of Louisiana Literature
T. Wharton Collens.
The Martyr Patriots; or, Louisiana in 1769.
An Historical Tragedy in Five Acts.
THE MARTYR PATRIOTS; OR,
LOUISIANA IN 1769.
An Historical Tragedy in Five Acts.
BY T. WHARTON COLLENS.
Adelaide, Mrs. Villere,
Denoyant, Milhet, Marquis, Carrere,
Surgeon, A Creole Soldier,
A Crowd Of Citizens.
Herald, First Judge, A Spanish Soldier,
A Spaniard, A Scribe, Ruffian, Judges, Sailors,
Scene 1. — A public place (trees on the sides, a church in the
[Lafrenière enters, holding an open letter.]
Laf. (refers to his letter).
’Tis well — ’tis well — these things will serve the cause
Of Freedom; and though our mother spurns us
From her bosom, we gain our Liberty
By that unnatural deed. My country,
My noble country, yes, thou shalt be free!
Thou ne’er canst brook the shame of slavery;
Thou wilt not tamely thus be bartered off.
What! Sold like cattle? Treated with disdain?
No! Louisiana’s sons can never bear
Such foul disgrace. And when I’ll tell them all,
Of every insult, and the shame which thus
This reckless King would heap upon their heads,
’Twill put a burning fagot to their pride,
’Twill blow their indignation into flame;
And like the fire on our grass-grown plains,
By raging winds devouring driven,
’Twill spread, in blazing waves, e’en to the edge
limit of the land; and then,
Proud Kings, beware! Lest e’en within the bounds
Of Europe’s slave-trod vales the blaze should catch,
Sweep despots and their thrones away, and like
Unprofitable weeds consume them all.
Ay! And how happy this occurrence!
’Twill aid my own ambitious views; and while
The cause of freedom prospers, so shall I.
For ’tis my aim, in this young colony,
To be the first among the free — to lead
Them on in war, and rule by equal laws
A land of liberty. Oh! could I see
The Independence of my native land,
Myself its Liberator and its Chief —
Not Csesar’s glory nor his power would
One moment be my envy. O lovely,
Glorious picture of futurity
Which now my young imagination draws
In brilliant hues of glittering hope,
Thou dazzlest e’en thy painter!
Comes not. I must tell him all my plans,
And gain his sanction to them, or I fear
They’ll not succeed. In such respect are held
His silvered head and sage advice, that once
Unto me his adherence gained, most sure
The people’s warm approval I’ll obtain,
And all that hope doth promise soon possess.
Ah! But here comes my Adelaide. O love!
Thou hast a power which we cannot break!
But though thy chains are strong, and bind us tight,
Yet they brace us up, and give us double strength
For action; and the bold hero oft achieves
His noblest deed when ere the doubtful fight
He kneels to thee.
Adelaide. Ah, Lafrenière,
What brings thee out so soon? The god of day
Hath scarcely risen in the east, nor hath
His morning rays as yet dissolved the drops —
The diamond drops, which, shaken from the veil
Of humid night, are sparkling in the rose,
Or on the breast of some blue violet.
Laf. How could I stay at home, my Adelaide,
And, like an owl, hide myself from light,
When, like the early lark, I fain would seek,
Impatient to behold, thy sunny eyes, and bask
Beneath their cheering beams!
Ade. Nay, but the owl
Is Wisdom’s chosen bird. Thou shouldst be wise,
And copy her.
Laf. I would be happy first.
Ade. Smooth flatterer! Enough of honeyed words,
Which sportingly, and with a cruel joy,
Make but a plaything of a woman’s heart.
Tell me, what news from France? Since early dawn
My father seeks thee through the town. ’Tis said
Thou hast late tidings of Lesassier.
Sweet Adelaide disturb not now thy soul
With cares of politics, which ’tis the lot
Of womankind, much happier than our own,
Ne’er to be troubled with.
Ade. Thou wrong’st our sex.
Think ye that women have such hardened souls
As not to feel their country’s sufferings?
True, they mind not (as do some silly men)
On which poor courtier kingly smiles are turned,
Nor do they calculate each changing shade
Of policy of jealous nations ’twixt
Each other, but when a woman sees
That pending dangers, thickening round,
Threaten the land where Heaven casts her lot,
Then is each throb her father — brother — feels
Reëchoed in her breast.
Laf. Well, let us hence
Unto thy father’s dwelling; as we go,
Thy gentle ear shall hear the painful news.
[As Lafrenière and Adelaide go out, Aubry enters.]
Aubry. Ay, there they go, smiling on each other —
She with many looks of tender love,
He with the gaze of conquering passion;
And I am left despised, without a hope
Save that of dire revenge; and that I’ll have,
Cost what it may, ten thousand crimes,
Toil, pain, and years of time. I’ll persevere
Until I tread upon his very neck,
Nor yield, though seas of bitter tears are shed.
I’ll have a sacrifice of human blood
Unto my hate paid up. And am I wrong?
He thwarts me daily at the council board,
Resists the plans I lay to serve and gain
The favor of the Spanish Governor.
His very reputation is my bane —
It points invidiously at my own,
And has more power in this colony
Than I can claim as legal Governor.
Ha! Here cometh one I have enlisted
In my cause, and who doth serve me well.
Ah, Garidel, I’m glad we meet to-day!
You find me in a flowing humor for our work.
Hast thou performed the charge I gave thee?
Garidel. Yes —
I put the letter on her toilet table.
Aub. Well, what result?
Gar. None — she has not seen it.
But prithee, Master Aubry, why not use
Some means more certain in effect to part
These foolish lovers? These letters, well wrought
And plausible, ’tis true, can they reduce
Love’s hottest flame? They may cause some pouting;
But oaths and tears soon quell the anger raised
By cloaked accusers ’gainst the one we love.
Aub. ’Tis well to try this method first; and then,
If not successful, I have other plans.
Gar. And they are?
Aub. Listen, Garidel. Art thou
An honest fellow, and can I be sure
That if I give thee all my confidence,
Thou’lt not deceive me?
Gar. What, Master Aubry,
And do you ask me that? But yesterday
We did acknowledge to each other
That nature round our hearts had wound a tie
Of sympathy. Have you not often said,
That, in the darkness of my brow, there was
A something most congenial to thyself?
Aub. But answer, wilt thou aid me against Villeré,
And Villeré’s house to all extremity?
Do not anger me. Have I not advised
The use of stronger measures ’gainst them? True,
Villeré has been a father to me.
He found me, when an infant, in a ditch,
Thrown there by an inhuman mother.
He picked me up, and had me nursed with care,
And, cheated by the fairness of my skin,
He thought me one of Europe’s sickly race,
And did adopt me as his son, and strove
To teach me science and morality.
But now I am among his servants classed;
For soon as I grew up my figure changed;
And this black hair, and eye, and bronzèd face
Proclaimed me one of that dread tribe of men
Whose birthplace is the undivided wild,
Whose law is in the power of their arms,
Whose hate is trusted to a poisoned knife,
Whose thirst is for the white man’s blood,
And whose ambition is to sweep away
Those pale usurpers of this land
Who seek to pen the freeborn Indian up
And set a bound’ry to his roving steps.
Listen, Aubry! I feel as if the red man’s God
Had cast my lot amidst thy race to be
An agent of our nation’s vengeance.
Think ye I’ll shrink from such a sacred task?
Though Villeré still should call me his own son,
I would begin with him. I’ll end, perhaps,
Aub. With me!
Gar. Nay, speak not of yourself,
But parley to your purposes. You have
My service now; use it while you may.
Aub. (aside). A dreadful fellow this; but I must bend
Awhile unto his temper.
(To Garidel.) Well, I see
Thou art the man I sought for, Garidel.
I’ll trust thee to the whole. Listen! If I fail
To gain my end by superstition’s aid;
If calumny, with her venom, don’t succeed
In turning their sweet loves into bitter
Jealousy — why, Garidel, I’ll then attack
That very beauty which enslaves my heart
And causes all my pain; ay, and to which
Lafrenière kneels. I swear by Heaven
I’ll destroy it, and what I could not gain
No other man shall feast upon. Look here!
This vial holds a subtle poison
Which, rubbed against the rose and lily
Of her face, will raise it full of blots
And biles, ulcers and putrid sores make her
Disgusting to every one around her,
And even to herself. Tell me; think ye
He’ll love her then?
Gar. (taking the vial). Trust it to my hands.
I will apply it. But is it’s venom sure?
Say, from what propitious fiend of hell
Did you the drug procure?
Aub. From that old witch,
That bride of Lucifer, the fortune-teller
Who lives midst the miasmas of the swamp.
Do you not know her?
Gar. No; but tell me
How to find her; for, if she sells such drugs
As this, her traffic might be profited
By my acquaintance.
Aub. Near the rotting trunk
Of that dead cypress tree which stands,
Like a giant skeleton, behind the common
Burial ground, without the city,
Her hut she has erected. It seems a heap
Of half-burned logs, and boards, and earth
Thrown there by accident. She chose the spot
For it is solitary, and near the fens
Where toads, and snakes, and poisonous weeds
Are trod upon at every step. ’Tis near
The graves and crumbling tombs from whence she gets
Most fit ingredients for the hellish spells
She deals in. The day she gave me that,
I found her in her low and dingy cabin
Couched on the humid earth — watching,
With a curious care, some working spell
Which crackled ’midst the smoking embers.
A reddened light fell o’er the African;
Her twisted hair, white as a maiden’s shroud,
Contrasted with her ebony skin; and her limbs,
Shrivelled by age, were but half covered ’neath
Some filthy, partly-colored rags.
A laugh, which sounded like a tiger’s growl;
A smile, as when he shows his bloody teeth —
Her heavy lips relaxed, while, searching mine,
She raised her serpent eyes. I tremble
Gar. And I rejoice.
Aub. By Heaven!
How can I reward thee?
Gar. Teach me more crimes —
They give me joy enough! Continue on;
Detail your full intention unto me.
What would you do ’gainst Villeré, and ’gainst young
Lafrenière? I pant to deal with men.
Aub. (taking a dagger from his bosom). Here is a dagger I would
trust with thee;
Its point is more envenomed than the bite
Of any serpent in thy native woods.
If thou couldst only touch them with its point —
They die, and I am happy.
Gar. (takes the dagger). I take it,
And will do the deed; and though, with prudence,
You have steeped the dagger’s point in poison,
Yet the wise precaution shall be useless;
For, when I strike the oppressors of my race,
The blow shall reach their hearts.
