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Part II. Nathaniel Hawthorne

VIII. The Old French War And The Acadian Exiles

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Oh, how many broken bonds of affection were here! Country lost,--friends lost,--their rural wealth of cottage, field, and herds all lost together! Every tie between these poor exiles and the world seemed to be cut off at once. They must have regretted that they had not died before their exile; for even the English would not have been so pitiless as to deny them graves in their native soil. The dead were happy; for they were not exiles!

While they thus stood upon the wharf, the curiosity and inquisitiveness of the New England people would naturally lead them into the midst of the poor Acadians. Prying busybodies thrust their heads into the circle wherever two or three of the exiles were conversing together. How puzzled did they look at the outlandish sound of the French tongue! There were seen the New England women, too. They had just come out of their warm, safe homes, where everything was regular and comfortable, and where their husbands and children would be with them at nightfall. Surely they could pity the wretched wives and mothers of Acadia! Or aid the sign of the cross which the Acadians continually made upon their breasts, and which was abhorred by the descendants of the Puritans,--did that sign exclude all pity?

Among the spectators, too, was the noisy brood of Boston school-boys, who came running, with laughter and shouts, to gaze at this crowd of oddly dressed foreigners. At first they danced and capered around them, full of merriment and mischief. But the despair of the Acadians soon had its effect upon these thoughtless lads, and melted them into tearful sympathy.

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At a little distance from the throng might be seen the wealthy and pompous merchants whose warehouses stood on Long Wharf. It was difficult to touch these rich men's hearts; for they had all the comforts of the world at their command; and when they walked abroad their feelings were seldom moved, except by the roughness of the pavement irritating their gouty toes. Leaning upon their gold-headed canes, they watched the scene with an aspect of composure. But let us hype they distributed some of their superfluous coin among these hapless exiles to purchase food and a night's lodging.

After standing a long time at the end of the wharf, gazing seaward, as if to catch a glimpse of their lost Acadia, the strangers began to stray into the town.

They went, we will suppose, in parties and groups, here a hundred, there a score, there ten, there three or four, who possessed some bond of unity among themselves. Here and there was one who, utterly desolate, stole away by himself, seeking no companionship.

Whither did they go? I imagine them wandering about the streets, telling the townspeople, in outlandish, unintelligible words, that no earthly affliction ever equalled what had befallen them. Man's brotherhood with man was sufficient to make the New-Englanders understand this language. The strangers wanted food. Some of them sought hospitality at the doors of the stately mansions which then stood in the vicinity of Hanover Street and the North Square. Others were applicants at the humble wooden tenements, where dwelt the petty shopkeepers and mechanics. Pray Heaven that no family in Boston turned one of these poor exiles from their door! It would be a reproach upon New England,--a crime worthy of heavy retribution,--if the aged women and children, or even the strong men, were allowed to feel the pinch of hunger.

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Grandfather's Chair
Nathaniel Hawthorne

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