Page images
PDF
EPUB

Then, with a smile of content, thus answered Basil the

blacksmith, Taking with easy air the accustomed seat by the fire- 230

side :“Benedict Bellefontaine, thou has ever thy jest and

thy ballad ! Ever in cheerfullest mood art thou, when others are

filled with Gloomy forebodings of ill, and see only ruin before

them. Happy art thou, as if every day thou hadst picked up

a horseshoe.Pausing a moment, to take the pipe that Evangeline 235

brought him, And with a coal from the embers had lighted, he

slowly continued :“Four days now are passed since the English ships at

their anchors Ride in the Gaspereau's mouth, with their cannon

pointed against us. What their design may be is unknown; but all are

commanded On the morrow to meet in the church, where his 240

Majesty's mandate Will be proclaimed as law in the land. Alas! in the

mean time Many surmises of evil alarm the hearts of the

people.”

Then made answer the farmer : "Perhaps some

friendlier puipose Brings these ships to our shores. Perhaps the har

vests in England By untimely rains or untimelier heat have been 245

blighted, And from our bursting barns they would feed their

cattle and children.” "Not so thinketh the folk in the village,” said,

warmly, the blacksmith, Shaking his head, as in doubt; then, heaving a sigh,

he continued :6. Louisburg is not forgotten, nor Beau Séjour, nor

Port Royal. Many already have fled to the forest, and lurk on its 250

outskirts, Waiting with anxious heart the dubious fate of to

morrow.

Arms have been taken from us, and warlike weapons

of all kinds; Nothing is left but the blacksmith's sledge and the

scythe of the mower. Then with a pleasant smile made answer the jovial

farmer :"Safer are we unarmed, in the midst of our flocks 255

and our cornfields, Safer within these peaceful dikes, besieged by the

ocean,

Than our fathers in forts, besieged by the enemy's

cannon.

Fear no evil, my friend, and to-night may no shadow

of sorrow Fall on this house and hearth ; for this is the night of

the contract. Built are the house and the barn. The merry lads of 200

the village Strongly have built them and well; and, breaking the

glebe round about them, Filled the barn with hay, and the house with food for

a twelvemonth. René Leblanc will be hero anon, with his papers and

inkhorn. Shall we not then be glad, and rejoice in the joy of our

children?" As apart by the window she stood, with her hand in 265

her lover's, Blushing Evangeline heard the words that her father

had spoken, And, as they died on his lips, the worthy notary

entered.

III,

Bent like a laboring oar, that toils in the surf of the

ocean,

Bent, but not broken, by age was the form of the

notary public;

Shocks of yellow hair, like the silken floss of the 270

maize, hung Over his shoulders; his forehead was high; and

glasses with horn bows Sat astride on his nose, with a look of wisdom

supernal. Father of twenty children was he, and more than a

hundred Children's children rode on his knee, and heard his

great watch tick. Four long years in the times of the war had he 275

languished a captive, Suffering much in an old French fort as the friend of

the English. Now, though warier grown, without all guile or

suspicion, Ripe in wisdom was he, but patient, and simple, and

childlike. He was beloved by all, and most of all by the

children; For he told them tales of the Loup-garou in the 280

forest, And of the goblin that came in the night to water the

horses, And of the white Létiche, the ghost of a child who

unchristened Died, and was doomed to haunt unseen the chambers

of children;

And how on Christmas eve the oxen talked in the

stable, And how the fever was cured by a spider shut up in a 285

nutshell, And of the marvellous powers of four-leaved clover

and horseshoes, With whatsoever else was writ in the lore of the

village. Then up rose from his seat by the fireside Basil the

blacksmith, Knocked from his pipe the ashes, and slowly extending

his right hand, "Father Leblanc,” he exclaimed, “thou hast heard 290

the talk in the village, And, perchance, canst tell us some news of these ships

and their errand." Then with modest demeanor made answer the notary

public, "Gossip enough have I heard, in sooth, yet am never

the wiser; And what their errand may be I know not better than

others. Yet am I not of those who imagine some evil inten- 295

tion Brings them here, for we are at peace; and why then

molest us?” "God's name !” shouted the hasty and somewhat

irascible blacksmith;

« PreviousContinue »