Last Stand Of The Biloxi





The southern part of this country was once occupied by a people called

the Biloxi, who had kept pace with the Aztecs in civilization and who

cultivated especially the art of music. In lives of gentleness and peace

they so soon forgot the use of arms that when the Choctaws descended on

their fields they were powerless to prevent the onset. Town after town

they evacuated before the savages, and at last the Biloxi, reduced to a

few thousands, were driven to the mouth of the Pascagoula River,

Mississippi, where they intrenched themselves, and for a few months

withstood the invaders. But the time came when their supplies were

exhausted, and every form was pinched with hunger. Flight was impossible.

Surrender commonly meant slaughter and outrage. They resolved to die

together.



On a fair spring morning the river-ward gates of their fort were opened

and the survivors of that hapless tribe marched forth, their chief in

advance, with resolution on his wasted face, then the soldiers and

counsellors, the young men, the women and children, and the babes asleep

on the empty breasts of their mothers. As they emerged from the walls

with slow but steady step they broke into song, and their assailants, who

had retired to their tents for their meal, listened with surprise to the

chorus of defiance and rejoicing set up by the starving people. Without

pause or swerving they entered the bay and kept their march. Now the

waters closed over the chief, then the soldiers--at last only a few

voices of women were heard in the chant, and in a few moments all was

still. Not one shrank from the sacrifice. And for years after the echo of

that death-song floated over he waves.



Another version of the legend sets forth that the Biloxi believed

themselves the children of the sea, and that they worshipped the image of

a lovely mermaid with wondrous music. After the Spaniards had come among

this gay and gentle people, they compelled them, by tyranny and murder,

to accept the religion of the white man, but of course it was only

lip-service that they rendered at the altar. The Biloxi were awakened one

night by the sound of wings and the rising of the river. Going forth they

saw the waters of Pascagoula heaped in a quivering mound, and bright on

its moonlit crest stood a mermaid that sang to them, Come to me,

children of the sea. Neither bell, book, nor cross shall win you from

your queen. Entranced by her song and the potency of her glances, they

moved forward until they encircled the hill of waters. Then, with hiss

and roar, the river fell back to its level, submerging the whole tribe.

The music that haunts the bay, rising through the water when the moon is

out, is the sound of their revels in the caves below--dusky Tannhausers

of a southern Venusberg. An old priest, who was among them at the time of

this prodigy, feared that the want of result to his teachings was due to

his not being in a perfect state of grace. On his death-bed he declared

that if a priest would row to the spot where the music sounded, at

midnight on Christmas, and drop a crucifix into the water, he would

instantly be swallowed by the waves, but that every soul at the bottom

would be redeemed. The souls have never been ransomed.





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