Part the First:
Part the Second:
A Tale of Arcadie
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Part the First
- 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 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 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 forest,
- And of the goblin that came in the night to water the horses,
- And of the white Letiche, 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 nutshell,
- And of the marvelous 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 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 intention
- Brings them here, for we are at peace; and why then molest us?"
- "God's name!" shouted the hasty and somewhat irascible blacksmith;
- "Must we in all things look for the how, and the why, and the wherefore?
- Daily injustice is done, and might is the right of the strongest!"
- But, without heeding his warmth, continued the notary public --
- "Man is unjust, but God is just; and finally justice
- Triumphs; and well I remember a story, that often consoled me,
- When as a captive I lay in the old French fort at Port Royal."
- This was the old man's favorite tale, and he loved to repeat it
- When his neighbors complained that any injustice was done them.
- "Once in an ancient city, whose name I no longer remember,
- Raised aloft on a column, a brazen statue of Justice
- Stood in the public square, upholding the scales in its left hand,
- And in its right a sword, as an emblem that justice presided
- Over the laws of the land, and the hearts and homes of the people.
- Even the birds had built their nests in the scales of the balance,
- Having no fear of the sword that flashed in the sunshine above them.
- But in the course of time the laws of the land were corrupted;
- Might took the place of right, and the weak were oppressed, and the mighty
- Ruled with an iron rod. Then it chanced in a nobleman's palace
- That a necklace of pearls was lost, and ere long a suspicion
- Fell on an orphan girl who lived as maid in the household.
- She, after form of trial condemned to die on the scaffold,
- Patiently met her doom at the foot of the statue of Justice.
- As to her Father in heaven her innocent spirit ascended,
- Lo! o'er the city a tempest rose; and the bolts of the thunder
- Smote the statue of bronze, and hurled in wrath from its left hand
- Down on the pavement below the clattering scales of the balance,
- And in the hollow thereof was found the nest of a magpie,
- Into whose clay-built walls the necklace of pearls was inwoven."
- Silenced, but not convinced, when the story was ended, the blacksmith
- Stood like a man who fain would speak, but findeth no language;
- All his thoughts were congealed into lines on his face, as the vapors
- Freeze in fantastic shapes on the window-panes in the winter.
- Then Evangeline lighted the brazen lamp on the table,
- Filled, till it overflowed, the pewter tankard with home-brewed
- Nut-brown ale, that was famed for its strength in the village of Grand-Pré;
- While from his pocket the notary drew his papers and inkhorn,
- Wrote with a steady hand the date and the age of the parties,
- Naming the dower of the bride in flocks of sheep and in cattle.
- Orderly all things proceeded, and duly and well were completed,
- And the great seal of the law was set like a sun on the margin.
- Then from his leathern pouch the farmer threw on the table
- Three times the old man's fee in solid pieces of silver;
- And the notary rising, and blessing the bride and the bridegroom,
- Lifted aloft the tankard of ale and drank to their welfare.
- Wiping the foam from his lip, he solemnly bowed and departed,
- While in silence the others sat and mused by the fire-side,
- Till Evangeline brought the draught-board out of its corner.
- Soon was the game begun. In friendly contention the old men
- Laughed at each lucky hit, or unsuccessful manoeuver,
- Laughed when a man was crowned, or a breach was made in the king-row.
- Meanwhile apart, in the twilight gloom of a window's embrasure,
- Sat the lovers, and whispered together, beholding the moon rise
- Over the pallid sea and the silvery mist of the meadows.
- Silently one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
- Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.
- 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 doorstep
- Lingered long in Evangeline's heart, and filled it with gladness.
- Carefully then were covered the embers that glowed on the hearthstone,
- 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 through 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 woolen 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!
to Part I, Canto IV.