A MONTH WITH THE BLUE NOSES.
FREDERIC S. COZZENS,
AUTHOR OF "SPARROWGRASS PAPERS."
This is Acadia—this is the land That weary souls have sighed for; This is Acadia—this is the land Heroic hearts have died for: Yet, strange to tell, this promised land Has never been applied for!
DERBY & JACKSON, 119 NASSAU STREET.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1859, by
FREDERIC S. COZZENS,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.
W.H. TINSON, Stereotyper.
GEO. RUSSELL & Co., Printers.
As I have a sort of religion in literature, believing that no author can justly intrude upon the public without feeling that his writings may be of some benefit to mankind, I beg leave to apologize for this little book. I know, no critic can tell me better than I know myself, how much it falls short of what might have been done by an abler pen. Yet it is something—an index, I should say, to something better. The French in America may sometime find a champion. For my own part, I would that the gentler principles which governed them, and the English under William Penn, and the Dutch under the enlightened rule of the States General, had obtained here, instead of the narrower, the more penurious, and most prescriptive policy of their neighbors.
I am indebted to Judge Haliburton's "History of Nova Scotia" for the main body of historical facts in this volume. Let me acknowledge my obligations. His researches and impartiality are most creditable, and worthy of respect and attention. I have also drawn as liberally as time and space would permit from chronicles contemporary with the events of those early days, as well as from a curious collection of items relating to the subject, cut from the London newspapers a hundred years ago, and kindly furnished me by Geo. P. Putnam, Esq. These are always the surest guides. To Mrs. Kate Williams, of Providence, R. I., I am indebted also. Her story of the "Neutral French," no doubt, inspired the author of the most beautiful pastoral in the language. The "Evangeline" of Longfellow, and the "Pauline" of this lady's legend, are pictures of the same individual, only drawn by different hands.
A word in regard to the two Acadian portraits. These are literal ambrotypes, to which Sarony has added a few touches of his artistic crayon. It may interest the reader to know that these are the first, the only likenesses of the real Evangelines of Acadia. The women of Chezzetcook appear at day-break in the city of Halifax, and as soon as the sun is up vanish like the dew. They have usually a basket of fresh eggs, a brace or two of worsted socks, a bottle of fir-balsam to sell. These comprise their simple commerce. When the market-bell rings you find them not. To catch such fleeting phantoms, and to transfer them to the frontispiece of a book published here, is like painting the burnished wings of a humming-bird. A friend, however, undertook the task. He rose before the sun, he bought eggs, worsted socks, and fir-balsam of the Acadians. By constant attentions he became acquainted with a pair of Acadian women, niece and aunt. Then he proposed the matter to them:
"I want you to go with me to the daguerreotype gallery."
"To have your portraits taken."
"To send to a friend in New York."
"To be put in a book."
"Never mind 'what for,' will you go?"
Aunt and niece—both together in a breath—"No."
So my friend, who was a wise man, wrote to the priest of the settlement of Chezzetcook, to explain the "what for," and the consequence was—these portraits! But these women had a terrible time at the head of the first flight of stairs. Not an inch would these shy creatures budge beyond. At last, the wife of the operator induced them to rise to the high flight that led to the Halifax skylight, and there they were painted by the sun, as we see them now.
Nothing more! Ring the bell, prompter, and draw the curtain.
Vague Rumors of Nova Scotia—A Fortnight upon Salt Water—Interesting Sketch of the Atlantic—Halifax!—Determine to stay in the Province—Province Building and Pictures—Coast Scenery—Liberty in Language, and Aspirations of the People—Evangeline and Relics of Acadia—Market-Place—The Encampment at Point Pleasant—Kissing Bridge—The "Himalaya"—A Sabbath in a Garrison Town—Grand Celebration of the Peace, and Natal Day of Halifax—And a Hint of a Visit to Chezzetcook 13
Fog clears up—The One Idea not comprehended by the American Mind—A June Morning in the Province—The Beginning of the Evangeliad—Intuitive Perception of Genius—The Forest Primeval—Acadian Peasants—A Negro Settlement—Deer's Castle—The Road to Chezzetcook—Acadian Scenery—A Glance at the Early History of Acadia—First Encroachments of the English—The Harbor and Village of Chezzetcook, etc., etc. 34
A Romp at Three Fathom Harbor—The Moral Condition of the Acadians—The Wild Flowers of Nova Scotia—Mrs. Deer's Wit—No Fish—Picton—The Balaklava Schooner—And a Voyage to Louisburgh 58
The Voyage of the "Balaklava"—Something of a Fog—A Novel Sensation—Picton bursts out—"Nothing to do"—Breakfast under Way—A Phantom Boat—Mackerel—Gone, Hook and Line—The Colonists—Sectionalism and Prejudices—Cod-fishing and an Unexpected Banquet—Past the old French Town—A Pretty Respectable Breeze—We get past the Rocks—Louisburgh 77
Louisburgh—The Great French Fortress—Incidents of the Old French War—Relics of the Siege—Description of the Town—The two Expeditions—A Yankee ruse de guerre—The Rev. Samuel Moody's Grace—Wolfe's Landing—The Fisherman's Hutch—The Lost Coaster—The Fisheries—Picton tries his hand at a Fish-pugh 102
A most acceptable Invitation—An Evening in the Hutch—Old Songs—Picton in High Feather—Wolfe and Montcalm—Reminiscences of the Siege—Anecdotes of Wolfe—A Touch of Rhetoric and its Consequences 121
The other side of the Harbor—A Foraging Party—Disappointment—Twilight at Louisburgh—Long Days and Early Mornings—A Visit and View of an Interior—A Shark Story—Picton inquires about a Measure—Hospitality and the Two Brave Boys—Proposals for a Trip Overland to Sydney 133
A Blue-Nosed Pair of the most Cerulean Hue—Prospects of a Hard Bargain—Case of Necessity—Romantic Lake with an Unromantic Name—The Discussion concerning Oatmeal—Danger of the Gasterophili—McGibbet makes a Proposition—Farewell to the "Balaklava"—A Midnight Journey—Sydney—Boat Excursion to the Micmacs—Picton takes off his Mackintosh 154
The Micmac Camp—Indian Church-warden and Broker—Interior of a Wigwam—A Madonna—A Digression—Malcolm Discharged—An Indian Bargain—The Inn Parlor, and a Comfortable Night's Rest 176
Over the Bay—A Gigantic Dumb Waiter—Erebus—Reflections—White and Black Squares of the Chess-Board—Leave-taking—An Interruption—The Aibstract Preencipels of Feenance 185
The Bras d'Or Road—Farewell to Picton—Home, Sweet Home—The Rob Roys of Cape Breton—Note and Query—Chapel Island—St. Peter's—Enterprise—The Strait of Canseau—West River—The Last Out-post of the Scottish Chiefs 196
The Ride from West River—A Fellow Passenger—Parallels of History—One Hundred Romances—Baron de Castine—His Character—Made Chief of the Abenaquis—Duke of York's Charter—Encroachments of the Puritans—Church's Indian Wars—False Reports—Reflections 212
Truro—On the Road to Halifax—Drive to the Left—A Member of the Foreign Legion—Irish Wit at Government Expense—The first Battle of the Legion—Ten Pounds Reward—Sir John Gaspard's Revenge—The Shubenacadie Lakes—Dartmouth Ferry, and the Hotel Waverley 224
Halifax again—Hotel Waverley—"Gone the Old Familiar Faces"—The Story of Marie de la Tour 237
Bedford Basin—Legend of the two French Admirals—An Invitation to the Queen—Visit to the Prince's Lodge—A Touch of Old England—The Ruins 251
The Last Night—Farewell, Hotel Waverley—Friends Old and New—What followed the Marriage of La Tour le Borgne—Invasion of Col. Church 258
A few more Threads of History—Acadia again lost—The Oath of Allegiance—Settlement of Halifax—The brave Three Hundred—Massacre at Norridgewoack—Le Pere Ralle 269
On the road to Windsor—The great Nova Scotia Railway—A Fellow Passenger—Cape Sable Shipwrecks—Seals—Ponies—Windsor—Sam Slick—A lively Example 279
Windsor-upon-Avon—Ride to the Gasperau—The Basin of Minas—Blomidon—This is the Acadian Land—Basil, the Blacksmith—A Yankee Settlement—Useless Reflections 293
The Valley of Acadia—A Morning Ride to the Dykes—An unexpected Wild-duck Chase—High Tides—The Gasperau—Sunset—The Lamp of History—Conclusion 302
Vague Rumors of Nova Scotia—A Fortnight upon Salt Water—Interesting Sketch of the Atlantic—Halifax!—Determine to stay in the Province—Province Building and Pictures—Coast Scenery—Liberty in Language, and Aspirations of the People—Evangeline and Relics of Acadia—Market-Place—The Encampment at Point Pleasant—Kissing Bridge—The "Himalaya"—A Sabbath in a Garrison Town—Grand Celebration of the Peace, and Natal Day of Halifax—And a Hint of a Visit to Chezzetcook.
It is pleasant to visit Nova Scotia in the month of June. Pack up your flannels and your fishing tackle, leave behind you your prejudices and your summer clothing, take your trout-pole in one hand and a copy of Haliburton in the other, and step on board a Cunarder at Boston. In thirty-six hours you are in the loyal little province, and above you floats the red flag and the cross of St. George. My word for it, you will not regret the trip. That the idea of visiting Nova Scotia ever struck any living person as something peculiarly pleasant and cheerful, is not within the bounds of probability. Very rude people are wont to speak of Halifax in connection with the name of a place never alluded to in polite society—except by clergymen. As for the rest of the Province, there are certain vague rumors of extensive and constant fogs, but nothing more. The land is a sort of terra incognita. Many take it to be a part of Canada, and others firmly believe it is somewhere in Newfoundland.
In justice to Nova Scotia, it is proper to state that the Province is a province by itself; that it hath its own governor and parliament, and its own proper and copper currency. How I chanced to go there was altogether a matter of destiny. It was a severe illness—a gastric disorder of the most obstinate kind, that cast me upon its balmy shores. One day, after a protracted relapse, as I was creeping feebly along Broadway, sunning myself, like a March fly on a window-pane, whom should I meet but St. Leger, my friend. "You look pale," said St. Leger. To which I replied by giving him a full, complete, and accurate history of my ailments, after the manner of valetudinarians. "Why do you not try change of air?" he asked; and then briskly added, "You could spare a couple of weeks or so, could you not, to go to the Springs?" "I could," said I, feebly. "Then," said St. Leger, "take the two weeks' time, but do not go to the Springs. Spend your fortnight on the salt water—get out of sight of land—that is the thing for you." And so, shaking my hand warmly, St. Leger passed on, and left me to my reflections.
