Cajun History

Acadian Reminiscences – Chapter 4

 

Acadian Reminiscences
by Felix Voorhies, 1907

 

The Acadian Reminiscences, is a word painting of the life of the Acadians in the Teche Country in the long ago.

 

The plain, simple frugal life of these people, their devotion to principle, their unbounded faith in the goodness of God, their love for each other during all their misfortunes and perilous wanderings, appeal to the heart.

 

The simple pathos of the grandmother’s story comes to us with such consummate art, that the eye unwittingly grows moist, as the reader follows the journeyings of this little band, self-exiled and noble in their poverty, from desolated homes on the bleak Acadian coast, to their final destination in the hospitable valley of the Teche.

 

 

Chapter 4 – Threatening Clouds Overcast the Acadian Sky:
The Elders of the Colony Meet in Council to Discuss the Situation

“Six months passed away without our receiving the least intelligence of what had become of our brave young men.  This contributed, not a little, to increase our uneasiness, and to sadden our thoughts, for we felt in our hearts that they would never return.  Our forebodings proved too well founded,” said my grandmother, with faltering voice, “we have never ascertained their fate.  We knew, however, that the war was still progressing, and that the French were losing ground every day.  The English directed all their efforts against Canada, and seemed to have lost sight of Acadia in the turmoil and fury of battle.  In spite of our anxiety and apprehensions, the peace and quiet of the colony remained unruffled.  Alas! we had been lulled to security by deceitful hopes, and the storm that had swept along Canada, was about to burst upon us with unchecked fury.  Our day of trial had dawned, and, doomed victims of a cruel fate, we were about to undergo sufferings beyond human endurance, and to experience unparalleled outrages and cruelties.”

Our grandmother, at this point, was overcome by her emotion and hung her head down.  Awed into admiration, mingled with reverence, for her noble sentiments and for the ardent love she still cherished for her lost country, we gazed upon her in silence, and understood now why it was that she always wept when she spoke of Acadia.  Having mastered her emotions, she brushed away her tears and resumed her narrative as follows.

“Petiots,” she said in a sweet sad tone, “your grandmother always weeps when the remembrance of her sufferings and of her wrongs comes back to her heart.  She is an old woman and her tears soothe her grief.  Scars of a wounded heart never heal entirely; joy and happiness alone leave no trace of their passage, as you shall learn hereafter.  But why should I speak thus to you?  Soon enough you shall learn more from the teachings of grim experience, than from all the sayings and maxims, how wise and judicious soever they may be.

“It was bruited at St. Gabriel that the English were landing troops in Acadia, whence came the rumor, no one could tell, and it would have been impossible to trace it to its source, and yet, uncertain as it was, it created considerable uneasiness in the community.  Bad news travels fast, petiots, and it looks as if some evil genius took delight to dispatch winged messengers to scatter the tidings broadcast over the land.  The rumor was confirmed in a manner as tragical as it was unexpected.

“One morning, at dawn of day, a young man was lying unconscious on the green near the church.  His arm was shattered, and he had bled profusely; it was with the greatest difficulty that we restored him to life.  When he opened his eyes his looks were wild and terrified, and, despite his weakness, he made a desperate effort to rise and flee.

“We quieted him with friendly words, and he heaved a deep sigh of satisfaction.  He had a burning fever, and his parched lips quivered as he muttered incoherent words.  We removed him to the priest’s house, where his wounds were dressed, and when he had recovered from the exhaustion occasioned by the loss of blood, he related to us what had happened to him, and we listened to his words with breathless suspense and anxiety.

“The English”, said he, “have landed troops on the eastern coast of Acadia, and are committing the most atrocious cruelties.  Their inhumanity surpasses belief.  They pillage and burn our villages, and even lay sacrilegious hands on the sacred vessels in our churches.  They tear the wives from their husbands, the children from their parents, and they drive their ill-fated victims to the seashore, and stow them on ships which sail immediately for unknown lands.  They spare only such as become traitors of their Faith and to their King.  They raided our village at dusk yesterday, and have perpetrated there the same wanton outrages and cruelties.  They reduced it to ashes, and the least expostulation on our part exposed us to be shot down like outlaws.  They have driven its inhabitants to the seashore like cattle, and when through sheer exhaustion, one of their victims fell by the road side, I have seen the fiends compel him with the buts of their muskets, to rise and walk.  I have escaped, in the darkness of night, with an arm shattered by a random shot, and I have run exhausted by the loss of blood, I fell where you have found me.  They will overrun Acadia, and they will not spare you, my friends, if you show any hostility to them.  Your town will be raided shortly, and you cannot resist them, my friends.  Abandon your homes, and seek safety elsewhere, while you have the time and chance to do so.

“You may well imagine, petiots, that our trouble was great when we heard this terrible news.  We stood there, not knowing what to do, although time was precious, and although it was necessary that we should devise some plan for our safety and protection.  In our predicament and in so critical an emergency, our only alternative was to apply to our old curate for advice.

“He gave us words of encouragement, and withdrew with our elders to his room.  We remained in the churchyard, grouped together and speaking in whispers, our souls harrowed by the most gloomy and despairing thoughts.

“Ah!  Petiots, we often speak of a mortal hour, but the hour that passed away while these men were holding counsel in the curate’s room, seemed to encompass a year’s duration.  Our happiness, our all, our life itself, in fact, were at stake and turned on their decision, and we awaited that decision in dreadful suspense.  At last our elders, accompanied by our old curate, sallied out of that house with sorrowful countenances, but with steady step and firm resolve written on their brows.”