Edition of the
UNITED ARTISTS PICTURE
Including the Original Poem
A TALE OF ACADIE
A. L. BURT COMPANY
The Editors, in planning this photo-play version of Longfellow’s classic, decided to include in its pages, the original verse, on which both the photo-play, directed by Edwin Carewe, and this new prose version, written by Mr. Finis Fox, well known writer of the cinema world, were based.
EVANGELINE, in its original form is firmly established in the minds of a great part of the American people, being used as a text book in many public school systems and having great distribution in the bookstores and libraries, therefore needs no lengthy introduction.
While those acquainted with the original verse, may find missing in this new version, the lilting rhythm and beauty of the metered lines, they will be repaid in this new telling with infinitely more detail and incident than can be found in the poetry, and without too much digression from Longfellow’s story.
By using the original text as a reference for the prose and the prose text as a reference for the verse, we believe that the lovers of Longfellow’s Tale of Acadie will best appreciate both versions.
THE ROMANCE OF
THE LAND OF ACADIE
The last days of August had come to
the gently sloping valleys of
Quail called from the stubble. In the apple orchards, the droning of bees and the soft murmuring of the branches stirring gently in the cool, invigorating wind, fresh from the long reaches of the sea, broke the stillness of noonday. Inland, where the valleys swelled away to hills, great, unbroken forests of pine and hemlock brooded dark and forbidding, the chattering of squirrels and busy purring of an unseen brook, splashing over moss-covered rocks in its headlong flight to the ocean, awakening echoes that sounded and resounded eerily in the deep silence of the woods.
To-day a man, a boy only, picked his way across the fields. Wherever bush or tree offered a shady respite from the sun, he stopped to refresh himself. He was a tall, handsome youth, his dark eyes and softly curling hair as black as midnight. He was Baptiste Leblanc, the notary’s son, from Grand-Pré. He was attired in his Sunday-best to-day, for this was no casual visit that he was about. As he lingered in the grateful shade of a wild-cherry tree, he carefully dusted the large silver buckles that adorned his boots and adjusted for the twentieth time his lace cuffs and tie. From where he stood, he could see the white spire of the church in Grand-Pré. He seemed to take courage from it, and with renewed eagerness, climbed the hill toward a great, rambling farmhouse.
A sturdy house it was, firmly built with rafters of oak and great, hand-hewn beams, surmounted on either end by huge chimneys of native stone that roared out a mighty defiance in winter-time to the howling gales and relentless blizzards of the Northland. It asked no quarter from either wind or storm. Pegged together and nailed down with hand-wrought nails made by Gabriel Lajeunesse at his forge in Grand-Pré, the home of Benedict Bellefontaine had stood for twenty years, watching the sea with one eye and guarding the valleys of Acadie with the other.
The muscle of men, and something of the stout heart of its master, had gone into its making. With its huge barns and houses for the fowl and livestock, it squatted four-square like a feudal castle among its rich fields and heavily-laden orchards.
It seemed so secure, so unassailable, that unconsciously Baptiste stayed his steps as he neared it. Of a sudden, his mission took on new significance and became a momentous undertaking. His hand trembled as he asked himself what reason he had for hoping to find the heart of Evangeline Bellefontaine, Benedict’s daughter, easier of conquest than this formidable house of which she was mistress. Back in Grand-Pré, safe in the snug shelter of his home, he had felt confident of himself, but now a growing uneasiness gripped him, and he drew a bucket of water from the moss-covered well at which he had stopped and quaffed it eagerly. Far afield, he could see the men, busy at their work, and he raised his hand to shade his eyes, trying to discover if Benedict was with his men.
He fancied he saw him, standing beside a broad-wheeled wain, and he heaved a sigh of relief. Surely the fortress could be easier attacked with the master away. Squaring his shoulders with new determination, he quickly passed the sheep fold and found a winding path, lined with hollyhocks and sun-flowers, that wound past quaint dove côtes, and into the yard.
The doves quit cooing as he passed, and Baptiste glanced up at them nervously and fancied they looked down disapprovingly at him. For a moment, he was at the point of fleeing unceremoniously. Courage came to him, however, and his mouth straightened bravely.
“No,” he murmured, “I will not go, I shall ask her if it kills me!”
was so peaceful and quiet beneath the old sycamore, whose spreading branches
formed a leafy canopy over the thatched roof and dormer windows that his voice
boomed in his ears, and he looked about quickly to see if he had been
observed. Then, strangely, enough, he
smiled at his own fears. He had been
there so often, and always so kindly received that his
present anxiety suddenly became something to be ashamed of. His eyes roamed from the old door with its
heavy knocker and iron hinges, rusted now by snow and rain, to the beehives
under the sycamore, overhung with a penthouse such as one sees over roadside
shrines of the Blessed Virgin in remote parts of
Truly it was far from being a forbidding aspect. And yet, thought Baptiste, how infinitely less lovely than she who dwelt here. To win her, to claim her hand, that indeed were heaven. He crossed himself, as though enlisting the aid of the Almighty in his behalf. Fear was behind him now. What could life ask of him that he would not dare for her?
Uplifted and ennobled by his great love for Evangeline, he raised the knocker and let it clang bravely. Breathlessly he waited for the door to open, and in his eagerness wondered which sounded the louder, the clanging of the knocker or the beating of his heart.
Minutes passed, and he received no answer. He opened the door at last and stepped in, sweeping the room with his dark eyes. He was about to call out when the sharp, staccato pit-a-pat of quaint wooden shoes reached his ear from the direction of the kitchen, furnishing an obbligato to the gay little melody Evangeline hummed as she worked.
“It is she!” Baptiste murmured, and he paused to listen as her voice rose in the lilting strains of “En roulant ma boule.” The old folk-song swept him along with its merry rhythm, and he caught himself keeping time as she sang:
“Derrière chez nous, y a-t-un étang,
En roulant ma boule.
Trois beaux canards s’en vont baigant,
En roulant ma boule,
Rouli, Roulant, ma boule roulante,
En roulant ma boule roulante,
En roulant ma boule roulante.”
The song stopped without warning and the sound of a crashing plate reached Baptiste’s ears, followed a second later by a sharp “Mon Dieu!” A few moments and the song was resumed. Baptiste breathed easier and quietly crossed the living room, slipped by the old grandfather clock and leaned against the open doorway of the kitchen. Unseen, he feasted his eyes upon Evangeline as she mixed a mass of batter in a huge copper bowl using a spoon so cumbersome that it seemed out of all proportion to her dainty hands.
The appetizing aroma of hot bread reached Baptiste’s nostrils, and he breathed deeply as he saw the long, brown loaves that covered one end of the table. Benedict Bellefontaine was the wealthiest of all the Acadian farmers, but still he toiled from dawn till dark, and it never occurred to Evangeline that she shouldn’t do the same. There were many mouths to feed at this season of the year, so she had been busy for hours. But the bread-making was over. The batter she was so busily mixing now was not intended ever to tickle the palates of her father’s laborers.
had often seen her in church on Sunday mornings, demure in a Norman cap and
kirtle of blue, the fairest of all the maidens in the
He was a thrifty lad, as one had to be in Acadie, and this well-ordered kitchen, flanked with its groaning shelves of jellies and jams and other toothsome sweets, laid away against the long winter so soon to come, doubly assured Baptiste that Evangeline was an incomparable jewel among girls, whose equal was not to be found in all Acadie.
A sigh escaped his lips as he reluctantly reminded himself that he was only one of may admiring youths who worshipped her as the saint of his deepest devotion.
Guiltily, he started from his romantic reverie and, in boyish embarrassment, called out from the door, “Evangeline!”
His cry startled her. The big spoon dropped from her fingers. Then her dark eyes flashed a welcome but as she recognized Baptiste, the eagerness died out of her eyes. It was a though she had expected to find another than René Leblanc’s son facing her.
An unconscious sigh escaped her lips. There was deep disappointment in it, and then, suddenly afraid that Baptiste might read her secret, she turned for a quick glance at her oven. She was smiling gaily when she faced him again and gave him a curtsy.
“It is good to see you again, Baptiste,” she said simply, trying to make her words glow with the warmth and hospitality always shown a guest in Acadie. She remarked his dress then, and sudden apprehension gripped her. “What has happened, Baptiste—your father?”
Baptiste glanced down at his ruffles and silver buckles, and shook his head in growing embarrassment. “My father is not sick; it was not that that brought me.”
It was not necessary for him to say more; Evangeline’s worst fears were confirmed. She picked up her spoon before Baptiste could get it for her, and bending over her mixing bowl stirred the batter furiously to hid her own confusion.
“Sit down, Baptiste,” she murmured, without looking up, and motioned to a stool in the corner of the kitchen near a window-box, fragrant with late summer flowers. “I will be finished soon. See, I am baking cookies as a surprise for . . .” she hesitated for a moment, “a surprise for my father.”
With open adoration, Baptiste’s eyes followed Evangeline as she chatted lightly with him, rolled out the dough, cut the cookies into odd shapes, and slipped them into the cavernous mouth of the huge oven.
Silently he admired her ability to appear so casual, a gift he would have given anything to possess at this moment. A studious young man, preparing to follow the footsteps of his father, the honored notary of Grand-Pré, Baptiste was more thoroughly versed in the intricacy of the law than in the art of courtship.
