Friday, 9 May 2014

...of a ghost town

It was indeed true. During that autumn of 1765, a handful of English, under command of Captain Sterling of the Highlanders, crossed the Alleghanies and were coming to take peaceful possession of their hitherto inaccessible lands in the Illinois.
To none did this seem a more hated intrusion than to the people of Saint Phillipe. After the excited meeting at Sans-Chagrin's tavern, all went to work with feverish haste to abandon the village which had been the only home that many of them had ever known. Men, women, and children seemed suddenly possessed with demonic strength to demolish. Doors, windows, and flooring; everything that could serve in building up the new was rifled from the old. For days there was gathering together and hauling away in rough carts constructed for the sole purpose. Cattle were called from the pasture lands and driven in herds to the northward.
When the last of these rebellious spirits was gone, Saint Phillipe stood like the skeleton of its former self; and Picote Laronce with his  daughter found themselves alone amid the desolate hearthstones.
"It will be a dreary life, my child, for you," said the old man, gathering Marianne in a close embrace.
"It will not be dreary," she assured him, disengaging herself to look into his eyes. "I shall have much work to do. We shall forget - try to forget - that the English are at our door. And some time when we are rich in peltries, we will go to visit our friends in that great town that they talk so much about. Do not ever think that I am sad, father, because we are alone."
But the silence was very desolate. So was the sight of those abandoned homes, where smiling faces no longer looked from windows, and where the music of children's laughter was heard no more.

[The Maid of Saint Phillipe, Chopin, K.]

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