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II.

It was the month of May. Far down the Beau

tisul River, Past the Ohio shore and past the mouth of the

Wabash, Into the golden stream of the broad and swift

Mississippi, Floated a cumbrous boat, that was rowed by

Acadian boatmen. It was a band of exiles : a rast, as it were, from

the shipwrecked Nation, scattered along the coast, now floating

together,

Bound by the bonds of a common belief and a

common misfortune ; Men and women and children, who, guided by

hope or by hearsay, Sought for their kith and their kin among the

few-acred farmers On the Acadian coast, and the prairies of fair

Opelousas. With them Evangeline went, and her guide, the

Father Felician. Onward o'er sunken sands, through a wilderness

sombre with forests, Day after day they glided adown the turbulent

river ; Night after night, by their blazing fires, en

camped on its borders. Now through rushing chutes, among green islands,

where plumelike Cotton-trees nodded their shadowy crests, they

swept with the current,

Then emerged into broad lagoons, where silvery

sand-bars Lay in the stream, and along the wimpling waves

of their margin, Shining with snow-white plumes, large flocks of

pelicans waded. Level the landscape grew, and along the shores

of the river, Shaded by china-trees, in the midst of luxuriant

gardens, Stood the houses of planters, with negro-cabins

and dove-cots. They were approaching the region where reigns

perpetual summer, Where through the Golden Coast, and groves

of orange and citron, Sweeps with majestic curve the river away to

the eastward. They, too, swerved from their course ; and, en

tering the Bayou of Plaquemine,

230

EVANGELINE.

Evangeline.

on,

Soon were lost in a maze of sluggish and devious

waters, Which, like a network of steel, extended in

every direction. Over their heads the towering and tenebrous

bouglis of the cypress Met in a dusky arch, and trailing mosses in mid

air Waved like banners that hang on the walls of

ancient cathedrals. Deathlike the silence seemed, and unbroken, save

by the herons Home to their roosts in the cedar-trees returning

at sunset, Or by the owl, as he greeted the moon with

demoniac laughter. Lovely the moonlight was as it glanced and

gleamed on the water, Gleamed on the columns of cypress and cedar

sustaining the arches,

Down through whose broken vaults it fell as

through chinks in a ruin. Dreamlike, and indistinct, and strange were all

things around them; And o'er their spirits there came a feeling of

wonder and sadness, – Strange forebodings of ill, unseen and that can

not be compassed. As, at the tramp of a horse's hoof on the turf of

the prairies, Far in advance are closed the leaves of the

shrinking mimosa, So, at the hoof-beats of fate, with sad forebodings

of evil, Shrinks and closes the heart, ere the stroke of

doom has attained it. But Evangeline's heart was sustained by a vision,

that faintly Floated before her eyes, and beckoned her on

through the moonlight.

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