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TRANSACTIONS AT THE FORT.
ture, and that he would forbear to prosecute a purpose so interruptive of the harmony and good understanding which His Majesty was desirous to continue and cultivate with the most catholic king."
The latter part of the letter related to the youthful envoy. "I persuade myself you will receive and entertain Major Washington with the candor and politeness natural to your nation, and it will give me the greatest satisfaction if you can return him with an answer suitable to my wishes for a long and lasting peace between us.'
The two following days were consumed in councils of the chevalier and his officers over the letter and the necessary reply. Washington occupied himself in the mean time in observing and taking notes of the plan, dimensions, and strength of the fort, and of everything about it. He gave orders to his people, also, to take an exact account of the canoes in readiness, and others in the process of construction, for the conveyance of troops down the river in the ensuing spring.
As the weather continued stormy, with much snow, and the horses were daily losing strength, he sent them down, unladen, to Venango, to await his return by water. In the mean time, he discovered that busy intrigues were going on to induce the half-king and the other sachems to abandon him, and renounce all friendship with the English. Upon learning this, he urged the chiefs to deliver up their "speech-belts" immediately, as they had promised, thereby shaking off all dependence upon the French. They accordingly
pressed for an audience that very evening. A private one was at length granted them by the commander, in presence of one or two of his officers. The half-king reported the result of it to Washington. The venerable but astute chevalier cautiously evaded the acceptance of the proffered wampum; made many professions of love and friendship, and said he wished to live in peace and trade amicably with the tribes of the Ohio, in proof of which he would send down some goods immediately for them to Logstown.
As Washington understood, privately, that an officer was to accompany the man employed to convey these goods, he suspected that the real design was to arrest and bring off all straggling English traders they might meet with. What strengthened this opinion was a frank avowal which had been made to him by the chevalier, that he had orders to capture every British subject who should attempt to trade upon the Ohio or its waters.
Captain Reparti, also, in reply to his inquiry as to what had been done with two Pennsylvania traders, who had been taken with all their goods, informed him that they had been sent to Canada, but had since returned home. He had stated, furthermore, that during the time he held command, a white boy had been carried captive past the fort by a party of Indians, who had with them, also, two or three white men's scalps.
All these circumstances showed him the mischief that was brewing in these parts, and the treachery and violence that pervaded the frontier,
ATTEMPTS TO SEDUCE THE SACHEMS. 95
and made him the more solicitous to accomplish his mission successfully, and conduct his little band in safety out of a wily neighborhood.
On the evening of the 14th, the Chevalier de St. Pierre delivered to Washington his sealed reply to the letter of Governor Dinwiddie. The purport of previous conversations with the chevalier, and the whole complexion of affairs on the frontier, left no doubt of the nature of that reply.
The business of his mission being accomplished, Washington prepared on the 15th to return by water to Venango; but a secret influence was at work which retarded every movement.
"The commandant," writes he, "ordered a plentiful store of liquor and provisions to be put on board our canoes, and appeared to be extremely complaisant, though he was exerting every artifice which he could invent to set our Indians at variance with us, to prevent their going until after our departure presents, rewards, and everything which could be suggested by him or his officers. I cannot say that ever in my life I suffered so much anxiety as I did in this affair. I saw that every stratagem which the most fruitful brain could invent was practiced to win the half-king to their interest, and that leaving him there was giving them the opportunity they aimed at. I went to the half-king, and pressed him in the strongest terms to go; he told me that the commandant would not discharge him until the morning. I then went to the commandant and desired him to do their business, and complained to him of ill treatment; for, keeping them, as they
Return from Venango.. A Tramp on Foot. - Murdering Town. The Indian Guide. - Treachery. - An Anxious Night.-Perils on the Alleghany River. -- Queen Aliquippa. The old Watch-coat. Return across the Blue Ridge.
N the 25th of December, Washington and his little party set out by land from Venango on their route homeward. They had a long winter's journey before them, through a wilderness beset with dangers and difficulties. The pack-horses, laden with tents, baggage, and provisions, were completely jaded; it was feared they would give out. Washington dismounted, gave up his saddle-horse to aid in transporting the baggage, and requested his companions to do the same. None but the drivers remained in the saddle. He now equipped himIf in an Indian hunting-dress, and with Van tam, Gist, and John Davidson, the Indian inpreter, proceeded on foot.
The cold increased. There was deep snow that froze as it fell. The horses grew less and less capable of travelling. For three days they toiled on slowly and wearily. Washington was impatient to accomplish his journey, and make his report to the governor; he determined, therefore, to hasten some distance in advance of the
A TRAMP ON FOOT.
party, and then strike for the Fork of the Ohio by the nearest course directly through the woods. He accordingly put the cavalcade under the command of Van Braam, and furnished him with money for expenses; then disencumbering himself of all superfluous clothing, buckling himself up in a watch-coat, strapping his pack on his shoulders, containing his papers and provisions, and taking gun in hand, he left the horses to flounder on, and struck manfully ahead, accompanied only by Mr. Gist, who had equipped himself in like manner.
At night they lit a fire, and "camped " by it in the woods. At two o'clock in the morning they were again on foot, and pressed forward until they struck the southeast fork of Beaver Creek, at a place bearing the sinister name of Murdering Town-probably the scene of some Indian massacre.
Here Washington, in planning his route, had intended to leave the regular path, and strike through the woods for Shannopins Town, two or three miles above the Fork of the Ohio, where he hoped to be able to cross the Alleghany River on the ice.
At Murdering Town he found a party of Indians, who appeared to have known of his coming, and to have been waiting for him. One of them accosted Mr. Gist, and expressed great joy at seeing him. The wary woodsman regarded him narrowly, and thought he had seen him at Joncaire's. If so, he and his comrades were in the French interest, and their lying in wait boded no