A fortnight upon salt water? Whither? Cape Cod at once loomed up; Nantucket, and Martha's Vineyard. "And why not the Bermudas?" said a voice within me; "the enchanted Islands of Prospero, and Ariel, and Miranda; of Shakspeare, and Raleigh, and Irving?" And echo answered: "Why not?"
It is but a day-and-a-half's sail to Halifax; thence, by a steamer, to those neighboring isles; for the Curlew and the Merlin, British mail-boats, leave Halifax fortnightly for the Bermudas. A thousand miles of life-invigorating atmosphere—a week upon salt water, and you are amid the magnificent scenery of the Tempest! And how often had the vague desire impressed me—how often, indeed, had I visited, in imagination, those beautiful scenes, those islands which have made Shakspeare our near kinsman; which are part and parcel of the romantic history of Sir Walter Raleigh! For, even if he do describe them, in his strong old Saxon, as "the Bermudas, a hellish sea for Thunder, and Lightning, and Storms," yet there is a charm even in this description, for doubtless these very words gave a title to the great drama of William of Stratford, and suggested the idea of
"The still-vexed Bermooethes."
Ah, yes! and who that has read Irving's "Three Kings of Bermuda" has not felt the influence of those Islas Encantadas—those islands of palms and coral, of orange groves and ambergris! "A fortnight?" said I, quoting St. Leger; "I will take a month for it." And so, in less than a week from the date of his little prescription, I was bidding farewell to some dear friends, from the deck of the "Canada," at East Boston wharf, as Captain Lang, on the top of our wheel-house, shouted out, in a very briny voice: "Let go the starboard bow chain—go slow!"
It would be presumptuous in me to speak of the Atlantic, from the limited acquaintance I had with it. The note-book of an invalid for two days at sea, with a heavy ground swell, and the wind in the most favorable quarter, can scarcely be attractive. As the breeze freshened, and the tars of old England ran aloft, to strip from the black sails the wrappers of white canvas that had hid them when in port; and as these leathern, bat-like pinions spread out on each side of the funnel, there was a moment's glimpse of the picturesque; but it was a glimpse only, and no more. One does not enjoy the rise and dip of the bow of a steamer, at first, however graceful it may be in the abstract. To be sure, there were some things else interesting. For instance, three brides aboard! And one of them lovely enough to awaken interest, on sea or land, in any body but a Halifax passenger. I hope those fair ladies will have a pleasant tour, one and all, and that the view they take of the great world, so early in life, will make them more contented with that minor world, henceforth to be within the limits of their dominion. Lullaby to the young wives! there will be rocking enough anon!
But we coasted along pleasantly enough the next day, within sight of the bold headlands of Maine; the sky and sea clear of vapor, except the long reek from the steamer's pipe. And then came nightfall and the northern stars; and, later at night, a new luminary on the edge of the horizon—Sambro' light; and then a sudden quenching of stars, and horizon, lighthouse, ropes, spars, and smoke stack; the sounds of hoarse voices of command in the obscurity; a trampling of men; and then down went the anchor in the ooze, and the Canada was fog-bound in the old harbor of Chebucto for the night, within a few miles of the city.
But with the early dawn, we awoke to hear the welcome sounds of the engines in motion, and when we reached the deck, the mist was drifted with sunlight, and rose and fell in luminous billows on water and shore, and then lifted, lingered, and vanished!
"And this is Halifax?" said I, as that quaint, mouldy old town poked its wooden gables through the fog of the second morning. "This is Halifax? This the capital of Nova Scotia? This the city that harbored those loyal heroes of the Revolution, who gallantly and gayly fought, and bled, and ran for their king? Ah! you brave old Tories; you staunch upholders of the crown; cavaliers without ringlets or feathers, russet boots or steeple-crown hats, it seems as if you were still hovering over this venerable tabernacle of seven hundred gables, and wreathing each particular ridge-pole, pigeon-hole, and shingle with a halo of fog."
The plank was laid, and the passengers left the steamer. There were a few vehicles on the wharf for the accommodation of strangers; square, black, funereal-like, wheeled sarcophagi, eminently suggestive of burials and crape. Of course I did not ride in one, on account of unpleasant associations; but, placing my trunk in charge of a cart-boy with a long-tailed dray, and a diminutive pony, I walked through the silent streets towards "The Waverley."
It was an inspiriting morning, that which I met upon the well-docked shores of Halifax, and although the side-walks of the city were neither bricked nor paved with flags, and the middle street was in its original and aboriginal clay, yet there was novelty in making its acquaintance. Everybody was asleep in that early fog; and when everybody woke up, it was done so quietly that the change was scarcely apparent.
But the "Merlin," British mailer, is to sail at noon for the Shakspeare Island, and breakfast must be discussed, and then once more I am with you, my anti-bilious ocean. It chanced, however, I heard at breakfast, that the "Curlew," the mate of the "Merlin," had been lost a short time before at sea, and as there was but one, and not two steamers on the route, so that I would be detained longer with Prospero and Miranda than might be comfortable in the approaching hot weather, it came to pass that I had reluctantly to forego the projected voyage, and anchor my trunk of tropical clothing in room Number Twenty, Hotel Waverley. It was a great disappointment, to be sure, after such brilliant anticipations—but what is life without philosophy? When we cannot get what we wish, let us take what we may. Let the "Merlin" sail! I will visit, instead of those Islas Encantadas, "The Acadian land on the shore of the Basin of Minas." Let the "Merlin" sail! I will see the ruined walls of Louisburgh, and the harbors that once sheltered the Venetian sailor, Cabot. "Let her sail!" said I, and when the morn passed I saw her slender thread of smoke far off on the glassy ocean, without a sigh of regret, and resolutely turned my face from the promised palms to welcome the sturdy pines of the province.
The city hill of Halifax rises proudly from its wharves and shipping in a multitude of mouse-colored wooden houses, until it is crowned by the citadel. As it is a garrison town, as well as a naval station, you meet in the streets red-coats and blue-jackets without number; yonder, with a brilliant staff, rides the Governor, Sir John Gaspard le Marchant, and here, in a carriage, is Admiral Fanshawe, C.B., of the "Boscawen" Flag-ship. Every thing is suggestive of impending hostilities; war, in burnished trappings, encounters you at the street corners, and the air vibrates from time to time with bugles, fifes, and drums. But oh! what a slow place it is! Even two Crimean regiments with medals and decorations could not wake it up. The little old houses seem to look with wondrous apathy as these pass by, as though they had given each other a quiet nudge with their quaint old gables, and whispered: "Keep still!"
I wandered up and down those old streets in search of something picturesque, but in vain; there was scarcely any thing remarkable to arrest or interest a stranger. Such, too, might have been the appearance of other places I wot of, if those staunch old loyalists had had their way in the days gone by!
But the Province House, which is built of a sort of yellow sand-stone, with pillars in front, and trees around it, is a well-proportioned building, with an air of great solidity and respectability. There are in it very fine full-lengths of King George II. and Queen Caroline, and two full-lengths of King George III. and Queen Charlotte; a full-length of Chief-Justice Haliburton, and another full-length, by Benjamin West, of another chief-justice, in a red robe and a formidable wig. Of these portraits, the two first-named are the most attractive; there is something so gay and festive in the appearance of King George II. and Queen Caroline, so courtly and sprightly, so graceful and amiable, that one is tempted to exclaim: "Bless the painter! what a genius he had!"
And now, after taking a look at Dalhousie College with the parade in front, and the square town-clock, built by his graceless Highness the Duke of Kent, let us climb Citadel Hill, and see the formidable protector of town and harbor. Lively enough it is, this great stone fortress, with its soldiers, swarming in and out like bees, and the glimpses of country and harbor are surpassingly beautiful; but just at the margin of this slope below us, is the street, and that dark fringe of tenements skirting the edge of this green glacis is, I fear me, filled with vicious inmates. Yonder, where the blackened ruins of three houses are visible, a sailor was killed and thrown out of a window not long since, and his shipmates burned the houses down in consequence; there is something strikingly suggestive in looking upon this picture and on that.
But if you cast your eyes over yonder magnificent bay, where vessels bearing flags of all nations are at anchor, and then let your vision sweep past and over the islands to the outlets beyond, where the quiet ocean lies, bordered with fog-banks that loom ominously at the boundary-line of the horizon, you will see a picture of marvellous beauty; for the coast scenery here transcends our own sea-shores, both in color and outline. And behind us again stretch large green plains, dotted with cottages, and bounded with undulating hills, with now and then glimpses of blue water; and as we walk down Citadel Hill, we feel half-reconciled to Halifax, its queer little streets, its quaint, mouldy old gables, its soldiers and sailors, its fogs, cabs, penny and half-penny tokens, and all its little, odd, outlandish peculiarities. Peace be with it! after all, it has a quiet charm for an invalid!
The inhabitants of Halifax exhibit no trifling degree of freedom in language for a loyal people; they call themselves "Halligonians." This title, however, is sometimes pronounced "'Alligonians," by the more rigid, as a mark of respect to the old country. But innovation has been at work even here, for the majority of Her Majesty's subjects aspirate the letter H. Alas for innovation! who knows to what results this trifling error may lead? When Mirabeau went to the French court without buckles in his shoes, the barriers of etiquette were broken down, and the Swiss Guards fought in vain.
There is one virtue in humanity peculiarly grateful to an invalid; to him most valuable, by him most appreciated, namely, hospitality. And that the 'Alligonians are a kind and good people, abundant in hospitality, let me attest. One can scarcely visit a city occupied by those whose grandsires would have hung your rebel grandfathers (if they had caught them), without some misgivings. But I found the old Tory blood of three Halifax generations, yet warm and vital, happy to accept again a rebellious kinsman, a real live Yankee, in spite of Sam Slick and the Revolution.
