs being shaped from spruce roots. Covered with the pitch of yellow pine, and light enough to be carried on the shoulders of four men across portages, these canoes yet had toughness equal to any river voyage. They were provisioned with smoked meat and Indian corn. Shoved clear of the beach, they shot out on the blue water to the dip of paddles. Marquette waved his adieu. His Indians, remembering the dangers of that southern country, scarcely hoped to see him again. Marquette, though a young man, was of no such sturdy build as Jolliet. Among descendants of the Ottawas you may still hear the tradition that he had a "white face, and long hair the color of the sun" flowing to the shoulders of his black robe.

The watching figures dwindled, as did the palisaded settlement. Hugging the shore, the canoes entered Lake Michigan, or, as it was then called, the Lake of the Illinois. All the islands behind seemed to meet and intermingle and to cover themselves with blue haze as they went down on the water. Priest and trader, their skins moist with the breath of the lake, each in [5] his own canoe, faced silently the unknown world toward which they were venturing. The shaggy coast line bristled with evergreens, and though rocky, it was low, unlike the white cliffs of Michilimackinac.

Marquette had made a map from the descriptions of the Illinois Indians. The canoes were moving westward on the course indicated by his map. He was peculiarly gifted as a missionary, for already he spoke six Indian languages, and readily adapted himself to any dialect. Marquette, the records tell us, came of "an old and honorable family of Laon," in northern France. Century after century the Marquettes bore high honors in Laon, and their armorial bearings commemorated devotion to the king in distress. In our own Revolutionary War it is said that three Marquettes fought for us with La Fayette. No young man of his time had a pleasanter or easier life offered him at home than Jacques Marquette. But he chose to devote himself to missionary labor in the New World, and had already helped to found three missions, enduring much hardship. Indian half-breeds, at what is now called the "Soo," on St. Mary's River, betwixt Lake Huron and Lake Superior, have a tradition that Father Marquette [6] and Father Dablon built their missionary station on a tiny island of rocks, not more than two canoe lengths from shore, on the American side. But men who have written books declare it was on the bank below the rapids.

Autograph of Jolliet.

Jolliet had come of different though not less worthy stock. He was Canadian born, the son of a wagon-maker in Quebec; and he had been well educated, and possessed an active, adventurous mind. He was dressed for this expedition in the tough buckskin hunting suit which frontiersmen then wore. But Marquette retained the long black cassock of the priest. Their five voyageurs—or trained woodsmen—in more or less stained buckskin and caps of fur, sent the canoes shooting over the water with scarcely a sound, dipping a paddle now on this side and now on that, Indian fashion; Marquette and Jolliet taking turns with them as the [7] day progressed. For any man, whether voyageur, priest, or seignior, who did not know how to paddle a canoe, if occasion demanded, was at sore disadvantage in the New World.

The first day of any journey, before one meets weariness or anxiety and disappointment, remains always the freshest in memory. When the sun went down, leaving violet shadows on the chill lake, they drew their boats on shore; and Pierre Porteret and another Frenchman, named Jacques, gathered driftwood to make a fire, while the rest of the crew unpacked the cargo. They turned each canoe on its side, propping the ends with sticks driven into the ground, thus making canopies like half-roofs to shelter them for the night.

"The Sieur Jolliet says it is not always that we may light a camp-fire," said Pierre Porteret to Jacques, as he struck a spark into his tinder with the flint and steel which a woodsman carried everywhere.

"He is not likely to have one to-night, even in this safe cove," responded Jacques, kneeling to help, and anxious for supper. "Look now at me; I know the Indian way to start a blaze by taking two pieces of wood and boring one into the other, rubbing it thus between my palms. [8] It is a gift. Not many voyageurs can accomplish that."

"Rub thy two stupid heads together and make a blaze," said another hungry man, coming with a kettle of lake water. But the fire soon climbed pinkly through surrounding darkness. They drove down two forked supports to hold a crosspiece, and hung the kettle to boil their hulled corn. Then the fish which had been taken by trolling during the day were dressed and broiled on hot coals.

