BADDECK AND THAT SORT OF THING
By Charles Dudley Warner
TO JOSEPH H. TWICHELL
It would be unfair to hold you responsible for these light sketches of a summer trip, which are now gathered into this little volume in response to the usual demand in such cases; yet you cannot escape altogether. For it was you who first taught me to say the name Baddeck; it was you who showed me its position on the map, and a seductive letter from a home missionary on Cape Breton Island, in relation to the abundance of trout and salmon in his field of labor. That missionary, you may remember, we never found, nor did we see his tackle; but I have no reason to believe that he does not enjoy good fishing in the right season. You understand the duties of a home missionary much better than I do, and you know whether he would be likely to let a couple of strangers into the best part of his preserve.
But I am free to admit that after our expedition was started you speedily relieved yourself of all responsibility for it, and turned it over to your comrade with a profound geographical indifference; you would as readily have gone to Baddeck by Nova Zembla as by Nova Scotia. The flight over the latter island was, you knew, however, no part of our original plan, and you were not obliged to take any interest in it. You know that our design was to slip rapidly down, by the back way of Northumberland Sound, to the Bras d'Or, and spend a week fishing there; and that the greater part of this journey here imperfectly described is not really ours, but was put upon us by fate and by the peculiar arrangement of provincial travel.
It would have been easy after our return to have made up from libraries a most engaging description of the Provinces, mixing it with historical, legendary, botanical, geographical, and ethnological information, and seasoning it with adventure from your glowing imagination. But it seemed to me that it would be a more honest contribution if our account contained only what we saw, in our rapid travel; for I have a theory that any addition to the great body of print, however insignificant it may be, has a value in proportion to its originality and individuality,—however slight either is,—and very little value if it is a compilation of the observations of others. In this case I know how slight the value is; and I can only hope that as the trip was very entertaining to us, the record of it may not be wholly unentertaining to those of like tastes.
Of one thing, my dear friend, I am certain: if the readers of this little journey could have during its persual the companionship that the writer had when it was made, they would think it altogether delightful. There is no pleasure comparable to that of going about the world, in pleasant weather, with a good comrade, if the mind is distracted neither by care, nor ambition, nor the greed of gain. The delight there is in seeing things, without any hope of pecuniary profit from them! We certainly enjoyed that inward peace which the philosopher associates with the absence of desire for money. For, as Plato says in the Phaedo, "whence come wars and fightings and factions? whence but from the body and the lusts of the body? For wars are occasioned by the love of money." So also are the majority of the anxieties of life. We left these behind when we went into the Provinces with no design of acquiring anything there. I hope it may be my fortune to travel further with you in this fair world, under similar circumstances.
NOOK FARM, HARTFORD, April 10, 1874.
C. D. W.
BADDECK AND THAT SORT OF THING
"Ay, now I am in Arden: the more fool I; when I was at home, I was in a better place; but travellers must be content." —TOUCHSTONE.
Two comrades and travelers, who sought a better country than the United States in the month of August, found themselves one evening in apparent possession of the ancient town of Boston.
The shops were closed at early candle-light; the fashionable inhabitants had retired into the country, or into the second-story-back, of their princely residences, and even an air of tender gloom settled upon the Common. The streets were almost empty, and one passed into the burnt district, where the scarred ruins and the uplifting piles of new brick and stone spread abroad under the flooding light of a full moon like another Pompeii, without any increase in his feeling of tranquil seclusion. Even the news-offices had put up their shutters, and a confiding stranger could nowhere buy a guide-book to help his wandering feet about the reposeful city, or to show him how to get out of it. There was, to be sure, a cheerful tinkle of horse-car bells in the air, and in the creeping vehicles which created this levity of sound were a few lonesome passengers on their way to Scollay's Square; but the two travelers, not having well-regulated minds, had no desire to go there. What would have become of Boston if the great fire had reached this sacred point of pilgrimage no merely human mind can imagine. Without it, I suppose the horse-cars would go continually round and round, never stopping, until the cars fell away piecemeal on the track, and the horses collapsed into a mere mass of bones and harness, and the brown-covered books from the Public Library, in the hands of the fading virgins who carried them, had accumulated fines to an incalculable amount.
Boston, notwithstanding its partial destruction by fire, is still a good place to start from. When one meditates an excursion into an unknown and perhaps perilous land, where the flag will not protect him and the greenback will only partially support him, he likes to steady and tranquilize his mind by a peaceful halt and a serene start. So we—for the intelligent reader has already identified us with the two travelers resolved to spend the last night, before beginning our journey, in the quiet of a Boston hotel. Some people go into the country for quiet: we knew better. The country is no place for sleep. The general absence of sound which prevails at night is only a sort of background which brings out more vividly the special and unexpected disturbances which are suddenly sprung upon the restless listener. There are a thousand pokerish noises that no one can account for, which excite the nerves to acute watchfulness.
It is still early, and one is beginning to be lulled by the frogs and the crickets, when the faint rattle of a drum is heard,—just a few preliminary taps. But the soul takes alarm, and well it may, for a roll follows, and then a rub-a-dub-dub, and the farmer's boy who is handling the sticks and pounding the distended skin in a neighboring horse-shed begins to pour out his patriotism in that unending repetition of rub-a-dub-dub which is supposed to represent love of country in the young. When the boy is tired out and quits the field, the faithful watch-dog opens out upon the stilly night. He is the guardian of his master's slumbers. The howls of the faithful creature are answered by barks and yelps from all the farmhouses for a mile around, and exceedingly poor barking it usually is, until all the serenity of the night is torn to shreds. This is, however, only the opening of the orchestra. The cocks wake up if there is the faintest moonshine and begin an antiphonal service between responsive barn-yards. It is not the clear clarion of chanticleer that is heard in the morn of English poetry, but a harsh chorus of cracked voices, hoarse and abortive attempts, squawks of young experimenters, and some indescribable thing besides, for I believe even the hens crow in these days. Distracting as all this is, however, happy is the man who does not hear a goat lamenting in the night. The goat is the most exasperating of the animal creation. He cries like a deserted baby, but he does it without any regularity. One can accustom himself to any expression of suffering that is regular. The annoyance of the goat is in the dreadful waiting for the uncertain sound of the next wavering bleat. It is the fearful expectation of that, mingled with the faint hope that the last was the last, that aggravates the tossing listener until he has murder in his heart. He longs for daylight, hoping that the voices of the night will then cease, and that sleep will come with the blessed morning. But he has forgotten the birds, who at the first streak of gray in the east have assembled in the trees near his chamber-window, and keep up for an hour the most rasping dissonance,—an orchestra in which each artist is tuning his instrument, setting it in a different key and to play a different tune: each bird recalls a different tune, and none sings "Annie Laurie,"—to pervert Bayard Taylor's song.
Give us the quiet of a city on the night before a journey. As we mounted skyward in our hotel, and went to bed in a serene altitude, we congratulated ourselves upon a reposeful night. It began well. But as we sank into the first doze, we were startled by a sudden crash. Was it an earthquake, or another fire? Were the neighboring buildings all tumbling in upon us, or had a bomb fallen into the neighboring crockery-store? It was the suddenness of the onset that startled us, for we soon perceived that it began with the clash of cymbals, the pounding of drums, and the blaring of dreadful brass. It was somebody's idea of music. It opened without warning. The men composing the band of brass must have stolen silently into the alley about the sleeping hotel, and burst into the clamor of a rattling quickstep, on purpose. The horrible sound thus suddenly let loose had no chance of escape; it bounded back from wall to wall, like the clapping of boards in a tunnel, rattling windows and stunning all cars, in a vain attempt to get out over the roofs. But such music does not go up. What could have been the intention of this assault we could not conjecture. It was a time of profound peace through the country; we had ordered no spontaneous serenade, if it was a serenade. Perhaps the Boston bands have that habit of going into an alley and disciplining their nerves by letting out a tune too big for the alley, and taking the shock of its reverberation. It may be well enough for the band, but many a poor sinner in the hotel that night must have thought the judgment day had sprung upon him. Perhaps the band had some remorse, for by and by it leaked out of the alley, in humble, apologetic retreat, as if somebody had thrown something at it from the sixth-story window, softly breathing as it retired the notes of "Fair Harvard."
