Dominique de Gourgues
In his cheerful Norman orchard
Lay De Gourgues of Mont Marsan,
Gascon to the core, and merry,
Just a well-contented man,
With his pipe, that comrade constant,
Won in sorrowful Algiers,
In the slave's brief rest at evening
Left for curses and for tears.
Peacefully he pondered, gazing
Where his plough-ribbed cornfields lay,
With their touch of hopeful verdure,
Waiting patient for the May.
Joyous from the terrace o'er him
Came the voice of wife and child,
And the sunlit smoke curled upward
As the gaunt old trooper smiled.
"St. Denis," quoth the stout De Gourgues,
"Yon beehive's ever busy hum
Doth like me better than the noise
Of the musketoon and drum.
"Tough am I, though this skin of mine
By steel and bullet well is scarred,
Like those round pippins overhead
By the thrushes pecked and marred.
"Forsooth I 'm somewhat autumn-ripe,
Yet like my apples sound and red.
And life is sweet," said stout De Gourgues,
"Yea, verily sweet," he said.
"Three things there were I once did love—
One that gay jester of Navarre,
And one to sack a Spanish town,
And one the wild wrath of war.
"And two there were I hated well—
One that carrion beast, a Moor,
And one that passeth him for spite,
That 's a Spaniard, rest you sure."
Still he smoked, and musing murmured,
"There be three things well I like,
My pipe, my ease, this quiet life,
Better far than push of pike.
"And to-day there be two I love
Who lured me out of the strife,
The lad who plays with my rusty blade,
And the little Gascon wife.
"Parbleu! parbleu!" cried gray De Gourgues,
For at his side there stood
A soldier, scarred and worn and white,
In a cuirass dark with blood.
"Ventre Saint Gris! good friend, halloa!
Art sorely hurt, and how? and why?
Art Huguenot? Here's help at need:
Or Catholic? What care I!"
No motion had the white wan lips,
The mail-clad chest no breathing stirred,
Though clear as rings a vengeful blade
Fell every whispered word.
"That Jean Ribaut am I!
Who sailed for the land of flowers;
Fore God our tryst is surely set;
I wearily count the hours."
And slowly rose the steel-clad hand,
And westward pointing stayed as set:
"Thy peace is gone! No morn shall dawn
Will let thee e'er forget.
"Thy brothers, the dead, lie there,
Where only the winds complain,
And under their gallows walk
The mocking lords of Spain.
"If ever this France be dear,
And honor as life to thee,
Thy wife, thy child are naught to-day,
Thy errand 's on the sea."
"St. Denis to save!" cried stout De Gourgues,
"One may dream, it seems, by day."
The man was gone!—but where he stood
A rusted steel glove lay.
"I 've heard—yea twice—this troublous tale,
It groweth full old indeed;
But old or new, my sword is sheathed
For ghost or king or creed."
Full slow he turned and climbed the hill,
And thrice looked back to see:
"The dream! The glove!—How came it there?—
What matters a glove to me?"
But day by day as one distraught
He stood, or gazed upon the board;
Nor heard the voice of wife or boy,
Nor took of the wine they poured.
He saw his bannerol flutter forth,
As tossed by the wind of fight,
And watched his sheathed sword o'er the hearth
Leap flashing to the light.
He told her all. "Now God be praised!"
She cried, while the hot tears ran;
"She little loves who loves not more
His honor than the man?"
His lands are sold. A stranger's hand
The juice of his grapes shall strain;
Another, too, shall reap the hopes
He sowed with the winter grain.
His way was o'er the windy seas,
But, sailed he fast or sailed he slow,
He saw by day, he saw by night,
The face of Jean Ribaut.
The sun rose crimson with the morn,
Or set at eve a ghastly red,
While over blue Bahama seas
Beckoned him ever the dead.
Till spoke, sore set at last, De Gourgues
"Ho, brothers brave, and have ye sailed
For gain of gold this weary way?
Heaven's grace! but ye have failed!
"A sterner task our God hath set;
In yon wild land of flowers
Our dead await the trusty blades
Shall cleanse their fame and ours.
"Ye know the tale." Few words they said:
"We are thine for France to-day!"
By cape and beach and palmy isles
The avengers held their way.
The deed was done, the honor won,
Nor land nor gain of gold got they,
Where 'neath the broad palmetto leaves.
Their dead at evening lay.
The deed was done, the honor won,
And o'er the gibbet-loads was set
This legend grim for priests to read,
And, if they could, forget:
"Not as to Spaniards' murderers these:
Ladrones, robbers, hanged I here,
Ransom base for the costly souls
Whom God and France hold dear."
How welcomed him that brave Rochelle,
With cannon thunder and clash of bell,
What bitter fate his courage won,
Some slender annals tell.
No legend tells what signal sweet
Looked gladness from a woman's eyes,
Or how she welcomed him who brought
Alas! one only prize,—
A noble deed in honor done
And the wreck of a ruined life.
Ah, well if I knew what said the lips
Of the little Gascon wife!
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