The May starlight was very keen over their heads in a dark blue sky which seemed to rise to infinite heights, for the cold northern night air swept it of every film. Their first delicious meal was blessed and eaten; and stretched in blankets, with their feet to the camp fire, the tired explorers rested. They were still on the north shore of what we now call the state of Michigan, and their course had been due westward by the compass. A cloud of Indian tobacco smoke rose from the lowly roof of each canoe, and its odor mingled with the sweet acrid breath of burning wood. Jolliet and the voyageurs had learned to use this dried brown weed, which all tribes held in great esteem and carried about with them in their rovings.


"If true tales be told of the water around the Bay of the Puans," one of the voyageurs was heard to say as he stretched himself under the canoe allotted to the men, "we may save our salt when we pass that country."

"Have you ever heard, Father," Jolliet inquired of the missionary, "that the word Puan meant foul or ill-smelling instead of salty?"

"I know," Marquette answered, "that salt has a vile odor to the Indians. They do not use it with their food, preferring to season that instead with the sugar they make from the maple tree. Therefore, the bay into which we are soon to venture they call the Bay of the Fetid, or ill-smelling salty country, on account of saline water thereabout."

"Then why do the Winnebago tribe on this bay allow themselves to be called Puans?"

"That has never been explained by the missionaries sent to that post, though the name seems to carry no reproach. They are well made and tall of stature. I find Wild Oats a stranger name—the Menomonies are Wild Oats Indians. Since the gospel has been preached to all these tribes for some years past, I trust we may find good Christians among them."


"What else have you learned about the country?"

"Father Dablon told me that the way to the head of that river called Fox, up which we must paddle, is as hard as the way to heaven, specially the rapids. But when you arrive there it is a natural paradise."

"We have tremendous labor before us," mused Jolliet. "Father, did you ever have speech with that Jean Nicollet, who, first of any Frenchman, got intimations of the great river?"

"I never saw him."

"There was a man I would have traveled far to see, though he was long a renegade among savages, and returned to the settlements only to die."

"Heaven save this expedition from becoming renegade among savages by forgetting its highest object!" breathed Marquette.

His companion smiled toward the pleasant fire-light. Jolliet had once thought of becoming a priest himself. He venerated this young apostle, only half a dozen years his senior. But he was glad to be a free adventurer, seeking wealth and honor; not foreseeing that though the great island of Anticosti in the Gulf of St. Lawrence would be given him for his services, he would die a poor and neglected man.


When, after days of steady progress, the expedition entered the Bay of Puans, now called Green Bay, and found the nation of Menomonies or Wild Oats Indians, Marquette was as much interested as Jolliet in the grain which gave these people their bread. It grew like rice, in marshy places, on knotted stalks which appeared above the water in June and rose several feet higher. The grain seed was long and slender and made plentiful meal. The Indians gathered this volunteer harvest in September, when the kernels were so ripe that they dropped readily into canoes pushed among the stalks. They were then spread out on lattice work and smoked to dry the chaff, which could be trodden loose when the whole bulk, tied in a skin bag, was put into a hollow in the ground made for that purpose. The Indians pounded their grain to meal and cooked it with fat.

The Menomonies tried to prevent Marquette and Jolliet from going farther. They said the great river was dangerous, full of frightful monsters that swallowed both men and canoes; that there was a roaring demon in it who could be heard for leagues; and the heat was so intense in those southern countries through which it flowed, that if the Frenchmen escaped all [12] other dangers, they must die of that. Marquette told them his own life was nothing compared to the good word he wanted to carry to those southern tribes, and he laughed at the demon and instructed them in his own religion.

The aboriginal tribes, by common instinct, tried from the first to keep the white man out of countries which he was determined to overrun and possess, regardless of danger.

