from chapter 21 (Volume 2, pp. 290-306) this includes only pp 297-306.

 

Of the large number of Canadian men in Louisiana, most are in the Illinois region; the climate suits them better of course, because it is closer to Canada than any other part of the colony, not to mention the fact that in coming from Canada they have to pass through that settlement, and some have preferred to stay there. Those who are married have brought their wives, and of the rest, some have married French women, and others have taken wives among the Naturals. There are even some ladies who have risked the long and difficult voyage to come live out their days in a country that their compatriots regard as a paradise on earth. Madame du Tissenet, who was a woman of class [“du grand monde”] came here with Monsieur du Tissenet her husband. She loved to indulge her curiosity, and it was this same taste that had led her to marry Monsieur du Tissenet. The adventure that this officer underwent is so extraordinary, that I do not think I will be at fault if I pass it on. I heard it from [298] several Canadens, and it was confirmed by the man himself.

            M. du Tissenet was born in Paris, his parents were well off, yet were afraid to allow their son to go off on his own, and he wanted above all to serve them. He was not tall enough to be admitted into a regiment as a soldier. This forced him to join up as an officer in a regiment of  young men ready to go to Canada voluntarily. He was accepted and dubbed “the Cadet.” During the time he was staying in Quebec, his intelligence and manners earned the notice of a merchant who said to him one day, “You, sir, are a man of spirit and industry, I see in you a desire to make your way in the world, and you will succeed. Why don’t you enter the fur trade; you will earn enough to send something home to you parents, who stubbornly refuse to send you anything, in the hope that you will come back to them.”

            “That would be great,” replied M. du Tissenet, “if I had something with which to buy trade goods, but I have nothing, how do you propose that I can prepare myself to go trade with some native Nation?”

            “You need only contribute your own self,” replied the [299] merchant, “I will advance you trade goods, if you wish, and I will do so all the more willingly because you seem to me a man of honor, and you are active.”

            The offer was accepted, the Merchant filled up a large canoe, with enough that his usual trader [should I say “coureur de bois”?] would have nothing to complain of. The trader knew the language of the nation where they were going. They set off, and during the voyage M. du Tissenet learned the language, and soon was well versed in it. The desire to make good and above all to earn his own living without help from his parents would have led him to undertake even something much more challenging, if it had offered a chance to work for his own advancement.          

            After a long voyage, they at last arrived in a Nation where they hoped to trade for beavers and other pelts. But in spite of their diligence they had been preceeded by other traders, and thus there was no hope for them there. But far from letting this discourage them, it only made them search harder to find a [300] way to recover from this setback.

            To achieve this they decided between the two of them that they would push on farther to a Nation that the coureur de bois had heard about, a Nation which was a branch of the one where they then found themselves and which spoke the same language. It was said that no Frenchman had ever been there, and that they might be able to do even better business, but that they should speak to them only by signs, so that the Naturals, believing that they their words were not understood, would not try to hide when they spoke to each other of their plots against those with whom they were trading.

            Our traders made good time and soon arrived at the place they had sought. They made the necessary signs to make it known that they were coming to trade, and as it was only the old trader and M. du Tissenet who knew how to speak the language, they had nothing to fear from being deceived by their voyageurs.

            They were well received, and given a cabin. Now before going on with this story, it is [301] time that I explain to the reader that Monsieur du Tissenet wore a wig, of real hair, very finely crafted. When still an child he had had an illness on his scalp, to the point that the greater part of the skin had been lost, and he was embarrassed by having hair only on some parts of his head. To remedy this as best he could he frequently shaved his head, so that it did not appear as though he had hair only in some spots. It must be added that the morning of their arrival he had shaved his head.

            The next morning after they reached this nation, they decided to spread out all their trade goods and complete their business in one day. So they put the merchandise on mats in the middle of the cabin, and their guns in the rear. They went from there to the cabin of the Chief of the Nation, where many Naturals were already gathered. They made a signal for them to come, and after they arrived in the place where the goods were, the Frenchmen returned to get their weapons.