Only a short while ago he had crossed the meadows leading into Benedict Bellefontaine’s yard, courageous of heart, with words of love fairly tumbling from his lips. But now, in her presence, he felt hopelessly lost. The glowing phrases he had planned vanished into thin air, and only his eloquent eyes were spokesmen for his ardor as they followed her about, enchanted by the willowy suppleness of her figure, the graceful slope of her shoulders, her arms tapering to delicate wrists, her slender throat above the rippling lace of her collar, her eyes flashing beneath her long, drooping lashes.
His silence became greater with the passing minutes. Evangeline tried for the tenth time to turn the conversation into easier channels.
“Do you think I will make a good cook?” she challenged gaily, as she bent over the oven to peek at her cookies, turning a crisp, golden brown.
“Perhaps, you are practicing to be a good wife?” Baptiste tried to speak in jest, but the tremor in his voice betrayed the secret thought that lay near his heart.
Evangeline glanced up quickly. With a woman’s unerring intuition, she sensed that Baptiste would say what he had come to say, and that he would not be turned from the purpose of his visit, so she pretended an efficient industry, finding innumerable, fanciful little things about the kitchen that demanded her immediate attention, pleased that he should want her, and yet distressed because she must refuse him.
Persistently Baptiste followed her about, not certain in his own mind whether she was encouraging him or trying to avoid him. Busily she fluttered to a high shelf to put away some spices. As she reached up to replace the canister, Baptiste caught her hand and tried to draw her to him. Nervously she looked about for some plausible escape. Then she sniffed suspiciously.
“Oh, Baptiste! The cookies!” She dashed to the oven and, with her apron, lifted the pan just in time to save them from burning…and to save herself from an equally difficult situation.
Instantly Baptiste was at her side, whiffing the delicious aromas that permeated the kitchen. “They are perfect!” he exclaimed, “even as . . .” Evangeline, afraid to have him go on, caught up a big pewter pitcher and tripped over to the window boxes to water her flowers.
The afternoon sun, streaming through the latticed windows, glinted fitfully on her raven hair, parted in the middle and lying close to her head, a wealth of it falling over her shoulders in two lustrous braids. In the olive complexion of her face, the exquisite arch of her eyebrows, the vivacious cure of her mouth, the sparkling pools in her eyes, her French ancestry was vividly etched.
Baptiste followed her. He found his tongue at last.
“Evangeline, I have always loved you . . .”
At the sound of his abrupt declaration, Evangeline turned from her flowers and gazed at him. There was a unuttered fervency and longing in his vibrant voice. It was not what he had said. Other youths in the village had vowed their love in more eloquent terms; but there was such an air of dependence and desperation in his simple declaration that Evangeline was convinced of the futility of further pursuing an evasive course. She liked this handsome son of René Leblanc, and admired him. She knew that his love was sincere, and she did not wish to hurt him.
“You’ re my life, Evangeline! I worship you. I adore you.” His words now came thick and fast. His hands clasped hers, and he bent over her, his eyes searching eagerly for a responsive answer.
Evangeline could not answer at once. It grew very quiet in the old farm-house. Second after second slipped away, forging its own answer. Baptiste’s face became haggard looking. In his heart he knew he had lost.
“But Evangeline . . .” he began.
“I am sorry, Baptiste,” she stopped him before he could pour out the full yearning of his intense love for her, “but there is room in my heart for only one love.”
She paused for a moment. Baptiste’s lips curled in a tragic attempt to smile.
“And that is for another . . .”
A dark shadow spread over Baptiste’s face. His eyes moistened with tears. Vainly he tried to fight them back. He felt her hand touch his with an indefinable gentleness, an innate tenderness that had healed the wounds of other rejected suitors and made friends of them for life.
The room became close, hot, stifling. The spinning wheel near the fireplace, the long row of copper pots, the antique chairs and huge carved table, swam before him.
“I—I wish you happiness, Evangeline . . .always,” he stammered briefly with choking voice. Then he slowly turned and stalked blindly from the room.
Wistfully, Evangeline followed him with misty eyes as he passed down the path that lead to the stile. In her heart surged a poignant pity that she could not return his love. In her ears lingered his stammered, unselfish words:
“I wish you happiness, Evangeline . . .always!”
“IT IS GABRIEL!”
The long afternoon had worn away. Up in her attic bedroom, quaintly furnished and overhung with a low beamed ceiling, Evangeline arose from her spinning wheel and darted to a dormer window overlooking the sea. Pulling aside the dimity curtains, she peered out and scanned the horizon. A shadow of disappointment crossed her face. With a petulant pout and a shrug of her shoulders, she returned to her work, absently humming snatches of gay little songs as her foot worked the treadle and her hands dexterously handled the distaff. Restless, eyes aglow with expectancy, she was soon at the window again.
At last a sail, small and indistinct in the hazy distance, rewarded her and brought a radiant flush to her cheeks. Quickly she dashed to her mirror to tuck a few stray curls under her cap.
“It’s Gabriel!” she murmured, and then, arrested by her excitement, she sighed, “Help me, Holy Mother of God! I never knew love could be like this.”
She kicked off her wooden sabots and sent them flying over the winding staircase. The wooden shoes sailed into the great living-room and miraculously missed the hoary head of her father as he entered the house. Startled out of his reverie by this unceremonious reception, Benedict drew back and glanced up just in time to see Evangeline scurrying into her room. He smiled to himself, and to confirm his thought, he stepped to the door and swept the sea with his eyes. He saw the small fishing smack that had so excited his daughter. He nodded as he glimpsed it. “Gabriel,” he mused, apparently well pleased that it should be the son of Basil, the smith of Grand-Pré, whose coming brought the color of roses to his daughter’s cheeks.
There was a bond between these two fathers that harked back to the days of their youth, when these very acres, that now were ripe with grain, had stood under water, where the tides played at will. In that day, Grand-Pré had been only a huddle of huts, made of straw and rushes. The pinch of poverty was on everyone.
Many had laughed when Benedict Bellefontaine had first suggested the building of a dike to keep out the restless tides of the Basin of Minas and reclaim that vast swamp, green and lush to the eye, but knee-deep in water.
Basil, the blacksmith, had not laughed. He was a might man, even then, wide of girth and with the arm of a giant. Together they had flounder around belly-deep in the water, planning their dike that was to made Acadie a land of plenty.
They had little to work with. The tools and necessities of the mason were missing, so they had recourse to nothing better than crude aboteaux of trees and brush. They made great baskets of willows, towed them where they were needed and filled them with stones until they rested on the bottom of the sea. Other baskets were placed on top of them. Clay was tamped down into the crevices.
Gradually the dike took form. The scoffers were routed. Night and day men watched that dike of mud for the tiniest opening. The sea gave up grudgingly, trying their patience sore. Then it was that Benedict had solved the riddle of making bricks.
Father Felician, the cure, had called them together on the sand and gave thanks to God for this direct manifestation of His divine approval.
The dike was faced with bricks. The flood gates were made, and the sea was tamed at last. Slowly the water drained away. Basil tempered a ploughshare, and the first furrow was turned up. The soil was black and rich.
Benedict nodded to himself as he recalled that day. The promise of that furrow of fine black loam had been fulfilled. All morning long he had ridden through golden fields where his harvesters were reaping the crops, over green meadows where his cattle grazed by the hundred, over grassy hillsides where shepherds watched his flocks. And every inch of it had been won from the sea, bringing prosperity and plenty not only to him but to the whole vale of the Gaspereau. And Basil’s heart and hand were in it, even as were his own.
And now what greater blessing to either than that the son of one should take to wife the motherless daughter of the other?
Benedict wiped a tear from his eye as he turned from the window. He had hardly regained his usual composure when Evangeline sailed down the stairs, her feet encased in dainty black slippers.
She flashed him a smile, and waving a blithe farewell, tried to slip out of the door. Benedict caught her and drew her into his arms.
“I’m in a great hurry, father,” Evangeline pleaded.
“Yes?” he teased. “Where is it you go in such haste? Is some one ill, my child? But no! That would not account for the roses in your cheeks.”
Evangeline snuggled close to him and with her face buried on his bosom, whispered, “Gabriel—he is coming home.”
Benedict held her off at arm’s length and smiled tenderly at her. “So, it’s Gabriel, eh? Well—run along—and bring him home with you!”
Evangeline was gone on the instant, crossing the yard at a bound.
Hurriedly she ran over the stile and down the path toward the sea, he heart beating in wild excitement. Suddenly she sighted white-haired Father Felician, the curé of the parish, coming up from the village, a spiritual figure in his ministerial robes of black and crucifix of shining silver. He waved to her. “I’ll surely be late,” she protested. But she dared not go on without stopping for Father Felician’s blessing.
She hesitated indecisively, glancing uncertainly down toward the sea, then back to the cure as he smiled a benign greeting. Quickly she ran forward and dropped on her knees before him.
“Bless me, Father . . . quick!” she breathlessly exclaimed as she cast down her eyes and bent her head in reverence.
Bewildered, the old priest looked down at the kneeling girl. No sooner had he blessed her than she was up and away. He watched her as she dashed toward the shore, unable to understand the reason for her strange conduct—and thinking something was surely amiss, started to follow her.
the rocky caverns of the
Clinging to the mast was a stalwart youth of heroic mold and romantic mood, his chestnut hair flying in the wind, his handsome face tanned by the sun and salt air, his voice rich and sonorous as a rollicking French melody fell from his lips.
High on a cliff he sighted Evangeline, her skirts flirting in the capricious breeze, her kerchief waving a frantic welcome.