At the end of a voyage of thirty leagues, or about ninety miles, the explorers reached the head of the Bay of Puans, and a region thickly settled with Winnebagoes and Pottawotomies between the bay and Winnebago Lake, Sacs on Fox River, and Mascoutins, Kickapoos, and Miamis. Fox River, which they followed from the head of the bay, and of which the lake seemed only an expansion, was a rocky stream. A later traveler has told us that Fox River in its further extent is very crooked, and while seeming wide, with a boundary of hills on each hand, it affords but a slender channel in a marsh full of rushes and wild oats.

The Kickapoos and Mascoutins were rude, coarse-featured Indians. Though the missionary exhorted them as seriously as he did their gentler neighbors, he could not help remarking [13] to Jolliet that "the Miamis were better made, and the two long earlocks which they wore gave them a good appearance."

It was the seventh day of June when the explorers arrived in this country of cabins woven of rushes; and they did not linger here. Frenchmen had never gone farther. They were to enter new lands untrodden by the white race. They were in what is now called the state of Wisconsin, where "the soil was good," they noted, "producing much corn; and the Indians gathered also quantities of plums and grapes." In these warmer lands the season progressed rapidly.

Marquette and Jolliet called the chiefs together and told them that Jolliet was sent by the governor to find new countries, and Marquette had been commissioned of Heaven to preach. Making the chiefs a present, without which they would not have received the talk seriously, the explorers asked for guides to that tributary which was said to run into the great river.

The chiefs responded with the gift of a rush mat for Marquette and Jolliet to rest on during their journey, and sent two young Miamis with them. If these kindly Indians disliked to set the expedition further on its way, they said nothing but very polite things about the hardihood [14] of Frenchmen, who could venture with only two canoes, and seven in their party, on unknown worlds.

The young Miamis, in a boat of their own, led out the procession the tenth morning of June. Taking up paddles, the voyageurs looked back at an assembled multitude—perhaps the last kindly natives on their perilous way—and at the knoll in the midst of prairies where hospitable rush houses stood and would stand until the inmates took them down and rolled them up to carry to hunting grounds, and at groves dotting those pleasant prairies where guests were abundantly fed.

Three leagues up the marshy and oats-choked Fox River, constantly widening to little lakes and receding to a throat of a channel, brought the explorers to the portage, or carrying place. The canoes then had to be unloaded, and both cargo and boats carried overland to a bend of the Miscousing, which was the Indian name for Wisconsin River. "This portage," says a traveler who afterwards followed that way, "is half a league in length, and half of that is a kind of marsh full of mud." In wet seasons the head of Fox River at that time seemed not unlikely to find the Wisconsin, for Marquette has set [15] it down in his recital that the portage was only twenty-seven hundred paces.

When the two Miamis had helped to carry the goods and had set the French on the tributary of the great river, they turned back to their own country. Before the men entered the boats Marquette knelt down with them on the bank and prayed for the success of the undertaking. It was a lovely broad river on which they now embarked, with shining sands showing through the clear water, making shallows like tumbling discs of brilliant metal,—a river in which the canoes might sometimes run aground, but one that deceived the eye pleasantly, with islands all vine covered, so when a boat clove a way between two it was a guess how far the Wisconsin spread away on each side to shores of a fertile land. Oaks, walnuts, whitewood, and thorn trees crowded the banks or fell apart, showing prairies rolling to wooded hills. Deer were surprised, stretching their delicate necks down to drink at the margin. They looked up with shy large eyes at such strange objects moving on their stream, and shot off through the brush like red-brown arrows tipped with white. The moose planted its forefeet and stared stolidly, its broad horns set in defense.


"Sieur Jolliet," said the missionary, once when the canoes drew together, "we have now left the waters which flow into the great lakes and are discharged through the St. Lawrence past Quebec to the sea. We follow those that lead us into strange lands."

"This river Miscousing on which we now are," returned Jolliet, "flows, as we see by our compass, to the southwestward. We know it is a branch of the great river. I am becoming convinced, Father, that the great river cannot discharge itself toward the east, as some have supposed."