The band had scarcely departed for some other haunt of slumber and weariness, when the notes of singing floated up that prolific alley, like the sweet tenor voice of one bewailing the prohibitory movement; and for an hour or more a succession of young bacchanals, who were evidently wandering about in search of the Maine Law, lifted up their voices in song. Boston seems to be full of good singers; but they will ruin their voices by this night exercise, and so the city will cease to be attractive to travelers who would like to sleep there. But this entertainment did not last the night out.
It stopped just before the hotel porter began to come around to rouse the travelers who had said the night before that they wanted to be awakened. In all well-regulated hotels this process begins at two o'clock and keeps up till seven. If the porter is at all faithful, he wakes up everybody in the house; if he is a shirk, he only rouses the wrong people. We treated the pounding of the porter on our door with silent contempt. At the next door he had better luck. Pound, pound. An angry voice, "What do you want?"
"Time to take the train, sir."
"Not going to take any train."
"Ain't your name Smith?"
"I left no order to be called." (Indistinct grumbling from Smith's room.)
Porter is heard shuffling slowly off down the passage. In a little while he returns to Smith's door, evidently not satisfied in his mind. Rap, rap, rap!
"Well, what now?"
"What's your initials? A. T.; clear out!"
And the porter shambles away again in his slippers, grumbling something about a mistake. The idea of waking a man up in the middle of the night to ask him his "initials" was ridiculous enough to banish sleep for another hour. A person named Smith, when he travels, should leave his initials outside the door with his boots.
Refreshed by this reposeful night, and eager to exchange the stagnation of the shore for the tumult of the ocean, we departed next morning for Baddeck by the most direct route. This we found, by diligent study of fascinating prospectuses of travel, to be by the boats of the International Steamship Company; and when, at eight o'clock in the morning, we stepped aboard one of them from Commercial Wharf, we felt that half our journey and the most perplexing part of it was accomplished. We had put ourselves upon a great line of travel, and had only to resign ourselves to its flow in order to reach the desired haven. The agent at the wharf assured us that it was not necessary to buy through tickets to Baddeck,—he spoke of it as if it were as easy a place to find as Swampscott,—it was a conspicuous name on the cards of the company, we should go right on from St. John without difficulty. The easy familiarity of this official with Baddeck, in short, made us ashamed to exhibit any anxiety about its situation or the means of approach to it. Subsequent experience led us to believe that the only man in the world, out of Baddeck, who knew anything about it lives in Boston, and sells tickets to it, or rather towards it.
There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it, when the traveler is settled simply as to his destination, and commits himself to his unknown fate and all the anticipations of adventure before him. We experienced this pleasure as we ascended to the deck of the steamboat and snuffed the fresh air of Boston Harbor. What a beautiful harbor it is, everybody says, with its irregularly indented shores and its islands. Being strangers, we want to know the names of the islands, and to have Fort Warren, which has a national reputation, pointed out. As usual on a steamboat, no one is certain about the names, and the little geographical knowledge we have is soon hopelessly confused. We make out South Boston very plainly: a tourist is looking at its warehouses through his opera-glass, and telling his boy about a recent fire there. We find out afterwards that it was East Boston. We pass to the stern of the boat for a last look at Boston itself; and while there we have the pleasure of showing inquirers the Monument and the State House. We do this with easy familiarity; but where there are so many tall factory chimneys, it is not so easy to point out the Monument as one may think.
The day is simply delicious, when we get away from the unozoned air of the land. The sky is cloudless, and the water sparkles like the top of a glass of champagne. We intend by and by to sit down and look at it for half a day, basking in the sunshine and pleasing ourselves with the shifting and dancing of the waves. Now we are busy running about from side to side to see the islands, Governor's, Castle, Long, Deer, and the others. When, at length, we find Fort Warren, it is not nearly so grim and gloomy as we had expected, and is rather a pleasure-place than a prison in appearance. We are conscious, however, of a patriotic emotion as we pass its green turf and peeping guns. Leaving on our right Lovell's Island and the Great and Outer Brewster, we stand away north along the jagged Massachusetts shore. These outer islands look cold and wind-swept even in summer, and have a hardness of outline which is very far from the aspect of summer isles in summer seas. They are too low and bare for beauty, and all the coast is of the most retiring and humble description. Nature makes some compensation for this lowness by an eccentricity of indentation which looks very picturesque on the map, and sometimes striking, as where Lynn stretches out a slender arm with knobby Nahant at the end, like a New Zealand war club. We sit and watch this shore as we glide by with a placid delight. Its curves and low promontories are getting to be speckled with villages and dwellings, like the shores of the Bay of Naples; we see the white spires, the summer cottages of wealth, the brown farmhouses with an occasional orchard, the gleam of a white beach, and now and then the flag of some many-piazzaed hotel. The sunlight is the glory of it all; it must have quite another attraction—that of melancholy—under a gray sky and with a lead-colored water foreground.
There was not much on the steamboat to distract our attention from the study of physical geography. All the fashionable travelers had gone on the previous boat or were waiting for the next one. The passengers were mostly people who belonged in the Provinces and had the listless provincial air, with a Boston commercial traveler or two, and a few gentlemen from the republic of Ireland, dressed in their uncomfortable Sunday clothes. If any accident should happen to the boat, it was doubtful if there were persons on board who could draw up and pass the proper resolutions of thanks to the officers. I heard one of these Irish gentlemen, whose satin vest was insufficient to repress the mountainous protuberance of his shirt-bosom, enlightening an admiring friend as to his idiosyncrasies. It appeared that he was that sort of a man that, if a man wanted anything of him, he had only to speak for it "wunst;" and that one of his peculiarities was an instant response of the deltoid muscle to the brain, though he did not express it in that language. He went on to explain to his auditor that he was so constituted physically that whenever he saw a fight, no matter whose property it was, he lost all control of himself. This sort of confidence poured out to a single friend, in a retired place on the guard of the boat, in an unexcited tone, was evidence of the man's simplicity and sincerity. The very act of traveling, I have noticed, seems to open a man's heart, so that he will impart to a chance acquaintance his losses, his diseases, his table preferences, his disappointments in love or in politics, and his most secret hopes. One sees everywhere this beautiful human trait, this craving for sympathy. There was the old lady, in the antique bonnet and plain cotton gloves, who got aboard the express train at a way-station on the Connecticut River Road. She wanted to go, let us say, to Peak's Four Corners. It seemed that the train did not usually stop there, but it appeared afterwards that the obliging conductor had told her to get aboard and he would let her off at Peak's. When she stepped into the car, in a flustered condition, carrying her large bandbox, she began to ask all the passengers, in turn, if this was the right train, and if it stopped at Peak's. The information she received was various, but the weight of it was discouraging, and some of the passengers urged her to get off without delay, before the train should start. The poor woman got off, and pretty soon came back again, sent by the conductor; but her mind was not settled, for she repeated her questions to every person who passed her seat, and their answers still more discomposed her. "Sit perfectly still," said the conductor, when he came by. "You must get out and wait for a way train," said the passengers, who knew. In this confusion, the train moved off, just as the old lady had about made up her mind to quit the car, when her distraction was completed by the discovery that her hair trunk was not on board. She saw it standing on the open platform, as we passed, and after one look of terror, and a dash at the window, she subsided into her seat, grasping her bandbox, with a vacant look of utter despair. Fate now seemed to have done its worst, and she was resigned to it. I am sure it was no mere curiosity, but a desire to be of service, that led me to approach her and say, "Madam, where are you going?"
"The Lord only knows," was the utterly candid response; but then, forgetting everything in her last misfortune and impelled to a burst of confidence, she began to tell me her troubles. She informed me that her youngest daughter was about to be married, and that all her wedding-clothes and all her summer clothes were in that trunk; and as she said this she gave a glance out of the window as if she hoped it might be following her. What would become of them all now, all brand new, she did n't know, nor what would become of her or her daughter. And then she told me, article by article and piece by piece, all that that trunk contained, the very names of which had an unfamiliar sound in a railway-car, and how many sets and pairs there were of each. It seemed to be a relief to the old lady to make public this catalogue which filled all her mind; and there was a pathos in the revelation that I cannot convey in words. And though I am compelled, by way of illustration, to give this incident, no bribery or torture shall ever extract from me a statement of the contents of that hair trunk.
