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This was the time when Champlain, fresh from the West Indies, appeared at court. De Chastes knew him well. Young, ardent, yet ripe in experience, a skilful seaman and a practised soldier, he above all others was a man for the enterprise. He had many conferences with the veteran, under whom he had served in the royal fleet off the coast of Brittany. De Chastes urged him to accept a post in his new company; and Champlain, nothing loath, consented, provided always that permission should be had from the King, "to whom," he says, "I was bound no less by birth than by the pension with which his Majesty honored me." To the King, therefore, De Chastes repaired. The needful consent was gained, and, armed with a letter to Pontgrave, Champlain set out for Honfleur. Here he found his destined companion, and embarking with him, as we have seen, they spread their sails for the west. "Ce bon Pere s'apparut aprs sa mort vn des nostres par deux diuerses fois. En l'vne il se fit voir en estat de gloire, portant le visage d'vn homme d'enuiron trente ans, quoy qu'il soit mort en l'age de quarante-huict. Vne autre fois il fut veu assister vne assemble que nous tenions," etc.Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1649, 5.
By Aphrodite! he cried, the girl is bewitching, and I am not so old....
At the back of the room a couple of half naked boys, slaves, were busily washing cups and dishes, and not far from them on a low chair without a back sat two young girls from fifteen to twenty years old. They were whispering eagerly together, and by the way they fixed their eyes on the young men reclining upon the couches, it was easy to guess the subject of the talk. Both were pretty, but their bold glances and careless laughter showed that they were women of free lives, accustomed to associate with men.
Before them lay a plain once swarming with wild human life and covered with Indian dwellings, now a waste of devastation and death, strewn with heaps of ashes, and bristling with the charred poles and stakes which had formed the framework of the lodges. At the points of most of them were stuck human skulls, half picked by birds of prey. Near at hand was the burial-ground of the village. The travellers sickened with horror as they entered its revolting precincts. Wolves in multitudes fled at their approach; while clouds of crows or buzzards, rising from the hideous repast, wheeled above their heads, or settled on the naked branches of the neighboring forest. Every grave had been rifled, and the bodies flung down from the scaffolds where, after the Illinois custom, many of them had been placed. The field was strewn with broken bones and torn and [Pg 207] mangled corpses. A hyena warfare had been waged against the dead. La Salle knew the handiwork of the Iroquois. The threatened blow had fallen, and the wolfish hordes of the five cantons had fleshed their rabid fangs in a new victim.
No element was wanting in them for the achievement of such a success as that to which they aspired,neither a transcendent zeal, nor a matchless discipline, nor a practical sagacity very seldom surpassed in the pursuits where men strive for wealth and place; and if they were destined to disappointment, it was the result of external causes, against which no power of theirs could have insured them.This gave the French a breathing-time, and they used it for strengthening their defences. Being provided with tools, they planted a row of stakes within their palisade, to form a double fence, and filled the intervening space with earth and stones to the height of a man, leaving some twenty loopholes, at each of which three marksmen were stationed. Their work was still unfinished when the Iroquois were upon them again. They had broken to pieces the birch canoes of the French and their allies, and, kindling the bark, rushed up to pile it blazing against the palisade; but so brisk and steady a fire met them that they recoiled and at last gave way. They came on again, and again were driven back, leaving many of their number on the ground, among them the principal chief of the Senecas. Some of the French dashed out, and, covered by the fire of their comrades, hacked off his head, and stuck it on the palisade, while the Iroquois howled in a frenzy of helpless rage. They tried another attack, and were beaten off a third time.
 Besides these tribes, the Jesuits had become more or less acquainted with many others, also Algonquin, on the west and south of Lake Huron; as well as with the Puans, or Winnebagoes, a Dacotah tribe between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi.