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Days of the Discoverers Part 20

The terror which haunted the future of every Huguenot in France now menaced the New World.

Ribault gave his counsel for an immediate attack by sea, before Menendez completed his defense or received reinforcements. Laudonniere was ill in bed. The fleet sailed as soon as it could be made ready, and with it nearly every able fighting man in the settlement. Pierre, nearly crying with wrath and disappointment, was left among the non-combatants at the fort. In vain did old Challeux the carpenter try to console him. It might be, as Challeux said, that there would be plenty of chances to fight after his beard was grown, but now he was missing everything.

That night a terrible storm arose and continued for days. The marshes became a boundless sea; the forests were whipped like weeds in the wind.

Where had the fleet found refuge? or had it been hurled to destruction by the rage of wind and sea? Laudonniere, in the driving rain, came from his sick-bed to direct the work on the defenses, which were broken down in three or four places. Besides the four dog-boys, the cook, the brewer, an old cross-bow maker, and the old carpenter, there were two shoemakers, a musician, four valets, fourscore camp-followers who did not know the use of arms, and the crowd of women and children. The sole consolation that could be found in their plight was that in such a storm no enemy would be likely to attack them by sea or land. Nevertheless Laudonniere divided his force into two watches with an officer for each, gave them lanterns and an hour glass for going the rounds, and himself, weak with fever, spent each night in the guard-room.

On the night of the nineteenth the tempest became a deluge. The officer of the night took pity on the drenched and gasping sentries and dismissed them. But on that night five hundred Spaniards were coming from San Augustin through almost impassable swamps, their provisions spoiled and their powder soaked, under the leadership of the pitiless Menendez. The storm had caught Ribault's fleet just as it was about to attack on the eleventh, and Menendez had determined to take a force of Spaniards overland and attack the fort while its defenders were away.

With twenty Vizcayan axemen to clear the way and two Indians and a renegade Frenchman, Francois Jean, for a guide, he had bullied, threatened and exhorted them through eight days of wading through mud waist-deep, creeping around quagmires and pushing by main force through palmetto jungles, until two hours before daylight the panting, shivering, sullen men stood cursing the country and their commander, under their breath, in a pine wood less than a mile from Fort Caroline.

It was all that Menendez could do to get them to go a rod further. All night, he said, he had prayed for help; their provisions and ammunition were gone; there was nothing to do but to go on and take the fort. They went on.

In the faint light of early morning a trumpeter saw them racing down the slope toward the fort and blew the alarm. "Santiago! Santiago!" sounded in the ears of the half-awakened French as the Spaniards came through the gaps in the defenses and over the ramparts. Fierce faces and stabbing pikes were everywhere. Laudonniere snatched sword and buckler, rallied his men to the point of greatest danger, fought desperately until there was no more hope, and with a single soldier of his guard escaped into the woods. Challeux, chisel in hand, on his way to his work, swung himself over the palisade and ran like a boy. In the edge of the forest he and a few other fugitives paused and looked down upon the enclosure of the fort. It was a butchery. Some of the Huguenots in the woods decided to return and surrender rather than risk the terrors of the wilderness. The Spaniards, they said, were at least men. Six of them did return, and were cut down as they came. Pierre Debre side by side with a few desperate men who had one of the two light cannon the fort possessed, was fighting like a tiger in defense of a corner where a group of women and children were crouching.

When Menendez could secure the attention of his maddened men he gave an order that women, children and boys under fifteen should be spared. This order and the instant's pause it gave came just as the last of the men in Pierre's corner went down before the halberds of the Spaniards.

Pierre leaped the palisade and ran for the forest. Looking back, he saw the trembling women and children herded into shelter, but not killed.

Fifteen of the captured Huguenots were presently hanged; a hundred and forty-two had been cut down and lay heaped together on the river bank.

Pierre plunged into the forest and after days of wandering reached a friendly Indian village. The carpenter and the other fugitives who escaped were taken to France in the two small ships of Ribault's fleet which had not gone to attack the Spanish settlement. Menendez returned at leisure to San Augustin, where he knelt and thanked the Lord.

The fate of the men of Ribault's fleet became known through the letters which the Spaniards themselves wrote in course of time to their friends at home, but chiefly through Menendez's own report to the King. Dominic de Gourgues heard of it from Coligny, and his eyes burned with the still anger of a naturally impetuous man who has learned in stern schools how to keep his temper.

"As I understand it," he said grimly and quietly, "Menendez, in the disguise of a sailor, found Ribault and his men shipwrecked and starving, some in one place, some in another. He promised them food and safety on condition that they should surrender and give up their arms and armor. He separated them into lots of ten, each guarded by twenty Spaniards. When each lot had been led out of sight of the rest he explained that on account of their great numbers and the fewness of his own followers he should be compelled to tie their hands before taking them into camp, for fear they might capture the camp. At the end of the day, when all had reached a certain line which Menendez marked out with his cane in the sand, he gave the word to his murderers to butcher them."

Coligny bowed his noble gray head.

"And he offered them life if they would renounce their religion, whereupon Ribault repeating in French the psalm, 'Lord, remember thou me,' they died without other supplication to God or man. On this account did Menendez write above the heads of those whom he hanged, 'I do this not as to Frenchmen but as to Lutherans.' And no demand for redress has as yet been made?"

"One," said the Admiral coolly. "A demand was made by Philip of Spain.

He has required his brother of France to punish one Gaspe Coligny, sometimes known as Admiral, for sending out a Huguenot colony to settle in Florida."

The Gascon sprang to his feet muttering something between his teeth. "I crave your pardon, my lord," he added with a courteous bow. "I am but a plain rough soldier unused to the ways of courts, but it seems to me that things being as they are, my duty is quite simple." He bowed himself out and left Coligny wondering.