We were now passing Nahant, and we should have seen Longfellow's cottage and the waves beating on the rocks before it, if we had been near enough. As it was, we could only faintly distinguish the headland and note the white beach of Lynn. The fact is, that in travel one is almost as much dependent upon imagination and memory as he is at home. Somehow, we seldom get near enough to anything. The interest of all this coast which we had come to inspect was mainly literary and historical. And no country is of much interest until legends and poetry have draped it in hues that mere nature cannot produce. We looked at Nahant for Longfellow's sake; we strained our eyes to make out Marblehead on account of Whittier's ballad; we scrutinized the entrance to Salem Harbor because a genius once sat in its decaying custom-house and made of it a throne of the imagination. Upon this low shore line, which lies blinking in the midday sun, the waves of history have beaten for two centuries and a half, and romance has had time to grow there. Out of any of these coves might have sailed Sir Patrick Spens "to Noroway, to Noroway,"
"They hadna sailed upon the sea A day but barely three,
Till loud and boisterous grew the wind, And gurly grew the sea."
The sea was anything but gurly now; it lay idle and shining in an August holiday. It seemed as if we could sit all day and watch the suggestive shore and dream about it. But we could not. No man, and few women, can sit all day on those little round penitential stools that the company provide for the discomfort of their passengers. There is no scenery in the world that can be enjoyed from one of those stools. And when the traveler is at sea, with the land failing away in his horizon, and has to create his own scenery by an effort of the imagination, these stools are no assistance to him. The imagination, when one is sitting, will not work unless the back is supported. Besides, it began to be cold; notwithstanding the shiny, specious appearance of things, it was cold, except in a sheltered nook or two where the sun beat. This was nothing to be complained of by persons who had left the parching land in order to get cool. They knew that there would be a wind and a draught everywhere, and that they would be occupied nearly all the time in moving the little stools about to get out of the wind, or out of the sun, or out of something that is inherent in a steamboat. Most people enjoy riding on a steamboat, shaking and trembling and chow-chowing along in pleasant weather out of sight of land; and they do not feel any ennui, as may be inferred from the intense excitement which seizes them when a poor porpoise leaps from the water half a mile away. "Did you see the porpoise?" makes conversation for an hour. On our steamboat there was a man who said he saw a whale, saw him just as plain, off to the east, come up to blow; appeared to be a young one. I wonder where all these men come from who always see a whale. I never was on a sea-steamer yet that there was not one of these men.
We sailed from Boston Harbor straight for Cape Ann, and passed close by the twin lighthouses of Thacher, so near that we could see the lanterns and the stone gardens, and the young barbarians of Thacher all at play; and then we bore away, straight over the trackless Atlantic, across that part of the map where the title and the publisher's name are usually printed, for the foreign city of St. John. It was after we passed these lighthouses that we did n't see the whale, and began to regret the hard fate that took us away from a view of the Isles of Shoals. I am not tempted to introduce them into this sketch, much as its surface needs their romantic color, for truth is stronger in me than the love of giving a deceitful pleasure. There will be nothing in this record that we did not see, or might not have seen. For instance, it might not be wrong to describe a coast, a town, or an island that we passed while we were performing our morning toilets in our staterooms. The traveler owes a duty to his readers, and if he is now and then too weary or too indifferent to go out from the cabin to survey a prosperous village where a landing is made, he has no right to cause the reader to suffer by his indolence. He should describe the village.
I had intended to describe the Maine coast, which is as fascinating on the map as that of Norway. We had all the feelings appropriate to nearness to it, but we couldn't see it. Before we came abreast of it night had settled down, and there was around us only a gray and melancholy waste of salt water. To be sure it was a lovely night, with a young moon in its sky,
"I saw the new moon late yestreen Wi' the auld moon in her arms,"
and we kept an anxious lookout for the Maine hills that push so boldly down into the sea. At length we saw them,—faint, dusky shadows in the horizon, looming up in an ashy color and with a most poetical light. We made out clearly Mt. Desert, and felt repaid for our journey by the sight of this famous island, even at such a distance. I pointed out the hills to the man at the wheel, and asked if we should go any nearer to Mt. Desert.
"Them!" said he, with the merited contempt which officials in this country have for inquisitive travelers,—"them's Camden Hills. You won't see Mt. Desert till midnight, and then you won't."
One always likes to weave in a little romance with summer travel on a steamboat; and we came aboard this one with the purpose and the language to do so. But there was an absolute want of material, that would hardly be credited if we went into details. The first meeting of the passengers at the dinner-table revealed it. There is a kind of female plainness which is pathetic, and many persons can truly say that to them it is homelike; and there are vulgarities of manner that are interesting; and there are peculiarities, pleasant or the reverse, which attract one's attention: but there was absolutely nothing of this sort on our boat. The female passengers were all neutrals, incapable, I should say, of making any impression whatever even under the most favorable circumstances. They were probably women of the Provinces, and took their neutral tint from the foggy land they inhabit, which is neither a republic nor a monarchy, but merely a languid expectation of something undefined. My comrade was disposed to resent the dearth of beauty, not only on this vessel but throughout the Provinces generally,—a resentment that could be shown to be unjust, for this was evidently not the season for beauty in these lands, and it was probably a bad year for it. Nor should an American of the United States be forward to set up his standard of taste in such matters; neither in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, nor Cape Breton have I heard the inhabitants complain of the plainness of the women.
On such a night two lovers might have been seen, but not on our boat, leaning over the taffrail,—if that is the name of the fence around the cabin-deck, looking at the moon in the western sky and the long track of light in the steamer's wake with unutterable tenderness. For the sea was perfectly smooth, so smooth as not to interfere with the most perfect tenderness of feeling; and the vessel forged ahead under the stars of the soft night with an adventurous freedom that almost concealed the commercial nature of her mission. It seemed —this voyaging through the sparkling water, under the scintillating heavens, this resolute pushing into the opening splendors of night —like a pleasure trip. "It is the witching hour of half past ten," said my comrade, "let us turn in." (The reader will notice the consideration for her feelings which has omitted the usual description of "a sunset at sea.")
When we looked from our state-room window in the morning we saw land. We were passing within a stone's throw of a pale-green and rather cold-looking coast, with few trees or other evidences of fertile soil. Upon going out I found that we were in the harbor of Eastport. I found also the usual tourist who had been up, shivering in his winter overcoat, since four o'clock. He described to me the magnificent sunrise, and the lifting of the fog from islands and capes, in language that made me rejoice that he had seen it. He knew all about the harbor. That wooden town at the foot of it, with the white spire, was Lubec; that wooden town we were approaching was Eastport. The long island stretching clear across the harbor was Campobello. We had been obliged to go round it, a dozen miles out of our way, to get in, because the tide was in such a stage that we could not enter by the Lubec Channel. We had been obliged to enter an American harbor by British waters.
We approached Eastport with a great deal of curiosity and considerable respect. It had been one of the cities of the imagination. Lying in the far east of our great territory, a military and even a sort of naval station, a conspicuous name on the map, prominent in boundary disputes and in war operations, frequent in telegraphic dispatches,—we had imagined it a solid city, with some Oriental, if decayed, peculiarity, a port of trade and commerce. The tourist informed me that Eastport looked very well at a distance, with the sun shining on its white houses. When we landed at its wooden dock we saw that it consisted of a few piles of lumber, a sprinkling of small cheap houses along a sidehill, a big hotel with a flag-staff, and a very peaceful looking arsenal. It is doubtless a very enterprising and deserving city, but its aspect that morning was that of cheapness, newness, and stagnation, with no compensating picturesqueness. White paint always looks chilly under a gray sky and on naked hills. Even in hot August the place seemed bleak. The tourist, who went ashore with a view to breakfast, said that it would be a good place to stay in and go a-fishing and picnicking on Campobello Island. It has another advantage for the wicked over other Maine towns. Owing to the contiguity of British territory, the Maine Law is constantly evaded, in spirit. The thirsty citizen or sailor has only to step into a boat and give it a shove or two across the narrow stream that separates the United States from Deer Island and land, when he can ruin his breath, and return before he is missed.