Aub. Hush! be carefull!
Ah! Sir Villeré,
We meet in proper time. This way I came
To give you notice, that, at twelve to-day,
The council meets; and you, of course, must come:
For your opinions, ever wise, will aid us much
In acting on the matters strange we must
Vil. Whatever wisdom, sir,
Heaven may have endowed me with
Is at the service of the colony.
But tell me, sir, what strange occurrence this,
Which is so greatly to engage our minds?
Aub. Excuse me, sir; this public place ill suits
The tale. Already have seditious men
Summoned the crowd to meet them here, and soon
The hour fixed will strike. Adieu, sir;
We shall expect you.
[Exit Aubry and Garidel severally]
Vil. Strange this,
The people and the council both —
For thus I love to call thee —
What stir is this, my son? Why is this
Meeting of the people called?
Laf. Ah, Villeré,
I have got such news ’twill turn your blood
To fire. What think ye — France — France has spurned us,
She has disowned us! We have lost the name —
The glorious name of Frenchmen.
Has the King refused our prayer?
Laf. Ay, insists
That he will sell us like a gang of slaves,
And give us the treacherous Spaniard
For a master.
Vil. Can it be so? O France!
How couldst thou treat thy children thus? But say,
Lafrenière, is there no hope remaining?
Laf. None but in ourselves.
Vil. Speak, what can we do?
Laf. Have we not freeborn souls, stout hearts,
And sinewy arms?
Vil. We have; what then?
Laf. What! dost thou ask it? Can we stand thus,
With folded arms, and with our swords still sheathed,
And see our country trampled in disgrace —
Sold to a Spanish tyrant, be made
Spanish slaves — and not a single effort make
To gain our liberty?
Laf. Ay, Liberty!
The word sounds strangely in your ear; but soon
Will come a day, when, after father, mother, God,
That word will be the first one taught
To prattling babes; and even now
I’d have it make each brave Louisianian
Thrill with a godlike sentiment,
And like the electric shock
Strike to his ardent soul, and wake him up
To deeds of honor and renown.
Vil. But do I understand thee well?
Ha! hast thou pleased thy fancy with a dream
Of Greek republics, or of a Roman commonwealth?
Laf. Then must slavery be our choice.
"Would ye have us bear the yoke of Spain, and
Call her tyrant our king and master, and
Her treacherous sons our countrymen?
Vil. Ah, much rather would I die than bear
Laf. And why not rather then be free?
There is no middle stand between two.
Ungrateful France has bartered us away;
We should from her ask help no more; but now
Must pass from one proud master to another,
Or rise at once like men, and boldly strike
Vil. I fear, my son, that thou art right.
But be exact. What are thy plans?
Have I sent Garidel around, to call
Together our most worthy citizens.
I would have them, now, disclaim all foreign
Power, govern themselves; and take up arms
Should France or Spain invade the land.
Vil. But stay,
Lafrenière, dost thou not dread a failure?
Laf. I dread dishonor more.
Vil. We are few, and all
Laf. Our cause is just. That — and
An able leader — will insure us victory.
Vil. But France and Spain are powerful; they’ll pour
Upon us armies, fleets. Could we resist
Such mighty strength as theirs?
Laf. Well, should we fail,
"What then? We will have done our duty;
But should we yield without a struggle,
Not only chains we’ll bear, but fame will brand us —
Vil. Thou hast gained me; and now with thee
This compact do I make to fight, and die
Or triumph by thy side.
Laf. Come, let us haste
And make some preparation for the meeting.
[Exit Lafrenière and Villeré.]
[Enter Denoyant, Milhet, Marquis, and
Denoy. ’Tis my opinion that our deputation
Will meet with full success. Louis can never
Thus abandon his faithful subjects,
And his richest province in the western world.
Car. Well, I confess I have strong doubts;
’Tis probable, I think, that all our hopes
Will be deceived, and that the Spaniard
Will reign in Louisiana yet.
Were I but sure that such a day would come,
I’d quit my native land, home, and possessions
All and hie me to some distant shore,
Where I’d not see nor even hear it told.
Milh. For me, far rather would I drain this heart
Of all the blood that rushes to it now,
Than see my country for one moment suffer
Such foul disgrace.
Marq. And I reecho that,
If e’er a Spanish tyrant treads on me,
’Twill be upon a lifeless corpse.
Car. Well, well! That
Such sentiments are highly noble
I don’t deny. But are they not in vain?
Eesistance will serve us nothing; we must
Be conquered. Should we take up arms,
Our stubbornness will but increase
The tyrant’s rancor.
[During the dialogue
Crowds of Citizens
enter from every side.]
Marq. Here comes Lafrenière.
[Enter Lafrenière and Villeré.]
(Voices.) What news? what news?
Laf. Fellow-citizens, most painful tidings
Do I bring you. All, all our hopes are crushed.
A letter from our friend Lesassier,
Chief of the deputation we have sent
To lay our griefs before the King, and beg
The revocation of the shameful treaty
Of which we have such reason to complain,
Informs me he could not even reach
The royal presence — that the ministers
Kefuse to listen to our just demands,
And that we, at our gates, may soon expect
A Spanish army.
(Voices.) Shame! What degradation!
Laf. My friends, there is not one of you, I hope,
Whose soul feels not its indignation rise,
And all its anger conflagrated burn,
To hear of the high contempt with which
Licentious Louis treats our prayer. Countrymen,
Shall our native land, our honors and our lives,
Be humbled to strange laws laws
Made by tyrants and by slaves enforced?
(Voices.) No, never.
Denoy. What can we do?
Laf. I’d have ye
Take up arms — yes, die or triumph —
And never yield submission to the yoke.
When ills have reached their last extremity,
Despair must give the remedy that cures
Their strong intensity.
Car. Can we resist
Our pending fate? Can we contend ’gainst Spain’s
Laf. Why ask ye not if hearts
We have, of temper bold and brave, and souls
Which labor to be free? Why count ye numbers?
Say, do ye fear to die, or care ye if
Your death doth come from one or from
Ten thousand hands?
Vil. I think Lafrenière right.
Our numbers are but few, but still we may,
By courage and determination, intimidate
Spain’s mercenary hordes and free our shores
From vile pollution.
Marq. My life, my fortune,
Freely would I give, to save my country
From this bondage.
Denoy. And I!
Milh. And I!
Car. And I!
Laf. My countrymen! I knew ye could not brook
This much-detested change. Soon would our
Patriot breasts be strangers in the land
Where once they breathed their natal air,
If we should try to join the variance wide
Which parts us from the arrogant Spaniard.
His morals, manners, character, all vary
From our own. Frenchmen will now disown us;
Spaniards we can never be, nor Englishmen;
But shall we be without a name? Of what
Nation will ye call yourselves? Old Europe
Has not a name to fit ye. Then let our
Country be Louisiana! Let’s be Americans!
Citizens. Yes, yes! Americans!
Laf. Ay, that’s a name
That will be ours; that none can take away.
Already has the
cry of liberty
Resounded in the North. The colonies
Of Britain, the thirteen provinces, have risen
’Gainst a despot’s tyranny; already
Has their blood flowed in the sacred cause.
Let’s mix our blood with theirs,
And doubtless victory will coronate
The sacred pact. The Indian will help us;
For he has heard, e’en in the trackless woods,
Of mines, where Indians find a living tomb;
Of all the Inquisition’s horrors dark;
Of blood-stained Gothic institutions, and
Of feudal slavery. Let us resist, I say!
Remember well, that Fortune’s favored ones
Are noble, daring in audacious bravery.
Citizens. We’ll not submit! No, never! never!
Gar. The Spaniards have reached our shores! A fleet
Bearing in it full five thousand men sails
Swiftly up the river.
Laf. Now! now,
My countrymen! now is the time to prove
Our firm resolve! Let us haste and arm, and
Drive them back as we did the ignoble
Don Ulloa! Soon must we give our liberty
Its baptism of blood! Prepare to die or be
Triumphant! Ay, let’s take a sacred oath —
A solemn pledge, of victory or death!
Swear, countrymen! to die or to be free!
Citizens (simultaneously stretching out their right hands). We
Scene 1. — The Council Chamber. Aubry, Villeré, Milhet, Denoyant, Marquis, Carrere, and other members of the council
round a table.
Aub. Gentlemen, matter of great consequence
Unites us here to-day in grave debate.
Deliberate measures must we take, and
Prudence more than anything to-day should guide
And dictate all our actions. No reckless
Eesolutions, or undertaking rash,
By us adopted, should this fair province,
And ourselves, in risks and danger plunge.
You have already been informed that this
Fair colony has, by our gracious King,
Louis the beloved, been surrendered
Unto his Majesty the sovereign Charles
Of Spain. I need not tell you of the greatness,
The clemency and wisdom, of this prince.
Obedience to him is our duty.
Long have I waited with impatience,
That o’er us should begin his rule. At last
My longing wishes are all satisfied.
[Enter Lafrenière, who remains in front.]
O’Reilly, with full powers from his King,
Ascends the river and will soon be here.
’Tis true, that moved by futile hope, and strong
Attachment for the mother country,
Our citizens did drive good Don Ulloa
From their native shore; but of this wrong deed
They have, I hope, repented. Ambitious
Factions and discontented men, I know,
Have, by their cunning and exciting speeches,
Stirred their noble spirits to rebellion;
But quick submission will, I hope, soon show
That ’tis but a moment’s aberration
Which leads them thus, with folly, to disown
The will and power of their rightful king.
Laf. (aside). Base hypocrite! lying traitor!
Your Excellence will pardon me, if my
Opinion differs from your own. I think
Our citizens are not thus unsteady;
Nor are they guided by a blind caprice.
What they have done, was calmly done, and not
In headlong haste. They have resolved to rise,
And desperate resistance to oppose
To the invading horde; and their honor
They have pledged, at price of blood, to save
Their country from oppression.
Laf. (aside). Ay, tremble,
Ye traitors, for they’ll keep that sacred oath.
Aub. Much does it hurt me to confess the great
Displeasure I do feel, Sir Villeré, now
To find that you, whose discreet judgments have
So often shed benignant influence o’er
This council board, should thus have joined the voice,
The raging of the factious few, whose acts,
Thoughtless and criminal, ere long might bring
An evil scourge upon Louisiana,
And on themselves complete destruction.
Laf. (aside). God!
Restrain me, or I’ll kill the wretch!
