Friday, March 23, 2012

Bunch's Bend and the Pirates

[spelling and grammar is same as in the Aug. 1, 1896 newspaper]
"Late at night, in the month of May, 1766, the moon is hidden by clouds, the Mississippi river is dark and turbulent. The black hulk of the schooner Spy, tosses like a toy ship on the waves, a single yellow torchlight flares from the mast. Aboard the deck are some dozen men, rough, drunken, boisterous. On either side of the mighty, swollen stream they see only "the dark, awful impenetrable forests." Their coarse voices shock the stillness of the North Louisiana landscape. They half shout, half sing the words:
We are rounding Bunch's Bend,
Come drink, brave river men.
We have ravaged glade and glen
Of the gold that none would lend,
Hoorah! Hoorah!
We hail the old sand bar,
Stretching round the near and far,
And our meeting none shall mar,
Hoorah! Hoorah!
We are rounding Bunch's Bend!
The boat gives a lurch as it strikes the mud, the pirates cease singing; they carry a load from the deck. It is a long box of black iron, and four men stagger beneath its weight. Landing it safely on shore, they tie the boat and proceed to a spot some twenty feet from the water's edge. Four small trees are so covered by the wild grape vine they form the posts of a summer house. Reaching their rendezvous, the pirates fall back. Only Bunch and his wife enter the enclosure of vines. The dark cruel eyes of the man look defiantly around the forest, the eyes of Conscience Cloyee glance timidly first into the face of her husband, then into the tangled brushwood. The moon comes from behind the drifting piles of smoke-pearl clouds, and sheds a weird radiance over the scene. Captain Bunch proceeds noiselessly to bury the treasury. An arrow whizzes thro’ the undergrowth. Conscience Cloyee falls, and the blood streams from her heart. Raising his head Bunch sees the malicious, cunning eyes of an Indian peering at him through the dim half light of the firest. He reaches for his pistol, but before he can use it, he is felled by a tomahawk. The red man gives a war whoop and darts like a panther through the woods. The pirates rush for their boat. They row furiously against the stream. The moon is hidden by a cloud. The wilderness is vast and silent."

The Ghost of Bunch's Bend

Banner-Democrat, Aug. 1, 1896
This story is listed under the title, "Bunch's Bend".

"It is a gloomy evening. The air is heavy with electricity, the gray clouds deepen into a stormy slate, the rank weeds and the dark, green vines entwining the tree trunks droop till they touch the tangled grasses on the ground. They are weighted down by their wealth of leaves and berries. The volume of the Mississippi grows strong and turbulent; its yellow surface is lashed into white-capped waves, and great black masses of drift wood are borne on its current.
Old Harry Balfour watches, uncasily, the clouds, the earth, the water. "Sho is his time Miss", whispers the old man very slowly and with a tremor in his voice, "Sho is his time. Wait jest one min'--Thar! thar he goes!" cries the negro. Right thar through them underbrushes; thar whar the little white church stands; over yonder by them broken down grave stones."
We look toward the spot indicated, but see nothing save the elder bushes; the cypress trees, the yellowish red trumpet vines and the indistinct outlines of the little white chyurch. "What does he look like?" I asked. "is he white as a sheet and his body thin as a vapor?" "Lor! Lor, Miss!" and the old man laughs heartily. "He ain't no mo' like a regular hant than you is. He's jes like any other man, cepten his face; that's sorter, pale and skeerish; and his eyes, they's big and deep set, and looks like dark light in 'um. He wears a long gray blanket shawl that kivers him from his neck to hs feet, but once I seed him throw it off. Tha's the furst night he ever come to me. Then I seed the blue shirt what he had on. It wuz too big for 'im and open at the neck and around his belt wuz hung his knives and a little pistol and some strings and a yellowish bag, and he sez to me, "Harry", sez he, "My name is Bunch, and this very place whar you lives uster belong to me, and that's why its called Bunch's Bend. Do you hear? Its called ---". But by dis time I begin feeling sorter creepish and so sez I: "Yes, yes sir. Does you want somepen to eat?" and I starts out out of de bed. But no, Miss, dat man did'nt want nothin'. He did'nt want no corn bread, and he did'nt wan't no pork, and he didn'nt want nary bit of cake, and he did'nt want no watermillion; no, Miss. 'pon my word, he did'nt want no watermillion. All he wants wuz jes to tell me thar wuz a chest as big as he wuz, buried out thar in the grave yard and that it wuz full, Miss, mind you, plum full of gold.
Him and his chums, they hid it way 'fore de war, and it didn'nt belong to none of um, and now he says his speerit it can't get no rest til dat gold has done been found and given back to de ancestors of dem folks what he took it from.

A full good hundred years have passed since old Charon rowed the soul of Captain Bunch across the Styx (which narrow stream the river pirate doubtless found blacker than is the Mississippi on even the sotrmiest, blackest nights) and yet in the gloomy twilights old Balfour sees the long dead man wandering, wandering, wandering through the forest, looking always for the hidden, stolen treasure, tormented always by the memory of it, and longing oh, so intensely, for rest, blessed rest."

Pirate Bunch's wife, Conscience Choyee, was King George I's servant

Part II, of Pirate Bunch history.
Pirate Bunch’s wife was Consience Cloyee--
"In January 1765, when the Colonial settlements were being tormented by the English government, King George I, with his usual short sightedness, sent to the puritanic village of Salem a ban of some two hundred odd soldiers for the purpose of spying on the inhabitants of that village. These soldiers made no small stir in the sober sided little village. [skipped their uniform and physical descriptions]
The little Quaker maidens had been so warned against them that they veritably believed the brilliant cavaliers were soldiers of the Evil One; nor would they any more dare to look at them and flirt with them than they would dare, on the solemn Sabbath day to laugh out loud, or go to an apple paring, or take one measure of the stately minuet.
One morning the house of Goodman Choyee was alarmed by the piteous moaning of its little Quaker mistress. She came into the dining room, her face whiter than the spotless kerchief around her neck, and handed her husband a note saying; “She’s been bewitched! She’s been bewitched! I saw old Beldame Martin looking at her with evil eye. Poor little Conscience! Poor little Conscience!” The placid Quaker mother wring her hands and wept bitterly. Meanwhile Goodman Cloyee read the note. It was from his daughter Conscience, (She whom her school mates called Tender Conscience because of her sensitively sweet and considerate character.) The few words told that she was married to one of the soldiers of the King: that the marriage was registered at the Custom House, and that when her parents read these words, she would be far away from them, traveling with her husband, where, she could not say. The note was so cold, so matter of fact, so unnatural, the parents concluded that beyond a doubt their child had been bewitched and was acting under some baleful spell. Goodman Cloyee arose wearily from the table and took his high steeple hat, and with a tottering gait, walked out on what then seemed to him the strangely changed, desolate streets of Salem. Faithe went into her daughter’s trim little room, folded each piece of finely woven linen and laid it onto a cedar chest, putting with it faint, sweet scented springs of old time lavender. Then kneeling down beside it, she prayed, prayed with a broken heart for the child she would rather far have had and lying before her calm and dead. The neighbors said that every morning, thro’ all the remaining years of their quiet, monotonous lives Goodman Cloyee and his wife Faithe, went first to the Custom House to see the registered marriage of his daughter, and to find it there was a letter from her; then repaired to her little room and prayed for her return.