This might be a cause of war with, England, but it is not the most serious grievance here. The possession by the British of the island of Campobello is an insufferable menace and impertinence. I write with the full knowledge of what war is. We ought to instantly dislodge the British from Campobello. It entirely shuts up and commands our harbor, one of our chief Eastern harbors and war stations, where we keep a flag and cannon and some soldiers, and where the customs officers look out for smuggling. There is no way to get into our own harbor, except in favorable conditions of the tide, without begging the courtesy of a passage through British waters. Why is England permitted to stretch along down our coast in this straggling and inquisitive manner? She might almost as well own Long Island. It was impossible to prevent our cheeks mantling with shame as we thought of this, and saw ourselves, free American citizens, land-locked by alien soil in our own harbor.
We ought to have war, if war is necessary to possess Campobello and Deer Islands; or else we ought to give the British Eastport. I am not sure but the latter would be the better course.
With this war spirit in our hearts, we sailed away into the British waters of the Bay of Fundy, but keeping all the morning so close to the New Brunswick shore that we could see there was nothing on it; that is, nothing that would make one wish to land. And yet the best part of going to sea is keeping close to the shore, however tame it may be, if the weather is pleasant. A pretty bay now and then, a rocky cove with scant foliage, a lighthouse, a rude cabin, a level land, monotonous and without noble forests,—this was New Brunswick as we coasted along it under the most favorable circumstances. But we were advancing into the Bay of Fundy; and my comrade, who had been brought up on its high tides in the district school, was on the lookout for this phenomenon. The very name of Fundy is stimulating to the imagination, amid the geographical wastes of youth, and the young fancy reaches out to its tides with an enthusiasm that is given only to Fingal's Cave and other pictorial wonders of the text-book. I am sure the district schools would become what they are not now, if the geographers would make the other parts of the globe as attractive as the sonorous Bay of Fundy. The recitation about that is always an easy one; there is a lusty pleasure in the mere shouting out of the name, as if the speaking it were an innocent sort of swearing. From the Bay of Fundy the rivers run uphill half the time, and the tides are from forty to ninety feet high. For myself, I confess that, in my imagination, I used to see the tides of this bay go stalking into the land like gigantic waterspouts; or, when I was better instructed, I could see them advancing on the coast like a solid wall of masonry eighty feet high. "Where," we said, as we came easily, and neither uphill nor downhill, into the pleasant harbor of St. John,—-"where are the tides of our youth?"
They were probably out, for when we came to the land we walked out upon the foot of a sloping platform that ran into the water by the side of the piles of the dock, which stood up naked and blackened high in the air. It is not the purpose of this paper to describe St. John, nor to dwell upon its picturesque situation. As one approaches it from the harbor it gives a promise which its rather shabby streets, decaying houses, and steep plank sidewalks do not keep. A city set on a hill, with flags flying from a roof here and there, and a few shining spires and walls glistening in the sun, always looks well at a distance. St. John is extravagant in the matter of flagstaffs; almost every well-to-do citizen seems to have one on his premises, as a sort of vent for his loyalty, I presume. It is a good fashion, at any rate, and its more general adoption by us would add to the gayety of our cities when we celebrate the birthday of the President. St. John is built on a steep sidehill, from which it would be in danger of sliding off, if its houses were not mortised into the solid rock. This makes the house-foundations secure, but the labor of blasting out streets is considerable. We note these things complacently as we toil in the sun up the hill to the Victoria Hotel, which stands well up on the backbone of the ridge, and from the upper windows of which we have a fine view of the harbor, and of the hill opposite, above Carleton, where there is the brokenly truncated ruin of a round stone tower. This tower was one of the first things that caught our eyes as we entered the harbor. It gave an antique picturesqueness to the landscape which it entirely wanted without this. Round stone towers are not so common in this world that we can afford to be indifferent to them. This is called a Martello tower, but I could not learn who built it. I could not understand the indifference, almost amounting to contempt, of the citizens of St. John in regard to this their only piece of curious antiquity. "It is nothing but the ruins of an old fort," they said; "you can see it as well from here as by going there." It was, however, the one thing at St. John I was determined to see. But we never got any nearer to it than the ferry-landing. Want of time and the vis inertia of the place were against us. And now, as I think of that tower and its perhaps mysterious origin, I have a longing for it that the possession of nothing else in the Provinces could satisfy.
But it must not be forgotten that we were on our way to Baddeck; that the whole purpose of the journey was to reach Baddeck; that St. John was only an incident in the trip; that any information about St. John, which is here thrown in or mercifully withheld, is entirely gratuitous, and is not taken into account in the price the reader pays for this volume. But if any one wants to know what sort of a place St. John is, we can tell him: it is the sort of a place that if you get into it after eight o'clock on Wednesday morning, you cannot get out of it in any direction until Thursday morning at eight o'clock, unless you want to smuggle goods on the night train to Bangor. It was eleven o'clock Wednesday forenoon when we arrived at St. John. The Intercolonial railway train had gone to Shediac; it had gone also on its roundabout Moncton, Missaquat River, Truro, Stewiack, and Shubenacadie way to Halifax; the boat had gone to Digby Gut and Annapolis to catch the train that way for Halifax; the boat had gone up the river to Frederick, the capital. We could go to none of these places till the next day. We had no desire to go to Frederick, but we made the fact that we were cut off from it an addition to our injury. The people of St. John have this peculiarity: they never start to go anywhere except early in the morning.
The reader to whom time is nothing does not yet appreciate the annoyance of our situation. Our time was strictly limited. The active world is so constituted that it could not spare us more than two weeks. We must reach Baddeck Saturday night or never. To go home without seeing Baddeck was simply intolerable. Had we not told everybody that we were going to Baddeck? Now, if we had gone to Shediac in the train that left St. John that morning, we should have taken the steamboat that would have carried us to Port Hawkesbury, whence a stage connected with a steamboat on the Bras d'Or, which (with all this profusion of relative pronouns) would land us at Baddeck on Friday. How many times had we been over this route on the map and the prospectus of travel! And now, what a delusion it seemed! There would not another boat leave Shediac on this route till the following Tuesday,—quite too late for our purpose. The reader sees where we were, and will be prepared, if he has a map (and any feelings), to appreciate the masterly strategy that followed.
During the pilgrimage everything does not suit the tastes of the pilgrim.—TURKISH PROVERB.
One seeking Baddeck, as a possession, would not like to be detained a prisoner even in Eden,—much less in St. John, which is unlike Eden in several important respects. The tree of knowledge does not grow there, for one thing; at least St. John's ignorance of Baddeck amounts to a feature. This encountered us everywhere. So dense was this ignorance, that we, whose only knowledge of the desired place was obtained from the prospectus of travel, came to regard ourselves as missionaries of geographical information in this dark provincial city.
The clerk at the Victoria was not unwilling to help us on our journey, but if he could have had his way, we would have gone to a place on Prince Edward Island which used to be called Bedeque, but is now named Summerside, in the hope of attracting summer visitors. As to Cape Breton, he said the agent of the Intercolonial could tell us all about that, and put us on the route. We repaired to the agent. The kindness of this person dwells in our memory. He entered at once into our longings and perplexities. He produced his maps and time-tables, and showed us clearly what we already knew. The Port Hawkesbury steamboat from Shediac for that week had gone, to be sure, but we could take one of another line which would leave us at Pictou, whence we could take another across to Port Hood, on Cape Breton. This looked fair, until we showed the agent that there was no steamer to Port Hood.
"Ah, then you can go another way. You can take the Intercolonial railway round to Pictou, catch the steamer for Port Hawkesbury, connect with the steamer on the Bras d'Or, and you are all right."
So it would seem. It was a most obliging agent; and it took us half an hour to convince him that the train would reach Pictou half a day too late for the steamer, that no other boat would leave Pictou for Cape Breton that week, and that even if we could reach the Bras d'Or, we should have no means of crossing it, except by swimming. The perplexed agent thereupon referred us to Mr. Brown, a shipper on the wharf, who knew all about Cape Breton, and could tell us exactly how to get there. It is needless to say that a weight was taken off our minds. We pinned our faith to Brown, and sought him in his warehouse. Brown was a prompt business man, and a traveler, and would know every route and every conveyance from Nova Scotia to Cape Breton.