Villeré, that when the Mississippi’s wave,
With mighty force, and waters running high,
Threatens to crumble down our feeble dykes,
The prudent planter seeks to prop the banks
Or mend the widening breach. I fondly thought
That you, in this event, would seek to set
The barrier of your wisdom up against
The unruly current of this folly —
This rash presumption which menaces now
To sweep you with it, and destroy you.
Laf. (aside). Oh, the bribed scoundrel!
Vil. Aubry, I care not
How soon this white head of mine is felled; still
Persist I in my first opinion. Wisdom,
You say, has until now her breath infused
Into my words; she has not quit my side.
No factious counsel have I given; but
The people — the whole people — have arisen,
And Spain’s mercenaries shall dye their swords
In Creole blood, and tread upon an host
Of slain, before they gain the city’s walls.
Denoy. Ay, Aubry; and I have joined them too, and
Have pledged my honor also with the rest;
And to redeem the promise I have made,
My sword must triumph in the battle, or
My life be paid a tribute to the grave.
Milh. And mine!
Marq. (to Aubry). Sir, we’ll never yield!
Denoy. No, never.
Aub. Gentlemen! This is rebellion — treason!
France has made a formal resignation —
Car. I do deny the right —
Denoy. We all deny it.
Aub. The people here cannot assume a voice.
Laf. (to Aubry). Thou liest, dog! The people will assume
That right —
Milh. Yes, and they’ll maintain it too!
Laf. Ah! hear you that, your Excellence? Thought ye
These men were bought by dirty Spanish gold?
You’ve called them traitors — you are the traitor I
Do you not hold a correspondence close
With the governor of Havana, say?
And sent you not unto the court of Spain
The names of those who led the noble band
Which drove proud Don Ulloa from our shore?
I tell you, Aubry, you are the traitor.
Aub. Gentlemen, do you suffer this?
Do you appeal to them? Go, call your friends,
The treacherous Spaniards.
Aub. I’ll call my guard.
I’ll have you all arrested. (The members rise and draw.)
Laf. What! — guard! arrest!
I do defy you to attempt it. Ha!
Pronounce one word, and round us I will bring
The assembled city, all up in arms,
To tear thy worthless soldiery to pieces,
And destroy thee with them.
Aub. (softening). Excuse me, sirs,
But ’twas my duty which commanded me.
I meant no insult, nor was I in earnest —
Laf. (to Aubry). Silence!
(To the members?) Gentlemen! The people send me to you.
My message is, that they have made me chief,
And all authority have placed in me,
Until invaders shall no more pollute
The air we breathe. This council is dissolved;
And you, my friends, it is expected, will
Unite your strength with ours, to repel
The horde of bandits who, advancing fast,
Approach with angry cries our walls.
Our fellow-citizens ordain, we’ll do.
Denoy. And we are happy, Lafrenière, that you
Have been selected to command.
Is thus insured.
Marq. And confidence inspired.
Aub. I do protest against this whole proceeding.
It is illegal.
Laf. (to Aubry). Silence, I tell thee, thou perfidious
(To the members.) My friends, it is my ardent wish
That your great trust in me should be maintained.
All my best energies I’ll use to gain
The franchise we aspire to. The aid
Of your advice, good gentlemen, will be
Of great assistance to me, and I hope
That ’twill be given with profusion. Come,
Let us haste; our forces must be formed.
And we must march to-night.
[Exeunt Lafrenière, Villeré, and members.]
Aub. A coward! yes,
I know I am a coward; but, rash youth,
With all thy bravery, I’ll overcome thee.
Ay! trust thee to honor, strength, and courage.
Cunning will overset thee with a straw.
Aubry will teach thee lessons so severe
They’ll make you feel as a well-punished child
Scorching ’neath his tutor’s whip. I’ll teach him,
Young, presuming dog! to know his fellow-men —
Their falsehood, and the little trust to place
In all their oaths and protestations loud.
To-morrow’s dawn shall ope to disappoint
His proud ambition and his brilliant plans.
Scene 2. — Adelaide’s apartment.
Gar. ’Tis now my glowing Indian blood doth flow
With all its vigor through my beating veins.
How high it leaps at thoughts of gratified
Revenge! (Holds up the vial of poison.) All hail, thou elixir
Poison to her, and balm to me for every wound
Inflicted by her father. Now’s the time —
No one observes me — none will dare suspect.
(Takes up a vial from the toilet table.)
This is her favorite essence; ’tis the
Sweet cologne of wide reputed virtue —
Its purity unsullied as descending dew,
Its odor fragrant as a garden’s breath,
Its healing power most miraculous.
(Pours the vial of poison into it.)
Neither its odor nor its color change.
Thou God! it will succeed! Ha! how she’ll look! —
Her beauty gone and horror in its place!
I see her raving at its loss; and he,
Distracted by the dreadful blow, shall writhe
Beneath the vengeful stroke. Her father, too! —
Ha! how he will feel it, when this goddess —
This queen of beauty he so dotes upon,
Will fall upon his neck all withered o’er
By sullying disease! Ha! and perhaps
He’ll shrink away, and dread to kiss that cheek
On which so often he has pressed the lip —
The fervent lip, of warm parental love.
Ah! and her mother — what will she do? Oh,
She will die! For ’tis beyond conception
That she should bear the dreadful agony
That this will bring upon her. They come —
I must not here be seen. O happy hour!
Brim full of secret pleasure.
[Enter Adelaide and
Mrs. Vil. My Adelaide,
Thy choice, indeed, doth satisfaction give
To thy fond mother. Of all the noble
Youths who crowd to catch one softened ray
From those bright eyes of thine, more worthy none
Than young Lafrenière is to be thy lord;
His form is cast in manly beauty’s mould,
His heart is virtue’s richest, purest gem,
His mind a palace genius lighteth up.
Ade. Ah, mother, thou dost almost flatter him.
Mrs. Vil. Faultless, I do not say he is.
Ade. Some faults
He has; but, like clouds around the sun,
They’re gilded over by the shining rays
Cast from the brightness of his qualities,
And only serve to give a high relief
To all the splendor of his virtue.
Mrs. Vil. Say,
Think ye not he is presumptuous?
Ade. No, no.
Presumption is, I think, the distance ’tween
What men themselves believe to be the worth,
The virtue, talent, power, they possess,
And what their real value is. Pray, then,
To what has young Lafrenière yet pretended
In which he overprized himself?
Mrs. Vil. Thou dost
Defend him well, and with an eloquence
Near equal to his own.
Ade. My heart doth prompt it.
(Trumpets, drums, and shouts are heard without, distantly.)
Mrs. Vil. Hark to these sounds!
Ade. (opening a window). See, mother, ’tis the proud
Array of war; and, while we talk of love,
Our youths abandon now their chosen fair,
And court the favor of less tender dames:
Glory and carnage, and bright liberty,
Are now the mistresses to whom they bow,
And deck their forms in warlike garb to woo.
Think, mother, that our verdant fields will soon
In gory streams be soaked; and that many friends
We love, ’neath hostile swords may sink. Ah! think,
That my father, too, may fall amidst the fight,
Pouring his life-blood on his native soil —
Dying — all gashed and pierced and trampled o’er
By charging horses and the reckless feet
Of rushing thousands. (The noises are repeated.)
Mrs. Vil. Ah! my Adelaide,
Thou bringest on me thoughts which shake my soul
E’en to its inmost dwelling.
Mrs. Vil. Husband!
Vil. My wife — my child!
Mrs. Vil. Villeré,
I read my fate already in thine eye.
Thou art called to risk thy life, so precious
To our hearts, in battle’s dreadful fury.
And must we now, when years of quiet and
Content have blessed our union, part with fear
Of never meeting more?
Vil. Not so, my spouse.
Let not thus fear victorious hold the sway
Of thy true heart. Let rather pleasing hopes
Dispel thy cloudy bodings of the future.
No share to me is granted in the fight
Which is to fix my country’s destiny;
And, though I begged a station to obtain
In its defenders’ ranks, my prayer was vain.
Lafrenière, whom the people have appointed
Leader, sends me amongst the settlements
To call in all Louisiana’s force,
And gain the succor of our red allies.
From thence, in haste, I’ll wend my lengthened way
To ask assistance of that noble race
Who dwell along Atlantic’s western shore,
And who are now, in proud array, opposed
To proud Britannia’s tyranny.
Mrs. Vil. Thanks to Lafrenière for this happy care.
Much will I try, the pleasure now he gives
This sorrowing breast, in double fold to pay.
Ade. But, father, dost thou leave us e’en to-day?
Vil. Yes, all is ready, and I go e’en now;
My steed awaits me at the gate.
Mrs. Vil. My love,
Why haste you thus? Oh, wait until the morn!
Stay with us yet this day.
Vil. Each minute counts.
Come, then, embrace thy husband e’er he goes. (They embrace.)
My country needs the promptest services,
And I must fly upon the wings of haste.
My daughter, go, tell Garidel prepare
To start upon this voyage with me.
Come, my love, be not depressed. I’ll send thee news
Of all that doth befall me as I go.
Mrs. Vil. And must it then be so? But, Villeré, say,
Wilt thou be absent long?
Vil. But six short weeks
Will suffice for my duty. I’ll then return;
And Heaven grant I find my country free,
The Spaniards beaten, and untroubled peace
Around our happy fireside! And then,
My wife, the long retarded union of
Our child with Lafrenière once solemnized,
In tranquil solitude we’ll pass the days
Of our last years.
Ade. Father, thy bidding’s done; Garidel is ready.
Vil. I thank thee, child;
But come before thy father goes, and take his blessing.
(He kisses her forehead, and she kneels.)
My daughter, Heaven bless thee,
Ward off all dangers from this lovely head,
Keep thy fragile frame from pain or sickness,
Preserve thee to console my coming age,
And make thee thy Lafrenière’s worthy bride. (She rises.)
Remember oft thy father; in thy prayers,
Each eve and morn, send up to God’s high throne
An earnest supplication for success
To all his labor, and his safe return.
Ade. Oh! could I forget that duty, father?
Oh, may my faint petition reach the ear
Of Him who holds our fate within His hand!
He’ll not refuse what asks a guileless heart:
He’ll shield thee, father, and will keep thee for us.
Mrs. Vil. Nay, go not yet.
Vil. Indeed, I must depart.
My country calls. Adieu! (They embrace and part.)
Mrs. Vil. Adieu!
Ade. O mother, I am faint! This unforewarned
Departure of my father striketh hard
Upon my heart, and makes me feel quite sick.
