Wordcarpenter Books
The Life of Radisson
Chapter Thirteen

"Mistrust is the Mother of Safety"

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 hardly stirred.

"We've 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.

After supper the man who was sick told Radisson a story.

"Brother," 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 asleep.

"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 fur traders.


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.


Chapter Fourteen

Meeting Old Friends

The next morning his mistrust began to wane when he was given his things again and filled his bag full of victuals. That day's travel was good until Radisson's canoe hit some rocks and ran aground, ripping a hole in the bottom two fists wide. They were able to retrieve the canoe from the water by swimming for it, Radisson noting that Indians swim using the doggy paddle. He blamed the childish Iroquois who was again in his boat. When he understood that the immature man said that he had flipped the canoe purposely, he rebuked him verbally for such an accusation. The Indian attacked him. The fight left them bloody and weary until they could fight no more. They were able to fix the canoe but it took them three days to catch up with the others, who did not wait for them.

Radisson caught up with their expedition at an island in the shape of a half moon. They caught eels and met nine Mohawks who were camped there after returning from a war, in possession of two women prisoners, a 25-year old man and a six-year old girl. The prisoners were from the "Cats" and had hair that was short and turned up like the prickles of a hedgehog. One of these Mohawks holding the prisoners recognized Radisson. He made a big fuss, giving him a girdle of goat's hair and some wampum jewelry.

"When will you visit your friends?" he asked.

"I promise to visit them once I arrive at my destination with the Jesuit Father in the low country," he replied. Radisson gave the Mohawk his hatchet to give to his father, two-dozen brass rings and two "shooting- knives" for his two sisters, and promised to bring his mother a blanket.

"What made you go away?" asked the Mohawk.

"I went through the woods and arrived at Three Rivers in 12 days, suffering much hunger on the way," he replied. He wouldn't tell him that he had escaped by way of the Dutch.

"You're a devil for undertaking such a task," he said. Being tactful, he agreed with the Mohawk.

It was also from these upper country Mohawks that he learned about the six Frenchmen that Radisson's group had seen seven days before painted on the trees on the small island. He was told that there were two boats of Huron that were going to live with the French, and that besides the six French, six Huron had been killed, one taken alive and one escaped. Three Iroquois had been killed and several wounded. It satisfied the Iroquois that Radisson was with, and it calmed Radisson to know that the deaths were the result of a battle rather than indiscriminate murder.

They remained with these old acquaintances for the next day while the upper country Mohawks tortured their four prisoners, burning their fingers and ripping off their fingernails while they were forced to sing. Once done, they parted ways well satisfied with their meeting.


Table of Contents


          1 - Radisson's Capture by the Iroquois

          2 - How Radisson Earned Respect

          3 - Adoption into a Mohawk Family

          4 - His Escape

          5 - Recapture and Torture

          6 - Endurance

          7 - Acceptance

          8 - Going On the Warpath

          9 - The War Continues

          10 - The Hollanders

          11 - Escape to Fort Orange


          12 - Becoming an Interpreter for the Jesuits

          13 - "Mistrust is the Mother of Safety"

          14 - Meeting Old Friends

          15 - Reaching Onondaga

          16 - Conspiracy to Kill the French

          17 - Fleeing the Fort


          18 - Becoming a Les Voyageurs

          19 - Huronia Jesuit Mission and Brebeuf

          20 - Radisson and Groseilliers Go West

          21 - Reaching the Gateway to Lake Superior

          22 - Exploring Lake Superior





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