Mr. Brown was not in. He never is in. His store is a rusty warehouse, low and musty, piled full of boxes of soap and candles and dried fish, with a little glass cubby in one corner, where a thin clerk sits at a high desk, like a spider in his web. Perhaps he is a spider, for the cubby is swarming with flies, whose hum is the only noise of traffic; the glass of the window-sash has not been washed since it was put in apparently. The clerk is not writing, and has evidently no other use for his steel pen than spearing flies. Brown is out, says this young votary of commerce, and will not be in till half past five. We remark upon the fact that nobody ever is "in" these dingy warehouses, wonder when the business is done, and go out into the street to wait for Brown.
In front of the store is a dray, its horse fast-asleep, and waiting for the revival of commerce. The travelers note that the dray is of a peculiar construction, the body being dropped down from the axles so as nearly to touch the ground,—a great convenience in loading and unloading; they propose to introduce it into their native land. The dray is probably waiting for the tide to come in. In the deep slip lie a dozen helpless vessels, coasting schooners mostly, tipped on their beam ends in the mud, or propped up by side-pieces as if they were built for land as well as for water. At the end of the wharf is a long English steamboat unloading railroad iron, which will return to the Clyde full of Nova Scotia coal. We sit down on the dock, where the fresh sea-breeze comes up the harbor, watch the lazily swinging crane on the vessel, and meditate upon the greatness of England and the peacefulness of the drowsy after noon. One's feeling of rest is never complete—unless he can see somebody else at work, —but the labor must be without haste, as it is in the Provinces.
While waiting for Brown, we had leisure to explore the shops of King's Street, and to climb up to the grand triumphal arch which stands on top of the hill and guards the entrance to King's Square.
Of the shops for dry-goods I have nothing to say, for they tempt the unwary American to violate the revenue laws of his country; but he may safely go into the book-shops. The literature which is displayed in the windows and on the counters has lost that freshness which it once may have had, and is, in fact, if one must use the term, fly-specked, like the cakes in the grocery windows on the side streets. There are old illustrated newspapers from the States, cheap novels from the same, and the flashy covers of the London and Edinburgh sixpenny editions. But this is the dull season for literature, we reflect.
It will always be matter of regret to us that we climbed up to the triumphal arch, which appeared so noble in the distance, with the trees behind it. For when we reached it, we found that it was built of wood, painted and sanded, and in a shocking state of decay; and the grove to which it admitted us was only a scant assemblage of sickly locust-trees, which seemed to be tired of battling with the unfavorable climate, and had, in fact, already retired from the business of ornamental shade trees. Adjoining this square is an ancient cemetery, the surface of which has decayed in sympathy with the mouldering remains it covers, and is quite a model in this respect. I have called this cemetery ancient, but it may not be so, for its air of decay is thoroughly modern, and neglect, and not years, appears to have made it the melancholy place of repose it is. Whether it is the fashionable and favorite resort of the dead of the city we did not learn, but there were some old men sitting in its damp shades, and the nurses appeared to make it a rendezvous for their baby-carriages,—a cheerful place to bring up children in, and to familiarize their infant minds with the fleeting nature of provincial life. The park and burying-ground, it is scarcely necessary to say, added greatly to the feeling of repose which stole over us on this sunny day. And they made us long for Brown and his information about Baddeck.
But Mr. Brown, when found, did not know as much as the agent. He had been in Nova Scotia; he had never been in Cape Breton; but he presumed we would find no difficulty in reaching Baddeck by so and so, and so and so. We consumed valuable time in convincing Brown that his directions to us were impracticable and valueless, and then he referred us to Mr. Cope. An interview with Mr. Cope discouraged us; we found that we were imparting everywhere more geographical information than we were receiving, and as our own stock was small, we concluded that we should be unable to enlighten all the inhabitants of St. John upon the subject of Baddeck before we ran out. Returning to the hotel, and taking our destiny into our own hands, we resolved upon a bold stroke.
But to return for a moment to Brown. I feel that Brown has been let off too easily in the above paragraph. His conduct, to say the truth, was not such as we expected of a man in whom we had put our entire faith for half a day,—a long while to trust anybody in these times,—a man whom we had exalted as an encyclopedia of information, and idealized in every way. A man of wealth and liberal views and courtly manners we had decided Brown would be. Perhaps he had a suburban villa on the heights over-looking Kennebeckasis Bay, and, recognizing us as brothers in a common interest in Baddeck, not-withstanding our different nationality, would insist upon taking us to his house, to sip provincial tea with Mrs. Brown and Victoria Louise, his daughter. When, therefore, Mr. Brown whisked into his dingy office, and, but for our importunity, would have paid no more attention to us than to up-country customers without credit, and when he proved to be willingly, it seemed to us, ignorant of Baddeck, our feelings received a great shock. It is incomprehensible that a man in the position of Brown with so many boxes of soap and candles to dispose of—should be so ignorant of a neighboring province. We had heard of the cordial unity of the Provinces in the New Dominion. Heaven help it, if it depends upon such fellows as Brown! Of course, his directing us to Cope was a mere fetch. For as we have intimated, it would have taken us longer to have given Cope an idea of Baddeck, than it did to enlighten Brown. But we had no bitter feelings about Cope, for we never had reposed confidence in him.
Our plan of campaign was briefly this: To take the steamboat at eight o'clock, Thursday morning, for Digby Gut and Annapolis; thence to go by rail through the poetical Acadia down to Halifax; to turn north and east by rail from Halifax to New Glasgow, and from thence to push on by stage to the Gut of Canso. This would carry us over the entire length of Nova Scotia, and, with good luck, land us on Cape Breton Island Saturday morning. When we should set foot on that island, we trusted that we should be able to make our way to Baddeck, by walking, swimming, or riding, whichever sort of locomotion should be most popular in that province. Our imaginations were kindled by reading that the "most superb line of stages on the continent" ran from New Glasgow to the Gut of Canso. If the reader perfectly understands this programme, he has the advantage of the two travelers at the time they made it.
It was a gray morning when we embarked from St. John, and in fact a little drizzle of rain veiled the Martello tower, and checked, like the cross-strokes of a line engraving, the hill on which it stands. The miscellaneous shining of such a harbor appears best in a golden haze, or in the mist of a morning like this. We had expected days of fog in this region; but the fog seemed to have gone out with the high tides of the geography. And it is simple justice to these possessions of her Majesty, to say that in our two weeks' acquaintance of them they enjoyed as delicious weather as ever falls on sea and shore, with the exception of this day when we crossed the Bay of Fundy. And this day was only one of those cool interludes of low color, which an artist would be thankful to introduce among a group of brilliant pictures. Such a day rests the traveler, who is overstimulated by shifting scenes played upon by the dazzling sun. So the cool gray clouds spread a grateful umbrella above us as we ran across the Bay of Fundy, sighted the headlands of the Gut of Digby, and entered into the Annapolis Basin, and into the region of a romantic history. The white houses of Digby, scattered over the downs like a flock of washed sheep, had a somewhat chilly aspect, it is true, and made us long for the sun on them. But as I think of it now, I prefer to have the town and the pretty hillsides that stand about the basin in the light we saw them; and especially do I like to recall the high wooden pier at Digby, deserted by the tide and so blown by the wind that the passengers who came out on it, with their tossing drapery, brought to mind the windy Dutch harbors that Backhuysen painted. We landed a priest here, and it was a pleasure to see him as he walked along the high pier, his broad hat flapping, and the wind blowing his long skirts away from his ecclesiastical legs.
It was one of the coincidences of life, for which no one can account, that when we descended upon these coasts, the Governor-General of the Dominion was abroad in his Provinces. There was an air of expectation of him everywhere, and of preparation for his coming; his lordship was the subject of conversation on the Digby boat, his movements were chronicled in the newspapers, and the gracious bearing of the Governor and Lady Dufferin at the civic receptions, balls, and picnics was recorded with loyal satisfaction; even a literary flavor was given to the provincial journals by quotations from his lordship's condescension to letters in the "High Latitudes." It was not without pain, however, that even in this un-American region we discovered the old Adam of journalism in the disposition of the newspapers of St. John toward sarcasm touching the well-meant attempts to entertain the Governor and his lady in the provincial town of Halifax,—a disposition to turn, in short, upon the demonstrations of loyal worship the faint light of ridicule. There were those upon the boat who were journeying to Halifax to take part in the civic ball about to be given to their excellencies, and as we were going in the same direction, we shared in the feeling of satisfaction which proximity to the Great often excites.