Joyously he raised his voice and sang to her above the roar of the surf and the crashing of the waves on the crags. Then, oblivious of danger, with the impetuosity of youth, he shouted to the man at the tiller to steer straight for the shore, and as the surge of the sea brought the boat close to the rocks, he leapt from the tossing craft and climbed the cliff.
“Evangeline, my beloved!” he shouted as he reached her side and drew her into his outstretched arms. Her lissome body quivered in his embrace. Then she lifted her eyes to his and murmured, “Gabriel! You have come back!”
an indulgent instant her lips lingered on his.
Below them the waves crashed against the jutting rocks; about them the
sea-gulls winged in majestic flight and, far across the
From a distance Father Felician looked on, smiled and understood. And as he walked away toward the house of Benedict he fondly recalled the swift passage of years since he had taught Evangeline and Gabriel their letters out of the same book, with the hymns and the plain-song. And how, when the daily lesson was completed, he had watched them as they hurried away to the forge of Gabriel’s father to stand at the door and watch, with wondering eyes, the sparks fly and see him take in his leather lap the hoof of a horse and, with a few deft blows of his hammer, nail the shoe into place. Smilingly he remembered how they had climbed to the nests in the rafters of the barns, seeking that wondrous stone which the swallow brings to her nest from the shore to restore the sight of her fledglings. Now they were no longer children. Gabriel was a valiant youth with a face of the morning, and she was a woman with the heart and hopes of a woman.
Now that they were together again, Gabriel and Evangeline found small need of words.
“Only three days have I been gone,” he broke the romantic silence as Evangeline nestled in the shelter of his arms, “but it seemed an eternity without you. All day long the waves whispered your name, and at night the stars spelled it in twinkling letters.”
He drew her closer to him. His lips swept her hair. She closed he eyes for a moment, pressing her face against his. Then she leaned back in his arms, bewitching and beguiling.
“Never have I seen you look so beautiful,” he whispered, “never have I loved you more deeply.”
She had waited for this moment, but now its overpowering sweetness frightened her. In a roguish whim, no daring to trust herself further, she uplifted her nose with her forefinger and saucily taunted, “But you wouldn’t love me if I looked like this, would you, Gabriel?”
Still teasing, she pushed her nose into another grotesque effect and repeated her saucy question.
Mischievously, Gabriel flattened his nose into the most ludicrous position. “Why, I’d love you, Evangeline, even if you looked like this!”
They laughed together, happy, carefree.
the distant belfry of the rustic church in the village peeled the chimes of the
angelus. The church was a symbol of the
simple faith and devout lives of the Acadians.
For years they had dwelt in homes of peace and contentment, with neither
locks to their doors nor bars to their windows.
A happy, industrious people, clinging to the quaint customs and dress of
As the chimes of the angelus stole softly through the pastoral peach of the village, columns of pale blue smoke, like clouds of incense, rose from a hundred hearths, and the toilers ceased their labors in the fields, the shepherds returned with their flocks, and the wains, laden with briney hay, rambled homeward from the marshes.
Day with its burden and heat departed, and the twilight brought back the evening star to the sky. The air was filled with a dreamy, magical light and the restless heart of the ocean was consoled for a moment.
Far out on the cliff, the silvery tones of the angelus bells were wafted to the lovers. Solemnly they faced each other with a spiritual glow in their radiant faces, and blessed themselves, while from the rocky caverns below the deep-voiced neighboring ocean crooned its benediction.
The boat from which Gabriel had swung ashore could be seen beating along the cliffs toward the village. It served to recall Gabriel to the more prosaic side of his calling.
“I must go. Francois will need me for the unloading,” he explained. Evangeline nodded.
“But you will come to-night, with your father?”
“Yes!—and we will let them have the house to themselves, for René Leblanc, the notary, may be there, too!”
“Oh, they’re going to discuss the marriage contract, Gabriel?”
“Of course! As though we cared for that. As long as I have you, and you have me, what else matters, Evangeline?”
“Nothing,” she whispered.
He crushed her in his arms and then was gone. For a moment, Evangeline stood watching him as he leapt from crag to crag, and then she turned and hurried across the meadows, knowing the men would be waiting for supper.
RENÉ, THE NOTARY, SPEAKS
That evening as the stars blossomed in the infinite meadows of heaven, Evangeline lighted the candles on the mantle. In pensive, abstracted mood, she might have been a painting of the Madonna, strayed from a gilded frame, so divinely chiseled were her features in the pale yellow light.
Her father sat in his comfortable chair regarding her tenderly. He was a stalwart man of seventy winters, hearty and hale, his hair graying like a sturdy oak covered with snowflakes. Dreamily he watched the flames make smoke wreaths in the fireplace, the shadows nodding and mocking along the walls in fantastic gestures and dancing in reflected glow from the pewter plates on the sideboard.
“Why are you sad, my child?” Benedict asked, stroking her lustrous hair as she sank on her knees at his feet. “There should be nothing in your heart but joy, for to-night René Leblanc comes with your marriage contract.”
As he spoke, tears welled up in Evangeline’s eyes. “It saddens me to think of leaving you, father,” she answered tremulously. “How will you get along without me!”
Benedict turned his face away with a pathetic effort to hid his own deep emotion. “I shall never be alone, my child, while I have memories of you and of your dear mother, asleep in the churchyard.”
Childlike, Evangeline crawled up into his lap and buried her head on his shoulder, saddened by her father’s mention of her dead mother who had been only a tender memory for many years.
“You will not love me less, father, because I am to leave you for Gabriel?”
Benedict looked down into her troubled face and gave her a reassuring smile, trying to be gay despite the heaviness in his heart. “I shall see you every day,” he exclaimed, unable to hide the quiver in his voice, “and I shall share in your happiness with Gabriel. This old place will still be home to you, little one.”
Evangeline kissed him affectionately, her eyes gleaming with tears, her heart clutched with that indefinable loneliness of a motherless girl as her wedding day approaches. Surreptitiously Benedict brushed away a tear and enfolded her in his arms.
Thus they sat for some time in the flickering light of the crackling logs, musing, silent, closer to each other than they had been for many days. From the walls the painted likenesses of their Norman ancestors smiled down upon them.
Youth and old age. Youth filled with the dreams of romance; age with tender memories. Youth looking forward to future; age backward at the past. Youth with radiant face toward the sunrise; age with misty eyes toward the sunset.
The clang of the iron knocker on the door broke the tender, understanding silence. Benedict knew from the hob-nailed boots on the steps that it was Basil, the blacksmith, and by the wild beating of heart, Evangeline knew Gabriel was with him.
“Welcome, Basil, my friend!” Benedict rose from his chair by the fire as father and son crossed the threshold. “Come, take your place by the chimney-side . . . it always seems empty without you.”
The jovial face of the blacksmith, honored of all men in Grand-Pré, beamed with honest delight beneath his rugged beard at his friend’s hearty welcome, and he roared out a greeting in return that set the shadows to dancing.
“My, but you are at your ease here, Benedict!” he exclaimed, glancing around and finding abundant evidence to sustain his observation, both as a man of means and a good eater.
Evangeline curtsied to him, and Basil opened wide his arms and gathered her in like a huge bear. Over his shoulder she saw Gabriel, his eyes beaming with love.
“He can wait,” Basil laughed, hugging her tightly. “What a precious girl you are, Evangeline. Your father will miss you. But he had had you too long already. From now on you shall belong to both of us.” He lifted her clear off the floor as though she were a babe and stood regarding her as she squirmed and teased to be put down.
“Only a few years ago I could hold you in one hand—and many is the time I’ve done it. And now you are a woman! Ha! Ha!” He put her down and turned to Benedict. “You would not find her like in all Normandie, I tell you. With such a daughter you are indeed a lucky man.”
“And you with such a son,” Benedict countered.
“Yes, Gabriel is a good boy,” his father admitted. He turned and beamed upon the two lovers, shy and bashful in the presence of their fathers.
“And with such a wife,” Basil glanced significantly at Gabriel, “what man could fail to appreciate his good fortune?”
From the mantle Evangeline brought two long clay pipes to Basil and her father. She filled them with tobacco and lighted them with a coal from the embers.
Another knock at the door announced René Leblanc, the respected notary, an aged man bent like a laboring oar that toils in the surf of the ocean. Over his shoulders hung shocks of silken yellow hair and astride his nose rode spectacles with heavy horn bows, giving him a look of paternal wisdom. Father of twenty children and more than one hundred grand-children, he was a figure loved and revered by all who knew him.
He greeted them warmly, although it had suited him better were the mission on which he had come concerned his own son. The night had turned cool, and he approached the fire and held out his thin hands gratefully to the blazing logs.
“Another pipe for the notary,” Benedict exclaimed. It was forthcoming immediately. Evangeline’s hand trembled as she lighted the pipe for René. He caught her fingers and squeezed them tenderly, and dismissed her with a smile.
Gabriel caught her eye as she came back to the table, and silently they stole from the house, leaving their elders to discuss the news of the parish before settling down to the details of the marriage settlement.
The three men smoked in silence for a time. It was René Leblanc who broke the silence.
“Has Basil spoken to you about Landray?”
“Not yet,” Basil answered for himself. He turned to Benedict. “You remember that Landray who was in Grand-Pré in the Spring? He excited my suspicions with his questions even then.”
remember him well,” Benedict replied. “He
was here to see me. This afternoon,
Father Felician came up from the village.