The explorers estimated the distance from the country of the Mascoutins to the portage to be three leagues, and from the portage to the mouth of the Miscousing forty leagues. This distance they covered in a week. Drawing their canoes to the shore at night, they pitched camp, varying the monotony of their stores with fish and game. Perhaps they had learned that wild grapes then budding were not really fit to eat until touched by frost. Pierre Porteret said in Marquette's hearing, "the Indians could make good wine of grapes and plums if they desired."

The 17th of June, exactly one month from the day on which they had left St. Ignace mission, [17] the explorers paddled into a gentle clear river, larger than the Miscousing but not yet monstrous in width, which ran southward. High hills guarded the right-hand shore, and the left spread away in fair meadows. Its current was broken with many little islands, like the Miscousing, though on sounding, Jolliet found the water to be ten fathoms, or sixty feet, deep. The shores receding, and then drawing in, gave unequal and irregular width to the stream. But it was unmistakably the great river they had sought, named then as now by the Indians, Mississippi, though Marquette at once christened it Conception, and another Frenchman who came after him gave it the name of Colbert. It was the river of which Nicollet had brought hints from his wanderings among northwestern tribes: the great artery of the middle continent, or, as that party of explorers believed, of the entire west. Receiving into itself tributaries, it rolled, draining a mighty basin, to unknown seas.

The first white men ventured forth upon its upper channel in two birch canoes. Five hardy voices raised a shout which was thrown back in an echo from the hills; five caps were whirled as high as paddles could raise them. But Marquette [18] said, "This is such joy as we cannot express!" The men in both canoes silenced themselves while he gave thanks for the discovery.

FATHER JACQUES MARQUETTE. From a Statue in the Capitol at Washington.




Moving down the Mississippi, league after league, the explorers noted first of all its solitude. Wigwam smoke could not be seen on either shore. Silence, save the breathing of the river as it rolled on its course, seemed to surround and threaten them with ambush. Still, day after day, the sweet and awful presence of the wilderness was their only company. Once Pierre Porteret dropped his paddle with a yell which was tossed about by echoing islands. A thing with a tiger's forehead and a wildcat's whiskered snout, holding ears and entire gray and black head above the water, swam for the boat. But it dived and disappeared; and the other voyageurs felt safe in laughing at him. Not long after, Jacques bellowed aloud as he saw a living tree glide under the canoe, jarring it from end to end. The voyageurs soon learned to know the huge sluggish catfish. They also caught plenty of sturgeon or shovel fish when they cast in their nets.


The river descended from its hilly cradle to a country of level distances. The explorers, seeing nothing of men, gave more attention to birds and animals. Wild turkeys with burnished necks and breasts tempted the hunters. The stag uttered far off his whistling call of defiance to other stags. And they began to see a shaggy ox, humped, with an enormous head and short black horns, and a mane hanging over low-set wicked eyes. Its body was covered with curly rough hair. They learned afterwards from Indians to call these savage cattle pisikious, or buffaloes. Herds of many hundreds grazed together, or, startled, galloped away, like thunder rolling along the ground.

The explorers kindled very little fire on shore to cook their meals, and they no longer made a camp, but after eating, pushed out and anchored, sleeping in their canoes. Every night a sentinel was set to guard against surprise. By the 25th of June they had passed through sixty leagues of solitude. The whole American continent was thinly settled by native tribes, many in name indeed, but of scant numbers. The most dreaded savages in the New World were the Iroquois or Five Nations, living south of Lake Ontario. Yet they were never able to [21] muster more than about twenty-two hundred fighting men.

The canoes were skirting the western bank, driven by the current, when one voyageur called to another:

"My scalp for the sight of an Indian!"

"Halt!" the forward paddler answered. "Look to thy scalp, lad, for here is the Indian!"

There was no feathered head in ambush, but they saw moccasin prints in the low moist margin and a path leading up to the prairie.

Marquette and Jolliet held the boats together while they consulted.

"Do you think it wise to pass by without searching what this may mean, Father?"

"No, I do not. We might thus leave enemies behind our backs to cut off our return. Some Indian village is near. It would be my counsel to approach and offer friendship."

"Shall we take the men?" debated Jolliet. "Two of them at least should stay to guard the canoes."

