A Story of Acadia

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A Story of Acadia
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A STORY OF ACADIA. Yet to be Embalmed in Verse by an American Poet. (N. Y. World.) RICHIBUCTO, N. B., November 28, 1878.— If Mr. Longfellow would visit this region he would find scattered throughout the valleys of the Miramichi, Richibucto, St. Louis and Aldenane rivers descendants of those Acadian farmers whose dire history he has enshrined in "Evangeline." Up to 1724 this region was in the hands of the Richibucto Indians, a fierce and warlike tribe who in that year, after laying waste the sparsely settled country, attacked Canso, and captured seventeen Massachusetts fishing vessels which were lying at anchor inside the roadstead. Their chief, Argimoosh, the Great Wizard, was an intrepid leader, and after putting his warriors on board the fleet, sent word to Cape Ann that he intended visiting their port. Two well equipped ships from Boston answered his defiance, and a desperate battle was fought at Canso, in which Argimoosh was slain and the power of his tribe utterly broken. On this deliverance from an inhuman foe, the peaceful Acadians began to fill up the country. Where this town now stands they built a hamlet and dwelt in the simple manner of Acadie. Year by year their numbers increased, and in 1750 they had extended their settlements to Buctouche, Petitcodiac, Memramcook and Shediac. Between these settlers and the Acadians in the parent settlement on the shores of the Basin of Minas there was much intercommunication; and in 1755, when the edict went forth for the deportation of the latter, the former were declared to be suspects before the law. The sufferings of the New Brunswick Acadians, if not so tragic as those of their brethren of Grand Pre, are still worthy to be told. Mayhap the poet of "Evangeline" will yet sing them. The materials for the poem are to be found not only in the records of the British officers who persecuted them, but the legends and homely ballads that still live among their descendants. On the 16th June, 1755, Colonel Moncton, the British commander, forced the little French garrison in Fort Beausejour to surrender, and the day following the Acadians round about were placed under military interdict. Moncton had been told that they had furnished provisions to their compatriots in the beleagured fort, and issued an order placing them under surveillance. The Acadians were beyond doubt the victims of the soldiers and freebooters who coveted their humble possessions. On the night of the 17th, when the settlement had retired to rest, a trumpeter from Moncton’s corps rode up and down the street sounding the alarm and bidding the men assemble on the green at midnight. The women with the children, fearing evil, rose also, and at midnight 140 souls awaited Moncton’s commands. It was a dark and stormy night, and with difficulty the people kept their pine torches burning. An officer appeared, and the trumpeter having proclaimed silence, announced to the little garrison that His Majesty the King was much displeased with them for aiding the French garrisons. "At this very time, said he, "His Majesty has discovered that your kinsmen at Grand-Pre have also given succor to the enemy, and it is his royal pleasure that they be transported into his American colonies, and that their goods and chattels shall appertain to the Crown. See to it that ye Acadians in this region offend my royal master no more, for he knows how to punish ingratitude. Henceforth ye shall be watched day and night, and whoever is found in treasonable practices he shall be declared an outlaw and his lands and tenements confiscated." Jean Laramondelle, the patriarch of the village of Beausejour, stepped to the front, his daughter Marie holding a torch beside him, and answered defiantly, "We have heard the King's commands and pronounce them unjust. The Acadians of Beausejour love peace and observe the law. They have not aided their gallant compatriots, though they bewail their misfortunes. The King’s threat to put spies upon us is a vain one, for not even he can watch the emotions of an Acadian heart. Our title to this land has been won by suffering and privation, and is registered in the blood of many martyrs. Tell the King he accuses us unjustly, hence we despise his threats." The adventures of Jean Laramondelle and his daughter from 1755 until 1760, when the whole Acadian population of this district submitted to Colonel Frye at Fort Beausejour, then Fort Cumberland, form the burden of the songs and traditions of the Acadians of to-day. In October, 1755, soldiers surrounded his house by night and in the King's name ordered him to surrender. He and Marie were engaged in prayer, and he roee