Study Guide

Evangeline Part 1, Section 3

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Part 1, Section 3

This is a long one, so check out the full poem here

  • We learn a little bit more about René in this section: he's older (but still able to get around on his own) and he's got long, yellow hair down to his shoulders (sounds like a rockin' mullet). Also, dude has twenty kids and more than 100 grandkids (whoa).
  • He once spent four years as a prisoner in a French fort for being friendly with the English, but now pretty much everyone in the village loves him. Maybe that's because he likes to bust out old folk tales, like the one about the Loup-garou or the story of the Lètiche
  • Basil asks René if René's heard anything about what those English ships are up to. René says he hasn't, but he imagines that it can't be all that bad. The English don't have any good reason to do them harm.
  • "They don't need a reason," is Basil's reply in a nutshell. After all, folks do horrible things to each other all the time for no good reason. (This Basil sure is a downer.)
  • René plows right past Basil's observation in order to tell one of his favorite stories, something that cheered him up when he was a prisoner back in the day. It illustrates that justice ultimately prevails, and it goes like this:
  • Once upon a time there was a town that had a statue of justice in the central square. The statue looked like a typical statue of justice (holding scales and a sword), except that for some reason birds had built a nest in the scales. (That sounds uncomfortable to us, but what do we know? We've never built a nest before.)
  • One day, a local nobleman's pearl necklace went missing. A poor orphan girl was accused, found guilty, and executed for theft. (Harsh, right?) 
  • As soon as she died, though, a mighty storm arose. Lightning struck the statue and broke off the scales, which smashed on the ground below. Wouldn't you know it? The pearl necklace rolled out onto the street. It turns out that the birds had taken the necklace and hidden it in the statue. (There's no word on what sort of horrible punishment the birds had to suffer.)
  • Basil is speechless at this story. (We can't blame him. After all, this story hardly shows that justice triumphs, since the poor orphan girl was already dead by the time the real bird-thieves were revealed. But, hey, who are we to argue with René?)
  • Evangeline gets up and pours a glass of strong beer. (We can't blame her either.) Meanwhile, René gets all his paperwork in order. 
  • Paperwork for what? Good question, Shmoopers. As it turns out, this is all about formally arranging a dowry (wedding payment). Evangeline and Gabriel are set to be hitched, and this paperwork is essentially the legal agreement for their union.
  • Once everything's in order, René lifts the mug o' beer and toasts to the health of the bride and groom. The he skedaddles out of there.
  • The rest of the group (the soon-to-be-wedded couple and their respective fathers) sit in silence by the fire (er, awkward…). Eventually, Evangeline busts out the "draughts," or checkers. 
  • Benedict and Basil play a spirited game of checkers (come on, this was in the days before cable, guys) while Evangeline and Gabriel sit together and check out the moon above the ocean.
  • This raging party lasts until nine o'clock, when the village curfew kicks in. Parting is such sweet sorrow, but eventually Evangeline and Gabriel have to split up. Evangeline puts out the fire and makes her way up to bed.
  • Her room contains a bunch of clothes that she's made for herself: "proofs of her skill as a housewife" (368). 
  • Evangeline thinks about Gabriel with occasional flashes of sadness, while back outside he hangs out in the orchard, hoping to catch a glimpse of her (or her lamp, or her shadow) in the window.