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The Indian land of souls is not always a region of shadows and gloom. The Hurons sometimes represented the souls of their deadthose of their dogs includedas dancing joyously in the presence of Ataentsic and Jouskeha. According to some Algonquin traditions, heaven was a scene of endless festivity, the ghosts dancing to the sound of the rattle and the drum, and greeting with hospitable welcome the occasional visitor from the living world: for the spirit-land was not far off, and roving hunters sometimes passed its confines unawares.
"The rain," says La Salle, "which lasted all day, and the raft we were obliged to make to cross the river, stopped us till noon of the twenty-fifth, when we continued our march through the woods, which was so interlaced with thorns and brambles that in two days and a half our clothes were all torn, and our faces so covered with blood that we hardly knew each other. On the twenty-eighth we found the woods more open, and began to fare better, meeting a good deal of game, which after this rarely failed us; so that we no longer carried provisions with us, but made a meal of roast meat wherever we happened to kill a deer, bear, or turkey. These are the choicest feasts on a journey like this; and till now we had generally gone without them, so that we had often walked all day without breakfast.
In the mean time, on the ruin of his enterprise, a new one had been begun. Pontgrave, a merchant of St. Malo, leagued himself with Chauvin, a captain of the navy, who had influence at court. A patent was granted to them, with the condition that they should colonize the country. But their only thought was to enrich themselves.
Fortunately the craft was a large one, for there were many to save and, much as Lycon hastened the work of rescuing the slaves and their children from the stable-roof, by the time all had embarked night had closed in, so that it was difficult to find the way out between the buildings.CHAPTER XXV.
Unless we assume that his scheme of invading Mexico was thrown out as a bait to the King, it is hard to reconcile it with the supposition of mental soundness. To base so critical an attempt on a geographical conjecture, which rested on the slightest possible information, and was in fact a total error; to postpone the perfectly sound plan of securing the mouth of the Mississippi, to a wild project of leading fifteen thousand savages for an unknown distance [Pg 363] through an unknown country to attack an unknown enemy,was something more than Quixotic daring. The King and the minister saw nothing impracticable in it, for they did not know the country or its inhabitants. They saw no insuperable difficulty in mustering and keeping together fifteen thousand of the most wayward and unstable savages on earth, split into a score and more of tribes, some hostile to each other and some to the French; nor in the problem of feeding such a mob, on a march of hundreds of miles; nor in the plan of drawing four thousand of them from the Illinois, nearly two thousand miles distant, though some of these intended allies had no canoes or other means of transportation, and though, travelling in such numbers, they would infallibly starve on the way to the rendezvous. It is difficult not to see in all this the chimera of an overwrought brain, no longer able to distinguish between the possible and the impossible.
A few days after Lycon might have been seen with a large travelling-hat on his head riding along the road between Halus and Iton in the province of Phthiotis in Thessaly. He had sold his house in Athens and all his slaves except one, a slender boy named Paegnion who, carrying a bundle suspended from a stick over his shoulders, accompanied him. He himself had a similar bundle fastened to his horse; in his hand he held a switch cut from the trunk of a vine and, when his cloak blew aside, the handle of a short sword appeared in his belt. Beside Paegnion walked a young slave from Halus, who was to take the hired horse back.