Let us take a stroll through these quiet streets. This is the Province House with its Ionic porch, and within it are the halls of Parliament, and offices of government. You see there is a red-coat with his sentry-box at either corner. Behind the house again are two other sentries on duty, all glittering with polished brass, and belted, gloved, and bayoneted, in splendid style. Of what use are these satellites, except to watch the building and keep it from running away? On the street behind the Province House is Fuller's American Book-store, which we will step into, and now among these books, fresh from the teeming presses of the States, we feel once more at home. Fuller preserves his equanimity in spite of the blandishments of royalty, and once a year, on the Fourth of July, hoists the "stars and stripes," and bravely takes dinner with the United States Consul, in the midst of lions and unicorns. Many pleasant hours I passed with Fuller, both in town and country. Near by, on the next corner, is the print-store of our old friends the Wetmores, and here one can see costly engravings of Landseer's fine pictures, and indeed whole portfolios of English art. But of all the pictures there was one, the most touching, the most suggestive! The presiding genius of the place, the unsceptred Queen of this little realm was before me—Faed's Evangeline! And this reminded me that I was in the Acadian land! This reminded me of Longfellow's beautiful pastoral, a poem that has spread a glory over Nova Scotia, a romantic interest, which our own land has not yet inspired! I knew that I was in Acadia; the historic scroll unrolled and stretched its long perspective to earlier days; it recalled De Monts, and the la Tours; Vice Admiral Destournelle, who ran upon his own sword, hard by, at Bedford Basin; and the brave Baron Castine.
The largest settlement of the Acadians is in the neighborhood of Halifax. In the early mornings, you sometimes see a few of these people in the streets, or at the market, selling a dozen or so of fresh eggs, or a pair or two of woollen socks, almost the only articles of their simple commerce. But you must needs be early to see them; after eight o'clock, they will have all vanished. Chezzetcook, or, as it is pronounced by the 'Alligonians, "Chizzencook," is twenty-two miles from Halifax, and as the Acadian peasant has neither horse nor mule, he or she must be off betimes to reach home before mid-day nuncheon. A score of miles on foot is no trifle, in all weathers, but Gabriel and Evangeline perform it cheerfully; and when the knitting-needle and the poultry shall have replenished their slender stock, off again they will start on their midnight pilgrimage, that they may reach the great city of Halifax before day-break.
We must see Chezzetcook anon, gentle reader.
Let us visit the market-place. Here is Masaniello, with his fish in great profusion. Codfish, three-pence or four-pence each; lobsters, a penny; and salmon of immense size at six-pence a pound (currency), equal to a dime of our money. If you prefer trout, you must buy them of these Micmac squaws in traditional blankets, a shilling a bunch; and you may also buy baskets of rainbow tints from these copper ladies for a mere trifle; and as every race has a separate vocation here, only of the negroes can you purchase berries. "This is a busy town," one would say, drawing his conclusion from the market-place; for the shifting crowd, in all costumes and in all colors, Indians, negroes, soldiers, sailors, civilians, and Chizzincookers, make up a pageant of no little theatrical effect and bustle. Again: if you are still strong in limb, and ready for a longer walk, which I, leaning upon my staff, am not, we will visit the encampment at Point Pleasant. The Seventy-sixth Regiment has pitched its tents here among the evergreens. Yonder you see the soldiers, looking like masses of red fruit amidst the spicy verdure of the spruces. Row upon row of tents, and file upon file of men standing at ease, each one before his knapsack, his little leather household, with its shoes, socks, shirts, brushes, razors, and other furniture open for inspection. And there is Sir John Gaspard le Marchant, with a brilliant staff, engaged in the pleasant duty of picking a personal quarrel with each medal-decorated hero, and marking down every hole in his socks, and every gap in his comb, for the honor of the service. And this Point Pleasant is a lovely place, too, with a broad look-out in front, for yonder lies the blue harbor and the ocean deeps. Just back of the tents is the cookery of the camp, huge mounds of loose stones, with grooves at the top, very like the architecture of a cranberry-pie; and if the simile be an homely one, it is the best that comes to mind to convey an idea of those regimental stoves, with their seams and channels of fire, over which potatoes bubble, and roast and boiled scud forth a savory odor. And here and there, wistfully regarding this active scene, amid the green shrubbery, stands a sentinel before his sentry-box, built of spruce boughs, wrought into a mimic military temple, and fanciful enough, too, for a garden of roses. And look you now! If here be not Die Vernon, with "habit, hat, and feather," cantering gayly down the road between the tents, and behind her a stately groom in gold-lace band, top-boots, and buck-skins. A word in your ear—that pleasant half-English face is the face of the Governor's daughter.
The road to Point Pleasant is a favorite promenade in the long Acadian twilights. Mid-way between the city and the Point lies "Kissing Bridge," which the Halifax maidens sometimes pass over. Who gathers toll nobody knows, but I thought there was a mischievous glance in the blue eyes of those passing damsels that said plainly they could tell, "an' they would." I love to look upon those happy, healthy English faces; those ruddy cheeks, flushed with exercise, and those well-developed forms, not less attractive because of the sober-colored dresses and brown flat hats, in which, o' summer evenings, they glide towards the mysterious precincts of "The Bridge." What a tale those old arches could tell? ?Quien sabe? Who knows?
But next to "Kissing Bridge," the prominent object of interest, now, to Halifax ladies, is the great steamer that lies at the Admiralty, the Oriental screw-steamer Himalaya—the transport ship of two regiments of the heroes of Balaklava, and Alma, and Inkerman, and Sebastopol. A vast specimen of naval architecture; an unusual sight in these waters; a marine vehicle to carry twenty-five hundred men! Think of this moving town; this portable village of royal belligerents covered with glory and medals, breasting the billows! Is there not something glorious in such a spectacle? And yet I was told by a brave officer, who wore the decorations of the four great battles on his breast, that of his regiment, the Sixty-third, but thirty men were now living, and of the thirty, seventeen only were able to attend drill. That regiment numbered a thousand at Alma!
No gun broke the silence of the Sabbath morning, as the giant ship moved from the Admiralty, on the day following our visit to Point Pleasant, and silently furrowed her path oceanward on her return to Gibraltar. A long line of thick bituminous smoke, above the low house-tops, was the only hint of her departure, to the citizens. It was a grand sight to see her vast bulk moving among the islands in the harbor, almost as large as they.
And now, being Sunday, after looking in at the Cathedral, which does not represent the usual pomp of the Romish Church, we will visit the Garrison Chapel. A bugle-call from barracks, or Citadel Hill, salutes us as we stroll towards the chapel; otherwise, Halifax is quiet, as becomes the day. Presently we see the long scarlet lines approaching, and presently the men, with orderly step, file from the street through the porch into the gallery and pews. Then the officers of field and line, of ordnance and commissary departments, take their allotted seats below. Then the chimes cease, and the service begins. Most devoutly we prayed for the Queen, and omitted the President of the United States.
As the Crimeans ebbed from the church, and, floating off in the distance, wound slowly up Citadel Hill against the quiet clear summer sky, I could not but think of these lines from Thomas Miller's "Summer Morning:"
"A troop of soldiers pass with stately pace, Their early music wakes the village street: Through yon turned blinds peeps many a lovely face, Smiling perchance unconsciously how sweet! One does the carpet press with blue-veined feet, Not thinking how her fair neck she exposes, But with white foot timing the drum's deep beat; And when again she on her pillow dozes, Dreams how she'll dance that tune 'mong summer's sweetest roses
"So let her dream, even as beauty should! Let the while plumes athwart her slumbers away! Why should I steep their swaling snows in blood, Or bid her think of battle's grim array? Truth will too soon her blinding star display, And like a fearful comet meet her eyes. And yet how peaceful they pass on their way! How grand the sight as up the hill they rise! I will not think of cities reddening in the skies."
It was my fate to see next day a great celebration. It was the celebration of peace between England and Russia. Peace having been proclaimed, all Halifax was in arms! Loyalty threw out her bunting to the breeze, and fired her crackers. The civic authorities presented an address to the royal representative of Her Majesty, requesting His Excellency to transmit the same to the foot of the throne. Militia-men shot off municipal cannon; bells echoed from the belfries; the shipping fluttered with signals; and Citadel Hill telegraph, in a multitude of flags, announced that ships, brigs, schooners, and steamers, in vast quantities, "were below." Nor was the peace alone the great feature of the holiday. The eighth of June, the natal day of Halifax, was to be celebrated also. For Halifax was founded, so says the Chronicle, on the eighth of June, 1749, by the Hon. Edward Cornwallis (not our Cornwallis), and the 'Alligonians in consequence made a specialty of that fact once a year. And to add to the attraction, the Board of Works had decided to lay the corner-stone of a Lunatic Asylum in the afternoon; so there was no end to the festivities. And, to crown all, an immense fog settled upon the city.
Leaning upon my friend Robert's arm and my staff, I went forth to see the grand review. When we arrived upon the ground, in the rear of Citadel Hill, we saw the outline of something glimmering through the fog, which Robert said were shrubs, and which I said were soldiers. A few minutes' walking proved my position to be correct; we found ourselves in the centre of a three-sided square of three regiments, within which the civic authorities were loyally boring Sir John Gaspard le Merchant and staff, to the verge of insanity, with the Address which was to be laid at the foot of the throne. Notwithstanding the despairing air with which His Excellency essayed to reply to this formidable paper, I could not help enjoying the scene; and I also noted, when the reply was over, and the few ragamuffins near His Excellency cheered bravely, and the band struck up the national anthem, how gravely and discreetly the rest of the 'Alligonians, in the circumambient fog, echoed the sentiment by a silence, that, under other circumstances, would have been disheartening. What a quiet people it is! As I said before, to make the festivities complete, in the afternoon there was a procession to lay the corner-stone of a Lunatic Asylum. But oh! how the jolly old rain poured down upon the luckless pilgrimage! There were the "Virgins" of Masonic Lodge No.—, the Army Masons, in scarlet; the African Masons, in ivory and black; the Scotch-piper Mason, with his legs in enormous plaid trowsers, defiant of Shakspeare's theory about the sensitiveness of some men, when the bag-pipe sings i' the nose; the Clerical Mason in shovel hat; the municipal artillery; the Sons of Temperance, and the band. Away they marched, with drum and banner, key and compasses, BIBLE and sword, to Dartmouth, in great feather, for the eyes of Halifax were upon them.
Fog clears Up—The One Idea not comprehended by the American Mind—A June Morning in the Province—The Beginning of the Evangeliad—Intuitive Perception of Genius—The Forest Primeval—Acadian Peasants—A Negro Settlement—Deer's Castle—The Road to Chezzetcook—Acadian Scenery—A Glance at the Early History of Acadia—First Encroachments of the English—The Harbor and Village of Chezzetcook—Etc., etc.
The celebration being over, the fog cleared up. Loyalty furled her flags; the civic authorities were silent; the signal-telegraph was put upon short allowance. But the 'Alligonian papers next day were loaded to the muzzle with typographical missiles. From them we learned that there had been a great amount of enthusiasm displayed at the celebration, and "everything had passed off happily in spite of the weather." "Old Chebucto" was right side up, and then she quietly sparkled out again.
