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- EVANGELINE - 3/8 -


Thus passed the evening away. Anon the bell from the belfry Rang out the hour of nine, the village curfew, and straightway Rose the guests and departed; and silence reigned in the household. Many a farewell word and sweet good night on the door-step Lingered long in Evangeline's heart, and filled it with gladness. Carefully then were covered the embers that glowed on the hearth-stone; And on the oaken stairs resounded the tread of the farmer. Soon with a soundless step the foot of Evangeline followed. Up the staircase moved a luminous space in the darkness, Lighted less by the lamp than the shining face of the maiden. Silent she passed the hall, and entered the door of her chamber. Simple that chamber was, with its curtains of white, and its clothes-press Ample and high, on whose spacious shelves were carefully folded Linen and woollen stuffs, by the hand of Evangeline woven. This was the precious dower she would bring to her husband in marriage, Better than flocks and herds, being proofs of her skill as a housewife. Soon she extinguished her lamp, for the mellow and radiant moonlight Streamed through the windows, and lighted the room, till the heart of the maiden Swelled and obeyed its power, like the tremulous tides of the ocean. Ah! she was fair, exceeding fair to behold, as she stood with Naked snow-white feet on the gleaming floor of her chamber! Little she dreamed that below, among the trees of the orchard, Waited her lover and watched for the gleam of her lamp and her shadow. Yet were her thoughts of him, and at times a feeling of sadness Passed o'er her soul, as the sailing shade of clouds in the moonlight Flitted across the floor and darkened the room for a moment. And, as she gazed from the window, she saw serenely the moon pass Forth from the folds of a cloud, and one star follow her footsteps, As out of Abraham's tent young Ishmael wandered with Hagar!

IV.

PLEASANTLY rose next morn the sun on the village of Grand-Pré. Pleasantly gleamed in the soft, sweet air the Basin of Minas, Where the ships, with their wavering shadows, were riding at anchor. Life had long been astir in the village, and clamorous labor Knocked with its hundred hands at the golden gates of the morning. Now from the country around, from the farms and neighboring hamlets, Came in their holiday dresses the blithe Acadian peasants. Many a glad good morrow and jocund laugh from the young folk Made the bright air brighter, as up from the numerous meadows, Where no path could be seen but the track of wheels in the greensward, Group after group appeared, and joined, or passed on the highway. Long ere noon, in the village all sounds of labor were silenced. Thronged were the streets with people; and noisy groups at the house-doors Sat in the cheerful sun, and rejoiced and gossiped together, Every house was an inn, where all were welcomed and feasted; For with this simple people, who lived like brothers together, All things were held in common, and what one had was another's. Yet under Benedict's roof hospitality seemed more abundant: For Evangeline stood among the guests of her father; Bright was her face with smiles, and words of welcome and gladness Fell from her beautiful lips, and blessed the cup as she gave it.

Under the open sky, in the odorous air of the orchard, Bending with golden fruit, was spread the feast of betrothal. There in the shade of the porch were the priest and the notary seated; There good Benedict sat, and sturdy Basil the blacksmith. Not far withdrawn from these, by the cider-press and the beehives, Michael the fiddler was placed, with the gayest of hearts and of waistcoats. Shadow and light from the leaves alternately played on his snow-white Hair, as it waved in the wind; and the jolly face of the fiddler Glowed like a living coal when the ashes are blown from the embers. Gayly the old man sang to the vibrant sound of his fiddle, Tous les Bourgeois de Chartres, and Le Carillon de Dunkerque, And anon with his wooden shoes beat time to the music. Merrily, merrily whirled the wheels of the dizzying dances Under the orchard-trees and down the path to the meadows; Old folk and young together, and children mingled among them. Fairest of all the maids was Evangeline, Benedict's daughter! Noblest of all the youths was Gabriel, son of the blacksmith!

So passed the morning away. And lo! with a summons sonorous Sounded the bell from its tower, and over the meadows a drum beat. Thronged erelong was the church with men. Without, in the churchyard, Waited the women. They stood by the graves, and hung on the headstones Garlands of autumn-leaves and evergreens fresh from the forest. Then came the guard from the ships, and marching proudly among them Entered the sacred portal. With loud and dissonant clangor Echoed the sound of their brazen drums from ceiling and casement,-- Echoed a moment only, and slowly the ponderous portal Closed, and in silence the crowd awaited the will of the soldiers. Then uprose their commander, and spake from the steps of the altar, Holding aloft in his hands, with its seals, the royal commission. "You are convened this day," he said, "by his Majesty's orders. Clement and kind has he been; but how you have answered his kindness, Let your own hearts reply! To my natural make and my temper Painful the task is I do, which to you I know must be grievous. Yet must I bow and obey, and deliver the will of our monarch; Namely, that all your lands, and dwellings, and cattle of all kinds Forfeited be to the crown; and that you yourselves from this province Be transported to other lands. God grant you may dwell there Ever as faithful subjects, a happy and peaceable people! Prisoners now I declare you; for such is his Majesty's pleasure!" As, when the air is serene in the sultry solstice of summer, Suddenly gathers a storm, and the deadly sling of the hailstones Beats down the farmer's corn in the field and shatters his windows, Hiding the sun, and strewing the ground with thatch from the house-roofs, Bellowing fly the herds, and seek to break their enclosures; So on the hearts of the people descended the words of the speaker. Silent a moment they stood in speechless wonder, and then rose Louder and ever louder a wail of sorrow and anger, And, by one impulse moved, they madly rushed to the door-way. Vain was the hope of escape; and cries and fierce imprecations Rang through the house of prayer; and high o'er the heads of the others Rose, with his arms uplifted, the figure of Basil the blacksmith, As, on a stormy sea, a spar is tossed by the billows. Flushed was his face and distorted with passion; and wildly he shouted,-- "Down with the tyrants of England! we never have sworn them allegiance! Death to these foreign soldiers, who seize on our homes and our harvests!" More he fain would have said, but the merciless hand of a soldier Smote him upon the mouth, and dragged him down to the pavement.

