Then southward through the
haunted bearded trees
The Spaniards fought their way—Mauila’s fires
Devoured their vestments and their chalices,
Their sacramental wine and bread—the choirs
No longer sang their requiems, and the seas
Lay between them and all their sacred spires.
At last in a lone cabin, where
Hid the black mire before the lowly door,
De Soto died—although they sought to feign
By some pretended magic mirror’s lore
That still he lived, a gentleman of Spain,—
And the dread flood rolled onward to the shore!
THE FACE OF THE TERROR
“Paris is no place in these times for a Huguenot lad from Navarre,” said Dominic de Gourgues, of Mont-de-Marsan in Gascony. “His father, Francois Debre, did me good service in the Spanish Indies. One of these days, Philip and his bloodhounds will be pulled down by these young terriers they have orphaned.”
“If the Jesuits have their way all Huguenots will be exterminated, men, women and children,” said Laudonniere, with a gleam of melancholy sarcasm in his dark pensive eyes. “Life to a Jesuit is quite simple.”
“My faith,” said Gascon, twisting his mustache, “they may find in that case, that other people can be simple too. But I must be off. I thank you for making a place for Pierre.”
In consequence of this conversation, when Ribault’s fleet anchored near the River of May, on June 25, 1564, Pierre Debre was hanging to the collars of two of Laudonniere’s deerhounds and gazing in silent wonder at the strange and beautiful land.
“The fairest, fruitfullest and pleasantest land in all the world,” Jean Ribault had said in his report two years before to Coligny the Great Admiral of France. Live-oaks and cedars untouched for a thousand years were draped in luxuriant grape-vines or wreathed with the mossy gray festoons of “old men’s beard.” Cypress and pine mingled with the shining foliage of magnolia and palm. From the marsh arose on sudden startled wings multitudes of water-fowl. The dogs tugged and whined eagerly as if they knew that in these vast hunting-forests there was an abundance of game. In this rich land, thus far neglected by the Spanish conquistadores because it yielded neither gold nor silver, surely the Huguenots might find prosperity and peace. Coligny was a Huguenot and a powerful friend, and if the French Protestants now hunted into the mountains or driven to take refuge in England, could be transplanted to America, France might be spared the horrors of religious civil war.