He told me this tale of Landray being a secret agent from
I,” René agreed. “But times have
changed. Year after year the sloops from
“Why shouldn’t there be?” Basil exclaimed hotly. “This land and its fishing grounds are ours. The Gaspereau was a wilderness until the Sieur DeRazilly came.”
enough, my friend,” Benedict agreed, “but his dreams of a
“You state the case fairly, Benedict,” René muttered. “We like to style ourselves Neutrals—and in truth we have no quarrel with his Majesty, the King—but in times of strife, neutrals have no rights. We are Papists, with a Protestant governor—and because we have been allowed to live unmolested for two-score years on British soil is no guarantee for the future.”
know how you feel,” Basil retorted rather sharply. “Every time we have been urged to sign this
new oath of allegiance you have leaned more and more in favor of it. You know as well as I what the oath
implies. In so many words you swear to
bear arms against the enemies of the Crown—and that means
“It is not fair to ask that of us,” Benedict agreed weightily. “There are human rights that transcend a court of law. In the eyes of the almighty what we have is rightfully ours, and neither taxes nor privation shall ever rob us of it. But come, we assembled here to-night for a pleasanter business than this. Where are your papers, René?”
From his capacious pockets René drew out his parchment and inkhorn. Benedict lighted the brazen lamp on the table, and in quick order the signatures of Benedict and Basil were affixed to the document, naming the generous dower of the bride in flocks of sheep, in cattle and in chests of silver, fine linens, and rare laces, brought over from Normandy in olden times and handed down from generation to generation as precious heirlooms.
Affixing the great seal of the law to the contract, the old notary rose with dignity from the table and lifted aloft a tankard of ale and, with Basil and Benedict, drank to the happiness and welfare of Evangeline and Gabriel.
“May no shadow of sorrow fall on this house or hearth,” he said solemnly as he took his leave.
“He’s in a gloomy mood to-night,” Basil declared as he stared at the door though which René had departed.
Benedict nodded shrewdly, and there was a twinkle in his eyes.
“The reason is not hard to find,” he chuckled. “Baptiste was here to-day pleading his own cause.”
“So—?” Basil questioned. “I’m sorry I was so short with René.”
For a few moments they sat and mused in silence. Then Benedict brought the checker board from its corner and placed it on Basil’s knees. The two old friends drew up their chairs and started to play, laughing in friendly contention when a man was crowned or a break made in the king row.
At last Basil’s head began to nod drowsily, and tired out with the toil of the day, he dozed as Benedict smiled and picked up the tumbling checkers. Getting to his feet, Evangeline’s father walked to the door and threw it open, looking for the truant lovers. The sinister foreboding of René Leblanc’s words had not been erased from his heart, and as he stared at the sea his eyes wore a troubled look.
Far off he caught a glimpse of Gabriel and Evangeline as they wandered, hand in had, beneath the trees.
the water a loon called. Quick to ward
off its superstitious ill-omen, he crossed himself and raised his eyes to
“Let there be only happiness for her,” he pleaded aloud.
“MY LIFE I PLEDGE TO THEE—“
It grew late, but the
wandering lovers were oblivious to the passing of time. The night was still, save for the shrill cry
of the curfews, winging over the silvery strands of the beach. A mantle of peace lay on the sleeping world;
the Bay of Fundy, that stretched westward until lost in the hazy horizon, was
calm; the little
Slowly they walked along a path that rambled through the wildwood, among fallen trees and scented bushes, until at last they reached a woodland stream. Through the tall branches of the murmuring pines the moon’s rays fell upon their shadowy forms. At their feet the splashing water gleamed with reflected light as it rushed onward over rocks and ferns to the sea.
“Give me your hand,” said Gabriel as he stepped across the water, “and repeat after me the words of an old love pledge, not as solemn perhaps, but more beautiful even than our marriage contract.”
Willingly Evangeline extended her hand and looked into his face, her eyes suddenly grown serious under the charm of his voice and the spell of the night.
“Over running water, my heart I give to thee. . . .”
He paused and listened. The sound of her voice came to him scarcely above a whisper.
“Over running water, my life I pledge to thee. . . .”
Tremulously she repeated the words.
My love shall never forsake thee . . . as long as water runs.”
As the final words fell from Evangeline’s lips, Gabriel leaped across the stream and caught her in close embrace. He drew forward to kiss her. She leaned back in his arms, provocative, perverse, a little afraid. Through her brain whirled the events of the night—the signing of the marriage contract, the solemn vows of love. She had given her heart, she had pledged her life, to the man she loved; and yet a strange fear lurked in her breast, sinister and startling.
A shadow of sorrow passed over her, and before her loomed a premonition of tragedy, dark and ominous. A wild look came into her eyes. Then she heard Gabriel’s voice . . . “As long as water runs.” It soothed her troubled heart, dispelled doubt and misgiving and gave her a feeling of sweet reassurance. In hushed ecstasy her lips met his and lingered in a kiss, holy and spiritual.
Then he picked her up and carried her to a tree that lay half hidden in the shadows. Carefully he laid her down on the dry leaves, and she allowed him to cradle her pliant, yielding body in his arms, to caress the silken sheen of her hair, to take her hands and kiss the tapering fingers, to press the warm palms to his lips, while his eyes spoke words of lover his tongue was unable to utter.
They were alone under the stars; and they were young, and life and love were before them. The world was shut out and forgotten. Why should there be any cruel gray dawn? Why could not the moonlight linger forever?
An overwhelming happiness swept over Evangeline, a joy indefinable. She threw back her head and from her full lips fell the haunting, plaintive strains of an old peasant song.
It was “L’hirondelle”—the song of the swallow, the messenger of love.
As she sang, her voice filtering away through the dark aisles of the forest, Gabriel laid his head dreamily in her lap and listened in reverent silence.
With soft, clinging fingers she caressed his hair until, lulled by the melody of her voice, he dropped into slumber. Slowly the words died in her throat and she sat for some time gazing at him with infinite wonder. Then she leaned over and kissed his unconscious lips.
How long he slept she never knew, for the moments sped away uncounted and her heart was filled with the dreams and fears of youth. The first faint streaks of pink were appearing in the eastern sky when he awakened.
“You are cold, Evangeline! He exclaimed contritely. “Why didn’t you wake me?”
“I was far too happy, Gabriel, just to have you near. As I sat here, I saw my whole life spread out before me as in a dream. And there were things I couldn’t understand. It frightened me.”
“Don’t let any cloud mar our happiness,” Gabriel pleaded. “Dreams are only dreams. As for the sea—if that was it—I shall give it up when we are married.”
“It was not the sea, Gabriel. There were rivers, lakes and strange cities. I seemed to be looking for you—and never finding you.”
Gabriel grasped her in his arms and coaxed a smile to her lips.
“Don’t let these idle musings distress you, dear. Let us live and be gay while we may. Come! Dawn is breaking. Your father will think I have not waited for the curé’s permission to take you away.”
Through the tangled path in the woods he led her out on the cliff overlooking the sea. Together they walked in silence. There was no need for speaking; it was enough to watch the spreading dawn, to see the tall spire of the village church, outlined in the vanishing darkness, and know that in the stilled street, lined with sturdy houses made with frames of oak and hemlock, such as the peasants of Normandy built in the reign of the Henries, the world still slumbered.
As they stood on the cliff, drinking in the sweet fragrance of the dawn, Evangeline saw Gabriel’s eyes cloud, and she stared with him across the Basin where a small pinnace beat rapidly toward the bay.
“What is it, Gabriel?” she exclaimed.
“That is not one of our boats,” he answered sternly. “I can tell by the cut of her sails. The cod are running, and these English sail in under our very noses to fish for them. It is not the first time they have done it!”
“Surely there is room for all—“
“Yes, and why then do they come here but to goad us on to some indiscretion that will bring the disfavor of the Governor down upon us? I tell you they come by design, Evangeline! Are we craven cowards, that we must accept every indignity without even daring to draw steel in our own defense?”
“Please, Gabriel,” Evangeline smiled maternally. “Don’t excite yourself. I know you are brave and would brook no slight. But this is a time for prudence as well as valor.”
Gabriel heaved a sigh of resignation as he turned away from the sea. “You are always right,” said he. “But only fools can dare to hope that such things as this will not lead to trouble. It may be years away—and it may be to-morrow. But it must come!”
His mood chilled Evangeline, and to throw it of, she chided him good-naturedly.
“So! You scoffed at my dreams and warned me to leave the future to itself, and yet you now pretend to fathom it and find only ill-omens.”
Gabriel had to laugh. “Forgive me,” he smiled.
With reluctant footsteps they left the cliff behind and crossed over the stile into the yard. She stopped at the door and took his head in her hands and kissed him lightly. When she looked up there were tears in her eyes, and she gave way to a little happy, hysterical crying.
“Good-by, Gabriel,” she whispered.
For answer he drew her close to him, not yet ready to say farewell. The cooing of the doves finally brought home a realization of the hour.
“Go, Gabriel,” she smiled.
He nodded, and when she had given him his last kiss, Evangeline stole into the quiet house.
Gabriel waited until he saw a light appear in her attic bedroom, and the flutter of a white handkerchief in final farewell at the window. Silently he turned and walked back to Grand-Pré, like one in a dream.
“IN THE NAME OF THE KING!”