In the midst of the strife and tumult of angry contention, Lo! the door of the chancel opened, and Father Felician Entered, with serious mien, and ascended the steps of the altar. Raising his reverend hand, with a gesture he awed into silence All that clamorous throng; and thus he spake to his people; Deep were his tones and solemn; in accents measured and mournful Spake he, as, after the tocsin's alarum, distinctly the clock strikes. "What is this that ye do, my children? what madness has seized you? Forty years of my life have I labored among you, and taught you, Not in word alone, but in deed, to love one another! Is this the fruit of my toils, of my vigils and prayers and privations? Have you so soon forgotten all lessons of love and forgiveness? This is the house of the Prince of Peace, and would you profane it Thus with violent deeds and hearts overflowing with hatred? Lo! where the crucified Christ from his cross is gazing upon you! See! in those sorrowful eyes what meekness and holy compassion! Hark! how those lips still repeat the prayer, `O Father, forgive them!' Let us repeat that prayer in the hour when the wicked assail us, Let us repeat it now, and say, `O Father, forgive them!' " Few were his words of rebuke, but deep in the hearts of his people Sank they, and sobs of contrition succeeded the passionate outbreak, And they repeated his prayer, and said, "O Father, forgive them!"

Then came the evening service. The tapers gleamed from the altar. Fervent and deep was the voice of the priest, and the people responded, Not with their lips alone, but their hearts; and the Ave Maria Sang they, and fell on their knees, and their souls, with devotion translated, Rose on the ardor of prayer, like Elijah ascending to heaven.

Meanwhile had spread in the village the tidings of ill, and on all sides Wandered, wailing, from house to house the women and children. Long at her father's door Evangeline stood, with her right hand Shielding her eyes from the level rays of the sun, that, descending, Lighted the village street with mysterious splendor, and roofed each Peasant's cottage with golden thatch, and emblazoned its windows. Long within had been spread the snow-white cloth on the table; There stood the wheaten loaf, and the honey fragrant with wild-flowers; There stood the tankard of ale, and the cheese fresh brought from the dairy, And, at the head of the board, the great arm-chair of the farmer. Thus did Evangeline wait at her father's door, as the sunset Threw the long shadows of trees o'er the broad ambrosial meadows. Ah! on her spirit within a deeper shadow had fallen, And from the fields of her soul a fragrance celestial ascended,-- Charity, meekness, love, and hope, and forgiveness, and patience! Then, all-forgetful of self, she wandered into the village, Cheering with looks and words the disconsolate hearts of the women, As o'er the darkening fields with lingering steps they departed, Urged by their household cares, and the weary feet of their children. Down sank the great red sun, and in golden, glimmering vapors Veiled the light of his face, like the Prophet descending from Sinai. Sweetly over the village the bell of the Angelus sounded.

Meanwhile, amid the gloom, by the church Evangeline lingered. All was silent within; and in vain at the door and the windows Stood she, and listened and looked, till, overcome by emotion, "Gabriel!" cried she aloud with tremulous voice; but no answer Came from the graves of the dead, nor the gloomier grave of the living. Slowly at length she returned to the tenantless house of her father. Smouldered the fire on the hearth, on the board stood the supper untasted, Empty and drear was each room, and haunted with phantoms of terror. Sadly echoed her step on the stair and the floor of her chamber. In the dead of the night she heard the whispering rain fall Loud on the withered leaves of the sycamore-tree by the window. Keenly the lightning flashed; and the voice of the echoing thunder Told her that God was in heaven, and governed the world he created! Then she remembered the tale she had heard of the justice of Heaven; Soothed was her troubled soul, and she peacefully slumbered till morning.

V.

FOUR times the sun had risen and set; and now on the fifth day Cheerily called the cock to the sleeping maids of the farm-house. Soon o'er the yellow fields, in silent and mournful procession, Came from the neighboring hamlets and farms the Acadian women, Driving in ponderous wains their household goods to the sea-shore, Pausing and looking back to gaze once more on their dwellings, Ere they were shut from sight by the winding road and the woodland. Close at their sides their children ran, and urged on the oxen, While in their little hands they clasped some fragments of playthings.

Thus to the Gaspereau's mouth they hurried; and there on the sea-beach


EVANGELINE - 3/8

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