We had other if not deeper causes of satisfaction. We were sailing along the gracefully moulded and tree-covered hills of the Annapolis Basin, and up the mildly picturesque river of that name, and we were about to enter what the provincials all enthusiastically call the Garden of Nova Scotia. This favored vale, skirted by low ranges of hills on either hand, and watered most of the way by the Annapolis River, extends from the mouth of the latter to the town of Windsor on the river Avon. We expected to see something like the fertile valleys of the Connecticut or the Mohawk. We should also pass through those meadows on the Basin of Minas which Mr. Longfellow has made more sadly poetical than any other spot on the Western Continent. It is,—this valley of the Annapolis,—in the belief of provincials, the most beautiful and blooming place in the world, with a soil and climate kind to the husbandman; a land of fair meadows, orchards, and vines. It was doubtless our own fault that this land did not look to us like a garden, as it does to the inhabitants of Nova Scotia; and it was not until we had traveled over the rest of the country, that we saw the appropriateness of the designation. The explanation is, that not so much is required of a garden here as in some other parts of the world. Excellent apples, none finer, are exported from this valley to England, and the quality of the potatoes is said to ap-proach an ideal perfection here. I should think that oats would ripen well also in a good year, and grass, for those who care for it, may be satisfactory. I should judge that the other products of this garden are fish and building-stone. But we anticipate. And have we forgotten the "murmuring pines and the hemlocks"? Nobody, I suppose, ever travels here without believing that he sees these trees of the imagination, so forcibly has the poet projected them upon the uni-versal consciousness. But we were unable to see them, on this route.
It would be a brutal thing for us to take seats in the railway train at Annapolis, and leave the ancient town, with its modern houses and remains of old fortifications, without a thought of the romantic history which saturates the region. There is not much in the smart, new restaurant, where a tidy waiting-maid skillfully depreciates our currency in exchange for bread and cheese and ale, to recall the early drama of the French discovery and settlement. For it is to the French that we owe the poetical interest that still invests, like a garment, all these islands and bays, just as it is to the Spaniards that we owe the romance of the Florida coast. Every spot on this continent that either of these races has touched has a color that is wanting in the prosaic settlements of the English.
Without the historical light of French adventure upon this town and basin of Annapolis, or Port Royal, as they were first named, I confess that I should have no longing to stay here for a week; notwithstanding the guide-book distinctly says that this harbor has "a striking resemblance to the beautiful Bay of Naples." I am not offended at this remark, for it is the one always made about a harbor, and I am sure the passing traveler can stand it, if the Bay of Naples can. And yet this tranquil basin must have seemed a haven of peace to the first discoverers.
It was on a lovely summer day in 1604, that the Sieur de Monts and his comrades, Champlain and the Baron de Poutrincourt, beating about the shores of Nova Scotia, were invited by the rocky gateway of the Port Royal Basin. They entered the small inlet, says Mr. Parkman, when suddenly the narrow strait dilated into a broad and tranquil basin, compassed with sunny hills, wrapped with woodland verdure and alive with waterfalls. Poutrincourt was delighted with the scene, and would fain remove thither from France with his family. Since Poutrincourt's day, the hills have been somewhat denuded of trees, and the waterfalls are not now in sight; at least, not under such a gray sky as we saw.
The reader who once begins to look into the French occupancy of Acadia is in danger of getting into a sentimental vein, and sentiment is the one thing to be shunned in these days. Yet I cannot but stay, though the train should leave us, to pay my respectful homage to one of the most heroic of women, whose name recalls the most romantic incident in the history of this region. Out of this past there rises no figure so captivating to the imagination as that of Madame de la Tour. And it is noticeable that woman has a curious habit of coming to the front in critical moments of history, and performing some exploit that eclipses in brilliancy all the deeds of contemporary men; and the exploit usually ends in a pathetic tragedy, that fixes it forever in the sympathy of the world. I need not copy out of the pages of De Charlevoix the well-known story of Madame de la Tour; I only wish he had told us more about her. It is here at Port Royal that we first see her with her husband. Charles de St. Etienne, the Chevalier de la Tour,—there is a world of romance in these mere names,—was a Huguenot nobleman who had a grant of Port Royal and of La Hive, from Louis XIII. He ceded La Hive to Razilli, the governor-in-chief of the provinces, who took a fancy to it, for a residence. He was living peacefully at Port Royal in 1647, when the Chevalier d'Aunay Charnise, having succeeded his brother Razilli at La Hive, tired of that place and removed to Port Royal. De Charnise was a Catholic; the difference in religion might not have produced any unpleasantness, but the two noblemen could not agree in dividing the profits of the peltry trade,—each being covetous, if we may so express it, of the hide of the savage continent, and determined to take it off for himself. At any rate, disagreement arose, and De la Tour moved over to the St. John, of which region his father had enjoyed a grant from Charles I. of England,—whose sad fate it is not necessary now to recall to the reader's mind,—and built a fort at the mouth of the river. But the differences of the two ambitious Frenchmen could not be composed. De la Tour obtained aid from Governor Winthrop at Boston, thus verifying the Catholic prediction that the Huguenots would side with the enemies of France on occasion. De Charnise received orders from Louis to arrest De la Tour; but a little preliminary to the arrest was the possession of the fort of St. John, and this he could not obtain, although be sent all his force against it. Taking advantage, however, of the absence of De la Tour, who had a habit of roving about, he one day besieged St. John. Madame de la Tour headed the little handful of men in the fort, and made such a gallant resistance that De Charnise was obliged to draw off his fleet with the loss of thirty-three men,—a very serious loss, when the supply of men was as distant as France. But De Charnise would not be balked by a woman; he attacked again; and this time, one of the garrison, a Swiss, betrayed the fort, and let the invaders into the walls by an unguarded entrance. It was Easter morning when this misfortune occurred, but the peaceful influence of the day did not avail. When Madame saw that she was betrayed, her spirits did not quail; she took refuge with her little band in a detached part of the fort, and there made such a bold show of defense, that De Charnise was obliged to agree to the terms of her surrender, which she dictated. No sooner had this unchivalrous fellow obtained possession of the fort and of this Historic Woman, than, overcome with a false shame that he had made terms with a woman, he violated his noble word, and condemned to death all the men, except one, who was spared on condition that he should be the executioner of the others. And the poltroon compelled the brave woman to witness the execution, with the added indignity of a rope round her neck,—or as De Charlevoix much more neatly expresses it, "obligea sa prisonniere d'assister a l'execution, la corde au cou."
To the shock of this horror the womanly spirit of Madame de la Tour succumbed; she fell into a decline and died soon after. De la Tour, himself an exile from his province, wandered about the New World in his customary pursuit of peltry. He was seen at Quebec for two years. While there, he heard of the death of De Charnise, and straightway repaired to St. John. The widow of his late enemy received him graciously, and he entered into possession of the estate of the late occupant with the consent of all the heirs. To remove all roots of bitterness, De la Tour married Madame de Charnise, and history does not record any ill of either of them. I trust they had the grace to plant a sweetbrier on the grave of the noble woman to whose faithfulness and courage they owe their rescue from obscurity. At least the parties to this singular union must have agreed to ignore the lamented existence of the Chevalier d'Aunay.
With the Chevalier de la Tour, at any rate, it all went well thereafter. When Cromwell drove the French from Acadia, he granted great territorial rights to De la Tour, which that thrifty adventurer sold out to one of his co-grantees for L16,000; and he no doubt invested the money in peltry for the London market.
As we leave the station at Annapolis, we are obliged to put Madame de la Tour out of our minds to make room for another woman whose name, and we might say presence, fills all the valley before us. So it is that woman continues to reign, where she has once got a foothold, long after her dear frame has become dust. Evangeline, who is as real a personage as Queen Esther, must have been a different woman from Madame de la Tour. If the latter had lived at Grand Pre, she would, I trust, have made it hot for the brutal English who drove the Acadians out of their salt-marsh paradise, and have died in her heroic shoes rather than float off into poetry. But if it should come to the question of marrying the De la Tour or the Evangeline, I think no man who was not engaged in the peltry trade would hesitate which to choose. At any rate, the women who love have more influence in the world than the women who fight, and so it happens that the sentimental traveler who passes through Port Royal without a tear for Madame de la Tour, begins to be in a glow of tender longing and regret for Evangeline as soon as he enters the valley of the Annapolis River. For myself, I expected to see written over the railway crossings the legend,
"Look out for Evangeline while the bell rings."