There is one solitary idea, and only one, not comprehensible by the American mind. I say it feebly, but I say it fearlessly, there is an idea which does not present anything to the American mind but a blank. Every metaphysical dog has worried the life out of every abstraction but this. I strike my stick down, cross my hands, and rest my chin upon them, in support of my position. Let anybody attempt to controvert it! "I say, that in the American mind, there is no such thing as the conception even, of an idea of tranquillity!" I once for a little repose, went to a "quiet New-England village," as it was called, and the first thing that attracted my attention there was a statement in the village paper, that no less than twenty persons in that quiet place had obtained patent-rights for inventions and improvements during the past year. They had been at everything, from an apple-parer to a steam-engine. In the next column was an article "on capital punishment," and the leader was thoroughly fired up with a bran-new project for a railroad to the Pacific. That day I dined with a member of Congress, a peripatetic lecturer, and the principal citizens of the township, and took the return cars at night amid the glare of a torch-light procession. Repose, forsooth? Why, the great busy city seemed to sing lullaby, after the shock of that quiet New-England village.
But in this quaint, mouldy old town, one can get an idea of the calm and the tranquil—especially after a celebration. It has been said: "Halifax is the only place that is finished." One can readily believe it. The population has been twenty-five thousand for the last twenty-five years, and a new house is beyond the memory of the oldest inhabitant.
The fog cleared up. And one of those inexpressibly balmy days followed. June in Halifax represents our early May. The trees are all in bud; the peas in the garden-beds are just marking the lines of drills with faint stripes of green. Here and there a solitary bird whets his bill on the bare bark of a forked bough. The chilly air has departed, and in its place is a sense of freshness, of dewiness, of fragrance and delight. A sense of these only, an instinctive feeling, that anticipates the odor of the rose before the rose is blown. On such a morning we went forth to visit Chezzetcook, and here, gentle reader, beginneth the Evangeliad.
The intuitive perception of genius is its most striking element. I was told by a traveller and an artist, who had been for nearly twenty years on the northwest coast, that he had read Irving's "Astoria" as a mere romance, in early life, but when he visited the place itself, he found that he was reading the book over again; that Irving's descriptions were so minute and perfect, that he was at home in Astoria, and familiar, not only with the country, but with individuals residing there; "for," said he, "although many of the old explorers, trappers, and adventurers described in the book were dead and gone, yet I found the descendants of those pioneers had the peculiar characteristics of their fathers; and the daughter of Concomly, whom I met, was as interesting a historical personage at home as Queen Elizabeth would have been in Westminster Abbey. At Vancouver's Island," said the traveller, "I found an old dingy copy of the book itself, embroidered and seamed with interlineations and marginal notes of hundreds of pens, in every style of chirography, yet all attesting the faithfulness of the narrative. I would have given anything for that copy, but I do not believe I could have purchased it with the price of the whole island."
What but that wonderful clement of genius, intuitive perception, could have produced such a book? Irving was never on the Columbia River, never saw the northwest coast. "The materials were furnished him from the log-books and journals of the explorers themselves," says Dr. Dryasdust. True, my learned friend, but suppose I furnish you with pallet and colors, with canvas and brushes, the materials of art, will you paint me as I sit here, and make a living, breathing picture, that will survive my ashes for centuries? "I have not the genius of the artist," replies Dr. Dryasdust. Then, my dear Doctor, we will put the materials aside for the present, and venture a little farther with our theory of "intuitive perception."
Longfellow never saw the Acadian Land, and yet thus his pastoral begins:
"This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks."
This is the opening line of the poem: this is the striking feature of Nova Scotia scenery. The shores welcome us with waving masses of foliage, but not the foliage of familiar woods. As we travel on this hilly road to the Acadian settlement, we look up and say, "This is the forest primeval," but it is the forest of the poem, not that of our childhood. There is not, in all this vast greenwood, an oak, an elm, a chestnut, a beech, a cedar or maple. For miles and miles, we see nothing against the clear blue sky but the spiry tops of evergreens; or perhaps, a gigantic skeleton, "a rampike," pine or hemlock, scathed and spectral, stretches its gaunt outline above its fellows. Spruces and firs, such as adorn our gardens, cluster in never-ending profusion; and aromatic and unwonted odor pervades the air—the spicy breath of resinous balsams. Sometimes the sense is touched with a new fragrance, and presently we see a buckthorn, white with a thousand blossoms. These, however, only meet us at times. The distinct and characteristic feature of the forest is conveyed in that one line of the poet.
And yet another feature of the forest primeval presents itself, not less striking and unfamiliar. From the dead branches of those skeleton pines and hemlocks, these rampikes, hang masses of white moss, snow-white, amid the dark verdure. An actor might wear such a beard in the play of King Lear. Acadian children wore such to imitate "grandpere," centuries ago; Cowley's trees are "Patricians," these are Patriarchs.
——"The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight, Stand like Druids of old, with voices sad and prophetic, Stand like harpers hoar with beards that rest on their bosoms."
We are re-reading Evangeline line by line. And here, at this turn of the road, we encounter two Acadian peasants. The man wears an old tarpaulin hat, home-spun worsted shirt, and tarry canvas trowsers; innovation has certainly changed him, in costume at least, from the Acadian of our fancy; but the pretty brown-skinned girl beside him, with lustrous eyes, and soft black hair under her hood, with kirtle of antique form, and petticoat of holiday homespun, is true to tradition. There is nothing modern in the face or drapery of that figure. She might have stepped out of Normandy a century ago,
"Wearing her Norman cap, and her kirtle of blue, and the ear-rings Brought in the olden time from France, and since, as an heir-loom, Handed down from mother to child, through long generations."
Alas! the ear-rings are worn out with age! but save them, the picture is very true to the life. As we salute the pair, we learn they have been walking on their way since dawn from distant Chezzetcook: the man speaks English with a strong French accent; the maiden only the language of her people on the banks of the Seine.
"Fair was she to behold, that maiden of seventeen summers, Black were her eyes as the berry that grows on the thorn by the way-side: Black, yet how softly they gleamed beneath the brown shade of her tresses."
Who can help repeating the familiar words of the idyl amid such scenery, and in such a presence?
"We are now approaching a Negro settlement," said my compagnon de voyage after we had passed the Acadians; "and we will take a fresh horse at Deer's Castle; this is rough travelling." In a few minutes we saw a log house perched on a bare bone of granite that stood out on a ragged hill-side, and presently another cabin of the same kind came in view. Then other scare-crow edifices wheeled in sight as we drove along; all forlorn, all patched with mud, all perched on barren knolls, or gigantic bars of granite, high up, like ragged redoubts of poverty, armed at every window with a formidable artillery of old hats, rolls of rags, quilts, carpets, and indescribable bundles, or barricaded with boards to keep out the air and sunshine.
"You do not mean to say those wretched hovels are occupied by living beings?" said I to my companion.
"Oh yes," he replied, with a quiet smile, "these are your people, your fugitives."
"But, surely," said I, "they do not live in those airy nests during your intensely cold winters?"
"Yes," replied my companion, "and they have a pretty hard time of it. Between you and I," he continued, "they are a miserable set of devils; they won't work, and they shiver it out here as well as they can. During the most of the year they are in a state of abject want, and then they are very humble. But in the strawberry season they make a little money, and while it lasts are fat and saucy enough. We can't do anything with them, they won't work. There they are in their cabins, just as you see them, a poor, woe-begone set of vagabonds; a burden upon the community; of no use to themselves, nor to anybody else."
"Ye who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy and pursue with eagerness the phantoms of hope, who expect that age will perform the promises of youth, and that the deficiencies of the present day will be supplied by the morrow, attend to the history of Rasselas, here in his happy valley."
"Now then," said my companion, as this trite quotation was passing through my mind. The wagon had stopped in front of a little, weather-beaten house that kept watch and ward over an acre of greensward, broken ever and anon with a projecting bone of granite, and not only fenced with stone, but dotted also with various mounds of pebbles, some as large as a paving-stone, and some much larger. This was "Deer's Castle." In front of the castle was a swing-sign with an inscription:
"William Deer, who lives here, Keeps the best of wine and beer, Brandy, and cider, and other good cheer; Fish, and ducks, and moose, and deer. Caught or shot in the woods just here, With cutlets, or steaks, as will appear; If you will stop you need not fear But you will be well treated by WILLIAM DEER, And by Mrs. DEER, his dearest, deary dear!"
I quote from memory. The precise words have escaped me, but the above is the substance of the sense, and the metre is accurate.
It was a little, weather-beaten shanty of boards, that clung like flakes to the frame-work. A show-box of a room, papered with select wood-cuts from Punch and the Illustrated London News, was the grand banquet-hall of the castle. And indeed it was a castle compared with the wretched redoubts of poverty around it. Here we changed horses, or rather we exchanged our horse, for a diminutive, bantam pony, that, under the supervision of "Bill," was put inside the shafts and buckled up to the very roots of the harness. This Bill, the son and heir of the Castellen, was a good-natured yellow boy, about fifteen years of age, with such a development of under-lip and such a want of development elsewhere, that his head looked like a scoop. There was an infinite fund of humor in Billy, an uncontrollable sense of the comic, that would break out in spite of his grave endeavors to put himself under guard. It exhibited itself in his motions and gestures, in the flourish of his hands as he buckled up the pony, in the looseness of his gait, the swing of his head, and the roll of his eyes. His very language was pregnant with mirth; thus:
"Cheh, cheh, sir? cheh."
"Is your father at home?"
"Cheh, cheh, father? cheh, cheh."
"Yes, your father?"
"Cheh, cheh, at home, sah? cheh."
"Yes, is your father at home?"
"I guess so, cheh, cheh."
"What is the matter with you, Bill? what are you laughing about?"
"Cheh, cheh, I don't know, sah, cheh, cheh."
"Well, take out the horse, and put in the pony; we want to go to Chizzencook."
"Cheh, Cheh'z'ncook? Yes, sah," and so with that facetious gait and droll twist of the elbow, Bill swings himself against the horse and unbuckles him in a perpetual jingle of merriment.
"And this," said I to my companion, as we looked from the door-step of the shanty upon the spiry tops of evergreens in the valley below us, and at the wretched log-huts that were roosting up on the bare rocks around us, "this is the negro settlement?"
"Yes," he replied.
"Are all the negro settlements in Nova Scotia as miserable, as this?"
"Yes," he answered; "you can tell a negro settlement at once by its appearance."