Mrs. Vil. (wetting her kerchief from the vial). Here, my
daughter, here; respire this, my love,
And pour it o’er thy cheeks, and neck, and temples;
’Twill spur the blood that stoppeth in thy veins.
[As Mrs. Villeré gives the kerchief and vial
to her daughter, Garidel enters.]
Gar. (aside). Ha!
(To Mrs. Villeré.)
Dear madam, I come to bid adieu
To you and kind Miss Adelaide.
Mrs. Vil. Thank thee,
Garidel, for this attention. Good-by.
I wish thee a pleasant voyage, and hope
That nought but good will come across thy path.
Gar. Thank thee, good lady; but is Miss Adelaide
Unwell? — she looks quite pale.
Ade. A little faint —
’Tis nothing — this will drive it soon away.
But, Garidel, take good care of father —
Let nothing do him harm.
Gar. Long as this arm
Can move, it shall be lifted to protect
My benefactor. Adieu! (Garidel shakes the hands of both.)
Mrs. Vil. Indeed,
Garidel is well worthy of the care
That on him Villeré has bestowed; but say,
My daughter, art thou still unwell?
Ade. ”Tis past —
I’m quite recovered.
Mrs. Vil. Well, then, I leave thee;
I have some duties to attend to. (They kiss.)
[Exit Mrs. Villeré.]
How full of pain this hour is, and how
My feeble heart doth throb with suffering!
(Sees a letter on the toilet.)
Ah, a letter! ’Tis addressed to me. What can
It be? (Opens it and reads.) “Adelaide, thy love’s bestowed
On one unworthy; and the hot passion
He pretends, a false heart disguises.
His high ambition and his secret plans
Force him to seek an union which will gain
A strong support to all his wild designs.
And, lady, though he feels no spark of love,
Yet still he woos thee for thy name, and will
Perhaps e’en yet sufficient power have
To make thee spurn the warning of a friend.”
Ah! can this be true, or is it calumny?
O Lafrenière, couldst thou deceive me thus?
Oh, double blow of pitiless misfortune!
Laf. Ah, Adelaide! thou seem’st unwell, my love.
Say, what weighs thee down so heavily?
What! is’t on me thy angry frowns are bent?
What have I done to merit such reception?
Ade. Leave me this instant, sir!
Laf. Nay? say not so.
Thou art not serious, Adelaide. Ah,
That blush which doth suffuse thy lovely cheek
Methinks doth tell another tale!
Ade. Blush, sir!
The red that rose upon my brow doth mark
My great displeasure at the sight of thee.
Laf. Heaven! what crime have I committed?
Art thou not false, and is not Ambition
The only dame whose favors thou dost court
When thou dost kneel to me?
Laf. ’Tis true I am
Ambitious; but, my Adelaide, I swear
Thou’rt joined with my ambition’s brightest dream;
And laurels, riches, fame, I’d cast away
As childish baubles, nor would I aspire
To aught above the name of honest man,
Did I not think to share these things with thee.
Ade. Most bravely, frankly, said; and thou too canst
Thine honor and thy truth both lay aside
With her whose weakness ye’d beguile. Sir,
I have friends who o’er my welfare watch,
And whose kind care detected have thy plans —
Thy wily, base, ungenerous plots.
Laf. (kneeling). Upon my knees I pray thee, Adelaide,
Tell me what whim is this. What black falsehood
Hast thou heard which makes thee doubt, what ne’er
Until to-day hath been impeached by woman or
By man — Lafrenière’s honor?
Ade. Ay, ’tis thus
With all your sex: ye kneel and cringe;
With cheating words, and oaths, and promises,
And whining prayers, ye do triumph o’er
Our unsuspecting hearts; and when we own
Your power, and our love — to masters change;
Poor feeble woman’s duty then becomes
To watch each caprice of a tyrant’s will —
Live in his smile and wither ’neath his frown.
Laf. (who has risen). Lady, I’ve done. Thou’lt hear from me no more
Words prompted by my passion’s ardor. Yet
Do not think the fire that burns within
This breast will cease to burn. Though smothered,
’Twill not die, and, thus confined, ’twill torture
None but me. My countrymen await me.
Oh, may I lead them unto victory,
And may I meet with death!
Ade. What have I done?
Why did I not show him this? — Laf — Ah, no!
I must not call him back; he would exult
As in a victory. Proud of the strong
Seductions of his mien and eloquence,
He’d look upon me as a conquered slave.
No, no: I’m full of love, yet I’m as proud
As he. Ah, my mother! To thee I’ll haste
For consolation to my stricken breast. (Exit)
Scene 3. — A Wood (Night).
[Enter Aubry, accompanied by Ruffians.]
Aub. Yes; this is the place fixed by Garidel —
His note describes it well. Go ye and hide
Behind these trees; and, when I the signal give,
Hush on Sir Villeré — ye know him all. Mind,
Shed not one drop of blood, or ye shall not
Be paid a single sou. Remember well,
That he that’s with him is a friend. Go.
Villeré, I think I’ll make thee much repent
This morning’s insult, thrown with heedless hand
Into my face. Villeré my prisoner,
My favor with the Spanish chief is doubly
Sure; and thus both interest and my hate
I serve at once; and yet I will myself
Be safe, nor stand the danger of a blow.
’Tis thus with prudence men should ever act,
Nor rashly jeopardize their own lives
In open combats of uncertain end.
It is not all to serve the spite one feels,
But most maturely should we weigh results.
None would I hurt who useful to me are,
Though I should hate them with a poisoned hate.
But if I loved a man — though that can’t be —
I’d have him murdered if he barred my plans.
These fights, done in the world’s wide eye, create
To one an host of angry enemies;
But ’tis the midnight blow, the killing draught,
Which yield revenge while safety is not risked;
And on to-morrow I can give this hand
Into the brother of the man it kills
Gar. (outside). ’Tis a fit place. Good Sir Villeré,
Let us here dismount and seek the path: on foot
We’ll find it easier. Our steeds are tired —
Let’s give them rest a while.
Aub. Ah, here they come,
I must conceal myself; I’ll not approach
Until he’s well secured and bound.
[Enter Garidel and Villeré.]
Vil. Well, Garidel,
With thy fancy for a shorter path,
We’re lost, and now must pass the dreary night
In this cold morass.
Gar. I promise it, good sir,
That in a healthy bed you’ll sleep this night,
And ’neath a shelter most secure. (Thunder.)
Vil. Hear that!
And we shall have a storm to make the night
Most comfortably romantic. (Lightning and thunder.)
Sir Villeré, walk with me but some few steps:
Surely I’ll meet with friends.
[Enter Ruffians slowly creeping behind.]
Vil. Pshaw! seest thou not
That we are in the very swamp itself?
This delay distracts me. Oh, my country!
May Heaven shield thee till I send thee help.
I fear the battle, on which turns thy fate,
Will be decided e’er I send thee succor;
And that thy little band will be o’erwhelmed.
Gar. Come. This swampy air doth chill your blood:
Vil. (turning, sees the Ruffians and draws). Ah, see,
Garidel! through the darkness I discover
Some human figures lurking.
Gar. Ah! doubtless
They are black, runaways! Give me your sword,
For I am young and strong; take these instead.
(They exchange arms. Villeré gives Garidel his sword, who returns a brace of pistols. The Ruffians rush on Villeré, who
attempts to fire, but the pistols snap. The Ruffians seize him.
Vil. Treachery! Wretches! slaves! unhand me!
(The curtain falls.)
Scene 1. — The interior of Lafrenière’s tent.
Laf. I like the plan; it will, I think, secure
A glorious victory. On one side
The deep, broad, rapid Mississippi rolls;
And, on the other, impenetrable swamps
Prevent approaches of the foe. Our front
Protected by a breastwork and a fosse,
We can defy the well-drilled troops of Spain,
Bring all our force to bear, and though unused
To battle (yet, in savage forests trained
To use, with fatal aim, the carabine),
Americana’ s brave and hardy sons
Will strew the field with dead, make the Spaniard
Shrink away with dread, and victory insure.
Yes, I like the plan; it answers well;
It is the only one by which the rising
City of my birth, Louisiana’s pride,
Can be defended ’gainst invading hordes
Who seek for rapine and for slaughter.
Aubry! What wouldst coward, traitor, here?
Hast thou repented hast thou brave become,
And wouldst thou aid thy country in the fight?
Or dost thou come, a cunning spy, to watch
Our movements, and give the Spaniards notice?
Aub. Lafrenière, I am no traitor. I ne’er
Acknowledged thy authority, nor that
Of those who rashly made you chief: I owe
Allegiance to the Spanish king; and I
Do show obedience to the plain command
Of Louis, by whose decree and gracious will
I held the rule o’er this fair colony.
I have protested, but in vain ’twas done,
’Gainst thine and the people’s usurpation
Of the power which belonged to me. But since
My proclamation is disdained,
I ask thee — chief of this rebel army —
Laf. (offers to strike him). Rebel! vile traitor, had I not
On thy helplessness, I’d shake thy limbs apart
For this insulting insolence.
Aub. Nay, sir,
Excuse my words; no insult did I mean,
And hope it is not taken so. The words
Came of themselves upon my lip: I called
Them not with wish of giving you offence;
But rebels, fear I, ye will still be named,
Unless victorious in the coming fight —
(Lafrenière offers to draw.)
Nay, sir — I beg — I would not anger you —
There’s no insult meant.
Laf. Speak! What wouldst thou?
Aub. I pray that, since I owe you no submission,
Since enrolment with you is but voluntary,
Since ’tis the duty of the rank I hold,
Since my proclamation has been vain,
That you would let me, at this hour, repair
Unto the Spanish camp, and there remain,
And all the rights of war partake as do
The other subjects of the Iberian king.
Laf. Pshaw! Think’ st thou that we do want thee ’mongst us?
Go, sir! The service thou canst render Spain
Will do us little injury. Go, sir!
And bow thy servile head unto the slave
Of Europe’s vilest despot. Go, sir!
We want not cowards, traitors, ’mongst us;
We’ll dread thee less when in the Spanish camp.
Aub. I thank you, sir — I go; but —
Laf. Mind thee, sir,
Thou’lt run much risk to cross this camp; for if
One of the citizens discover thee,
Thou’lt soon be torn into a thousand parts.
Aub. I know that; for I heard them cursing me,
As I passed through them to you. I dread not
Such detection; this cloak doth hide me well.
But can I pass the outposts?
