"Mistrust is the Mother of
Radisson wished all of the
bloodshed and revenge had been done before they had all left Montreal, but he
was comforted that night in the cabins when he saw the women sleeping safely
with their children and kin. He and the men spent the following day hunting so
they could all eat a big feast, and then the next day the company all left in
earnest for Onandoga, which was the ninth day of their journey.
They paddled past high and
low gulfs and mountains along the shores with such torrent that it caused a
mighty noise that could make the boldest man afraid. One man fell sick with the
ague, which slowed them down as others were forced to help him. But worse was
Radisson's companion in his canoe, a young man like him but childish. The long
time they spent together bred mutual contempt so that they would not take
anything from each other and often times ended up fighting, both covered with
bloody cuts. Others took enjoyment from the two of them fighting and bickering,
but when they saw them take out their swords and guns they were forced to pull
them apart and confiscate their weapons. This left them to fight with their
tongues when they were in the boat, and throwing water at one another.
For the most part there was
no want of meat as there were lots of deer to hunt. They killed some stags
almost everyday, more for sport than for need.
While camping on the shore one evening, hundreds of bears came out
of the forest, breaking small trees, throwing rocks down by the water and
making a tremendous noise. The Iroquois and French shot at them but the bears
never seen so many bears together like this," said the leader of the Iroquois.
They company went to the other side of the river to set up camp away from the
horde of bears.
supper the man who was sick told Radisson a story.
he said in the Iroquois language, "it's a thing to be admired to go afar to
travel. You must know, although I am sick, I am a man who has fought stoutly
and invaded many. I always love the French for their goodness, but they should
have let us kill the Algonquins. We should not war against the French, but
instead trade with them for our beavers.
"You should know I am above
fifty years. I was once a captain of thirteen men against the ‘Nation of the
Fire,' and against the ‘Stairing Hairs,' our enemy. We stayed three whole
winters away from our country, and most of that time among our enemy, but they
did not appear because of the small number we had against a multitude. This
made us march in the night and hide ourselves in forests during the daytime. At
last we became weary to be so long absent from our wives and country. We
resolved some more execution and take the first nation that we should
encounter. We had already killed many. We went some days on the river, which is
bordered of fine sands, no rocks there to be seen, until we landed one morning.
Having hid in the woods so that we should not be discovered, we sent out two
men so we could know the place we were, but when they came back brought us word
they had seen devils and could not believe that they were men.
"We put ourselves on our
guards, looked to our arms, took a strong resolution to die like men and went
to meet these monsters. With those who had made the discovery going ahead
before us to the waterside, they pointed to a great heap of stones in the
distance. Being brave we took 200 paces nigh to face this enemy but found them
converted into men who were of an extraordinary height, lying all along the strand
"Brother, you must know that
we were all in fear to see such a man and woman of a vast length. They were by
two feet taller than I, and big accordingly. They had by them two baskets, a
bow and arrows. I came nigh the place. Their arrows were not so long as ours,
but bigger, and their bows the same; each had a small stag's skin to cover
their nakedness. They had no winter in their country.
"After being gone we held a
council to consider what was to be done. We were two boats; the one did carry
eight men, the other five. That of eight would go back again, but that of five
would go forward into another river. So we departed. The night having come, we
saw fires in several places on the other side of the river, which made us go
there at the break of day to know what it was. We saw men as tall as the other
men and women, and great many of them together fishing. We went away without
any noise and resolved not to stay longer in those parts, where everything was
so big. The fruits of trees are as big as the heart of a horiniac, which is
bigger than that of an ox.
"The day after our return,
being in cottages covered with bushes, we heard a noise in the wood, which made
us speedily take our weapons, everyone hiding himself behind a tree. We
perceived it was a beast like a Dutch horse that had a long and straight horn
in the forehead, and came towards us. We shot twice at it, falling to the
ground, but all of a sudden starts up again and runs full boot at us. As we
were behind the trees, she thrusts her horn very far into a tree and so broke
it and died. We would eat none of its flesh because the Flemings eat not their
horses' flesh, but took off the skin, which proved heavy, so we left it there.
Her horn was five feet long, and bigger than the biggest part of an arm."