from his knees and opening the door bade the King’s men enter in God’s name. They seized him as though he were a murderer, and one of them, snatching a brand from the hearth, struck him across the face, the fire destroying his sight and leaving him totally blind. He called to Marie to flee, for she had been vainly struggling with the soldiers, and she escaped by a window and reached a neighbor’s house. He was bound and carried into the fort. The next day Marie, after praying the Blessed Virgin’s help, dressed herself as an Indian maiden and entered the fort, soliciting alms. The soldiers did not recognize her. She found that her father was in a cell beneath the officers’ quarters. They were’sitting at the porch, laughing at the misery of the captive, when Marie approached, and, forgetting the character she had assumed, sang in French the song of the orphan child: Chretiens, faites l'anmone, Faites la charite, C'est un Dieu qui l'ordonne, Chretiens, ayez pitie. Her father, hearing her voice, rushed to the window of his cell, and this betrayed her. She was seized by the soldiers, and after a form of trial, father and daughter were ordered to leave the settlement forthwith, under pain of death, and forbidden to enter any other Acadian district. Marie determined to go to Quebec and place her case before the authorities. Four hundred miles of trackless wilderness lay between Beausejour and the capital, and the winter was at hand; but, nothing daunted, she resolved to set out with the blind old man upon the journey. The officers permitted her to take leave of the blighted settlement and to receive the blessing of Father Bonvalet, the aged Acadian priest. The neighbors gathered on the green at sundown, and Jean, guarded by two soldiers, was led before them, his gray hairs falling over his face as he bowed his head and the tears trickling from his sightless eyes. Marie supported him, for he was weak and emaciated. The people uncovered in the presence of this great sorrow, and even the strong men wept. "We come," said Marie, in tears, "to bid you adieu. You have heard our sentence. We go to seek justice, but if we find it not here, the God of our fathers will render it hereafter. Acadians, my heart is breaking. Oh, Father Bonvalet, pray for us and bless us." She said no more, but fainted, and the priest, standing over her and placing his hand on Jean’s head, commanded the people to kneel, while he invoked God's blessing upon the exiles. For four years, tradition says, Marie and her father wandered through the Western regions. She had been told that she need look for no sympathy at Quebec, for the war was still raging between the, French and English and the commanders had not time for women’s tales. The scattered farm-houses gave her shelter, and in return the blind Jean related the legends of Normandy, while she sang the old ballads of their people; but they never forgot to praise God who had tried their souls sorely. The Indians always welcomed them, and she was known to them as the Okictoo, the bird of the plaintive song. She made many converts and the miracles that were wrought in answer to her prayers bore witness to the favor she had found in the sight of heaven. Indian runners carried messages to her from the pious Acadians of Beausejour, who were in terrible straits, Moncton’s interdict leaving their property if not their lives at the mercy of every vagrant loyalist who chose to swear that he believed them guilty of treasonable practices. In her prayers she never forgot them nor they her. At length, in 1760, when the English remained masters of the country, the Acadians were relieved of the ban, and gathering at Beausejour they took the oath of allegiance before Colonel Frye. Marie and her father, who was now eighty years old, heard the news at Nepisiguit and hastened to the ceremony. The Acadians went out to meet them with Father Bonvalet at their head, singing the cantique of Ste. Anne, patroness of those in exile: Du cette vie Tu connsis les douleurs, Mere cherie, Qui desolent les coeurs En ce sejour d'alarmes; Seche, seche nos larmes, Repands sur nous tes plus douces faveurs. Jean's land and tenements were restored to him, and the youth of Beausejour were right glad to plough and sow and reap for him, for Marie was still winsome and fair to look upon, her sufferings having but slightly touched her beauty. After a Season, when the painful memories of her trial had passed sway, she gave her hand to Eric Saint-Malo, and Jean's household was gladdened with many grandchildren. To this day Marie Laramondelle is the Acadian pattern of filial devotion, and a stone cross, with the words Beatam me dicent omnes generationes marks the spot where her kindred buried her at a ripe old age, and sought to perpetuate he virtues.