            The Naturals gathered at the Frenchmen’s cabin were impressed to see so much merchandise, were overcome by the beauty and [302] plenty, all the more so since they had never seen a Frenchmen. Presented with such a sight, they said out loud, not imagining that they traders understood: “How can we buy all these beautiful merchandise? We were not expecting the French, and we have no pelts, and it is too late to go trap any now.”

            One of the Naturals said to the others, “There is no other way to get these good except to take their scalps, kill them, and throw them in the river, and we will have it all.”

            M. du Tissenet who has learned the language along the way, heard all this conversation. He right away told to the Frenchmen to take up their arms, and himself grabbed his rifle, and suddenly said to the Naturals in their language: "So you want  my scalp? Okay, here it is, take it, if you dare." While saying these words he threw down his wig, and his head, freshly shaven, appeared as though it had never had hair. The surprise of the Naturals cannot be described. They were all trembling as if lightning had struck at their feet. Words failed [303] them, and the silence lasted for half an hour, until M. du Tissenet spoke in a strong tone, saying, "Take my scalp then, since you want it so badly."

The Great Chief spoke up and said, "We believed that you are men like us, but we see now that you are spirits, since you speak like us and since you can remove your hair when you want to. You, the one who makes his own hair, take it back, and the rest of you, spirits, let us rest, we cannot buy your trade goods because we don't have any pelts and it is to late to go trapping, but don't be angry with us, I am going to speak to my men and say to them that you can take away their beaver robes, for free."

So M. du Tissenet retrieved his wig, replaced it on his head, as they watched, until it appeared to be his own hair. This again astonished them and made them tremble. M. du Tissenet on the contrary spoke to them more firmly, saying "We are leaving tomorrow, since our presence causes [304] such trouble." The other Frenchmen were surprised with the courage of a man young man of seventeen, who at such a perilous moment had so quickly come up with a way to extricate himself from the danger they were in, and with more confidence that might have been shown by men of forty.

Seeing that they could not sell their merchandise, they packed up the larger items, but they had not yet finished when the Indians brought them all the beaver robes in the village. The Great Chief who came with them said to M. du Tissenet: "Don't be angry with us, we have not done anything wrong, go with your comrades, look at what we are giving you, all for free."

So M. du Tissenet gave them some knives, needles, ribbons, small mirrors, brass wire and a few other trinkets, which they were very pleased with, never having seen anything like it. But they were still more content just to be rid of these supposed spirits, whom they feared more than we would know how to explain. And if they had had other things to give besides their robes, they would have given [305] it all to avoid these spirits from Canada.

As for our merchants, they were on their side very satisfied to have escaped at last the danger that was menacing them. They nonetheless made a profit equal to or even greater than that which they would have made if they had sold all their trade goods, and yet still retained most of those goods. They were possessed of beaver robes, those known as greasy beaver, the kind of beaver that is used by the Naturals as clothing. It is worth twice as much as the kind called dry beaver, which is the normal kind.

As soon as our voyagers got back to Quebec, the story of this adventure spread quickly and even reached the governor, who summoned M. du Tissenet. The latter confirmed for him the truth of the tale, such as it had happened to him. The Governor decided that by virtue of this act he deserved to be an officer, and made him an ensign. He wrote to the Court and du Tissenet was made a Lieutenant, then later he became Captain, he went down to Louisiana, where he has been my Commandant and my friend in Natchez.

I don't believe I need to add my own reflections to the stories I have inserted into this work, because they only [306] serve as instructions in the manner of comporting oneself in various occasions that one meets in this country. My readers will naturally draw the conclusions that follow from the story of M. du Tissenet, namely that traders never spread out all their goods at one time; that on the contrary they must display them little by little, one of each kind, or as they are requested. As each item is sold one can bring out another, and so forth as long as the trader has what is of interest. M. du Tissenet was not the only man to whom a similar threat has occurred, and it has cost the lives of several to have conducted themselves otherwise than as I have just described.