Laf. Thou couldst not,
Unless thou hadst the word. But that would make
Thee tremble, but to hear it spoken out;
’T would choke thy utterance to speak the word;
’Twas made for braves and freemen to pronounce.
Without there! citizen!
Conduct this man beyond the outposts, and leave him free.
[Exit Soldier and Aubry, who bows to
Lafrenière as he goes out.]
O man! thou art a creature strange indeed!
Who can explain the workings of thy heart?
Aubry is insolent, yet cowardly —
A traitor, who killeth while caressing you;
And yet how many other men are mild,
Yet brave and true, who scorn a crime!
Some men have virtue, others vice; and while
Each beast has some peculiar character,
Man cannot say that he is so or so.
The tiger is bloody, false, and cowardly;
The lion is bold and generous; but men
Have souls of various makes, so many
That they not even know themselves.
I get no news of him; what can it mean?
’Tis now a week since I have sent him hence,
And yet he does not send intelligence;
No succors do arrive. Why lags he thus 2
Are the settlements indisposed to join?
Is he neglectful? No! That cannot be.
I know not what to think.
[Enter Mrs. Villeré.]
Mrs. Vil. Lafrenière!
Laf. Madam! What can bring you here?
What has occurred? Your look is full of pain.
Mrs. Vil. Where is my husband, Lafrenière?
Laf. Thy husband!
Lady, I sent him to the settlements
To gather forces for the army.
Mrs. Vil. Have you got news? Where — how fares my husband?
Laf. Lady, I’ll not deceive you — I know not.
Daily I’ve waited for some messenger —
Yet none from him has arrived. I tremble
Lest some accident has befallen him.
Mrs. Vil. Ah! ’Tis this I have trembled should occur.
Ah! ’Twas thy unquiet spirit led him on,
And brought thy country into dangers vain.
Laf. Madam, reproach me not. Do you not teach
Your beauteous daughter, by your precepts wise,
That honor’s palm is more, in real worth,
Than the gaudiest diadem which e’er was placed
Upon the brows of shameless votaries —
That death is better than a tarnished fame?
And wouldst thou see thy loved husband, lady,
Or I, or any of thy countrymen,
Bend to a stranger’s pride? Say, should we live
To blush to own that we do live? Ah, lady, no!
It cannot be that Villeré’s wife doth utter
Words which would make her husband blush to hear.
Mrs. Vil. True, true. Lafrenière, thou dost speak it right.
Pardon me — I am distracted. Heaven
Is witness that I love my husband’s fame;
But I could love him with that fame all lost.
Laf. Cheer up, good madam!
[Enter First Soldier.]
What wouldst thou, soldier?
Sold. A deserter from the Spanish camp asks
For admittance near you. He doth assert ,
That he has business pressing and important
To lay before our chief.
Laf. Bring him to me.
[Enter a Spaniard, exit Soldier.]
Approach, good fellow! Art thou from the camp
Span. I am; I hope it will please you, sir,
I’m charged to bear this letter to you.
Laf. Ha! Thou God! It is Villeré’s writing!
Mrs. Vil. Villeré!
Head! Read! Eead! What does he say?
Laf. (reading). " My dear friend:
To him who bears this I have promised safety,
And from you a rich reward. Garidel
Has proved a traitor! Plotted with Aubry!
And since six long days I’ve been confined
On board a Spanish ship. Console my wife
And gentle Adelaide! "
(Mrs. Villeré faints and falls into the arms of the Spaniard,
while Lafrenière exclaims.)
He has escaped me! O Aubry! Aubry!
Hadst thou but come an hour later! What can I do?
I have no prisoners who are worth him;
I’d have to force the Spanish camp to reach
The ship. My troops are much too raw. Distraction!
Mrs. Vil. (recovering). Oh, my poor heart! Thou art quite
hard to burst.
(To the Spaniard.) Where is the ship? the Spanish ship which
My husband the man who sent you here?
Span. A mile
Below the other camp, and near the shore,
[Exit Mrs. Villeré.]
Laf. (who has not seen what has passed, but who is still musing).
Yes, that’s the only way to save him yes. —
To-night, assisted by th’ obscurity,
I go, in a well-armed boat, below,
To burn the ship, and save my aged friend —
Ah! Where is the lady gone?
Span. She went out
In sorrow overwhelmed.
Laf. Poor, good lady!
She hastes too much to tell the fatal news
Unto her daughter and her friends. Follow!
Scene 2. — A Spanish ship at anchor in the Mississippi, near the bank;
two boats alongside; sailors lounging in different postures;
the sun setting; Aubry and Garidel on deck.
Aub. The fool! He thinks that bravery alone
Can the Spaniards in this crisis serve. Ha!
I know a secret path meandering
Through the swamp, by which I can, with every ease,
Bring in his rear half of the Spanish host,
While in his front the other half cloth charge.
Gar. Ha! ha! How will his helter-skelter band
Oppose Spain’s compact legions then? But say,
How has the poison worked? Did you inquire?
Aub. Yes; while roving about the city’s streets,
I met a slave of theirs. The thing works well,
But slowly; each day a change for Averse is seen.
It will soon break out in all its frightfulness.
Gar. I saw her use it ere I started thence —
Perhaps she does so even now. I felt
A strange pleasure when I saw it. Aubry,
Thou didst discover regions in my soul
Which ere thou cam’st were yet untrodden. Thanks
Be to thee for thy keen perception. I’ve found
My element; soon wilt thou see me swimming
In a sea of blood.
Aub. (arising). Garidel, adieu,
This hour must I meet O’Reilly — he’ll not
Be driven off as Don Ulloa was.
To-night I lead the Spanish troops around;
And to-morrow shall Lafrenière’s blood
Stream out with bubbling force, and I shall laugh
To see it flow.
(He enters a boat.)
Gar. Adieu, good master Aubry;
I wish thee much success. I’ll be with you
If my duty here is done in good time.
I’ve yet to hang old father Villeré;
I think he’ll not take long to die. Adieu. [Exit Aubry.
Well, now that darkness has commenced, I may
Begin this old rascal’s execution.
My men! To work! Prepare the rope bring up
That fellow from the cabin. We shall see
How he can dance in air; from yonder mast
We’ll swing him off. Ha! here he comes! I’ll try
The temper of his soul, in this dread hour,
E’en in its tenderest part.
[Enter Villeré, led up in chains.]
Good news I bring you your child and lady
Soon you’ll see.
Vil. O Garidel! Though thou hast
Betrayed me, and most ungrateful proved;
Though thou hast e’en upbraided me for all
The very kindness I’ve heaped upon thee
Yet I would pardon all, and die with joy,
Could I but clasp them once — but once — again,
With these weak, shackled arms!
Gar. Well, then, ’tis gained;
Soon will I have thy pardon, benefactor.
Ye’ll meet them not with shackled arms, and not
To quit them soon again. Come, will you go?
Gar.I do assure you!
Vil. (kneeling).I thank thee
With lowly and confounded wonder, God!
God of the helpless, receive my fervent
(All the Sailors together.) Amen!
Vil. (rising). Well, Garidel!
Do I go now, or when?
Gar. Yes, even now.
Vil. Take off my chains.
Gar. Not yet; but ye shall not
Have them when you meet your wife and child.
Vil. Well, well, that’s all I care for; say, go I
Within that boat?
Gar. No! By a shorter road.
(Pointing to the rope prepared to hang Villeré.)
See! Yon rope shall bear thee to them.
Thy wife and child will meet thee in the grave.
(Garidel and the Sailors hurst into a loud laugh.)
Vil. (after standing a while confounded ). Wretches!
[Enter Mrs. Villeré, on the bank.]
Mrs. Vil. My husband!
Vil. God! is this a dream?
Gar. No, it is no dream! ’Tis triumph! Glory!
Woman, prepare to see thy husband die!
Mrs. Vil. (kneeling). Oh, spare him, Garidel! Oh, remember,
He saved thee when a child from want and death,
He was a father to thee in thy youth,
He loves thee with paternal love! Oh, stay!
Garidel, have pity!
Gar. Pity? I know not
What you mean. (Mrs. Villeré faints.)
Vil. Nay, trifle not so roughly;
This can’t be serious; ’tis a cruel play.
I will go to my wife; she awaits me there.
Gar. Ha! ha! The gallows ’tis awaits you, sir!
Come, prepare the rope — despatch!
Vil. The gallows! (Striking Garidel.)
Slave! Durst thou thus insult me?
Gar. (drawing a dagger). Ha, Villeré!
This dagger was given me for thee!
(Stabs Villeré several times.)
Vil. (falling). God!
I’m dying! My child! My wife! My country!
Mrs. Vil. (recovering). Where is my husband? Did he not
Gar. (steeping a kerchief in Villeré’s blood). Thy husband,
woman! Here is his blood!
(Throws the kerchief to her.)
Mrs. Vil.(staggering). Oh!
Gar. Art thou not satisfied? Go, join him, then!
(Fires a pistol at her; she falls and dies.)
[At that moment Lafrenière rushes in along
the shore, accompanied by armed followers.]
Laf. Stop, murderers! Ah, ye have done your work!
But mine begins! Fire! (The soldiers fire; Garidel staggers.)
Gar. (falling). Lafrenière, I die!
But I await thee at the gates of hell. (Falls.)
Scene 1. —
Lafrenière’s tent in the background.
The bodies of Mr. and
Mrs. Villeré laid out on a litter;
Lafrenière gazing upon them.
Laf. There — there is what is left of noble man
And virtuous woman. There Villeré lies,
The wise, the brave, the generous — a man
Respected, loved; he had a crowd of friends,
Who shook his hands and clasped him in their arms:
Now they would loathe e’en to put their finger
On his dead, but stately, brow; they’d stand round
In silence, as if they feared to wake him
From the marble sleep of death, and look on
With eyes and faces which would seem to say,
Can he be dead? What! can this be the man
The living man we saw but yesterday?
To-day, God! what could have done this?
By some slight gashes on his side he lieth there
The senseless mockery of what he was!
And on his human faculties is placed
A seal as lasting as eternity.
[Enter Adelaide, extremely pale and
emaciated; he does not see her.]
Thou God! what will I say to Adelaide?
I’d tremble ’neath the look of that poor girl,
And feel, though pure, as guilty of a crime.
Laf. Heavens! What voice is that?
No, no, it cannot be — thou art not Adelaide!
Ade. O Lafrenière! speak not such dreadful words.