The indolent charm of a cloudless summer morning enveloped Grand-Pré as the warm rays of the sun swept over the bound-less meadows, alive with grazing cattle, and glinted through the heavily-laden branches of the apple-trees in the orchards that dotted the floor of the valley. In the harbor, the sun gilded the sails of the fishing smacks that lay in the peaceful coves and turned them to gold.
Above the village,
In the village itself the noisy weather-cock, that had long since hailed the new day, was still, but columns of smoke rose from a hundred chimney tops. Shutters were flung wide to welcome the fresh morning air, and from the clean-smelling depths of the houses came the humming of the looms and the sound of women’s voices, rising pleasantly above the busy whirring of the shuttles.
Basil was at his forge, and the deep clanging of his hammer as it bit into the white-hot iron was echoed by the noisy creaking of the cart wheels as the loaded wains rumbled up and down the winding street.
In such idyllic peach had Grand-Pré droned through a thousand mornings, its farmers prospering by their industry and ingenuity, content to live aloof from the world, untouched by the flame of conquest.
Misery and poverty were unknown. If one suffered misfortune, it was the concern of all. There was a neighborly kindliness in their lives. Were it the raising of a barn, or the building of a house, a dozen hands were always ready to assist. An in those sad hours, when the eyes of a loved one were closing for the last time, it needed only the presence of Father Felician to assure the living that the departed had found a safe and easy path to the favor of the Almighty.
He was a spare little man, his hair whiter than snow and his weather-beaten face the color of copper. Neither the storms of winter, the deep snows nor the angry waves of the ocean could hold him back when he came with the host to give the last sacrament to the dying. With sublime assurance he covered the long miles through deep forests, over roads that were less than trails, making light of hunger and danger from wild beasts and marauding Indians.
For three-score years he had welcomed these Acadians at baptism, seen them blossom into manhood and womanhood only to marry them, and at last, to bid them farewell and usher them into that precious kingdom of God which was the common heritage of all.
Every day he had abundant proof of the fruit that flowered and matured in the vineyard in which he had toiled so long. The kindliness and simple honesty that he found everywhere; their dependence in the Church and their deep devotion to their God was a far greater reward, he often said, than he had ever hoped to claim.
Where he walked, the children could be found, trooping at his heels. Young lovers came to him with their secrets, and found in his quick sympathy, a man as well as a priest.
This morning as he came from the church, Cleophas Villon, a boy of fifteen, ran to his side and excitedly pointed in the direction of the cove in which the fishing smacks were riding at anchor.
“That pinnace is an English boat,” said Cleophas.
Father Felician was immediately interested. Even as he watched, he saw the red coats of four British soldiers.
“What misfortune comes now?” he questioned aloud. Without further ado, he strode off in the direction of the beach, but even before he reached it, the soldiers ran the yawl up on the sand, and falling into double file, marched boldly up the street, a young officer at their head.
The news of the soldiers’ coming had been quickly communicated about Grand-Pré, and such men as were not in the fields drew close to hear the meaning of this expedition.
They had not long to wait. As the little troop came abreast of Father Felician, the aged priest raised his hand to interrogate the officer in charge.
“May I ask the purpose of this visit?” he inquired.
“Make way in the name of his Majesty the King!” answered the soldier.
Straight for the well in the public square the column headed. There they halted, beside the huge bell hanging over the well.
“Send for Leblanc, the notary,” the officer commanded.
“I am here,” René answered for himself, elbowing his way though rough the crowd. “What is wanted of me?”
“You are Leblanc, the notary, and prefect of the
“I am,” replied René.
“Very well! I hand you this proclamation fro His Excellency, the Governor-General. Have it posted at once!”
With trembling hands René took the proclamation and unrolled it. The growing crowd pressed too close and the soldiers forced them back at the point of the bayonet. They were at the point of offering a like indignity to Father Felician when the officer stopped them.
“What does it say?” the priest asked.
“The notary will put it up on the board and all may read,” the red-coat ordered.
A gasp of surprise and bitterness rose from the crowd as René fastened the notice to the bulletin board.
“Hear ye, men of Grand-Pré,” the
Englishman began, reading the notice aloud.
“You are hereby commanded to take oath of allegiance to his Majesty, the
King of England, pledging yourselves and your fortunes to the Crown in the
present war with
The crowd groaned as they heard him out. He reached for the bell, unmindful of their
disapproval, and rang it loudly. His
mission fulfilled, the officer gave a command and the guard marched away to
“No good can come of it,” said he. “Let us not provoke violence.”
For many years the huge gong hanging over the well in the public square, placed there to spread alarms among the villagers, had lain idle. But now as its huge rusty tongue, like that of a gossiping old woman eager to spread tidings of evil, wagged back and forth, it broke the peaceful tranquility of the morning. And as the raucous sound echoed far out through the valley, chilling and forbidding, a sudden wind sprang up from the southeast—a wind which pushed before it masses of slate-colored clouds that appeared as if by magic from the clear horizon and cast an ashen pall over the country-side.
Cold fear smote the hearts of the people. Even the little children, playing in the streets, ran whimpering to their mothers, intuitively sensing danger lurking in the pealing of the rusty old bell.
Quickly the housewives snatched their little ones from the cradles and ran into the square. Farmers in the fields threw down their scythes or stopped their plows, and fearful for the safety of their women-folk, rushed toward the village, running across fresh-planted fields and vaulting over fences in their excited haste. Far out across the quiet waters of the coves, the menacing clang was heard by the fishermen. They abandoned the nets and boats they were repairing and rushed to the village.
Out in the meadow in back of her father’s house, Evangeline sat with Gabriel in the shady shelter of a towering haystack, while he drank a mug of ale from a tankard she had brought out to moisten the dusty throats of the harvesters. Her slender figure in its dainty frock of pink was a familiar and welcome sight in the fields. She always brought a breath of freshness with her, but to-day she sparkled a little more radiantly than usual, for she had lingered before her mirror, knowing Gabriel would be in the fields to-day. And yet, with womanly contrariness, she had airily pretended to be surprised when he rushed out to greet her as she came plunging through the tall grasses of the sun-splashed meadow.
Startled, they both listened as the bell broke in upon their reverie. But it only tolled on and gave no answer to their wonderment.
“It may be a fire,” Gabriel exclaimed, searching the sky for sign of smoke.
“No, Gabriel! That bell can mean only bad news!” Evangeline sprang to her feet and glanced up into the sky. “See how the wind blows! Look at those gray clouds!”
“Clouds are often gray,” he answered, and although Gabriel’s heart was clutched by an indefinable fear, he laughed to hide his own alarm and gently chided her for her superstitious dread of the unknown.
“I never knew it to fail,” Evangeline insisted as they ran toward a hay-cart making for the village and jumped on the back of it. “Remember the time when on Jean and Henri were killed by the bull when they were on their way to help the Latours the day their third baby was born? The same evil wind blew!”
Above the panting of his bellows, the ominous clanging of the bell had quickly reached Basil as he bent over his flaming forge. Pushing his way through the excited throng gathered in the square around the bell, he read the proclamation and noted with cold fear the impressive seal of the law and the signature of the Governor-General of Nova Scotia.
An angry flush mounted his brow as he read the announcement. His eyes blazed and his rugged face grew distorted with rage. Blindly he looked about for Benedict and failed to find him.
“Where is Benedict Bellefontaine?” he demanded.
“We have sent for him,” some one volunteered.
“This proclamation is a treacherous violation of our rights!” Basil thundered on. “We will never submit to it!”
The crowd agreed noisily with him.
By this time most of the inhabitants of Grand-Pré had convened in the square, out of breath from running, crowding and pushing to get a glimpse of the proclamation. Finally Benedict came. The crowd opened up to let him through. His mouth tightened and the cords in his neck stood out like the gnarled roots of an oak as he read on.
“We will not sign this oath,” he cried, his voice making itself heard above the tumult. “We came from
“We stand together!” Basil shouted.
“We have built our homes here, we have reclaimed the
lands from the tides with dikes built by our own hands,” Benedict went on in a
voice trembling with emotion. “Is it
right that we give up all this for
René Leblanc shook his head as he faced Benedict.
“As I said only last night, to you and Basil, there is a purpose behind this threat. They are ready for our refusal. When we hear the alternative they will offer us—we may be glad to sign.”
“Never!” stormed Basil. “When I use a musket, it will be to defend my rights—not to abuse them!”
With that faculty lovers have of being able to forget everything save themselves, the reason for their hurried visit to the village took on less importance in the minds of Evangeline and Gabriel almost as soon as the mad tolling of the bell had ceased. Perched on the back of the wain, half-buried under the fragrant fresh-mown hay, they were blissfully oblivious of the excitement in the village street until the blustering voice of Gabriel’s father broke in upon their consciousness.
“For one hundred years we have been tossed back and forth from one country to another without our consent,” he was saying. “But always we have reserved the right not to fight against our own flesh and blood. What right has the Governor-General of Nova Scotia to exact such a price from us?”
“Gabriel—it is bad news!” Evangeline cried out.
With instant concern, the lovers scrambled down from the hay-cart and by sheer force elbowed their way through the seething, excited crowd. Swiftly their eyes swept the proclamation. A moment later a hand reached out and snatched the offending document from its nails and tore it into bits and threw them into the breeze with a gesture of contempt. Instinctively Evangeline clung to Gabriel, while all around them the people raised their voices in shouts of defiance to the Crown.