When one rides into a region of romance he does not much notice his speed or his carriage; but I am obliged to say that we were not hurried up the valley, and that the cars were not too luxurious for the plain people, priests, clergymen, and belles of the region, who rode in them. Evidently the latest fashions had not arrived in the Provinces, and we had an opportunity of studying anew those that had long passed away in the States, and of remarking how inappropriate a fashion is when it has ceased to be the fashion.
The river becomes small shortly after we leave Annapolis and before we reach Paradise. At this station of happy appellation we looked for the satirist who named it, but he has probably sold out and removed. If the effect of wit is produced by the sudden recognition of a remote resemblance, there was nothing witty in the naming of this station. Indeed, we looked in vain for the "garden" appearance of the valley. There was nothing generous in the small meadows or the thin orchards; and if large trees ever grew on the bordering hills, they have given place to rather stunted evergreens; the scraggy firs and balsams, in fact, possess Nova Scotia generally as we saw it,—and there is nothing more uninteresting and wearisome than large tracts of these woods. We are bound to believe that Nova Scotia has somewhere, or had, great pines and hemlocks that murmur, but we were not blessed with the sight of them. Slightly picturesque this valley is with its winding river and high hills guarding it, and perhaps a person would enjoy a foot-tramp down it; but, I think he would find little peculiar or interesting after he left the neighborhood of the Basin of Minas.
Before we reached Wolfville we came in sight of this basin and some of the estuaries and streams that run into it; that is, when the tide goes out; but they are only muddy ditches half the time. The Acadia College was pointed out to us at Wolfville by a person who said that it is a feeble institution, a remark we were sorry to hear of a place described as "one of the foremost seats of learning in the Province." But our regret was at once extinguished by the announcement that the next station was Grand Pre! We were within three miles of the most poetic place in North America.
There was on the train a young man from Boston, who said that he was born in Grand Pre. It seemed impossible that we should actually be near a person so felicitously born. He had a justifiable pride in the fact, as well as in the bride by his side, whom he was taking to see for the first time his old home. His local information, imparted to her, overflowed upon us; and when he found that we had read "Evangeline," his delight in making us acquainted with the scene of that poem was pleasant to see. The village of Grand Pre is a mile from the station; and perhaps the reader would like to know exactly what the traveler, hastening on to Baddeck, can see of the famous locality.
We looked over a well-grassed meadow, seamed here and there by beds of streams left bare by the receding tide, to a gentle swell in the ground upon which is a not heavy forest growth. The trees partly conceal the street of Grand Pre, which is only a road bordered by common houses. Beyond is the Basin of Minas, with its sedgy shore, its dreary flats; and beyond that projects a bold headland, standing perpendicular against the sky. This is the Cape Blomidon, and it gives a certain dignity to the picture.
The old Normandy picturesqueness has departed from the village of Grand Pre. Yankee settlers, we were told, possess it now, and there are no descendants of the French Acadians in this valley. I believe that Mr. Cozzens found some of them in humble circumstances in a village on the other coast, not far from Halifax, and it is there, probably, that the
"Maidens still wear their Norman caps and their kirtles of homespun, And by the evening fire repeat Evangeline's story, While from its rocky caverns the deep-voiced, neighboring ocean Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest."
At any rate, there is nothing here now except a faint tradition of the French Acadians; and the sentimental traveler who laments that they were driven out, and not left behind their dikes to rear their flocks, and cultivate the rural virtues, and live in the simplicity of ignorance, will temper his sadness by the reflection that it is to the expulsion he owes "Evangeline" and the luxury of his romantic grief. So that if the traveler is honest, and examines his own soul faithfully, he will not know what state of mind to cherish as he passes through this region of sorrow.
Our eyes lingered as long as possible and with all eagerness upon these meadows and marshes which the poet has made immortal, and we regretted that inexorable Baddeck would not permit us to be pilgrims for a day in this Acadian land. Just as I was losing sight of the skirt of trees at Grand Pre, a gentleman in the dress of a rural clergyman left his seat, and complimented me with this remark: "I perceive, sir, that you are fond of reading."
I could not but feel flattered by this unexpected discovery of my nature, which was no doubt due to the fact that I held in my hand one of the works of Charles Reade on social science, called "Love me Little, Love me Long," and I said, "Of some kinds, I am."
"Did you ever see a work called 'Evangeline'?"
"Oh, yes, I have frequently seen it."
"You may remember," continued this Mass of Information, "that there is an allusion in it to Grand Pre. That is the place, sir!"
"Oh, indeed, is that the place? Thank you."
"And that mountain yonder is Cape Blomidon, blow me down, you know."
And under cover of this pun, the amiable clergyman retired, unconscious, I presume, of his prosaic effect upon the atmosphere of the region. With this intrusion of the commonplace, I suffered an eclipse of faith as to Evangeline, and was not sorry to have my attention taken up by the river Avon, along the banks of which we were running about this time. It is really a broad arm of the basin, extending up to Windsor, and beyond in a small stream, and would have been a charming river if there had been a drop of water in it. I never knew before how much water adds to a river. Its slimy bottom was quite a ghastly spectacle, an ugly gash in the land that nothing could heal but the friendly returning tide. I should think it would be confusing to dwell by a river that runs first one way and then the other, and then vanishes altogether.
All the streams about this basin are famous for their salmon and shad, and the season for these fish was not yet passed. There seems to be an untraced affinity between the shad and the strawberry; they appear and disappear in a region simultaneously. When we reached Cape Breton, we were a day or two late for both. It is impossible not to feel a little contempt for people who do not have these luxuries till July and August; but I suppose we are in turn despised by the Southerners because we do not have them till May and June. So, a great part of the enjoyment of life is in the knowledge that there are people living in a worse place than that you inhabit.
Windsor, a most respectable old town round which the railroad sweeps, with its iron bridge, conspicuous King's College, and handsome church spire, is a great place for plaster and limestone, and would be a good location for a person interested in these substances. Indeed, if a man can live on rocks, like a goat, he may settle anywhere between Windsor and Halifax. It is one of the most sterile regions in the Province. With the exception of a wild pond or two, we saw nothing but rocks and stunted firs, for forty-five miles, a monotony unrelieved by one picturesque feature. Then we longed for the "Garden of Nova Scotia," and understood what is meant by the name.
A member of the Ottawa government, who was on his way to the Governor-General's ball at Halifax, informed us that this country is rich in minerals, in iron especially, and he pointed out spots where gold had been washed out. But we do not covet it. And we were not sorry to learn from this gentleman, that since the formation of the Dominion, there is less and less desire in the Provinces for annexation to the United States. One of the chief pleasures in traveling in Nova Scotia now is in the constant reflection that you are in a foreign country; and annexation would take that away.
It is nearly dark when we reach the head of the Bedford Basin. The noble harbor of Halifax narrows to a deep inlet for three miles along the rocky slope on which the city stands, and then suddenly expands into this beautiful sheet of water. We ran along its bank for five miles, cheered occasionally by a twinkling light on the shore, and then came to a stop at the shabby terminus, three miles out of town. This basin is almost large enough to float the navy of Great Britain, and it could lie here, with the narrows fortified, secure from the attacks of the American navy, hovering outside in the fog. With these patriotic thoughts we enter the town. It is not the fault of the railroad, but its present inability to climb a rocky hill, that it does not run into the city. The suburbs are not impressive in the night, but they look better then than they do in the daytime; and the same might be said of the city itself. Probably there is not anywhere a more rusty, forlorn town, and this in spite of its magnificent situation.
It is a gala-night when we rattle down the rough streets, and have pointed out to us the somber government buildings. The Halifax Club House is a blaze of light, for the Governor-General is being received there, and workmen are still busy decorating the Provincial Building for the great ball. The city is indeed pervaded by his lordship, and we regret that we cannot see it in its normal condition of quiet; the hotels are full, and it is impossible to escape the festive feeling that is abroad. It ill accords with our desires, as tranquil travelers, to be plunged into such a vortex of slow dissipation. These people take their pleasures more gravely than we do, and probably will last the longer for their moderation. Having ascertained that we can get no more information about Baddeck here than in St. John, we go to bed early, for we are to depart from this fascinating place at six o'clock.