I know — it I am no more that beauteous
Adelaide on whom ye once did fix the gaze
Of love; but though now but the ghost of what
I was — the tattered remnant of a robe
Which once was rich and graceful — oh, let not
This new deformity drive away the love
Which once was fostered in thy breast
For me! Oh, make me not loathe e’en myself!
Know’st thou not thine Adelaide? Say, has she lost
All semblance to herself?
Laf. My Adelaide! (They embrace.)
Ade. Lafrenière! Ah! well mayst thou look with wide
Astonished eyes upon me. Look, look on;
But try to look with love and not disgust.
Seest thou these sunken, tarnished eyes — this
Deadened skin which leaves the unhealthy flesh —
These lips, which thou didst oft compare, whene’er
Amidst the bloom of spring we roved, to every
Crimson flower thou didst pluck — these lips,
Like those now withered flowers, have faded too.
Laf. Nay; rave not so, my own dear Adelaide,
’Tis only passing sickness — thou’lt be well
In some few days.
Ade. No, no; believe it not.
I thought so too; but I did hear them say,
In whispers which they thought I did not hear,
’Twas poison —
Ade. Yes, a cankering
Drug, well known by its fell workings on me,
Which on my skin perfidious hands have put,
And which will soon (oh, wilt thou love me then?)
Break out in putrid sores and leaking biles.
Nay, do not seem thus horror-struck.
Laf. O God!
It cannot be, my Adelaide. Who could have done —
So infamous a deed? What hast thou done
Who harmed — that one should seek thee out and thus
Deface thy cheek with his polluted hands?
Ade. Ah, was it not a wanton crime?
Laf. O man! what can exceed thy wickedness?
That enemy of every breathing thing,
The serpent of the woods, will raise his head,
Hiss, and shake his rattles at the approach
Of unsuspecting feet. But man, the greatest
Enemy of man, rejoiceth in the blood
Of innocence; and, while wild beasts destroy
To get their food, man — savage — man doth kill
To kill, and doth amusement find to see
The blood ooze out of wounds his hand has made.
And laughs when victims writhe in death’s last agony.
ADB. Ah, Lafrenière, say dost thou love me still?
Laf. If I do love thee, Adelaide? Ask me
If this warm heart still beats; for till its throbs
Do cease, its highest bound will be for thee.
Ade. We parted last in anger. ’Twas silly;
But thou wilt not chide me, Lafrenière,
Though ’twas a jealous whim, for sorrow now
Inflicts the punishment upon me. Think,
I blush to tell thee, some rival enemy
Of thine he cannot be thy rival now,
For thy love hangs not on the flesh as doth
The love of common men — yes, that rival
Wrote me this, and I believed it — ah, wilt
Thou love me less?
Laf. Astonishment! Yes, yes,
’Tis Aubry’s secret hand with which he wrote
That false perfidious note he once addressed
To Don Ulloa, full of monstrous lies
Against his countrymen. Aubry! Aubry!
Thy deeds will soon encounter punishment.
Thou God, turn on him his own faithless arms;
Bring on him, though not from Lafrenière’ s hands,
The lying snares he knows so well to lay
The poisoned blades he can so well direct.
the bodies, but not recognizing). Ah, what! has
the war so soon been fatal?
Perhaps some orphan o’er each body there will weep
A father slain. Who are they, Lafrenière?
Laf. (aside). Thou God, what can I do to ward this blow
Ade. Say, were they good and virtuous?
Laf. They were indeed.
Ade. O death! why dost thou not —
Guides in its rapid flight the fatal ball,
Directs the impending sabre where to strike —
Why dost thou not, while ruling o’er the field,
Select such victims of the battle’s strife
As should be punished by thy bloody scythe?
Preserve the father for his anxious child,
And pierce the heart whose wishes, could they kill,
Would slay a husband and a widow make.
Say, had they children? I would fain console them
In their pains, for I can feel how strong must be
The pangs which tear a son’s or daughter’s soul
When parted from a father’s love forever.
Laf. My Adelaide, look not so on that dark
Display of man’s frail destiny, but come,
For much emotion suits not thy weak health.
Within my tent thou mayest rest awhile.
The travel from the town must have fatigued
Ade. True. But is my mother there?
Laf. Thy mother?
Ade. Yes. What startles you so much?
Where is my mother? I must find her straight.
She went from home to seek thee, and inquire
If news you had of my father’s uncertain fate.
She promised, when she left my filial arms,
In three short hours to be back again.
But what disturbs thy countenance, and shakes
Thy body thus? Some accident, I fear,
Hath to my mother here occurred.
Laf. No, no.
’Tis the humid breath of evening which makes
Me feel unwell. Come, come, let’s hasten in.
Ade. Nay, nay! I came to seek my mother here.
Where is my mother?
Laf. My gentle Adelaide,
Why wilt thou fret so much? What wouldst thou, girl,
Should happen to thy mother here?
Part not a mother from her child. Oh, sir,
What harm has crossed her path? Shall I not look
Again upon her features — kiss her cheek?
Oh, I pray you by the love to me you’ve sworn,
Give — give me back my mother!
Have courage, girl. How can I tell thee all
Unless thou hast a stouter heart?
Ade. Oh, yes!
I see it now! Some fatal accident
Has robbed me of her! Oh, my mother!
Where — O Lafrenière, where is my mother?
Let me embrace her even if she’s dead. (She turns to the bodies)
Can it be! — those bodies! (She runs towards them.)
Ade. (uncovering one of the bodies). Oh! (Faints.)
Laf. (taking her in his arms).
Too tender maid, canst thou
withstand this shock?
Or has it, like the fiery bolt from high,
Destroyed the beating life within thy breast,
And borne thy soul upon its wings to God?
Halloo, within there!
[Enter First Soldier.]
Go, call the surgeon
Of the army fly! Tell him it presses much!
[Exit First Soldier.]
[Exit Lafrenière, bearing Adelaide into his
Den. Yes, yes, it must be so; the troops I see
Advancing in our rear are certainly
The promised succors from the country sent;
They have a martial mien, appear well ranged,
And firm within their ranks. (A trumpet sounds distantly.) Do
Or are my ears deceived? A Spanish march
Methinks they sound. I do remember well
The tune. (The trumpet sounds again.)
Marq. We are lost! we are lost! undone!
Den. Friend, what hast thou?
Marq. The Spaniards, on our rear,
Approach with half their force. See them advance!
Come, let us haste and arm.
Laf. Thank God, she breathes!
But, oh! she will not long survive the hour
Which loosed the band which held on earth the soul
Of parents, whom as much the girl did love
As the woodland flower doth the earth and shade
By which ’tis nourished and ’neath which it grows.
Once taken from that native soil, it pines,
Nor can attentive hands revive its drooping life
No man-made showers, nor artificial warmth,
Can stop its fading or arrest its death.
Den. See, Lafrenière, see! the Spaniards come!
Laf. Nay, Denoyant! seest thou not they come
Upon the rear? How could the Spaniards pass
The morass on our left, the river on our right?
These are doubtless succors, come at last.
Den. Nay, sir. Observe their discipline, their dress,
(The distant trumpet sounds again.)
And listen to that march.
Laf. My doubts are gone.
Den. And Louisiana’s lost.
Laf. Not so, sir!
She is not lost! Are our hands chopped off?
Are we not Louisianians yet?
The coming fight will show you, sir, what can
Men, by the love of Liberty impelled,
’Gainst venal hirelings to tyrants sold.
Den. On our front too see, sir the enemy
Is marshalling his men.
Laf. To arms! to arms!
Haste thee, Denoyant, and bear the order.
Let the drum beat the call to arms. Send here
The chief commander of each regiment.
(Kneeling.) Eternal God! thou knowest all the deep
Sincerity of this uncorrupted heart;
And though ’mongst men my bearing has been proud,
Before thy throne I’ve always humbly bowed.
God! thou who pourest out, with equal hand,
Into the current of unstaying time,
Joy’s limpid stream and sorrow’s cup of brine,
Send not to me an unalloyed draught of gall,
But let some sweet be mingled with the pain
Which of late days has fallen to my share.
But if against me only thou art angered,
Then let thy wrath descend on me alone;
And save my country from the ills which I
Should suffer by thy wisdom’s stern decree.
God! By thy strong will our struggles aid,
And send confusion through the ranks of those
Who make Thy name a frightening password
To the greatest crimes. God, I pray thee for
My country’s liberty. Liberty, the gift
Which thou didst give to man e’en from his birth,
Shall it be wrested from his hand to-day?
Thou didst not destine him for slavery
When thou didst make him like unto thyself,
And stamped him in the holy, perfect mould
Of thine own intelligence and beauty.
Shall this proud soul which liveth here, and which,
By thine own lungs, was breathed into this breast,
Be cramped within the carcass of a slave?
It cannot be! I feel thine impulse now;
And victory for us will soon make this day
A day of record on our grateful hearts, (Rises.)
[Enter several officers, among whom are
Marquis, Milhet, and Carrere.]
(The drums beat the call, and the cry is heard.)
To arms! to arms! to arms! to arms! to arms!
Den. A herald from the Spanish line awaits.
Laf. Bring him to me.
[Enter a Spanish Herald.]
Well, Spaniard, what wouldst thou?
Her. Dost thou command these hostile bands?
Laf. I do.
Her. I come a messenger of peace. If you
And yours surrender ere the tight, ye shall
Be treated with humanity, and all
Your vain rebellion pardoned.
Laf. What! pardoned!
Sirrah! Go, tell your master ’tis in vain
He thinks to cheat us with his futile tricks.
We know how far a Spaniard we can trust.
His rancor can be only cooled with blood;
His falsehood teaches’him to kill the man
He hates, e’en while he greets him with a kiss.
Go, tell your chief that pardon we ne’er ask,
But from our God for sins against his law.
Pardon, indeed! We disdain his offer;
And rather much. would give him our blood
Than take his favors, though he tenders life.
Her. Then must I tell you that without delay
The battle will begin on our part.
Laf. We are prepared.
(To the officers.)
Is all ready, gentlemen,
To face the enemy? Can I depend
Upon the bravery and the firmness
Of the men of all your companies?
OFFICERS. You can! you can!
Laf. Well, then, the word shall be,
Charge on for liberty! When ye return,
And take the head, each of his separate band,
Ye’ll tell the soldiers that it is my plan
To break the foe who pens us in the rear,
And then to intrench again beyond them.
Tell them that if we fail in this design,
Our country’s lost, and, what is ten times worse,
We lose our freedom, ne’er to get it back.
