Sunday, February 13, 2011

Maximum Massachusetts 6: The Devil You Know

19 March 1699

Pierre Le Moyne, sieur d'Iberville, was growing more worried day by day. The Abenaki sachem Madockawando had taken to spending long hours listening to the Bostonnais heretic Cotton Mather as the latter spread his diabolical lies about Christianity and the Roman Church. D'Iberville was coming to deeply regret his spur-of-the-moment decision to take the heretic captive during his ill-fated attack on Port Royal. Mather must be the very Devil himself to learn the Abenaki language so quickly during his captivity.

Their party had left behind the eastern peninsula of Acadia and were now approaching the course of the St. John River. Soon now Madockawando and the other members of his Penobscot clan would leave d'Iberville and his Canadians and make their way south to the lands they called home. D'Iberville had the uneasy feeling that their departure would mean still more trouble for him.

Sure enough, when the day's march brought them to the banks of the St. John, Madockawando approached d'Iberville and said, "I would speak with you, Gray Wolf."

Cautiously, d'Iberville said, "What does my brother Madockawando wish to speak of?"

Sure enough, the sachem answered, "I wish to speak of the Crow."

D'Iberville had much preferred the Indians' original nickname for Mather, Flapping Crow. After Mather had begun conversing with Madockawando in Abenaki, the sachem and his warriors had begun referring to the heretic as simply "the Crow". D'Iberville was not sure exactly what the alteration signified, but he was aware that the new name carried considerably more respect than the old one had. In the end, d'Iberville had given in and begun using the new name himself.

The mention of Mather made d'Iberville want to shout at Madockawando, to make the sachem see reason, to convince him that the heretic was evil and dangerous, a creature of the Devil. However, the Canadian forced himself to hold his tongue. Madockawando had formed his own opinion of Mather, and d'Iberville would be unable to change it. He simply said to the Indian, "Very well, speak."

Madockawando said, "Gray Wolf, I know you took the Crow with your own long knife in the raid on Port Royal--" he used the European name for the town, mangling it "--and that he is rightfully yours. But I wish to bring him with me to live with the Penobscot people. What will you take in trade for him?"

D'Iberville answered, "I will keep the Crow, and take him with me to Quebec. I will not give him away, not for anything."

"The Crow is a great and powerful shaman, though he says the Bostonnais have no shamans. When he speaks to me of the Great Spirit, I hear the truth in his words. When the Penobscot people hear him, they too will hear the truth in his words."

At last, d'Iberville 's temper gave way. "He is not a shaman, he is a Devil! He will bring the Penobscot people eternal damnation and hellfire! You have been taken in by his lies, and so would all your people! I would sooner kill the heretic than let him spread his poison among the Abenaki! I will kill him!"

So saying, d'Iberville turned away from Madockawando and strode towards Mather, who was off poisoning the ears of the other Penobscot. D'Iberville had unsheathed his sword and was preparing to strike down the heretical Devil when he felt a hand clamp down on his arm, holding him back. Once again, he knew, Madockawando was keeping him from striking the heretic.

Jerking his arm from the sachem's grip, d'Iberville spun around to face him, his sword raised on high. Madockawando regarded him without expression, saying, "Will you strike me down now as well, my brother?"

A moment passed, then another, and then d'Iberville threw down his sword while bursting forth with the most vile and blasphemous oath he knew (it involved the Holy Virgin, her husband, and the ass they rode upon into Bethlehem).

"Very well then, my brother," he stormed at Madockawando. "Take this viper into your bosom, if that is what you must do! I give up my claim to him! He is yours!" Then Pierre Le Moyne stalked away from Madockawando and the heretic, not looking back.

As he strode angrily along the banks of the St. John, Pierre's brothers tried to console him. Charles said to him, "You give this Bostonnais heretic too much credit. Will this silver-tongued Cotton be able to convince Madockawando that generations of slaughter were just a coincidence? Will the Abenaki be willing to defy commercial interest, generations of good relations on one side and animosity on the other and turn their backs on men with whom they have been allies since they were boys? Have they just fallen from the turnip wagon?"

Pierre shook his head. "You do not know this Cotton, this Crow, as I do. He is not a man, I tell you! He is the very Devil himself, come to earth to bring misfortune to Canada! You mark my words, my brother! There will yet be Hell to pay for this day's work!"

(Proceed to part 7 - The Vision)

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