"Let them all stay to guard the canoes. If we go unarmed and unattended, we shall not raise suspicion in the savages' minds."

"But we may raise suspicion in our own minds."


Marquette laughed.

"The barbarous people on this unexplored river have us at their mercy," he declared, "We can at best do little to defend ourselves."

"Let us reconnoitre," said Jolliet.

Taking some of the goods which they had brought along for presents, Jolliet bade the men wait their return and climbed the bank with the missionary. The path led through prairie grass, gay at that season with flowers. The delicate buttercup-like sensitive plant shrank from their feet in wet places. Neither Frenchman had yet seen the deadly rattlesnake of these southern countries, singing as a great fly might sing in a web, dart out of its spotted spiral to fasten a death bite upon a victim. They walked in silence, dreading only the human beings they were going to meet. When they had gone about two leagues, the path drew near the wooded bank of a little stream draining into the Mississippi which they had scarcely noticed from the canoes. There they saw an Indian village, and farther off, up a hill, more groups of wigwams. They heard the voices of children, and nobody suspected their approach.

Jolliet and Marquette halted. Not knowing [23] how else to announce their presence, they shouted together as loud as they could shout. The savages ran out of their wigwams and darted about in confusion until they saw the two motionless white men. The long black cassock of Marquette had instant effect upon them. For their trinkets and a few garments on their bodies showed that they had trafficked with Europeans.

Four old Indians, slowly and with ceremony, came out to meet the explorers, holding up curious pipes trimmed with many kinds of feathers. As soon as they drew near, Marquette called out to them in Algonquin:

"What tribe is this?"

"The Illinois," answered the old man. Being a branch of the great Algonquin family, which embraced nearly all northern aboriginal nations, with the notable exception of the Iroquois, these people had a dialect which the missionary could understand. The name Illinois meant "The Men."

Marquette and Jolliet were led to the principal lodge. Outside the door, waiting for them, stood another old Indian like a statue of wrinkled bronze. For he had stripped himself to do honor to the occasion, and held up [24] his hands to screen his face from the sun, making graceful and dignified gestures as he greeted the strangers.

"How bright is the sun when you come to see us, O Frenchmen! Our lodges are all open to you."

The visitors were then seated in the wigwam, and the pipe, or calumet, offered them to smoke, all the Indians crowding around and saying:


"You do well to visit us, brothers."

Obliged to observe this peace ceremony, Marquette put the pipe to his lips, but Jolliet, used to the tobacco weed, puffed with a good will.

The entire village then formed a straggling procession, gazing at the Frenchmen, whom they guided farther to the chief's town. He also met them standing with a naked retinue at his door, and the calumet was again smoked.

The Illinois lodges were shaped like the rounded cover of an emigrant wagon, high, and very long, having an opening left along [25] the top for the escape of smoke. They were made of rush mats, which the women wove, overlapped as shingles on a framework of poles. Rush mats also carpeted the ground, except where fires burned in a row along the middle. Each fire was used by two families who lived opposite, in stalls made of blankets. The ends of the lodge had flaps to shut out the weather, but these were left wide open to the summer sun. During visits of ceremony a guest stood where he could be seen and heard by all who could crowd into the wigwam. But when the Illinois held important councils they made a circular inclosure, and built a camp-fire in the center. Many families and many fires filled a long wigwam, though Jolliet and Marquette were lodged with the chief, who had one for himself and his household.

Whitening embers were sending threads of smoke towards a strip of blue sky overhead when the missionary stood up to explain his errand in the crowded inclosure, dividing his talk into four parts with presents. By the first gift of cloth and beads he told his listeners that the Frenchmen were voyaging in peace to visit nations on the river. By the second he said:

"I declare to you that God, your Creator, has [26] pity on you, since, when you have been so long ignorant of him, he wishes to become known to you. I am sent on his behalf with this design. It is for you to acknowledge and obey him."

By the third gift they were informed that the chief of the French had spread peace and overcome the Iroquois. And the last begged for all the information they could give about the sea and intervening nations.