"Then," I thought to myself, "I would, for poor Cuffee's sake, that much-vaunted British sympathy and British philanthropy had something better to show to an admiring world than the prospect around Deer's Castle."
Notwithstanding the very generous banquet spread before the eyes of the traveller, on the sign-board, we were compelled to dismiss the pleasant fiction of the poet upon the announcement of Mrs. Deer, that "Nathin was in de house 'cept bacon," and she "reckoned" she "might have an egg or two by de time we got back from Chizzincook."
"But you have plenty of trout here in these streams?"
"Oh! yes, plenty, sah."
"Then let Bill catch some trout for us."
And so the pony being strapped up and buckled to the wagon, we left the negro settlement for the French settlement. They are all in "settlements," here, the people of this Province. Centuries are mutable, but prejudices never alter in the Colonies.
But we are again in the Acadian forest—a truce to moralizing—let us enjoy the scenery. The road we are on is but a few miles from the sea-shore, but the ocean is hidden from view by the thick woods. As we ride along, however, we skirt the edges of coves and inlets that frequently break in upon the landscape. There is a chain of fresh-water lakes also along this road; sometimes we cross a bridge over a rushing torrent; sometimes a calm expanse of water, doubling the evergreens at its margin, comes in view; anon a gleam of sapphire strikes through the verdure, and an ocean-bay with its shingly beach curves in and out between the piny slopes. At last we reach the crest of a hill, and at the foot of the road is another bridge, a house, a wharf, and two or three coasters at anchor in a diminutive harbor. This is "Three Fathom Harbor." We are within a mile of Chezzetcook.
Now if it were not for Pony we should press on to the settlement, but we must give Pony a respite. Pony is an enthusiastic little fellow, but his lungs are too much for him, they have blown him out like a bagpipe. A mile farther and then eleven miles back to Deer's Castle, is a great undertaking for so small an animal. In the meanwhile, we will ourselves rest and take some "home-brewed" with the landlord, who is harbor-master, inn-keeper, store-keeper, fisherman, shipper, skipper, mayor, and corporation of Three Fathom Harbor, beside being father of the town, for all the children in it are his own. A draught of foaming ale, a whiff or two from a clay pipe, a look out of the window to be assured that Pony had subsided, and we take leave of the corporate authority of Three Fathom Harbor, and are once more on the road.
One can scarcely draw near to a settlement of these poor refugees without a feeling of pity for the sufferings they have endured; and this spark of pity quickly warms and kindles into indignation when we think of the story of hapless Acadia—the grievous wrong done those simple-minded, harmless, honest people, by the rapacious, free-booting adventurers of merry England, and those precious filibusters, our Pilgrim Fathers.
The early explorations of the French in the young hemisphere which Columbus had revealed to the older half of the world, have been almost entirely obscured by the greater events which followed. Nearly a century after the first colonies were established in New France, New England was discovered. I shall not dwell upon the importance of this event, as it has been so often alluded to by historians and others; and, indeed, I believe it is generally acknowledged now, that the finding of the continent itself would have been a failure had it not been for the discovery of Massachusetts. As this, however, happened long after the establishment of Acadia, and as the Pilgrim Fathers did not interfere with their French neighbors for a surprising length of time, it will be as well not to expatiate upon it at present. In the course of a couple of centuries or so, I shall have occasion to allude to it, in connection with the story of the neutral French.
In the year 1504, says the Chronicle, some fishermen from Brittany discovered the island that now forms the eastern division of Nova Scotia, and named it "Cape Breton." Two years after, Dennys of Harfleur, made a rude chart of the vast sheet of water that stretches from Cape Breton and Newfoundland to the mainland. In 1534, Cartier, sailing under the orders of the French Admiral, Chabot, visited the coast of Newfoundland, crossed the gulf Dennys had seen and described twenty-eight years before, and took possession of the country around it, in the name of the king, his master. As Cartier was recrossing the Gulf, on his return voyage, he named the waters he was sailing upon "St. Lawrence," in honor of that saint whose day chanced to turn up on the calendar at that very happy time. According to some accounts, Baron de Lery established a settlement here as early as 1518. Some authorities state that a French colony was planted on the St. Lawrence as early as 1524, and soon after others were formed in Canada and Nova Scotia. In 1535, Cartier again crossed the waters of the Gulf, and following the course of the river, penetrated into the interior until he reached an island upon which was a hill; this he named "Mont Real." Various adventurers followed these first discoverers and explorers, and the coast was from time to time visited by French ships, in pursuit of the fisheries.
Among these expeditions, one of the most eminent was that of Champlain, who, in the year 1609, penetrated as far south as the head waters of the Hudson River; visited Lake George and the cascades of Ticonderoga; and gave his own name to the lake which lies between the proud shores of New York and New England. Thence le Sr. Champlain, "Capitaine pour le Roy," travelled westward, as far as the country of the Hurons, giving to the discovered territory the title of Nouvelle France; and to the lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron, the names of St. Louis, Mer Douce, and Grand Lac; which any person can see by referring to the original chart in the State library of New York. But before these discoveries of Champlain, an important step had been taken by the parent government. In the year 1603, an expedition, under the patronage of Henry IV., sailed for the New World. The leader of this was a Protestant gentleman, by name De Monts. As the people under his command were both Protestants and Catholics, De Monts had permission given in his charter to establish, as one of the fundamental laws of the Colony, the free exercise of "religious worship," upon condition of settling in the country, and teaching the Roman Catholic faith to the savages. Heretofore, all the countries discovered by the French had been called New France, but in De Monts' Patent, that portion of the territory lying east of the Penobscot and embracing the present provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and part of Maine was named "Acadia."
The little colony under De Monts flourished in spite of the rigors of the climate, and its commander, with a few men, explored the coast on the St. Lawrence and the bay of Fundy, as well as the rivers of Maine, the Penobscot, the Kennebec, the Saco and Casco Bay, and even coasted as far south as the long, hook-shaped cape that is now known in all parts of the world as the famous Cape Cod. In a few years, the settlement began to assume a smiling aspect; houses were erected, and lands were tilled; the settlers planted seeds and gathered the increase thereof; gardens sprang out of the wilderness, peace and order reigned everywhere, and the savage tribes around viewed the kind, light-hearted colonists with admiration and fraternal good-will. It is pleasant to read this part of the chronicle—of their social meetings in the winter at the banqueting hall; of the order of "Le Bon Temps," established by Champlain; of the great pomp and insignia of office (a collar, a napkin, and staff) of the grand chamberlain, whose government only lasted for a day, when he was supplanted by another; of their dinners in the sunshine amid the corn-fields; of their boats, banners, and music on the water; of their gentleness, simplicity, and honest, hearty enjoyments. These halcyon days soon came to an end. The infamous Captain Argall, hearing that a number of white people had settled in this hyperborean region, set sail from Jamestown for the colony, in a ship of fourteen guns, in the midst of a profound peace, to burn, pillage, and slaughter the intruders upon the territory of Virginia! Finding the people unprepared for defence, his enterprise was successful. Argall took possession of the lands, in the name of the King of England, laid waste some of the settlements, burned the forts, and, under circumstances of peculiar perfidy, induced a number of the poor Acadians to go with him to Jamestown. Here they were treated as pirates, thrown into prison, and sentenced to be executed. Argall, who it seems had some touch of manhood in his nature, upon this confessed to the Governor, Sir Thomas Dale, that these people had a patent from the King of France, which he had stolen from them and concealed, and that they were not pirates, but simply colonists. Upon this, Sir Thomas Dale was induced to fit out an expedition to dislodge the rest of them from Acadia. Three ships were got ready, the brave Captain Argall was appointed Commander-in-chief, and the first colony was terminated by fire and sword before the end of the year. This was in 1613, ten years after the first planting of Acadia.
"Some of the settlers," says the Chronicle, "finding resistance to be unavailing, fled to the woods." What became of them history does not inform us, but with a graceful appearance of candor, relates that the transaction itself "was not approved of by the court of England, nor resented by that of France." Five years afterward we find Captain Argall appointed Deputy-Governor of Virginia.
This outrage was the initial letter only of a series that for nearly a century and a half after, made the successive colonists of Acadia the prey of their rapacious neighbors. We shall take up the story from time to time, gentle reader, as we voyage around and through the province. Meanwhile let us open our eyes again upon the present, for just below us lies the village and harbor of Chezzetcook.
A conspiracy of earth and air and ocean had certainly broken out that morning, for the ominous lines of Fog and Mist were hovering afar off upon the boundaries of the horizon. Under the crystalline azure of a summer sky, the water of the harbor had an intensity of color rarely seen, except in the pictures of the most ultra-marine painters. Here and there a green island or a fishing-boat rested upon the surface of the tranquil blue. For miles and miles the eye followed indented grassy slopes, that rolled away on either side of the harbor, and the most delicate pencil could scarcely portray the exquisite line of creamy sand that skirted their edges and melted off in the clear margin of the water. Occasional little cottages nestle among these green banks, not the Acadian houses of the poem, "with thatched roofs, and dormer windows projecting," but comfortable, homely-looking buildings of modern shapes, shingled and un-weather-cocked. No cattle visible, no ploughs nor horses. Some of the men are at work in the open air; all in tarpaulin hats, all in tarry canvas trowsers. These are boat-builders and coopers. Simple, honest, and good-tempered enough; you see how courteously they salute us as we ride by them. In front of every house there is a knot of curious little faces; Young Acadia is out this bright day, and although Young Acadia has not a clean face on, yet its hair is of the darkest and softest, and its eyes are lustrous and most delicately fringed. Yonder is one of the veterans of the place, so we will tie Pony to the fence, and rest here.
"Fine day you have here," said my companion.
"Oh yes! oh yes!" (with great deference and politeness).
"Can you give us anything in the way of refreshment? a glass of ale, or a glass of milk?"
"Oh no!" (with the unmistakable shrug of the shoulders); "we no have milk, no have ale, no have brandy, no have noting here: ah! we very poor peep' here." (Poor people here.)
"Can we sit down and rest in one of your houses?"
"Oh yes! oh yes!" (with great politeness and alacrity); "walk in, walk in; we very poor peep', no milk, no brandy: walk in."
The little house is divided by a partition. The larger half is the hall, the parlor, kitchen, and nursery in one. A huge fire-place, an antique spinning-wheel, a bench, and two settles, or high-backed seats, a table, a cradle and a baby very wide awake, complete the inventory. In the apartment adjoining is a bin that represents, no doubt, a French bedstead of the early ages. Everything is suggestive of boat-builders, of Robinson Crusoe work, of undisciplined hands, that have had to do with ineffectual tools. As you look at the walls, you see the house is built of timbers, squared and notched together, and caulked with moss or oakum.