Across the heads of the crowd, Evangeline’s eyes encountered Baptiste’s. She smiled bravely at him, reading at a glance his deep concern for her in this hour of anxiety. She turned to Gabriel.
“I am afraid, Gabriel!” she murmured. “It may mean war . . . our separation . . . your death!” She trembled in his arms.
From the center of the crowd, where he had been watching the angry outburst of his people with compassionate eyes, Father Felician stepped forward. “Perhaps we misinterpret the request of the Governor-General.” He raised his hand in a benign gesture for silence.
“Hear the curé!” Benedict ordered. Silence fell on the crowd.
“Let us go to
“We will go immediately!” Evangeline heard René Leblanc declare.
“Maybe that is wise,” Basil replied, “but I have no heart for such business . . . and I surmise we will accomplish nothing. However, we shall go.”
Long after the crowd had begun to disperse, Evangeline clung to Gabriel, her head buried on his shoulder as if to shut out the terrible vision of war and separation that flashed before her eyes and sent a shudder of fear through her slender frame.
Gabriel tried to console her.
“Don’t let this distress you, Evangeline,” he pleaded. “This is only a gesture to frighten us—“
“Oh, don’t say that, Gabriel! You’re only trying to allay my fears. You know that the trouble you foresaw is here. Only it has come sooner than you expected.”
Gabriel could not deny the truth of her words. Silently he took her arm and led her away.
At the edge of the crowd, Baptiste stopped them.
“I want to congratulate you, Gabriel,” said he. He offered Gabriel his hand, and the latter shook it warmly. Evangeline smiled through her tears at the two lads. Baptiste turned to her.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he advised. “No matter what comes, nothing shall happen to you.”
“You are right, Baptiste!” Gabriel answered with all the vigor of his youth.
“Nothing shall happen to you!”
HIS EXCELLENCY, THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL
The garrison by this time having been recruited to full strength, speculation was rife among the members of the staff of Colonel Lawrence, Governor-General of the Colony, as to what impended.
Dispatching of the proclamation to the Acadians had given them a hint of what to expect, and yet it was not Colonel Lawrence’s way to give notice and act later, especially in such a simple matter as forcing the French Neutrals to take unconditional oath to His Majesty.
On this particular morning, as secretaries and counselors to the Crown awaited the Governor-General, the officers of his staff stood about the door in a little group, interrogating the lieutenant who had delivered Colonel Lawrence’s proclamation to the Acadians.
“Of course they didn’t like it! I would have had my hands full but for their Curé, Father Felician. He speaks English.”
“The Acadians are not supposed to be armed, but I dare say they are,” a brother officer exclaimed. “They’ll not submit to the new oath without a struggle. It is a bad business.”
“That’s what comes of being neutral. No one is for you and every one is against you.” The lieutenant won a laugh from them. “But you should see their girls,” he went on. “Buxom wenches, I tell you! Eyes like midnight and lips redder than cherries.”
They were urging greater details from him when the captain of the guard entered hurriedly and addressed the Governor-General’s secretary in tones loud enough to be heard by all present.
“There is a commission arrived from the Acadians. They are without and beg audience with His Excellency.”
“Acadians?” the secretary exclaimed haughtily. “Since when do we suffer them to come here?”
“Then I shall tell them to leave?” the captain of the guard inquired.
“Have them wait,” he said instead, and waved the man out of the room.
The staff officers present drew themselves to attention, but as they awaited the arrival of the Governor-General, questions flew thick and fast as to the nature of the petition the French Neutrals had evidently come to present.
Hells clicked together then as the massive doors of the council chamber were thrown open. A hushed and expectant silence fell upon the room, all eyes automatically focused on the doorway.
With forbidding mien, Colonel Lawrence, strode into the room, resplendent in his uniform of crimson and gold lace, his sword clanking with a menacing rattle as he walked with swift, military tread. He was an impressive figure of towering stature . . . ruthless, decisive, ambitious for power and fortune.
By strange coincidence, as he arrogantly swept through the door, a white dove, basking in the sun, left its perch on top of one of the brass cannons that guarded the portal, and took hasty, frightened flight. It had a prophetic significance.
The Governor-General looked neither to left or right as he marched into the room, nor did he deign to exchange greetings with his distinguished civilian conferees who stood at rigid military attention, their countenances solemn with mingled awe and respect.
Members of his staff exchanged a furtive and knowing glance at his unusual brusqueness this morning.
Colonel Lawrence’s face was set, grim and cold, as he sank into a high-backed chair, placed at the head of the council chamber directly under a portrait of His Majesty, King George II, which, with one or two paintings of military and naval battles, broke the somber grimness of the slate-colored walls.
Without comment he read the dispatches and orders handed him by his secretary.
With an imperious gesture, he signaled the members of the council to take their seats and, eager to find favor in his cold gray eyes, they hastened to their respective places at the long shining table.
With a look of annoyance he saw that his secretary did not withdraw.
“Well, what is it?” he demanded coldly.
“I forgot to add that there is a commission of three French Neutrals, from Grand-Pré here who beg an audience with Your Excellency.”
Colonel Lawrence cleared his throat angrily.
“The damned impertinence of it!” he whipped out. “Let them wait!”
The impending war between
Basil railed at being kept waiting hour after hour.
“If he will not see us,” he exclaimed, “why does he not send us away? Are we children to sit here like this?”
Father Felician smiled patiently at him.
“It is a penance we do, I suppose. Still, we must not complain; too much depends upon the success of our mission to-day.”
“You are right, Father,” René agreed. “We have everything to gain and nothing to lose by waiting on the whims of this man. Being an arrogant man, he looks for arrogance in others, and finding it—vents his spleen on them with pleasure.”
At last, in the council-room, the business of the day was finished. The Governor-General’s aides and advisors arose to leave.
“Wait!” he ordered peremptorily. And then to the guard: “Bring in the petitioners!”
Again the huge double doors were flung open and the three delegates from Grand-Pré entered; Father Felician, simple yet impressive in his black robes; Basil, the blustering blacksmith, dressed in his rough clothes of gray homespun, nervously fingering his broad-trimmed hat; and René Leblanc, the dignified notary.
Their entrance was in vivid contrast to the colorful pomp and ceremony which attended the arrival of the Governor-General. But there was a certain dignity, a simplicity and firmness of purpose that marked their demeanors, which struck even the iron lord to whom they came to appeal.
Noting their humble hesitancy as they crossed the threshold into the ominous silence of the council-room, Colonel Lawrence brusquely motioned them to approach, with a quick, impatient gesture characteristic of his domineering manner.
“What brings you here, men of Grand-Pré? Is it that you come to tell me you will sign the new oath of allegiance?”
“We have come to petition Your Excellency in behalf of
the Acadians,” Father Felician answered.
“We are a peaceable people, bound to
The fervent simplicity of the old priest’s statement was felt by the members of the council and the staff, despite an instinctive racial antagonism. On the Governor-General remained unmoved, his eyes bridling as the heard the curé out.
“So! What you really have come to tell me is that you will not sign this oath of allegiance!”
Father Felician shook his head patiently. “You misunderstand me, Your Excellency,” he
argued. “We do not say we will not: we plead that we can not take up arms against our own
people. This conflict between the land
of our adoption and our mother country will be fought here in
The eloquent eyes of Father Felician swept over the counselors and military aides and came to rest on Colonel Lawrence. The Governor-General might have been carved of stone, for any sign he gave that the curé’s words had touched him.
“It is in my heart to serve the Crown!” he said at last. “I am a soldier, and as a matter of military prudence, you must sign the oath.”
The Governor-General’s arrogant hostility fanned the flame in Basil’s breast into fire, and he burst out angrily: “You have taken our guns and warlike weapons from us. Nothing is left the Acadian but his sledge and the scythe. What military necessity demands an oath from people already helpless?”
René and Father Felician were quick to see the disapproving glance that passed around the room.
“Perhaps we are safer unarmed in the midst of our flocks and cornfields,” Father Felician hurried to say, stepping forward and trying to smooth over Basil’s tactless outburst. He knew that a gentle, humble attitude was the only one with which the Acadians might hope to penetrate the cold armor of this man.
“We have no complaint against the Government,” René added. “We have been fairly treated by you, Your Excellency, and by your predecessors. We have tried to repay that kindness by a loyal devotion to His Majesty, King George, the second.”
His Excellency’s expression remained a stony mask.
“For one hundred years our people have been handed back and forth from one country to another without our consent,” Father Felician parried, tactfully overlooking the expression of enmity on the Governor-General’s face. “Many of us have signed oaths of allegiance in the past, but we have reserved the right not to fight against our own countrymen.”
“And we will not fight them now!”
It was Basil who cried out, his voice thundering in the charged stillness of the great room. Defiantly he faced Colonel Lawrence, unable to restrain his emotions.
The council-room was in disorder instantly. The Governor-General sprang to his feet, a flush of anger mounting to his forehead. He started to speak, but the hot words were checked before they reached his lips, and into his eyes came a crafty cunning and the resolve to teach these Acadians a lesson, once and for all.
“I should have you arrested for this impertinence,” he said easily, his voice as casual as though he were discussing the most trivial matter of business. “But I will be lenient—as I have always been.” He stopped and addressed himself particularly to Father Felician. “Go back to your people, and tell them I have taken their petition under advisement.”
He signaled that the interview was over, and slowly the curé and René Leblanc led Basil away.