When Marquette sat down, the chief stood up and laid his hand on the head of a little slave, prisoner from another tribe.

"I thank you, Blackgown," he said, "and you, Frenchman, for taking so much pains to come and visit us. The earth has never been so beautiful, nor the sun so bright, as to-day; never has the river been so calm and free from rocks, which your canoes removed as they passed! Never has our tobacco had so fine a flavor, nor our corn appeared so beautiful as we find it to-day. Here is my son. I give him to you that you may know my heart. Take pity on us and all our nation. You know the Great Spirit who made all: you speak to him and hear him; ask him to give us life and health and come and dwell with us."

When the chief had presented his guests with [27] the Indian boy, and again offered the calumet, he urged them, with belts and garters of buffalo wool, brilliantly dyed, to go no farther down the great river, on account of dangers. These compliments being ended, a feast was brought in four courses. First came a wooden dish of sagamity or corn-meal boiled in water and grease. The chief took a buffalo-horn spoon and fed his guests as if they had been little children; three or four spoonfuls he put in Marquette's mouth and three or four spoonfuls in Jolliet's. Three fish were brought next, and he picked out the bones with his own fingers, blew on the food to cool it, and stuffed the explorers with all he could make them accept. It was their part to open their mouths as young birds do. The third course was that most delicate of Indian dishes, a fine dog; but seeing that his guests shrank from this, the chief ended the meal with buffalo meat, giving them the fattest parts.

The Illinois were at that time on the west side of the Mississippi, because they had been driven from their own country on the Illinois River by the Iroquois. The Illinois nation was made up of several united tribes: Kaskaskias, Peorias, Kahokias, Tamaroas, and Moingona. [28] Flight scattered them, and these were only a few of their villages. They afterwards returned to their own land. Their chief wore a scarf or belt of fur crossing his left shoulder, encircling his waist and hanging in fringe. Arm and leg bands ornamented him, and he also had knee rattles of deer hoofs. Paint made of colored clays streaked his face. This attractive creature sent the Indian crier around, beating a drum of deer hide stretched over a pot, to proclaim the calumet dance in honor of the explorers.

Marquette and Jolliet were led out in the prairie to a small grove which sheltered the assembly from the afternoon sun. Even the women left their maize fields and the beans, melons, and squashes that they were cultivating, and old squaws dropped rush braiding, and with papooses swarming about their knees, followed. The Illinois were nimble, well-formed people, skillful with bow and arrow. They had, moreover, some guns among them, obtained from allies who had roved and traded with the French. Young braves imitated the gravity of their elders at this important ceremony. The Illinois never ate new fruits or bathed at the beginning of summer, without first dancing the calumet.


A large gay mat of rushes was spread in the center of the grove, and the warrior selected to dance put his god, or manitou—some tiny carven image which he carried around his person and to which he prayed—on the mat beside a beautiful calumet. Around them he spread his bow and arrows, his war club, and stone hatchet. The pipe was made of red rock like brilliantly polished marble, hollowed to hold tobacco. A stick two feet long, as thick as a cane, formed the stem. For the dance these pipes were often decked with gorgeous scarlet, green, and iridescent feathers, though white plumes alone made them the symbol of peace, and red quills bristled over them for war.

War Club.

Young squaws and braves who were to sing, sat down on the ground in a group near the mat; but the multitude spread in a great circle around it. Men of importance before taking their seats on the short grass, each in turn lifted the calumet, which was filled, and blew a little [30] smoke on the manitou. Then the dancer sprang out, and, with graceful curvings in time to the music, seized the pipe and offered it now to the sun and now to the earth, made it dance from mouth to mouth along the lines of spectators, with all its fluttering plumes spread. The hazy sun shone slanting among branches, tracing a network of flickering leaf shadows on short grass; and liquid young voices rising and falling chanted,

"Nanahani, nanahani, nanahani, Naniango!"

Stone Hatchet.