During the following months it was noted that in choosing the men for his coming expedition Gourgues appeared to be unusually select. He sold his inheritance, borrowed some money of his brother, and fitted out three small ships carrying both sails and oars. He enlisted, one by one, about a hundred arquebusiers and eighty sailors who could fight either by land or sea if necessary. He secured a commission from the King to go slave-raiding in Benin, on the coast of Africa. On August 22, 1567, he set sail from the mouth of the Charente.

"I should like to know," said one of the trumpeters, Lucas Moreau, "whether we are really going slave-catching, or not."

"Why do you think we are not?" asked the pilot, to whom he spoke.

"Because I have seen nothing on board that looks like it. Moreover, he was very particular to ask me if I had been in the Spanish Indies, and when he heard that I had been in Florida he took me on at once. I was out there, you know, when you were, two years ago."

"And you would like to go back?" asked the other, gruffly.

"If there were a chance of killing Menendez, yes," answered Moreau with a fierce flash of white teeth.

The trumpeter's guess was a shrewd one. When the tiny fleet reached the West Indies, the commander took his men into his confidence and revealed the true object of his voyage--to avenge the massacre at Fort Caroline.

The result proved that he had not misjudged them. Fired by his spirit they became so eager that they wanted to push on at once instead of waiting for moonlight to pass the dangerous Bahama Channel. They came through it without mishap, and at daybreak were anchored at the mouth of a river about fifteen leagues north of Fort Caroline. In the growing light an Indian army in war paint and feathers, bristling with weapons, could be seen waiting on the shore.

"They may think we are Spaniards," said Dominic de Gourgues. "Moreau, if you think they will understand you, it might be well for you to speak to them."

No sooner had the trumpeter come near enough in a small boat for the Indians to recognize him, than yells of joy were heard, for the war party was headed by Satouriona himself, who well remembered him. When Moreau explained that the French had returned with presents for their good friends there was great rejoicing. A council was appointed for the next day.

In the morning Satouriona's runners had scoured the country, and the woods were full of Indians. The white men landed in military order, and in token of friendliness laid aside their arquebuses, and the Indians came in without their bows and arrows. Satouriona met Gourgues with every sign of friendliness, and seated him at his side upon a wooden stool covered with the gray "Spanish moss" that curtained all the trees.

In the clearing the chiefs and warriors stood or sat around them, ring within ring of plumed crests fierce faces and watchful eyes. Satouriona described the cruelty of the Spaniards, their abuse of the Indians and the miseries of their rule, saying finally,

"A French boy fled to us after the fort was taken, and we adopted him.

The Spaniards wished to get him to kill him, but we would not give him up, for we love the French." He waved his hand, and from the woods at one side came, in full Indian costume, bronzed and athletic, Pierre Debre.

Greatly as he was surprised and delighted, Gourgues dared not show it too plainly, and Pierre had grown almost as self-contained as a veteran of twice his years. When the French commander suggested fighting the Spaniards Satouriona leaped for joy. He and his warriors asked only to be allowed to join in that foray.

"How soon?" asked Gourgues. Satouriona could have his people ready in three days.

"Be secret," the Gascon cautioned, "for the enemy must not feel the wind of the blow." Satouriona assured him that there was no need of that warning, for the Indians hated the Spaniards worse than the French did.

"Pierre," said Gourgues, when he had the lad safe on board ship, "they said you were killed."

"I stayed alive to fight Spaniards," said the boy with a flash of the eye. "'Sieur Dominic, there are four hundred of them behind their walls, where they rebuilt our fort. I have hidden in the trees and counted. But you can trust Satouriona. The Spaniards have stolen women, enslaved and tortured men, and killed children, and the tribe is mad with hate."

Twenty sailors were left to guard the ships, Gourgues with a hundred and sixty Frenchmen took up their march along the seashore; their Indian allies slipped around through the forest. With the French went Olotoraca, the nephew of the chief, a young brave of distinguished reputation, a French pike in his hand. The French met their allies not far from the fort, and pounced upon the garrison just as it finished dinner, Olotoraca being the first man up the glacis and over the unfinished moat. The fort across the river began to cannonade the attacking party, who turned four captured guns upon them, and then crossed, the French in a large boat which had been brought up the river, the Indians swimming. Not one Spaniard escaped. Fifteen were kept alive, to be hanged on the very trees from which Menendez had hanged his French captives, and over them was set an inscription burned with a hot poker on a pine board:

"Not as to Spaniards, but as to Traitors, Robbers, and Murderers."

When not one stone was left upon another in either fort, Dominic de Gourgues bade farewell to his Indian allies, and taking with him the lad so strangely saved from death and exile, went back to France.

NOTE

The full history of this dramatic episode is to be found in Parkman's "The Pioneers of France in the New World."

THE DESTROYERS

The moon herself doth sail the air As we do sail the sea, Where by Saint Michael's Mount we fare Free as the winds are free.

Our keels are bright with elfin gold That mocks the tyrant's gaze, That slips from out his greedy hold And leaves him in amaze.

White water creaming past her prow The little _Golden Hynde_ Bears westward with her treasure now-- We'd ship and follow blind, But that he never did require-- Our Captain hath us bound Only by force of his desire-- The quarry hunts the hound!

The hunt is up, the hunt is up To the gray Atlantic's bound,-- The health of the Queen in a golden cup!-- The quarry is hunting the hound!

Like steel the stars gleam through the night On armored waves beneath,-- As England's honor cold and bright We bear her sword in sheath!

When that great Empire dies away And none recall her place, Men shall remember our work to-day And tell of our Captain's grace,-- How never a woman or child was the worse Wherever our foe we found, Nor their own priests had cause to curse The quarry that hunted the hound!

XV

THE FLEECE OF GOLD

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