"Very poor peep' here," says the old man, with every finger on his hands stretched out to deprecate the fact. By the fire-side sits an old woman, in a face all cracked and seamed with wrinkles, like a picture by one of the old masters. "Yes," she echoes, "very poor peep' here, and very cold, too, sometime." By this time the door-way is entirely packed with little, black, shining heads, and curious faces, all shy, timid, and yet not the less good-natured. Just back of the cradle are two of the Acadian women, "knitters i' the sun," with features that might serve for Palmer's sculptures; and eyes so lustrous, and teeth so white, and cheeks so rich with brown and blush, that if one were a painter and not an invalid, he might pray for canvas and pallet as the very things most wanted in the critical moment of his life. Faed's picture does not convey the Acadian face. The mouth and chin are more delicate in the real than in the ideal Evangeline. If you look again, after the first surprise is over, you will see that these are the traditional pictures, such as we might have fancied they should be, after reading the idyl. From the forehead of each you see at a glance how the dark mass of hair has been combed forward and over the face, that the little triangular Norman cap might be tied across the crown of the head. Then the hair is thrown back again over this, so as to form a large bow in front, then re-tied at the crown with colored ribbons. Then you see it has been plaited in a shining mesh, brought forward again, and braided with ribbons, so that it forms, as it were, a pretty coronet, well-placed above those brilliant eyes and harmonious features. This, with the antique kirtle and picturesque petticoat, is an Acadian portrait. Such is it now, and such it was, no doubt, when De Monts sailed from Havre de Grace, two centuries and a half ago. In visiting this kind and simple people, one can scarcely forget the little chapel. The young French priest was in his garden, behind the little tenement, set apart for him by the piety of his flock, and readily admitted us. A small place indeed was it, but clean and orderly, the altar decorated with toy images, that were not too large for a Christmas table. Yet I have been in the grandest tabernacles of episcopacy with lesser feelings of respect than those which were awakened in that tiny Acadian chapel. Peace be with it, and with its gentle flock.
"Pony is getting impatient," said my companion, as we reverently stepped from the door-way, "and it is a long ride to Halifax." So, with courteous salutation on both sides, we take leave of the good father, and once more are on the road to Deer's Castle.
A Romp at Three Fathom Harbor—The Moral Condition of the Acadians—The Wild Flowers of Nova Scotia—Mrs. Deer's Wit—No Fish—Picton—The Balaklava Schooner—And a Voyage to Louisburgh.
Pony is very enterprising. We are soon at the top of the first long hill, and look again, for the last time, upon the Acadian village. How cosily and quietly it is nestled down amid those graceful green slopes! What a bit of poetry it is in itself! Jog on, Pony!
The corporate authority of Three Fathom Harbor has been improving his time during our absence. As we drive up we find him in high romp with a brace of buxom, red-cheeked, Nova Scotia girls, who have just alighted from a wagon. The landlady of Three Fathom Harbor, in her matronly cap, is smiling over the little garden gate at her lord, who is pursuing his Daphnes, and catching, and kissing, and hugging, first one and then the other, to his heart's content. Notwithstanding their screams, and slaps, and robust struggles, it is very plain to be seen that the skipper's attentions are not very unwelcome. Leaving his fair friends, he catches Pony by the bridle and stops us with a hospitable—"Come in—you must come in; just a glass of ale, you'll want it;" and sure enough, we found when we came to taste the ale, that we did want it, and many thanks to him, the kind-hearted landlord of the Three Fathoms.
"It is surprising," said I to my companion, as we rolled again over the road, "that these people, these Acadians, should still preserve their language and customs, so near to your principal city, and yet with no more affiliation than if they were on an island in the South Seas!"
"The reason of that," he replied, "is because they stick to their own settlement; never see anything of the world except Halifax early in the morning; never marry out of their own set; never read—I do not believe one of them can read or write—and are in fact so slow, so destitute of enterprise, so much behind the age"——
I could not avoid smiling. My companion observed it. "What are you thinking about?" said he.
The truth is, I was thinking of Halifax, which was anything but a fast place; but I simply observed:
"Your settlements here are somewhat novel to a stranger. That a mere handful of men should be so near your city, and yet so isolated: that this village of a few hundred only, should retain its customs and language, intact, for generation after generation, within walking distance of Halifax, seems to me unaccountable. But let me ask you," I continued, "what is the moral condition of the Acadians?"
"As for that," said he, "I believe it stands pretty fair. I do not think an Acadian would cheat, lie, or steal; I know that the women are virtuous, and if I had a thousand pounds in my pocket I could sleep with confidence in any of their houses, although all the doors were unlocked and everybody in the village knew it."
"That," said I, "reminds one of the poem:
'Neither locks had they to their doors, nor bars to their windows, But their dwellings were open as day and the hearts of their owners; There the richest was poor, and the poorest lived in abundance.'"
Poor exiles! You will never see the Gasperau and the shore of the Basin of Minas, but if this very feeble life I have holds out, I hope to visit Grandpre and the broad meadows that gave a name to the village.
One thing Longfellow has certainly omitted in "Evangeline"—the wild flowers of Acadia. The roadside is all fringed and tasselled with white, pink, and purple. The wild strawberries are in blossom, whitening the turf all the way from Halifax to Chezzetcook. You see their starry settlements thick in every bit of turf. These are the silver mines of poor Cuffee; he has the monopoly of the berry trade. It is his only revenue. Then in the swampy grounds there are long green needles in solitary groups, surmounted with snowy tufts; and here and there, clusters of light purple blossoms, called laurel flowers, but not like our laurels, spring up from the bases of grey rocks and boulders; sometimes a rich array of blood-red berries gleams out of a mass of greenery; then again great floral white radii, tipped with snowy petals, rise up profuse and lofty; down by the ditches hundreds of pitcher plants lift their veined and mottled vases, brimming with water, to the wood-birds who drink and perch upon their thick rims; May-flowers of delightful fragrance hide beneath those shining, tropical-looking leaves, and meadow-sweet, not less fragrant, but less beautiful, pours its tender aroma into the fresh air; here again we see the buckthorn in blossom; there, scattered on the turf, the scarlet partridge berry; then wild-cherry trees, mere shrubs only, in full bud; and around all and above all, the evergreens, the murmuring pines, and the hemlocks; the rampikes—the grey-beards of the primeval forest; the spicy breath of resinous balsams; the spiry tops, and the serene heaven. Is this fairy land? No, it is only poor, old, barren Nova Scotia, and yet I think Felix, Prince of Salerno, if he were here, might say, and say truly too, "In all my life I never beheld a more enchanting place;" but Felix, Prince of Salerno, must remember this is the month of June, and summer is not perpetual in the latitude of forty-five.
We reach at last Deer's Castle. Pony, under the hands of Bill, seems remarkably cheerful and fresh after his long travel up hill and down. When he pops out of his harness, with his knock-knees and sturdy, stocky little frame, he looks very like an animated saw-buck, clothed in seal-skin; and with a jump, and snort, and flourish of tail, he escorts Bill to the stable, as if twenty miles over a rough road was a trifle not worth consideration.
A savory odor of frying bacon and eggs stole forth from the door as we sat, in the calm summer air, upon the stone fence. William Deer, Jr., was wandering about in front of the castle, endeavoring to get control of his under lip and keep his exuberant mirth within the limits of decorum; but every instant, to use a military figure, it would flash in the pan. Up on the bare rocks were the wretched, woe-begone, patched, and ragged log huts of poor Cuffee. The hour and the season were suggestive of philosophizing, of theories, and questions.
"Mrs. Deer," said I, "is that your husband's portrait on the back of the sign?" (there was a picture of a stag with antlers on the reverse of the poetical swing-board, either intended as a pictographic pun upon the name of "Deer," or as a hint to sportsmen of good game hereabouts).
"Why," replied Mrs. Deer, an old tidy wench, of fifty, pretty well bent by rheumatism, and so square in the lower half of her figure, and so spare in the upper, that she appeared to have been carved out of her own hips: "why, as to dat, he ain't good-looking to brag on, but I don't think he looks quite like a beast neither."
At this unexpected retort, Bill flashed off so many pans at once that he seemed to be a platoon of militia. My companion also enjoyed it immensely. Being an invalid, I could not participate in the general mirth.
"Mrs. Deer," said I, "how long have you lived here?"
"Oh, sah! a good many years; I cum here afore I had Bill dar." (Here William flashed in the pan twice.)
"Where did you reside before you came to Nova Scotia?"
"Where did you live?"
"Oh, sah! I is from Maryland." (William at it again.)
"Did you run away?"
"Yes, sah; I left when I was young. Bill, what you laughing at? I was young once."
"Were you married then—when you run away?"
"Oh yes, sah!" (a glance at Bill, who was off again).
"And left your husband behind in Maryland?"
"Yes, sah; but he didn't stay long dar after I left. He was after me putty sharp, soon as I travelled;" (here Mrs. Deer and William interchanged glances, and indulged freely in mirth).
"And which place do you like the best—this or Maryland?"
"Why, I never had no such work to do at home as I have to do here, grubbin' up old stumps and stones; dem isn't women's work. When I was home, I had only to wait on misses, and work was light and easy." (William quiet.)
"But which place do you like the best—Nova Scotia or Maryland?"
"Oh! de work here is awful, grubbin' up old stones and stumps; 'tain't fit for women." (William much impressed with the cogency of this repetition.)
"But which place do you like the best?"
"And de winter here, oh! it's wonderful tryin." (William utters an affirmative flash.)
"But which place do you like the best?"
"And den dere's de rheumatiz."
"But which place do you like the best, Mrs. Deer?"
"Well," said Mrs. Deer, glancing at Bill, "I like Nova Scotia best." (Whatever visions of Maryland were gleaming in William's mind, seemed to be entirely quenched by this remark.)
"But why," said I, "do you prefer Nova Scotia to Maryland? Here you have to work so much harder, to suffer so much from the cold and the rheumatism, and get so little for it;" for I could not help looking over the green patch of stony grass that has been rescued by the labor of a quarter century.
"Oh!" replied Mrs. Deer, "de difference is, dat when I work here, I work for myself, and when I was working at home, I was working for other people." (At this, William broke forth again in such a series of platoon flashes, that we all joined in with infinite merriment.)
"Mrs. Deer," said I, recovering my gravity, "I want to ask you one more question."
"Well, sah," said the lady Deer, cocking her head on one side, expressive of being able to answer any number of questions in a twinkling.