After the old man finished
his story, Radisson was very skeptical about his account of seeing such a
mythical beast. However throughout his experiences among the Indians in the New
World, he was to hear this same story many times. It was regarded as a Dutch
Horse found in New Holland near the St. Lawrence River that had cloven hooves,
shaggy manes, a horn right out of the forehead, a tail like that of the wild
dog, black eyes and a stag's neck. Radisson assumed the tall people were Dutch
After more days of rigorous
travel, the group came to a forest by the water where there were many trees cut
as if it were intended to be a fort. Beside this wooded clearing there was a
tree that was left standing that had the rind taken away from it that was
painted with an image of six men hanging from rope tied around their chests.
Each had been decapitated with their heads on the ground at their feet. It was
so well drawn Radisson knew they were Frenchmen and that the leader of the
group was the man with short hair - the Jesuit. A little farther from the tree
was another image painted showing two boats, one with three men and another
with two men. This depiction showed a man with a hatchet in his hand striking
another man's head.
"Yes, they are French," said
the Iroquois captain. "But be cheerful. You will not die." But having found so
much treachery in them Radisson could not trust their words or promises but he
knew he had to have good countenance in front of the Onandoga Iroquois to show
he had no fear.
Radisson decided to take the
sick man in his boat. This was to make the Iroquois need him during the journey
for his strength of paddling since the sick man was moving too slowly. They
were then sent to the other side of the river where they paddled along the
river alone. Because they aren't followed by another boat Radisson's mistrust
stirs to a higher intensity. Suddenly the sick man saw an eagle, which was held
in high esteem among the natives, so they stopped to take their guns onto shore.
Radisson was now convinced that the Iroquois were planning to shoot him because
he hadn't seen the eagle and believed it to be a ruse to get him alone in the
woods to end his life. He decided it was kill or be killed so he resolved to
kill the old man, squatting down like a monkey and about to shoot, but just
then he watched the old man shoot the eagle. The massive bird landed nearby.
That night after they had
constructed camp and the women had built the fire, the Iroquois captain asked
him for his gun, powder and shot. He also took his bundle. He thought he should
submit to the stronger party and so took no notice of what they did, but when a
woman who was kindling the fire where he sat kept looking at him, he felt even
more mistrust. Just then the old man who was sick called over to him.
"What is it?" Radisson said
to the man.
"I want you to come with me
on the canoe," he said. The old man threw his hat away and motioned to him to
also leave his hat behind. The Iroquois then took his hatchet and hung it from
his wrist and then went to the boat. Seeing all of this, Radisson went over to
where the Iroquois captain put his gun and picked it up. Seeing this they
laughed and shouted but he knew the ways of the Iroquois and knew they didn't
have the power to let him get in a boat without his weapon. They let him take
it and the two of them left for the other side of the river.
"Get in the water," said the
old man about halfway to the other shore. Radisson Immediately thought the
design was to drown him.
"No I won't," he replied.
They disputed for a while, with Radisson insisting that the old man go into the
water instead. He steadfastly refused. So finally Radisson looked closer at the
water and saw that the bottom was only two feet from the surface. He figured out
that the bottom was covered with mussels, but still his mistrust of the
Iroquois remained. As he lowered himself into the water to gather mussels he
fastened his girdle to the canoe so he wouldn't abandon him there.
Back at the camp where they
feasted by the fire, a man came up to Radisson and pulled off his shirt,
leaving him naked except for his drawers. The man put on his shirt and then cut
off Radisson's necklace with his knife, feeling him all over to see if he was
fat. He tried not to show it but he was sure the man was about to cut his
throat. Finally, preferring to die rather than being tormented like this, he
rose from him and sat beside the woman he knew liked him due to the kindness
that she had showed him. She could see that he was in great fear so she put her
hands upon his head and combed his hair down with her fingers.
"My son," she said to him,
"be cheerful. It is my husband; he will not hurt you because he loves me and he
knows that I love you, and have a mind to have you to our dwelling." She got up
and took Radisson's shirt from her husband, returning it back to him. She
offered him a cover and told him to sleep with them but still he wasn't able to
sleep because he was waiting for the fatal blow.