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 Colbert Duchesneau, 28 Avril, 1677.
And now they neared their journey's end. On the sixth of April the river divided itself into three broad channels. La Salle followed that of the west, and Dautray that of the east; while Tonty took the middle passage. As he drifted down the turbid current, between the low and marshy shores, the brackish water changed to brine, and the breeze grew fresh with the salt breath of the sea. Then the broad bosom of the great Gulf opened on his sight, tossing its restless billows, limitless, voiceless, lonely as when born of chaos, without a sail, without a sign of life.
Directly after he writes again, "I cannot help conjuring you once more to try to give us the iron." Beaujeu replies: "To show you how ardently I wish to contribute to the success of your undertaking, I have ordered your iron to be got out, in spite of my officers and sailors, who tell me that I endanger my ship by moving everything in the depth of the hold on a coast like this, where the seas are like mountains. I hesitated to disturb my stowage, not so much to save trouble as because no ballast is to be got hereabout; and I have therefore had six cannon, from my lower deck battery, let down into the hold to take the place of the iron." And he again urges La Salle to accept his offer to bring provisions to the colonists from Martinique.[Pg 77]
THE LAST FAREWELL.Meantime, while the musicians strained their lungs and their arms to drown all other sounds, a band of anxious Frenchmen, in the darkness of the cloudy night, with cautious tread and bated breath, carried the boats from the rear of the mission-house down to the border of the lake. It was near eleven oclock. The miserable guests were choking with repletion. They prayed the young Frenchman to dispense them from further surfeit. Will you suffer me to die? he asked, in piteous tones. They bent to their task again, but Nature soon reached her utmost limit; and they sat helpless as a conventicle of gorged turkey-buzzards, without the power possessed by those unseemly birds to rid themselves of the burden. That will do, said the young man; you have eaten enough; my life is saved. Now you can sleep till we come in the morning to waken you for prayers. * And one of his companions played soft airs on a violin to lull them to repose. Soon all were asleep, or in a lethargy akin to sleep. The few remaining Frenchmen now silently withdrew and cautiously descended to the shore, where their comrades, already embarked, lay on their oars anxiously awaiting them. Snow was falling fast as they pushed out upon the murky waters. The ice of the winter had broken up, but recent frosts had glazed the surface with a thin crust. The two boats led the way, and the canoes followed in their wake, while men in the bows of the foremost boat broke the ice with clubs as they advanced. They reached
 Lettres de l'Abb Tronson, 8 Avril, 10 Avril, 1684 (Margry, ii. 354).