"You have, no doubt, still many relatives left in Maryland?"
"Oh! yes," replied Mrs. Deer, "all of dem are dar."
"And suppose you had a chance to advise them in regard to this matter, would you tell them to run away, and take their part with you in Nova Scotia, or would you advise them to stay where they are?"
Mrs. Deer, at this, looked a long time at William, and William looked earnestly at his parent. Then she cocked her head on the other side, to take a new view of the question. Then she gathered up mouth and eyebrows, in a puzzle, and again broadened out upon Bill in an odd kind of smile; at last she doubled up one fist, put it against her cheek, glanced at Bill, and out came the answer: "Well, sah, I'd let 'em take dere own heads for dat!" I must confess the philosophy of this remark awakened in me a train of very grave reflections; but my companion burst into a most obstreperous laugh. As for Mrs. Deer, she shook her old hips as long as she could stand, and then sat down and continued, until she wiped the tears out of her eyes with the corner of her apron. William cast himself down upon a strawberry bank, and gave way to the most flagrant mirth, kicking up his old shoes in the air, and fairly wallowing in laughter and blossoms. I endeavored to change the subject. "Bill, did you catch any trout?" It was some time before William could control himself enough to say, "Not a single one, sah;" and then he rolled over on his back, put his black paws up to his eyes, and twitched and jingled to his heart's content. I did not ask Mrs. Deer any more questions; but there is a moral in the story, enough for a day.
As we rattled over the road, after our brief dinner at Deer's Castle, I could not avoid a pervading feeling of gloom and disappointment, in spite of the balmy air and pretty landscape. The old ragged abodes of wretchedness seemed to be too clearly defined—to stand out too intrusively against the bright blue sky. But why should I feel so much for Cuffee? Has he not enlisted in his behalf every philanthropist in England? Is he not within ten miles of either the British flag or Acadia? Does not the Duchess of Sutherland entertain the authoress of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and the Black Swan? Why should I sorrow for Cuffee, when he is in the midst of his best friends? Why should I pretend to say that this appears to be the raggedest, the meanest, the worst condition of humanity, when the papers are constantly lauding British philanthropy, and holding it up as a great example, which we must "bow down and worship?" For my own part, although the pleasant fiction of seeing Cuffee clothed, educated, and Christianized, seemed to be somewhat obscured in this glimpse of his real condition, yet I hope he will do well under his new owners; at the very least, I trust his berry crop will be good, and that a benevolent British blanket or two may enable him to shiver out the winter safely, if not comfortably. Poor William Deer, Sen'r, of Deer's Castle, was suffering with rheumatism in the next apartment, while we were at his eggs and bacon in the banquet hall; but Deer of Deer's Castle is a prince to his neighbors. I shall not easily forget the brightening eye, the swift glance of intelligence in the face of another old negro, an hostler, in Nova Scotia. He was from Virginia, and adopting the sweet, mellifluous language of his own home, I asked him whether he liked best to stay where he was, or go back to "Old Virginny?" "O massa!" said he, with such a look, "you must know dat I has de warmest side for my own country!"
We rattled soberly into Dartmouth, and took the ferry-boat across the bay to the city. At the hotel there was no little questioning about Chezzetcook, for some of the Halifax merchants are at the Waverley. "GOED bless ye, what took ye to Chizzencook?" said one, "I never was there een in my life; ther's no bizz'ness ther, noathing to be seen: ai doant think there is a maen in Halifax scairsly, 'as ever seen the place."
At the supper-table, while we were discussing, over the cheese and ale, the Chezzetcook and negro settlements, and exhibiting with no little vainglory a gorgeous bunch of wild flowers (half of which vanity my compagnon de voyage is accountable for), there was a young English-Irish gentleman, well built, well featured, well educated: by name—I shall call him Picton.
Picton took much interest in Deer's Castle and Chezzetcook, but slily and satirically. I do not think this the best way for a young man to begin with; but nevertheless, Picton managed so well to keep his sarcasms within the bounds of good humor, that before eleven o'clock we had become pretty well acquainted. At eleven o'clock the gas is turned off at Hotel Waverley. We went to bed, and renewed the acquaintance at breakfast. Picton had travelled overland from Montreal to take the "Canada" for Liverpool, and had arrived too late. Picton had nearly a fortnight before him in which to anticipate the next steamer. Picton was terribly bored with Halifax. Picton wanted to go somewhere—where?—"he did not care where." The consequence was a consultation upon the best disposal of a fortnight of waste time, a general survey of the maritime craft of Halifax, the selection of the schooner "Balaklava," bound for Sydney in ballast, and an understanding with the captain, that the old French town of Louisburgh was the point we wished to arrive at, into which harbor we expected to be put safely—three hundred and odd miles from Halifax, and this side of Sydney about sixty-two miles by sea. To all this did captain Capstan "seriously incline," and the result was, two berths in the "Balaklava," several cans of preserved meats and soups, a hamper of ale, two bottles of Scotch whisky, a ramshackle, Halifax van for the luggage, a general shaking of hands at departure, and another set of white sails among the many white sails in the blue harbor of Chebucto.
The "Balaklava" glimmered out of the harbor. Slowly and gently we swept past the islands and great ships; there on the shore is Point Pleasant in full uniform, its red soldiers and yellow tents in the thick of the pines and spruces; yonder is the admiralty, and the "Boscawen" seventy-four, the receiving-ship, a French war-steamer, and merchantmen of all flags. Slowly and gently we swept out past the round fort and long barracks, past the lighthouse and beaches, out upon the tranquil ocean, with its ominous fog-banks on the skirts of the horizon; out upon the evening sea, with the summer air fanning our faces, and a large white Acadian moon, faintly defined overhead.
Picton was a traveller; anybody could see that he was a traveller, and if he had then been in any part of the habitable globe, in Scotland or Tartary, Peru or Pennsylvania, there would not have been the least doubt about the fact that he was a traveller travelling on his travels. He looked like a traveller, and was dressed like a traveller. He had a travelling-cap, a travelling-coat, a portable-desk, a life-preserver, a water-proof blanket, a travelling-shirt, a travelling green leather satchel strapped across his shoulder, a Minie-rifle, several trunks adorned with geographical railway labels of all colors and languages, cork-soled boots, a pocket-compass, and a hand-organ. As for the hand-organ, that was an accident in his outfit. The hand-organ was a present for a little boy on the other side of the ocean; but nevertheless, it played its part very pleasantly in the cabin of the "Balaklava." And now let me observe here, that when we left Halifax in the schooner, I was scarcely less feeble than when I left New York. I mention it to show how speedily "roughing it" on the salt water will bring one's stomach to its senses.
The "Balaklava" was a fore-and-aft schooner in ballast, and very little ballast at that; easily handled; painted black outside, and pink inside; as staunch a craft as ever shook sail; very obedient to the rudder; of some seventy or eighty tons burden; clean and neat everywhere, except in the cabin. As for her commander, he was a fine gentleman; true, honest, brave, modest, prudent and courteous. Sincerely polite, for if politeness be only kindness mixed with refinement, then Captain Capstan was polite, as we understand it. The mate of the schooner was a cannie Scot; by name, Robert, Fitzjames, Buchanan, Wallace, Burns, Bruce; and Bruce was as jolly a first-mate as ever sailed under the cross-bones of the British flag. The crew was composed of four Newfoundland sailor men; and the cook, whose h'eighth letter of the h'alphabet smacked somewhat strongly of H'albion. As for the rest, there was Mrs. Captain Capstan, Captain and Mrs. Captain Capstan's baby; Picton and myself. It is cruel to speak of a baby, except in terms of endearment and affection, and therefore I could not but condemn Picton, who would sometimes, in his position as a traveller, allude to baby in language of most emphatic character. The fact is, Picton swore at that baby! Baby was in feeble health and would sometimes bewail its fate as if the cabin of the "Balaklava" were four times the size of baby's misfortunes. So Picton got to be very nervous and uncharitable, and slept on deck after the first night.
"How do you like this?" said Picton, as we leaned over the side of the "Balaklava," looking down at the millions of gelatinous quarls in the clear waters.
"Oh! very much; this lazy life will soon bring me up; how exhilarating the air is—how fresh and free!
"'A life on the ocean wave, A home on the rolling deep.'"
Just then the schooner gave a lurch and shook her feathers alow and aloft by way of chorus. "I like this kind of life very much; how gracefully this vessel moves; what a beautiful union of strength, proportion, lightness, in the taper masts, the slender ropes and stays, the full spread and sweep of her sails! Then how expansive the view, the calm ocean in its solitude, the receding land, the twinkling lighthouse, the"——
"Ever been sea-sick?" said Picton, drily.
"Not often. By the way, my appetite is improving; I think Cookey is getting tea ready, by the smoke and the smell."
"Likely," replied Picton; "let us take a squint at the galley."
To the galley we went, where we saw Cookey in great distress; for the wind would blow in at the wrong end of his stove-pipe, so as to reverse the draft, and his stove was smoking at every seam. Poor Cookey's eyes were full of tears.
"Why don't you turn the elbow of the pipe the other way?" said Picton.
"Hi av tried that," said Cookey, "but the helbow is so 'eavy the 'ole thing comes h'off."
"Then, take off the elbow," said Picton.
So Cookey did, and very soon tea was ready. Imagine a cabin, not much larger than a good-sized omnibus, and far less steady in its motion, choked up with trunks, and a table about the size of a wash-stand; imagine two stools and a locker to sit on: a canvas table-cloth in full blotch; three chipped yellow mugs by way of cups; as many plates, but of great variety of gap, crack, and pattern; pewter spoons; a blacking-bottle of milk; an earthen piggin of brown sugar, embroidered with a lively gang of great, fat, black pismires; hard bread, old as Nineveh; and butter of a most forbidding aspect. Imagine this array set before an invalid, with an appetite of the most Miss Nancyish kind!
"One misses the comforts here at sea," said the captain's lady, a pretty young woman, with a sweet Milesian accent.
"Yes, ma'am," said I, glancing again at the banquet.
"I don't rightly know," she continued, "how I forgot the rocking-chair;" and she gave baby an affectionate squeeze.
"And that," said the captain, "is as bad as me forgetting the potatoes."
Pic and I sat down, but we could neither eat nor drink; we were very soon on deck again, sucking away dolefully at two precious cigars. At last he broke out:
"By gad, to think of it!"
"What is the matter?" said I.
"Not a potato on board the 'Balaklava!'"
So we pulled away dolefully at our segars, in solemn silence.
"Picton," said I, "did you ever hear 'Annie Laurie?'"