Try ye to inspire each soldier with a firm
Kesolve to die or to be free. Remember,
That on our arms to-day depends the fame,
The future reputation of our country;
And on this day we heroes make ourselves,
Or gain the base and ignominious name
Of slaves. Sirs, remember that! and when ye charge
Upon those Spanish dogs, shout the loud cry
Of Liberty into their ears. ’Twill make
The rascals shrink and fly; and like the damned,
Whose power fails when saints appeal to Christ,
These slaves will prostrate fall, when high are raised
The voice and arm of patriots unstained,
For martyrdom prepared.
[Enter Adelaide and Surgeon from the tent.]
Surg. Lady! lady!
You need for rest. Why will you leave your bed,
To strain yourself by this exertion great?
This hard struggle ’gainst your weakness now
Will hurt you much, and may be fatal to you.
Ade. I pray to God, good surgeon, that it will.
Death cannot come too soon upon me now,
For now he parts me from my parents dear.
The blow which struck them reached the feeble thread
On which my life doth hang; and now I’ll knock
With arm untiring at the door of Death,
Until he gives me entrance through that gate
At whose dread portal has been left the dust
Of those who were my dearest love on earth.
(She goes to the bodies; drums beat the charge, firing and
shouts are heard.)
Surg. Lady! lady! for heaven’s sake, retire.
The battle’s raging, and some straying ball
May strike you dead. Come; I will bring you
To some safer place, where, from these flying deaths,
You’ll sheltered be. (Firing, drums, and shouts.)
Ade. Not so. Here let me weep,
And call on Death. He’ll hear the better here,
For he is near me in an hundred shapes.
O father! mother! why are the deadly strokes,
Which fell on ye so lavishly, withheld
From me, whose heart would leap to meet them now?
(Firing, drums, and shouts.)
Laf. (throwing away his sword). Go from my hand, thou
useless trash! Lost! lost!
Thrice did our soldiers charge, and thrice repulsed;
They strive in vain to form their broken ranks;
By myriads stopped, though myriads they have slain,
’Twere vain to try to bring them on again.
In small detachments scattered o’er the field,
They fight surrounded by the compact lines
Of mercenary troops — full ten times more
In numbers. God! God! Can I not something do
To turn the current of the day? Ah, yes!
There — there — I see a rallied regiment! (Shouts.)
Nay! nay! nay! poor weakened eyes, they’re Spanish troops.
Yes, ye demons, stretch forth your glutted throats,
Which gurgle with the blood to-day ye’ve drank.
Let it be heard ’midst hell’s eternal fires,
And let the damned reecho up the cry,
Turned to a shout of victory ’gainst God!
(Spanish soldiers rush in.)
First Spanish Soldier. Kill him! it is their chief.
Ade. (rushing forward and shielding Lafrenière). Nay, nay!
Ye cowards! ye shall kill a woman first!
(The curtain drops.)
DREAM OF LAFRENIÈRE.
(BETWEEN THE FOURTH AND FIFTH ACTS.)
appears sleeping in a prison.
The prison vanishes, and a landscape appears; a wide river
flows through the centre; and on each side of it, extensive forests
and uncultivated fields are seen. On one side stands a throne, on
which a personification of Europe is seated, holding a sceptre, and
having a lash and fetters lying at her feet. A personification of
Louisiana sits weeping, chained to the throne; plaintive music, and pantomime
expressive of the distress of Louisiana, and of the despotism
and cruelty of Europe.
The music gradually changes to more stern and threatening tones
; the sky darkens; clouds appear; the thunder is heard, and the
lightning flashes. A thunderbolt strikes the throne, which crumbles to pieces,
while Europe is thrown prostrate on the earth. The gloom is dispelled, the clouds disappear, the music is
joyful, and Louisiana exults.
Liberty appears descending from above, bearing the American
flag. Above the head of Liberty seventeen stars [representing the
number of States of the Union at the time Louisiana was admitted]
appear arranged in a circle around the words
Liberty approaches and takes off the fetters of Louisiana,
saying: “Arise, my child, rejoin thy sisters.
Thou art free.” They
embrace each other, while Liberty points to the Star of Louisiana rising
in the sky, and ranging itself with the others.
“Hail, Columbia,” breaks forth, and to that tune the fields
flourish, cities rise, boats and ships ply upon the river, and busy crowds
of people thicken on the landscape. The prison resumes awhile its appearance, and again disappears to give place to a dark curtain, on which suddenly appears a
circle of portraits (drawn in white) representing the Revolutionary heroes
and worthies, with Washington in the centre.
Scene 1. — A Prison.
and chained to a ring the wall.
Laf. O Liberty, thou art not invincible!
Slaves by plunder baited have o’erthrown thee,
And thus it seems, that hearts inclined to crime
Do feel for crime as great enthusiasm,
As souls which take their fire from the skies
Do in the acting of a virtuous deed.
my country! and art thou then like me
Chained, fettered, and beneath a tyrant’s foot?
Ah! was green America sought in vain
By Pilgrim Fathers, flying ’cross the main
To seek a refuge from oppression’s rod?
Were its wide forests, where untutored men
Live ’neath the shade of the tall magnolia —
Were its broad rivers, ’gainst whose current nought
But the Indian’s light canoe can ply —
Was its free soil, from whence civilization’s foot
Not yet treads down and wears the verdure off —
Were these unto degrading slavery doomed?
Oh, no; it cannot be! And still I hope.
Last night, when dragged across the horrid field,.
Where hundreds of my countrymen laid dead,
Pierced by mercenary swords and balls,
1 was thrown here, within this dungeon dark —
Long did I weep Louisiana’s fall,
Till sorrow’s fount was drained all dry:
Sleep came at last, and closed my heavy eyes
To ope imagination’s lids on worlds
Unknown, and in prophetic dreams to wake
Midst future days. I saw, though Death metheught
Did press me down with his unbending arm,
My country in a veil of darkness wrapped,
Her wrists and ankles worn by clinching chains,
Her back all marked with deep and bleeding stripes,
And moaning ’midst her sufferings. But soon
The darkness vanished, and a brilliant light
Dispersed the clouds which hung around in gloom;
And forth appeared, in shining radiance,
A youth whose air spoke Freedom, and whose frame
Was built with strength and grace; in his right hand
A palm and sword he held, and in his left
A scroll on which eternal truths were written,
And a floating banner, where, in beauty
Elended, were the white, and blue, and red,
In fulgent stars and flowing stripes disposed.
He broke her bonds, and with his manly voice
Exclaimed, " Go, join thy sisters; thou art free."
Adelaide! What miracle has oped the door
Of this gloomy dungeon to let thee in?
Ade. Lafrenière, I bring thee news of freedom!
With gold — what Spaniard can resist its lure? —
I’ve gained thy jailer, and to-night thou flyest.
Laf. Fly! Lady, no! Here will I stay, and meet
My fate, whate’er it be.
Ade. And that is death,
If thou dost here remain.
Laf. A brave man’s death
Is better than a coward’s flight.
Ade. ’Tis true.
Couldst thou defend thyself, I’d rather see
Thee fighting sword in hand, than aid thy flight;
But here assassination doth await thee,
And, while thou sleepest, treachery will plunge
His poisoned knife into thy noble heart.
Laf. I care not how these Spaniards end my life;
My destiny is fixed. In freedom’s cause
To die, is greater, in my estimation,
Than dragging out in vile obscurity
An useless life. To-day it is the richest prize
My country’s conquerors have gained.
"Well, let them have it, while ’tis worth a crime.
Thy father, girl, is laid among the martyrs
Who yesterday did shed their blood and die
For liberty. What! Shall I shrink away
And dread the example he has set me?
Ade. Then there was hope, but now —
Laf. Honor and glory
Yet remain to be completely gained.
Lafrenière, if thou lovest me, leave these vain
Aspirings. Listen. There is an aged
African, who seeing, as I passed by,
The threatened dissolution of my features,
Offered to give me certain antidotes
For the evil which afflicts me now.
Lafrenière, thou art now the only prop
Round which my life’s weak vine will twine itself:
My father — mother — both have been snapped off,
And if thou fallest, Adelaide falls too.
Laf. God, give me strength to meet this trial hard!
Ade. I will fly with thee to some distant land;
And there, in wedded love, we’ll live in peace,
Blest by contentment and a quiet home.
Laf. ’Tis wrong to put into my hands thy fate;
Why with dilemma thus surround me?
On one side, honor, the fame I cherish,
Call me to stay and die; on the other,
My love, thy happiness and threatened life,
Unite to make me swerve from duty’s path.
Adelaide, thou art unjust; assist me
Eather to preserve my fame unspotted,
And tempt me not to play a shameful part.
Ade. ’Tis said the northern colonies have raised,
And threaten rebellion against England.
Go, join them, and for freedom fight with them.
Laf. I’ve sworn to free my country or to die!
Ade. Dost thou refuse?
Laf. I do.
(She sinks down upon a seat.)
Sustain thyself with better courage.
Aub. Ha! ha! "Well, my good sir, what say you now?
Ha! You have struck — heaped insults on me —
Called me a coward. Well, you spoke the truth.
Say, what think ye of a coward’s vengeance?
(Lafrenière rushes at him, but is stopped by the chain.)
No, no! I had these chains too well prepared.
Aub. Ha! Foolish wench!
What dost thou here?
Well, ’tis a double blow I’ll strike. Listen.
Ye know not all I’ve done against you both.
’Twas I seduced that rascal Garidel
To place bis master in the Spaniard’s hand,
To pour a poison over this maiden’s beauty,
(Lafrenière strains to break his chains, and sinks down in the
trembling with rage.)
Keep cool, good sir, that is not half. ’Twas I
Who made him plunge a dagger in the heart
Ade. God! God! (Faints.)
Aub. What! Faint already?
Halloo without there!
Here, jailer, take out
This foolish girl, and throw her in the ditch.
[Exit Jailer bearing out Adelaide.
So, sir, you have freed your country, have you?
A great and mighty general indeed!
Poor — foolish — vain — rash
— green — hot-headed — boy!
What! Did you think to thwart a man like me?
Thy wild ambition showed the crazy youth,
And not a man to lead an army on.
Why were not the outskirts of your army
Better guarded? I led the Spaniards round
And came upon your rear, nor even met
A single scout until our drums ye heard.
Ay, sir! To me you owe your fall. Say,
What think you of the puny coward now?
Laf. (rising). Aubry, I do despise thee still, and still
I do defy thee! Do thy worst! All’s not done —
I still exist. Why am I not murdered?
