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Evangeline

PART THE SECOND
IV (continued)

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1165Early upon the morrow the march was resumed; and the Shawnee
Said, as they journeyed along, 'On the western slope of these mountains
Dwells in his little village the Black Robe chief of the Mission.
Much he teaches the people, and tells them of Mary and Jesus.
Loud laugh their hearts with joy, and weep with pain, as they hear him.'
1170Then, with a sudden and secret emotion, Evangeline answered,
'Let us go to the Mission, for there good tidings await us!'
Thither they turned their steeds; and behind a spur of the mountains,
Just as the sun went down, they heard a murmur of voices,
And in a meadow green and broad, by the bank of a river,
1175Saw the tents of the Christians, the tents of the Jesuit Mission.
Under a towering oak, that stood in the midst of the village,
Knelt the Black Robe chief with his children. A crucifix fastened
High on the trunk of the tree, and overshadowed by grapevines,
Looked with its agonized face on the multitude kneeling beneath it.
1180This was their rural chapel. Aloft, through the intricate arches
Of its aerial roof, arose the chant of their vespers,
Mingling its notes with the soft susurrus and sighs of the branches.
Silent, with heads uncovered, the travellers, nearer approaching,
Knelt on the swarded floor, and joined in the evening devotions.
1185But when the service was done, and the benediction had fallen
Forth from the hands of the priest, like seed from the hands of the sower,
Slowly the reverend man advanced to the strangers, and bade them
Welcome; and when they replied, he smiled with benignant expression,
Hearing the homelike sounds of his mother-tongue in the forest,
1190And, with words of kindness, conducted them into his wigwam.
There upon mats and skins they reposed, and on cakes of the maize-ear
Feasted, and slaked their thirst from the water-gourd of the teacher.
Soon was their story told; and the priest with solemnity answered: –
'Nor six suns have risen and set since Gabriel, seated
1195On this mat by my side, where now the maiden reposes,
Told me this same sad tale; then arose and continued his journey!'
Soft was the voice of the priest, and he spake with an accent of kindness;
But on Evangeline's heart fell his words as in winter the snow-flakes
Fall into some lone nest from which the birds have departed.
1200'Far to the north he has gone,' continued the priest; 'but in autumn,
When the chase is done, will return again to the Mission.'
Then Evangeline said, and her voice was meek and submissive,
'Let me remain with thee, for my soul is sad and afflicted.'
So seemed it wise and well unto all; and betimes on the morrow,
1205Mounting his Mexican steed, with his Indian guides and companions,
Homeward Basil returned, and Evangeline stayed at the Mission.
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