Within the council-room Colonel Lawrence’s military aides drew up to salute. The Governor-General answered them, and then instead of leaving, surprised them by saying:
“Gentlemen, you may retire,” and his gesture included his councilors. “Colonel Winslow will remain.”
EMBERS OF EMPIRE
Long before the sloop in which they returned to Grand-Pré had touched shore, the news of the arrival of Father Felician, René Leblanc and Gabriel had spread through the village.
Father Felician smiled as he saw the eager, shining faces and realized with what faith they relied in him to smooth the path of adversity and turn away the wrath of kings and hirelings. And yet, as the assembled Acadians saw the glum face of Basil and remarked the notary’s dour expression, their hopes began to fade, and they followed the three men to the steps of the church with hushed voices.
“We have seen, His Excellency,” Father Felician announced. “He was considerate enough to hear what we had to say. We stated our position fully, and though it was not to his pleasure, he promised to take our petition under advisement. He is a stern man, but, reassured by my faith in our compassionate Savior, in Whose hands we long have placed ourselves, I am confident that Colonel Lawrence will see the justice of our cause and be guided accordingly.”
The crowd looked to the notary for approval of the curé’s words. René mounted the steps slowly and surveyed them at length before he spoke.
“Father Felician has stated the facts clearly,” said he. “Lately I have been unfortunate enough to win the reputation of being a croaker—an apostle of gloom. There have been some who have gone so far as to say that I leaned toward the English. I have heard the story.”
There was a murmur of disapproval from the crowd at this. Benedict Bellefontaine put it into words.
“Only fools could say such things,” he exclaimed. “Your loyalty to us is as great as my own!”
“Yes!” Another cried, “that is so, Benedict.”
“However you interpret my conduct,” René went on, “I beg
you to remember that it is always wise to see both sides of a situation. I wish I might share the curé’s faith in some
Divine intercession in our behalf in this matter, for most surely we will have
need of it. I found only hostility in
René’s words sobered the crowd even more.
“It is time for frankness,” Benedict declared. “What have you to say, Basil?”
Basil shook his head moodily.
“Nothing,” he muttered. “Anything I might say would only confirm the notary’s words. I am a simple man, not given to scheming or taking advantage of my fellow-men. I never learned the knack of turning wrath away with a smile. The Governor-General’s insolence infuriated me, and I dared, foolishly I admit, to defy him to make us take this oath.”
“You did right!” a hothead in the crowd shouted. There were answering cries of approval.
Basil held up his hand for silence.
“No, my friends, it was a mistake. The curé has convinced me of that. The dove can not fight the hawk.”
“nor can it placate him with gifts,” Benedict answered. “Our prosperity is what irks these English. If we signed this oath they would soon find other ways in which to provoke us into one indiscretion or another. We should have let the Mic-Macs wipe them out as they would have done had we not gone into their village with pleas of peace.”
“Benedict!” Father Felician cried out reprovingly. “Such talk is unworthy of you.” He faced them all militantly, his sharp eyes whipping them into humility. “Do you so soon forget those lessons of kindliness and patience that I have labored so long to teach you? Our tongues run away with us, and we fashion calamities out of whole cloth! Come, let us go into the church, and there, in the house of God, compose ourselves and beseech his never-failing mercy.”
Silently they followed the curé into the house of worship. The quiet and sanctity of the hallowed spot brought an abiding sense of peach and new-found faith to them. As things had been, so were they like to be forever, whispered the inanimate walls. Safe in the security of this familiar scene, with its mellow memories, the future took on a rosier hue, and when Father Felician began to pray, their responses were strong and fervent.
Evangeline had not accompanied her father to town. With the curé away, there was no school, and the children, quick to take advantage of this unlooked-for holiday, had tramped across the fields to Benedict’s orchards, knowing Evangeline would not send them home until their baskets were filled with plums and pears.
For the greater part of the afternoon she had romped through the orchards with them. When the shadows began to grow longer and the cows and sheep started to move toward the barns, Evangeline led the happy, laughing throng out upon the headland where she had given her heart to Gabriel. It was a favorite story-telling spot with the children. Each had his favorite story, and they clamored for attention as Evangeline tried to satisfy them all.
“Time to go,” she warned at last.
“Oh, no, Evangeline,” begged little Hermisdas Gagnier, the chemist’s son. “Tell us about Glooskap and his pipe.”
The others took up the cry and Evangeline was forced to consent.
“Very well—but this and no more. The angelus will ring in a minute.” They settled themselves comfortably again and Evangeline waited for them to grow quiet. “Well, when the Acadians first came to the Gaspereau, they didn’t know that the Mic-Macs had a great god of their own. It was the fall of the year, and the sky was blue with haze, just as it is to-day. We call it Indian summer, but in those days we had no name for it.
“Soon the Indians came to our huts to trade. They wanted blankets. Old Father Voisin, the Capuchin, who was here
long before Father Felician came, spoke to the Indians and asked them why they
needed blankets; the days were still warm.
The Mic-Mac answered that soon it would be cold, for Glooskap was
smoking his pipe up on
“So ever since then, when the blue haze hangs in the air,
we call it Indian summer, but the Mic-Macs know better. They know that Glooskap is up on
“Through it all, Glooskap snores. Bye and bye he stirs in his sleep, and the underwater-people call out to him to wake up and unlock the ice. But Glooskap just keeps on snoring. Then one day, the wild geese fly north, looking for him. They scold and call out, ‘Wake up, Glooskap! Wake up!’ But Glooskap only sleeps sounder.
“Soon after the geese come, Teshup, the ground-hog, pokes his head out of the snow and looks for Glooskap. ‘Wake up!’ he cries. ‘Spring is here! Wake up!’
“But Glooskap sleeps on. And then one day, when the sun smiles, Chopeesh, the blue bird comes. In a small voice, sweet as honey, he calls to Glooskap, ‘Wake up, wake up, wake up! S-p-r-i-n-g is here, is here, is here!’ And Glooskap sits up and rubs his eyes. He knows that little voice. When he moves the snows break, the ice cracks and the underwater-people splash and frolic. The leaves begin to peek out of the buds; the brooks sing again; the grass turns green—and all the world laughs, for Spring is here.”
As Evangeline had talked on she had failed to notice the smiling face of Gabriel, peering at her through the dark green of the hemlocks. The angelus sounded a moment later. Reluctantly the children said good-by and wandered away toward the village.
Evangeline stood watching them. Gabriel was at her side before she discovered him.
“I was your most interested listener,” he laughed as he
embraced her. “I have just come from the
village. My father and the others have
“And what word do they bring, Gabriel?” she asked anxiously.
“The Governor-General has agreed to consider the
petition. My father is discouraged,
however. He defied Colonel Lawrence to
make us take up arms against
The curé would know,” Evangeline insisted. “He is never wrong.”
“There is a great deal to what you say,” Gabriel admitted. “But enough of these calamities that are not calamities yet. I came to tell you that Father Felician will read our banns to-morrow. We will sit together in church, Evangeline.”
His joy in the prospect stilled Evangeline’s doubts, and hand in hand they wandered back toward the house. As they crossed the fields, she caught sight of her father, trudging homeward. His elastic step was missing, and as he walked the shoulders that usually were squared back with a wholesome joy of life sagged forward.
Evangeline stopped and called to him. He waived to them and waited as they rant to his side. Benedict put his arms around them, and three abreast they went on.
“You are worried, Father?” Evangeline questioned.
Benedict shook his head, determined to keep his fears
from her. “I am disappointed,” he
admitted. “I wish I had gone to
THE CROSS OF DE RAZILLY
Several days after the departure of the petitioners from
Repeated conferences between Lieutenant-Colonel Winslow and His Excellency, Colonel Lawrence, had informed the garrison that Winslow would command this expedition. They stood together as the men embarked and then immediately returned to the Governor-General’s headquarters.
Winslow’s face wore none of that ardor a commanding
officer is supposed to show at such moments.
He paced back and forth from window to desk as
“What is it man?” His Excellency inquired of a sudden. “You’re as gloomy as an owl.”
“Truth is, sir, I have no heart for this business.”
Colonel Lawrence fixed his piercing eyes on him and paused dramatically over his reply.
“But being necessary—it will be accomplished, sir! I am trusting you to carry out my orders and keep me fully advised. You will proceed to Porte Edward, as we agreed. There you will open these orders and execute them to the best of your ability.”
Winslow accepted the envelope, but he refused to be thus rudely dismissed.
“You are taking a drastic step, You Excellency—without knowledge or authority of the Crown. On the grounds of justice and humanity I plead for these Acadians. Certainly some other way might be found that—“
“There is no other way,”
“But would not a policy of consideration for these French Neutrals be more tactful, as well as humane, sir?”
A shade of annoyance swept over the Governor-General’s face at Winslow’s continued championing of the Acadians.
“I am a soldier, Winslow,” he thundered. “. . . not a diplomat! May I remind you that you are also a soldier?”
Winslow nodded, convinced that he but wasted his time with this obdurate man.
“Once among these Neutrals you will post a proclamation requiring them to attend at a certain place at a certain hour, as you may please. Make it peremptory in its terms—but keep its purpose vague enough so that they may not suspect the reason for which they are assembled. Employ fair means with them, if you will. But if you find that such treatment will not accomplish our purpose, you will proceed most vigorously against them.”
As Colonel Winslow saluted and withdrew, His Excellency stepped to the windows commanding the harbor and gazed at the ships at anchor. The fire of conquest burned in his eyes as he saw the sails unfurl.