Ye cannot lack for those who’d do the deed;
The country’s full of Spaniards now.
Aub. Be sure
I will not leave my work unfinished thus,
Nor can you teach me how to do it, boy.
Ye shall not be murdered in the dark. No!
I’ll have you ended on the public square.
I’ll have you tried, condemned in form, and shot!
You shall have company; four of your friends,
Denoyant, Carrere, Milhet, and Marquis,
Have been already sentenced.
Aub. They come.
Your judges here advance; and, what is more,
I am their colleague named.
Aub. Yes, sir, I!
[Enter two Judges and a Scribe. They seat
themselves at a table
together with Aubry.]
First Judge. Is this the man?
Aub. It is.
First Judge. Of heinous crimes,
Against your rightful king, you are accused.
You have upraised sedition in this province;
You have been the chief of discontented bands;
You have led them on against the army
Sent by his Majesty Most Catholic,
Our gracious lord and master, Charles the Third,
By grace of God King of Spain and India,
To take possession of his proper claim,
And legal acquisition — in one word,
High treason is your crime.
Laf. Most wise judges,
Do I well hear your words? Is it to judge
Ye come, or, most sage and sapient judges,
Am I condemned already? Mark your words:
“You have upraised sedition in this land,
You have been the chief of discontented bands,
You have” — “You have,” good sirs, be not so swift;.
Convict me first, and then my sentence read.
Aub. Colleague, proceed in better form. Ask first
Laf. You’re right, let it be done in form,
Let me be murdered legally.
First Judge. Mind, sir,
With more respect your judges treat. Speak,
But no insulting language use. Say,
What is your name?
Laf. Great Judge! That very name
Is the greatest insult I can speak
When I address ye; and by to-morrow
’Twill be a greater insult still. It is —
For I am proud to speak it — Lafrenière!
First Judge. (To Secretary.) Write. (To Lafrenière.)
Laf. Most pleased am I to answer.
I am a Creole, born in New Orleans.
First Judge. Your profession?
Laf. An advocate.
First Judge. Your age?
Laf. Out, dastards! I’ll parley no more with ye.
Ye know me — who I am, and what I am;
And I plead guilty in every point
On which ye do accuse me — ay, guilty!
And glory in what ye call a crime. Go!
I hate your nation and your tyrant King,
I weep that I cannot destroy ye all,
I moan my country’s enslaved destiny,
I pant to die ere ye have washed your hands
Of all the blood ye shed on yesterday.
Go! I have enough of mockery.
Aub. Ye hear,
He doth confess.
First Judge. (to Scribe). Proceed! Bead the sentence.
Laf. What! Was it ready written up? Why, ye ape
But ill your parts.
Scribe (reading). “Lafrenière, found guilty,
In due form, of high treason ’gainst the King,
Is by this honorable court condemned,
Within an hour hence, to die.”
Laf. Thank ye, kind gentlemen, ye could not more
Give pleasure to me; know, I kiss your hands,
Ye grant me e’en my heart’s core wish.
[Exit Aubry, Scribe, and Judges.]
To-day my name is written in the sacred book —
The purest, chosen page of history.
From now my cherished name will live
Immortal in the hearts of freemen —
The Louisianian’s future pride.
He’ll shout my name unto the skies;
He’ll place it first upon the monument
His heart will raise to virtue, surrounded
By a glorious halo! Eternal God!
I come — I come — already crowned before thee,
The unstained martyr of bright Liberty!
Liberty! the first and greatest dogma
Thou dost teach us in thy book of nature.
[Enter First Spanish Soldier, accompanied by other soldiers,
with reversed muskets; and the Jailer. The drum beats a dead
First Spanish Soldier. Art thou prepared to go? Hast
made thy prayer?
Laf. What I have asked of God, ye grant me now.
(Jailer takes off the chains.)
Scene 2. — The Public Square.
[Enter a Ruffian.]
Ruf. The citizens have fled as if a pestilence
Infected all this section of the city;
The place is desolate e’en as ’twere night.
’Tis here they’ll shoot the Creole chief to-day.
A fine time this to rob some straying fool:
If some rich scoundrel now would only pass
Across this green, how quick I’d murder him,
And rob him of his gold! Ah, some one comes!
By the Holy Virgin, it is Aubry,
For whom we seized the old man in the forest!
He’s loaded, doubtless, with the riches gained
By turning traitor to his countrymen.
I’m tempted strong to let him pass along,
For he is one of us who kill and steal
And take false oath. Ha! he lets fall a purse.
Pshaw! he picks it up. Saints! ’tis full of gold!
By the holy cross, I’ll have it! (Retires)
Aub. ’Tis well!
My work is done. I am revenged, and now,
With all the riches I have gained, I’ll go
To Europe and enjoy myself. But
I must behold Lafrenière e’er I go.
To-day he takes his crown of glory, and
’Tis my purpose here to calculate, with care,
The different value of his gain from mine. (Holding up the
Money! who’d not worship thee is but a fool.
What is fame, honors, titles, place, to thee?
Though I’m a coward and a criminal,
More men will bow to me, and envy me,
And yield to my desires, than will e’er recall
The memory of this great Lafrenière.
Learn to make money, and then ye may
Dispense with further knowledge. Gain riches;
It decks the bearer more than wisdom would,
It is the power of a mighty prince,
It is a brilliant title to one’s name.
See! It has no smell nor pleasing taste,
"Tis rigid to the touch, and yonder flower
Which blooms unnoticed in the grass
Exceeds it far in beauty; yet I
Have been as false and cruel as the tiger
To obtain it, and still I think the prize
Was quickly, cheaply gained.
Why come they not?
I’ll go and see whence this delay.
[Exit Aubry, followed cautiously by the
Aubry (without). Murder! Oh!
(The drum is heard beating a dead march, gradually approaching;
orchestra plays soft and mournful music.)
[Enter Lafrenière escorted as before, and
accompanied by Denoyant, Milhet, Marquis, and Carrere; the soldiers range
the right side.]
Laf. ’Tis triumph! more glorious than the pomp
Which glittered round a Roman conqueror.
I envy not the wreath that Caesar wore
When, from Pharsalia’s field, he trod on Rome.
His coronet was steeped in freemen’s blood,
Mine shall be wet with their regretful tears;
He sought to fetter Rome in slavery,
I tried to make my native country free;
He died with usurpation’s hand outstretched,
I fall the martyr of bright liberty.
And could I envy Cæsar now? Oh, no!
Like him I failed to gain a prize most dear,
Yet do I die more proudly than he died;
For this I leave behind a virtuous name.
(To his companions.) My friends, I greet you joyfully
As parties to a festive revelry,
As bridegrooms on their wedding day,
As saints who take their crown of sanctity!
This day the blood we’ll here together spill
Will rise into a monument of fame,
Will nourish seeds of freedom in this soil,
And bless our country with five patriot names.
Denoyant, say! since Freedom’s cause is lost,
Couldst thou wish aught more glorious than this,
The death of freemen for their country slain?
Den. Ay, and who still defy the tyrant’s power;
For though he slay us, and revengefully
Should drag our bodies in ignoble dust,
Yet, here or hence, our souls are ever free,
And spurn the mandates of his tyranny.
Marq. Unto us now the value of this life
Is wholly lost; a foreign master treads
Upon our native land.
Mil. How could we live
Beneath the rule of such inhuman slaves?
Their hands are red with Villeré’s honored blood.
Car. To me now death has all of freedom’s charms;
For death will burst oppressive chains.
Laf. ’Tis well!
Dear friends, now let us yield our ready breasts
Unto the bullets of these murderers,
Who bring disgrace upon the soldier’s garb.
(To the First Spanish Soldier.) Come! why lag you thus your
duty to perform?
(The Soldier offers to bandage his eyes.)
Not so! Think ye we cannot look on death?
Thou hast already seen us look it in the face.
Where shall Ave stand?
First Spanish Soldier. Yonder, between the trees.
Laf. And now, my native land, but one more glance,
And then I’ll close my eyes in death with joy.
Adieu, blue sky and verdant foliage,
’Neath which, when but a child, I loved to play
With bounding limbs and fluttering heart,
Adieu! I look no more with pleasure on ye —
Ye are no more what I did love ye for.
(While Lafrenière is speaking, his companions retire behind the
on the left. Exit Lafrenière, same side.)
Laf. (without). Now
— now! with hand in hand we’ll fall at
For right and liberty!
First Spanish Soldier. Are you prepared?
Laf. (outside). We are!
First Spanish Soldier. Soldiers, attention! Ready! Aim!
Laf. (outside). Liberty forever!
First Spanish Soldier. Fire!
(As the soldiers fire, Adelaide rushes in between them and
Lafrenière, and falls wounded. Lafrenière staggers in, mortally
wounded, in several parts of the body, and falters towards her.)
Laf. God! she is killed.
Ade. I thank that ball —
By my torn side — it lets in death — ah — love
Dost thou still live? — Lafrenière, I’ve news — news!
(Lafrenière sinks down.)
Nav, live awhile to hear me — e’er
you die —
Aubry, Aubry — is dead — murdered — murdered
By a Spaniard for his gold the gold he got
From Spaniards to betray us — Adieu! (She dies.)
Laf. Great God! (Rises.)
First Spanish Soldier. Load, load your guns again, and finish him!
Laf. ’Tis useless —
I feel the cold hand of death
Press from my heart its last — last drop of blood.
Louisianians, by my example learn
How great — how noble —
is a freeman’s death! (Falls and dies.)
Read more on the Louisiana
Rebellion of 1768 here.
- Villeré. Pronounced Vil-ra. [Collens' note.]
- Cry of liberty.
At this time the Americans made a show of resistance to the
Stamp Act. The
sentiment was, in fact, spoken by Lafrenière. See Gayarre’s
Louisiana. [Collens' note.]
Collens, T. Wharton. The Martyr Patriots; Or, Louisiana in 1769. An Historical Tragedy in Five Acts.
The Louisiana Book: Selections from the Literature of the State. Ed. Thomas M’Caleb. New Orleans: R. F. Straughan, 1894. 421-472. Internet Archive. 18 Feb. 2010. Web. 13 Feb. 2013. <http:// archive.org/ details/ louisiana book sel00mcal>.
Collens, T. Wharton. The Martyr Patriots; Or, Louisiana in 1769. An Historical Tragedy in Five Acts.
New Orleans: Dillard, 1836. Performed in the old St. Charles Theatre in New Orleans in the year of its publication.
of Louisiana Literature