MASSACRE OF LACHINE
The virtue of Mgr. de Laval lacked the supreme consecration of misfortune. A wearied but triumphant soldier, the venerable shepherd of souls, coming back to dwell in the bishopric of Quebec, the witness of his first apostolic labours, gave himself into the hands of his Master to disappear and die. “Lord,” he said with Simeon, “now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.” But many griefs still remained to test his resignation to the Divine Will, and the most shocking disaster mentioned in our annals was to sadden his last days. The year 1688 had passed peacefully enough for the colony, but it was only the calm which is the forerunner of the storm. The Five Nations employed their time in secret organization; the French, lulled in this deceptive security, particularly by news which had come from M. de Valrennes, in command of Fort Frontenac, to whom the Iroquois had declared that they were coming down to Montreal to make peace, had left the forts to return to their dwellings and to busy themselves with the work of the fields. Moreover, the Chevalier de Vaudreuil, who commanded at Montreal in the absence of M. de Callieres, who had gone to France, carried his lack of foresight to the extent of permitting the officers stationed in the country to leave their posts. It is astonishing to note such imprudent neglect on the part of men who must have known the savage nature. Rancour is the most deeply-rooted defect in the Indian, and it was madness to think that the Iroquois could have forgotten so soon the insult inflicted on their arms by the expedition of M. de Denonville, or the breach made in their independence by the abduction of their chiefs sent to France as convicts. The warning of their approaching incursion had meanwhile reached Quebec through a savage named Ataviata; unfortunately, the Jesuit Fathers had no confidence in this Indian; they assured the governor-general that Ataviata was a worthless fellow, and M. de Denonville made the mistake of listening too readily to these prejudices and of not at least redoubling his precautions.
It was on the night between August 4th and 5th, 1689; all was quiet on the Island of Montreal. At the end of the evening’s conversation, that necessary complement of every well-filled day, the men had hung their pipes, the faithful comrades of their labour, to a rafter of the ceiling; the women had put away their knitting or pushed aside in a corner their indefatigable spinning-wheel, and all had hastened to seek in sleep new strength for the labour of the morrow. Outside, the elements were unchained, the rain and hail were raging. As daring as the Normans when they braved on frail vessels the fury of the seas, the Iroquois, to the number of fifteen hundred, profited by the storm to traverse Lake St. Louis in their bark canoes, and landed silently on the shore at Lachine. They