The singers were joined by the Indian drum; and at that another dancer sprang into the circle and took the weapons from the mat to fight with the principal dancer, who had no defense but the calumet. With measured steps and a floating motion of the body the two advanced and attacked, parried and retreated, until the man with the pipe drove his enemy from the ring. Papooses of a dark brick-red color watched with glistening black eyes the [31] last part of the dance, which celebrated victory. The names of nations fought, the prisoners taken, and all the trophies brought home were paraded by means of the calumet.

The chief presented the dancer with a fine fur robe when he ended; and, taking the calumet from his hand, gave it to an old man in the circle. This one passed it to the next, and so it went around the huge ring until all had held it. Then the chief approached the white men.

"Blackgown," he said, "and you, Frenchman, I give you this peace-pipe to be your safeguard wherever you go among the tribes. It shall be feathered with white plumes, and displaying it you may march fearlessly among enemies. It has power of life and death, and honor is paid to it as to a manitou. Blackgown, I give you this calumet in token of peace between your governor and the Illinois, and to remind you of your promise to come again and instruct us in your religion."

The explorers slept soundly all night in the chief's lodge, feeling as safe as among Christian Indians of the north, who stuck thorns in a calendar to mark Sundays and holy days. Next morning the chief went with several hundred of his people to escort them to their canoes; [32] but it was three o'clock in the afternoon before the voyageurs, dropping down stream, saw the last of the friendly tribe.

Day after day the boats moved on without meeting other inhabitants. Mulberries, persimmons, and hazelnuts were found on the shores. They passed the mouth of the Illinois River without knowing its name, or that it flowed through lands owned by the tribe that had given them the peace-pipe. Farther on, the Mississippi made one of its many bends, carrying them awhile directly eastward, and below great rocks like castles. As the canoes ran along the foot of this east shore, some of the voyageurs cried out. For on the face of the cliff far up were two painted monsters in glaring red, green, and black; each as large as a calf, with deer horns, blood-colored eyes, tiger beard, a human face, and a body covered with scales. Coiled twice around the middle, over the head, and passing between the hind legs of each, extended a tail that ended like a fish. So startling was this sight, which seemed a banner held aloft heralding unseen dangers, that the men felt threatened by a demon. But Marquette laughed at them and beckoned for the canoes to be brought together.


"What manner of thing is this, Sieur Jolliet?"

"A pair of manitous, evidently. If we had Indians with us, we should see them toss a little tobacco out as an offering in passing by."

"I cannot think," said Marquette, "that any Indian has been the designer. Good painters in France would find it hard to do as well. Besides this, the creatures are so high upon the rock that it was hard to get conveniently at them to paint them. And how could such colors be mixed in this wilderness?"

"We have seen what pigments and clays the Illinois used in daubing themselves. These wild tribes may have among them men with natural skill in delineating," said Jolliet.

"I will draw them off," Marquette determined, bringing out the papers on which he set down his notes; and while the men stuck their paddles in the water to hold the canoes against the current, he made his drawing.

One of the monsters seen by the explorers remained on those rocks until the middle of our own century. It was called by the Indians the Piasa. More than two centuries of beating winter storms had not effaced the brilliant picture when it was quarried away by a stupidly [34] barbarous civilization. The town of Alton, in the state of Illinois, is a little south of that rock where the Piasa dragons were seen.

As the explorers moved ahead on glassy waters, they looked back, and the line of vision changing, they saw that the figures were cut into the cliff and painted in hollow relief.

They were still talking about the monsters when they heard the roar of a rapid ahead, and the limpid Mississippi turned southward on its course. It was as if they had never seen the great river until this instant. For a mighty flood, rushing through banks from the west, yellow with mud, noisy as a storm, eddying islands of branches, stumps, whole trees, took possession of the fair stream they had followed so long. It shot across the current of the Mississippi in entering so that the canoes danced like eggshells and were dangerously forced to the eastern bank. Afterwards they learned that this was the Pekitanoüi, or, as we now call it, the Missouri River, which flows into the Mississippi not far above the present city of St. Louis; and that by following it to its head waters and making a short portage across a prairie, a man might in time enter the Red or Vermilion Sea of California.