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[111] and seventy boats of pine were already prepared
chap. V.} 1753.
for the descent of the river, and materials were collected for building more. The commander, Gardeur de St. Pierre, an officer of integrity1 and experience, and, for his dauntless courage, both feared and beloved by the red men, refused to discuss questions of right. ‘I am here,’ said he, ‘by the orders of my general, to which I shall conform with exactness and resolution.’ And he avowed his purpose of seizing every Englishman within the Ohio valley. France was resolved on possessing the great territory which her missionaries and travellers had revealed to the world.

Breaking away from courtesies, Washington hastened homewards to Virginia. The rapid current of French Creek dashed his party against rocks; in shallow places they waded, the water congealing on their clothes; where the ice had lodged in the bend of the rivers, they carried their canoe across the neck. At Venango, they found their horses, but so weak, the travellers went still on foot, heedless of the storm. The cold increased very fast; the paths grew ‘worse by a deep snow continually freezing.’ Impatient to get back with his despatches, the young envoy, wrapping himself in an Indian dress, with gun in hand and pack on his back, the day after Christmas quitted the usual path, and, with Gist for his sole companion, by aid of the compass, steered the nearest way across the country for the Fork. An Indian, who had lain in wait for him, fired at him from not fifteen steps' distance, but, missing him, became his prisoner. ‘I would have killed him,’ wrote Gist, “but Washington

1 La Galissoniere to the minister, 23 Oct. 1748.

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