The tide was running, and in a few minutes the vessels began to drop away. He stood at the window until the night enveloped them. Knowing the nature of their mission, and realizing the fate to which he had consigned the Acadians, one might have expected to find some trace of sympathy or regret in this eyes at this last moment. Instead, there blossomed a complete and abiding satisfaction.
As these messengers of vengeance and a man’s ambition
sailed away on their long trip into the
Sunday dawned bright and clear. A pleasant warmth tinged the morning air as Gabriel waited for Evangeline on the steps of the Church. At last she came, her father driving his favorite black Norman mare. A new sense of dignity rested over her to-day, and Gabriel knowing the eyes of the parish were on them, offered her his arm with the grace of a grand seigneur and proudly led her to his father’s pew.
Wrinkled grandmothers and young matrons, shy lovers and even the young lads still in their teens, followed them with enraptured gaze as they passed.
Father Felician entered and they rose with bowed heads. Demure and as saintly-looking under her white Norman cap as the Madonna herself, Evangeline made her responses to the mass and stole shy glances at the lover beside her as he counted his beads.
At last the mass was over. Father Felician came out on the steps of the church, knowing Benedict had an announcement to make, and certain that to-day his parishioners would tarry to discuss the Governor-General’s proclamation.
Gabriel and Evangeline were already the center of an admiring group, showering congratulations on them, and whispering advice well calculated to embarrass the bridegroom-to-be.
Gabriel smiled at the good-natured chaff of his fellows, trying to turn the barbs they leveled at him back upon the shoulders of the originators.
From a distance, Baptiste looked on, his face white with emotion. So he had once dreamed of standing with Evangeline on his arm. With choking breath he turned away to wander in the fields alone.
“Monsieur le Curé!” some one cautioned as Father Felician raised his hand for silence. At once the humming of voices and the jostling of the crowd ceased.
“Benedict has an announcement to make,” said he.
“On Friday, weather permitting, I want you to come to my place—all of you. It will be the betrothal feast of Evangeline and Gabriel. Michael, you will come with your fiddle?”
Michael Michel, the fiddler of Grand-Pré elbowed his way to Benedict’s side. His hair was as white as the curé’s. A pair of merry eyes danced in his nut-brown face. For forty years he had kept alive the music of their homeland, and there was never a party or feast day that was not enlivened by the gay tunes of his fiddle—a rare instrument, he always claimed, handed down to him by his grandfather who had played at the court of one of the Louies.
“Have I ever failed to be where I was needed?” Michael demanded. “Knowing the quality of your ale—what could keep me away, Benedict?”
There was a general laugh at this, for Michael’s capacity for the nut-brown ale of the country-side was too well known to need comment.
“I did not ask you to come to do honor to my ale,” Benedict answered with mock severity.
Again the crowd laughed, but Michael chose to grow serious.
“I but jested,” said he. Turning to Evangeline he doffed his hat and bowed to the ground. “We are all proud of you, little one. I remember well the day your father brought you to me to learn the songs of the homeland. What good times we had, you and I and Mr. Fiddle! But my little playmate has grown up. All of us who have known you so long and watched over you, share your happiness, Evangeline. If there is a tear in old Michael’s eye it is only because he is so proud of you. Any you, Gabriel, are a lucky boy!”
“It is just as Michael says,” Esdras Prudhomme declared. “When Benedict asked me if I would take charge of the roasting pits I was cross with him. It’s my privilege, I told him, and I should like to see some one else in charge.”
The crowd parted to let Gabriel and Evangeline through. As they left, Benedict joined Basil.
“The young folks will prefer their own company to ours on the way home. Ride with me and let them wander over the fields as they will.”
“The others are waiting,” said he. “Evidently they think there may be some news
Even as he finished, Latour, from the marshes, a big, black-bearded man, called out: “Is there anything to be learned about the proclamation?”
“No, we are still waiting to hear from His Excellency,” Father Felician answered. “Every day that passes without our hearing from him adds to my assurance that all will be well yet.”
The crowd broke up into little groups and stood about, chatting the news of the parish or discussing the probable decision of His Excellency, Colonel Lawrence.
Evangeline and Gabriel soon left the village behind and wandered homeward along the cliffs. They were passing the broken down cottage of the Widow Lamphrey when the old woman hobbled out to the gate and waved to them.
As long as Evangeline could remember, the Window Lamphrey had dwelt on the cliff, her garden always a tangle of weeds and the house going from bad to worse. She had the knack of weaving marvelous baskets, and she derived more than enough for her simple needs from the sale of them.
But it was not her baskets for which the Widow Lamphrey was best known. She had the gift of healing burns by the laying on of her hands. It was a fact that was well-known, and even the curé had been compelled to admit it, attributing it to some strange manifestation of God’s kindness.
It gave the Widow Lamphrey a unique position among the Acadians, and as the legend grew that she had supernatural powers, the old woman never disavowed it. Secretly she claimed to be able to read the future in one’s cup.
Gabriel would have gone on, but Evangeline stopped him.
“She means well, Gabriel. Let us stop for a word with her.”
“She’ll want to read the tea leaves for you,” he answered, unable to hid his displeasure. “Why risk being distressed on this day by what she may have to say? Certainly you do not believe that she can read the future.”
“Of course not! It would only amuse me, Gabriel.”
The old woman opened the gate as they approached and beamed upon Evangeline. “I have been watching for you,” she cackled. “I knew the banns were to be read this morning. I wanted to hear them, but my joints are so stiff I couldn’t get to mass. I guess there were plenty there.”
“The Church was crowded,” Evangeline told her. “Father has invited every one to the house on Friday for the betrothal feast. You must come.”
“I will if I am able, but small pleasure can I take in the dances and games with my rheumatism. But there was a time, my child . . .” She paused to smile at the memories her words conjured up in her mind. “I remember the day I was betrothed to Lamphrey. He was a fine land, then, not unlike Gabriel. Come into the house, my child. Let me read the leaves for you. They will tell you a great deal on such a day as this.”
Gabriel was not pleased and he volunteered to wait outside.
“No, Gabriel, I want you to hear what she had to say,” Evangeline protested prettily. “Come!”
The Widow Lamphrey led the way indoors. It was the first time Gabriel had set foot in the place, and he noted with pleasant surprise how clean the floors were, and how white and spotless were the linens.
The old woman showed Evangeline her baskets and reminisced pleasantly about her childhood as the tea steeped. Gabriel sat apart, uneasy in his mind and wishing they soon might leave.
The tea was ready at last, and as Evangeline handed the empty cup to the old woman she made strange sounds of incantation, a trick she had learned from the Indians, Gabriel whispered to himself.
Evangeline drew her chair up closer to the table and her breath came a little faster as the fortune-teller twirled the cup around and around in her hands. Then she paused and her old eyes lit up with an uncanny fire as she stared at the tea leaves. He body grew tense and she held the cup closer to her eyes.
“What is it?” Evangeline asked nervously. “What do you see?”
The widow did not answer. Gabriel noted how the cords stood out on her long, eagle-like talons. He knew that the excitement which gripped the old woman was real to her, and as he watched he saw her deliberately squeeze the cup until it popped out of her hands and fell upon the floor in a dozen pieces.
“One of my good cups, too,” she groaned. “What clumsy fingers.”
Her attempt to make the dropping of the cup appear an accident chilled Gabriel’s blood and to avoid Evangeline’s eyes, he bent down to pick up the shattered bits of china.
The feeling that the old woman had seen something in the cup that she did not want to tell her, gripped Evangeline, and she questioned her about it.
“Was there something there that frightened you?” she asked, her face whiter than she knew.
The Widow Lamphrey only shook her head. “No, my child,” she murmured. “All I saw was a journey—you and Gabriel.”
“Well, that is nothing to grow excited about,” Gabriel declared, trying to calm Evangeline and get her away.
“Of course not,” the old woman agreed, wondering how much he had seen.
They started to leave. Widow Lamphrey called Evangeline back.
“Wait,” she said as she rummaged in a drawer. “I have something that I have saved for you Evangeline. Let it be my wedding present.” From the drawer she drew a small crucifix attached to a thin silver chain.
“It was blessed by the Pope,” she explained. “It once belonged to the Sieur De Razilly. Its charms are great. Wear it always, Evangeline; it will bring you luck and guard you from danger.”
“The Sieur De Razilly once owned it!” Evangeline exclaimed as she gazed at the cross with reverent awe. “I—I shall always wear it,” she murmured.
The Widow Lamphrey watched them go. They were out of sight of her house before Evangeline voiced the thoughts that were troubling her.
“Wasn’t it strange, Gabriel, her dropping the cup? And telling me I was going on a journey! Don’t you remember that the night the marriage contract was signed I told you I too dreamed that I was going on a journey—only you were not with me. I was searching for you. . .”
“You see?” he chided her. “You said she would only amuse you, and yet you believed every word she said, and now you are troubled with vague misgivings when we should be alive with happiness and laughter.”
He was sorry immediately for his quick words as he saw Evangeline’s lips quiver. He took her into his arms and fondled her tenderly.
“I am silly, I know,” she breathed softly. “But if I should lose you, Gabriel! Where you go, I must go. Promise me you will never leave me.”
He lifted the cross of De Razilly.
“On this crucifix I swear that no act of mine shall ever part us!”
Back in her cottage the Widow Lamphrey rocked disconsolately.
“I couldn’t tell her,” she moaned.