"Yes," replied Picton, "about as many times as I want to hear it."
"Don't be impolite, Picton," said I; "it is not my intention to sing it this evening. Indeed, I never heard it before I heard it in Halifax. I had the good fortune to make one of a very pleasant company, at the house of an old friend in the city, and I must say that song touched me, both the song and the singing of it. You know it was the song in the Crimea?"
"Yes," said Picton, smoking vigorously.
"I asked Major ——," said I, "if 'Annie Laurie' was sung by the soldiers in the Crimea; and he replied 'they did not sing anything else; they sang it,' said he, 'by thousands at a time.' How does it go, Picton? Come now!"
So Picton held forth under the moon, and sang "Annie Laurie" on the "Balaklava." And long after we turned in, the music kept singing on—
"Her voice is low and sweet, And she's all the world to me; And for bonnie Annie Laurie I'd lay me down and dee."
The Voyage of the "Balaklava"—Something of a Fog—A Novel Sensation—Picton bursts out—"Nothing to do"—Breakfast under Way—A Phantom Boat—Mackerel—Gone, Hook and Line—The Colonists—Sectionalism and Prejudices—Cod-fishing and an Unexpected Banquet—Past the Old French Town—A Pretty Respectable Breeze—We get past the Rocks—Louisburgh.
"Hallo!" replied the traveller, sitting up on his locker; "what is the matter now?"
"Nothing, only it is morning; let us get up, I want to see the sun rise out of the ocean."
"Pooh!" replied Picton, "what do you want to be bothering with the sun for?" And again Picton rolled himself up in his sheet-rubber travelling-blanket, and stretched his long body out on the locker. I got up, or rather got down, from my berth, and casting a bucket over the schooner's side soon made a sea-water toilet. I forgot to mention the sleeping arrangements of the "Balaklava." There were two lower berths on one side the cabin, either of which was large enough for two persons; and two single upper berths on the other side, neither of which was large enough for one person. At the proper hour for retiring, the captain's lady shut the cabin-door to keep out intruders, deliberately arrayed herself in dimity, turned in with baby in one of the large berths, and reoepened the door. There she lay, wide awake, with her bright eyes twinkling within the folds of her night cap, unaffected, chatty, and agreeable; then the captain divested himself of boots and pea-jacket and turned in beside his lady (the mate slept, when off his watch, in the other double berth). Picton rolled himself up in his blanket and stretched out on his locker; I climbed into the narrow coop, over the salt beef and hard biscuit department; and so we dozed and talked until sleep reigned over all. In the morning the ceremonies were reversed, with the exception of the Captain, who was up first. "I never see a man sleep so little as the captain," said Bruce; "about two hoors, an' that's aw."
The sun was already risen when I came out on the deck of the "Balaklava;" but where was the sun? Indeed, where was the ocean, or anything? The schooner was barely making steerage-way, with a light head-wind, over a small patch of water, not much larger apparently than the schooner herself. The air was filled with a luminous haze that appeared to be penetrable by the eye, and yet was not; that seemed at once open and dense; near yet afar off; close yet diffuse; contracted yet boundless. There was no light nor shade, no outline, distance, aerial perspective. There was no east and west, nor blushing Aurora, rising from old Tithonus' bed; nor blue sky, nor green sea, nor ship, nor shore, nor color, tint, hue, ray, or reflection. There was nothing visible except the sides of the vessel, a maze of dripping rigging, two sailors bristling with drops, and the captain in a shiny sou-wester. The feeling of seclusion and security was complete, although we might have been run down by another vessel at any moment; the air was deliciously bland, invigorating, and pregnant with life; to breathe it was a transport; you felt it in every globule of blood, in every pore of the lungs. I could have hugged that fog, I was so happy!
Up and down the rolling deck I marched, and with every inspiration of the moist air, felt the old, tiresome, lingering sickness floating away. Then I was startled with a new sensation, I began to get hungry!
It was between four and five o'clock in the morning, and the "Balaklava" did not breakfast until eight. Reader, were you ever hungry at sea? Were you ever on deck, upon the measureless ocean, four hours earlier than the ring of the breakfast-bell? Were you ever awake on the briny deep, in advance, when the cook had yet two hours to sleep; when the stove in the galley was cold, and the kindling-wood unsplit; the coffee still in its tender, green, unroasted innocence? Were you ever upon "the blue, the fresh, the ever free," under these circumstances? If so, I need not say to you that the sentiment, then and there awakened, is stronger than avarice, pride, ambition or, love.
Presently Picton burst out like a flower on deck, in a mass of over-coats, with an India-rubber mackintosh by way of calyx. These were his night-clothes. Picton could do nothing except in full costume; he could not fish, in ever so small a stream, without being booted to the hips; nor shoot, in ever so good a cover, without being jacketed above the hips. He shaved himself in front of a silver-mounted dressing-case, wrote his letters on a portable secretary, drew off his boots with a patent boot-jack, brewed his punch with a peripatetic kettle, and in fact carried a little London with him in every quarter of the globe. "Well," said Picton, looking around at the fog with a low and expressive whistle, "this is serene!"
Although Picton used the word "serene" ironically, just as a man riding in an omnibus and suddenly discovering that he was destitute of the needful sixpence might exclaim, "This is pleasant," yet the phrase was not out of place. The "Balaklava" was gliding lazily over the water, at the rate of three knots an hour, sometimes giving a little lurch by way of shaking the wet out of her invisible sails, for the fog obscured all her upper canvas, and the mind and body easily yielded to the lullaby movement of the vessel. Talk of lotus-eating; of Castles of Indolence; of the dreamy ether inhaled from amber-tubed narghile; of poppy and mandragora, and all the drowsy syrups of the world; of rain upon the midnight roof; the cooing of doves, the hush of falling snow, the murmur of brooks, the long summer song of grasshoppers in the field, the tinkling of fountains, and everything else that can soothe, lull, or tranquillize; and what are these to the serenity of this sail-swinging, ripple-stirring, gently-creaking craft, in her veil of luminous vapor? "How delightful this is!" said I.
The traveller eyed me with surprise, but at last comprehending the idea, admitted, that with the exception of the fog and the calm, the scarcity of news, the damp state of the decks, and the want of the morning papers, it was very charming indeed. Then the traveller got a little restive, and began to peer closely into the fog, and look aloft to see if he could make out the stay-sails, and then he entered into a long confidential talk with the captain, in relation to the chances of "getting on," of a fresh breeze springing up, and the fog lifting; whether we should make Louisburgh by to-morrow night, and if not, when; with various other salt-water speculations and problems. Then Picton climbed up on the patent-windlass to get a full view of the fog at the end of the bow-sprit, and took another survey of the buried stay-sails, and the flying-jib. Then he and the Newfoundland sailor on the look-out, had a long consultation of great gravity and importance; and finally he turned around and came up to the place where I was standing, and broke out: "I say, what the devil are we to do with ourselves this morning?"
"What are we to do?" That eternal question. It instantly seemed to double the thickness of the fog, to arrest the slow movement of the vessel. Picton had nothing to do for a fortnight, and I had left home with the sole object of going somewhere where soul and body could rest. "Nothing to do," was precisely the one thing needful. "Nothing to do," is exquisite happiness, for real happiness is but a negation. "Nothing to do," is repose for the body, respite for the mind. It is an ideal hammock swinging in drowsy tropical groves, apart from the roar of the busy, relentless world; away from the strife of faction, the toils of business, the restless stretch of ambition, wealth's tinsel pride, poverty's galling harness. "Nothing to do," is the phantom of young Imagination, the evanescent hope that promises to crown
"A youth of labor with an age of ease."
"Nothing to do," was the charm that lured us on board the "Balaklava," and now "nothing to do," was with us like the Bottle-Imp, an incubus, still crying out: "You may yet exchange me for a smaller coin, if such there be!" "Nothing to do," is an imposture. Something to do is the very life of life, the beginning and end of being. "Picton," said I, "one thing we must do, at least, this morning."
"What is that?" replied the traveller, eagerly opening his mackintosh, and drawing it off so as to be ready to do it.
"Taking into consideration the slow and sleepy nature of this climate, the thickness of the fog, the faint, thin air that impels the vessel, the early time of day, and the regulations of the 'Balaklava,' it seems to me we shall have to be steadily occupied, for at least three hours, in waiting for breakfast."
Then Picton got hungry! He was a large, stout man, wrapped up by a multitude of garments to the thickness of a polar bear, and when he got hungry, it was on a scale of corresponding dimensions. First he alluded to the fact that we had gone supperless to bed the night before; then he buttoned up his mackintosh, had a brief interview with the captain, shouted down the gang-way for the cook, and finally disappeared in the forecastle. Then he came up again with that officer, rummaged in the galley for the ship's hatchet, and split up all the kindling-wood on deck; then he shed his petals (mackintosh and over-coats) and instructed Cookey in the mystery of building a fire. Then he emerged from the intolerable smoke he had raised in the galley, and devoted himself to the stove-pipe outside, Cookey, meanwhile, within the caboose, getting the benefit of all the experiments.
At last a faint smell of coffee issued forth from the caboose, a little Arabia breathed through the humid atmosphere, and a sound, as if Cookey were stirring the berries in a pan, was heard in the midst of the smoke. Meanwhile Picton descends in the hold with a bucket of salt-water to enjoy the luxury of a bath, and reappears in full toilet just as Cookey is grinding the berries, burnt and green, with a hand-mill between his knees. The pan by this time is put to a new use; it is now lined with bacon in full frizzle; presently it will be turned to account as a bake-pan, for pearl-ash cakes of chrome-yellow complexion: everything must take its turn; the pan is the actor of all work; it accepts coffee, cakes, pork, fish, pudding, besides being general dish-washer and soup-warmer, as we found out before long.
During the preparation of these successive courses, Picton and I sat on deck in hungry silence. Now and then an anxious glance at the galley, or a tormenting whiff of the savory viands, would give new life to the demon that raged within us. I believe if Cookey had accidentally upset the coffee tea-kettle, and put out the fire, his sanctuary would have been sacked instantly. Eight o'clock came, and yet we had not broken bread. We walked up and down the deck to relieve our appetites. At last we saw the three cracked mugs, our tea-cups, which had been our ale-glasses of the night before, brought up for a rinse, and then we knew that breakfast was not far off. The cloth was spread, the saffron cakes, ship's butter, yellow mugs, coffee, pork, and pismires temptingly arrayed. We did not wait to hear the cook ring the bell. We watched him as he came up with it in his hand, and squeezed past him before he shook out a single vibration.