Page images
PDF
EPUB

The astonishing grandeur of this picture and the me. lancholy, which it inspired, are not to be expressed by human language. The most beautiful nights in Europe can convey no idea of it. In vain does the imagination try to roam at large amidst our cultivated plains, for every where the habitations of mankind oppose its wish; but in this deserted region the soul delights to bury and lose itself amidst boundless forests-it loves to wander, by the light of the stars, on the borders of immense lakes, to hover on the roaring gulph of terrific cataracts, to fall with the mighty mass of waters, to mix and confound itself, as it were, with the wild sublimities of Nature.

These enjoyments are too exquisite. Such is our weakness that excess of pleasure becomes painful, as if nature were afraid of our forgetting that we are men. Absorbed in my existence, or rather wandering entirely from myself, having no distinct sentiment or idea, but an ineffable indescribable sensation, resembling the mental happiness which we are told that we shall feel in another world, I was suddenly recalled to the one which I inhabit. I felt ill, and was convinced that I must indulge my reverie no further. I now returned to our Ajouppa, and lying down near the savages, soon sunk into profound sleep.

On awaking in the morning, I found my companions ready for departure. My guide had saddled our horses; the warriors were armed, and the women busy in collecting their baggage which consisted of skins, maize, and smoaked bear. I arose, and taking from my portmanteau some powder and ball, and a box made of red wood, distributed these among my associates of the night, who appeared to be pleased with my generosity. We then separated, not without signs of mutual regard and regret, each touching his forehead and breast, according to the custom of these children of nature, which appeared to me very superior to the ceremonies practised by us. Even to the young Indian, who cordially took the hand which I offered, we all parted with hearts full of each other. Our friends pursued their way to the North, being directed by the mosses, and we to the West under the guidance of my compass. The warriors departed first, the women followed, carrying the baggage and infants on their backs, suspended in furs. The little creatures looked back at us and smiled. My eyes for a long time followed this affecting and maternal spectacle, till at length the group entirely disappeared among the thickets.

Benevolent savages, who so hospitably entertained me, and whom I doubtless shall never again behold, let me be here permitted to pay the tribute of my gratitude. May you long enjoy your precious independence in those de. lightful solitudes, where my wishes for your happiness will ever follow you. What corner, my friends, of your immense deserts, do you at present inhabit? Are you still together, and always happy? Do you sometimes talk about the stranger of the forest ? Do you picture to yourselves the kind of country which he inhabits? Do you utter wishes for his happiness, while you recline upon the banks of your solitary rivers ? Generous family! His lot is much changed since the night he passed with you; but it is at least a consolation to him, while perse. cuted by his countrymen beyond the seas, that his name is, in some unknown wilderness at the other extremity of the world, still pronounced with tender recollection by the poor

Indians.

146

ANECDOTE

Of a Frenchman, who dwelt among the Sävages.

PHILIP DE COCQ, who was born in a little village of Pitou, went to Canada in his infancy, served there as a soldier, at the age of twenty years, during the war of 1754, and after the battle of Quebec retired to the country of the Five Nations, where, having married an Indian woman, he renounced the customs of his native land to adopt the manners of the savages. When I was travelling through the wilds of America, I was not a little surprised to hear that I had a countryman established as á resident, at some distance in the woods. I visited him with eagerness, and found him employed in pointing some stakes at the door of his hut. He cast a look to. wards me, which was cold enough, and continued his work ; but the moment I addressed him in French, he started at the recollection of his country, and the big tear stood in his eye. These well-known accents suddenly roused, in the heart of the old man, all the sensations of his infancy. In youth we little regret the pleasures of our first years; but the further we advance into life the more interesting to us becomes the recollection of them ; for then every one of our days supplies a sad subject for comparison. Philip intreated me to enter his dwelling,

66 You

and I followed him. He had considerable difficulty in expressing what he meant. I saw him labour to regain the ancient ideas of civilized inan, and I watched him most closely. For instance, I had an opportunity of observing that there were two kinds of relative things absolutely effaced from his mind, viz. that of any superfluity being proper, and that of annoying others without an ab. solute necessity for it. I did not chuse to put my grand question, till after some hours of conversation had restored to him a sufficiency of words and ideas. At last I said to him : “ Philip, are you happy?" He knew not at first how to reply.-" Happy,” said he, reflecting

happy! Yes ; but happy only since I became a sa. vage.--" And how do you pass your life ?” asked I.-He laughed. I understand

" I understand you,” continued I. think such a question unworthy of an answer. But should you not like to resume your former mode of living, and return to your country?"-"My country! France! If I were not so old, I should like to see it again." “ And you would not remain there ?” added I.--The motion of Philip's head answered my question sufficient ly. " But what induced you," continued I, “to become what you call a savage ?"--" I don't know," said he," instinct.” This expression put an end to my doubts and questions. I remained two days with Philip, in order to observe him, and never saw him swerve for a single moment from the assertion he had made. His soul, free from the conflict of social passions, appeared to me, in the language of the savages with whom he dwelt, calm as the field of battle after the warriors had smoked together the calumet of

peace.

143

ON MACKENZIE'S TRAVELS

In the interior of North America.

[ocr errors]

to us.

THE general interest, with which travels are read, may perhaps be caused by the inconstancy and satiety of the human heart. Tired of the society with which we live, and of the vexations which surround us, we like : to lose ourselves in the contemplation of distant countries, and among unknown nations. If the people, described to us, are happier than ourselves, their happiness diverts us if more unfortunate, their afflictions are consolatory

But the interest, attached to the recital of travels, is every day diminishing in proportion to the increase of travellers. A philosophical spirit has caused the wonders of the desert to disappear,

“The magic woods have lost their former charm," as Fontanes says.

When the first Frenchman, who investigated the shores of Canada, spoke of lakes similar to seas ; cata. racts which fall from Heaven, and forests the depth of which could not be explored, the mind was much more strongly moved than when an English merchant, or a modern Savant tells you that he has penetrated to the

« PreviousContinue »