If any one objects that we are not competent to pass judgment on the city of Halifax by sleeping there one night, I beg leave to plead the usual custom of travelers,—where would be our books of travel, if more was expected than a night in a place?—and to state a few facts. The first is, that I saw the whole of Halifax. If I were inclined, I could describe it building by building. Cannot one see it all from the citadel hill, and by walking down by the horticultural garden and the Roman Catholic cemetery? and did not I climb that hill through the most dilapidated rows of brown houses, and stand on the greensward of the fortress at five o'clock in the morning, and see the whole city, and the British navy riding at anchor, and the fog coming in from the Atlantic Ocean? Let the reader go to! and if he would know more of Halifax, go there. We felt that if we remained there through the day, it would be a day of idleness and sadness. I could draw a picture of Halifax. I could relate its century of history; I could write about its free-school system, and its many noble charities. But the reader always skips such things. He hates information; and he himself would not stay in this dull garrison town any longer than he was obliged to.
There was to be a military display that day in honor of the Governor.
"Why," I asked the bright and light-minded colored boy who sold papers on the morning train, "don't you stay in the city and see it?"
"Pho," said he, with contempt, "I'm sick of 'em. Halifax is played out, and I'm going to quit it."
The withdrawal of this lively trader will be a blow to the enterprise of the place.
When I returned to the hotel for breakfast—which was exactly like the supper, and consisted mainly of green tea and dry toast—there was a commotion among the waiters and the hack-drivers over a nervous little old man, who was in haste to depart for the morning train. He was a specimen of provincial antiquity such as could not be seen elsewhere. His costume was of the oddest: a long-waisted coat reaching nearly to his heels, short trousers, a flowered silk vest, and a napless hat. He carried his baggage tied up in mealbags, and his attention was divided between that and two buxom daughters, who were evidently enjoying their first taste of city life. The little old man, who was not unlike a petrified Frenchman of the last century, had risen before daylight, roused up his daughters, and had them down on the sidewalk by four o'clock, waiting for hack, or horse-car, or something to take them to the station. That he might be a man of some importance at home was evident, but he had lost his head in the bustle of this great town, and was at the mercy of all advisers, none of whom could understand his mongrel language. As we came out to take the horse-car, he saw his helpless daughters driven off in one hack, while he was raving among his meal-bags on the sidewalk. Afterwards we saw him at the station, flying about in the greatest excitement, asking everybody about the train; and at last he found his way into the private office of the ticket-seller. "Get out of here!" roared that official. The old man persisted that he wanted a ticket. "Go round to the window; clear out!" In a very flustered state he was hustled out of the room. When he came to the window and made known his destination, he was refused tickets, because his train did not start for two hours yet!
This mercurial old gentleman only appears in these records because he was the only person we saw in this Province who was in a hurry to do anything, or to go anywhere.
We cannot leave Halifax without remarking that it is a city of great private virtue, and that its banks are sound. The appearance of its paper-money is not, however, inviting. We of the United States lead the world in beautiful paper-money; and when I exchanged my crisp, handsome greenbacks for the dirty, flimsy, ill-executed notes of the Dominion, at a dead loss of value, I could not be reconciled to the transaction. I sarcastically called the stuff I received "Confederate money;" but probably no one was wounded by the severity; for perhaps no one knew what a resemblance in badness there is between the "Confederate" notes of our civil war and the notes of the Dominion; and, besides, the Confederacy was too popular in the Provinces for the name to be a reproach to them. I wish I had thought of something more insulting to say.
By noon on Friday we came to New Glasgow, having passed through a country where wealth is to be won by hard digging if it is won at all; through Truro, at the head of the Cobequid Bay, a place exhibiting more thrift than any we have seen. A pleasant enough country, on the whole, is this which the road runs through up the Salmon and down the East River. New Glasgow is not many miles from Pictou, on the great Cumberland Strait; the inhabitants build vessels, and strangers drive out from here to see the neighboring coal mines. Here we were to dine and take the stage for a ride of eighty miles to the Gut of Canso.
The hotel at New Glasgow we can commend as one of the most unwholesome in the Province; but it is unnecessary to emphasize its condition, for if the traveler is in search of dirty hotels, he will scarcely go amiss anywhere in these regions. There seems to be a fashion in diet which endures. The early travelers as well as the later in these Atlantic provinces all note the prevalence of dry, limp toast and green tea; they are the staples of all the meals; though authorities differ in regard to the third element for discouraging hunger: it is sometimes boiled salt-fish and sometimes it is ham. Toast was probably an inspiration of the first woman of this part of the New World, who served it hot; but it has become now a tradition blindly followed, without regard to temperature; and the custom speaks volumes for the non-inventiveness of woman. At the inn in New Glasgow those who choose dine in their shirt-sleeves, and those skilled in the ways of this table get all they want in seven minutes. A man who understands the use of edged tools can get along twice as fast with a knife and fork as he can with a fork alone.
But the stage is at the door; the coach and four horses answer the advertisement of being "second to none on the continent." We mount to the seat with the driver. The sun is bright; the wind is in the southwest; the leaders are impatient to go; the start for the long ride is propitious.
But on the back seat in the coach is the inevitable woman, young and sickly, with the baby in her arms. The woman has paid her fare through to Guysborough, and holds her ticket. It turns out, however, that she wants to go to the district of Guysborough, to St. Mary's Cross Roads, somewhere in it, and not to the village of Guysborough, which is away down on Chedabucto Bay. (The reader will notice this geographical familiarity.) And this stage does not go in the direction of St. Mary's. She will not get out, she will not surrender her ticket, nor pay her fare again. Why should she? And the stage proprietor, the stage-driver, and the hostler mull over the problem, and sit down on the woman's hair trunk in front of the tavern to reason with her. The baby joins its voice from the coach window in the clamor of the discussion. The baby prevails. The stage company comes to a compromise, the woman dismounts, and we are off, away from the white houses, over the sandy road, out upon a hilly and not cheerful country. And the driver begins to tell us stories of winter hardships, drifted highways, a land buried in snow, and great peril to men and cattle.
"It was then summer, and the weather very fine; so pleased was I with the country, in which I had never travelled before, that my delight proved equal to my wonder."—BENVENUTO CELLINI.
There are few pleasures in life equal to that of riding on the box-seat of a stagecoach, through a country unknown to you and hearing the driver talk about his horses. We made the intimate acquaintance of twelve horses on that day's ride, and learned the peculiar disposition and traits of each one of them, their ambition of display, their sensitiveness to praise or blame, their faithfulness, their playfulness, the readiness with which they yielded to kind treatment, their daintiness about food and lodging.
May I never forget the spirited little jade, the off-leader in the third stage, the petted belle of the route, the nervous, coquettish, mincing mare of Marshy Hope. A spoiled beauty she was; you could see that as she took the road with dancing step, tossing her pretty head about, and conscious of her shining black coat and her tail done up "in any simple knot,"—like the back hair of Shelley's Beatrice Cenci. How she ambled and sidled and plumed herself, and now and then let fly her little heels high in air in mere excess of larkish feeling.
"So! girl; so! Kitty," murmurs the driver in the softest tones of admiration; "she don't mean anything by it, she's just like a kitten."
But the heels keep flying above the traces, and by and by the driver is obliged to "speak hash" to the beauty. The reproof of the displeased tone is evidently felt, for she settles at once to her work, showing perhaps a little impatience, jerking her head up and down, and protesting by her nimble movements against the more deliberate trot of her companion. I believe that a blow from the cruel lash would have broken her heart; or else it would have made a little fiend of the spirited creature. The lash is hardly ever good for the sex.
For thirteen years, winter and summer, this coachman had driven this monotonous, uninteresting route, with always the same sandy hills, scrubby firs, occasional cabins, in sight. What a time to nurse his thought and feed on his heart! How deliberately he can turn things over in his brain! What a system of philosophy he might evolve out of his consciousness! One would think so. But, in fact, the stagebox is no place for thinking. To handle twelve horses every day, to keep each to its proper work, stimulating the lazy and restraining the free, humoring each disposition, so that the greatest amount of work shall be obtained with the least friction, making each trip on time, and so as to leave each horse in as good condition at the close as at the start, taking advantage of the road, refreshing the team by an occasional spurt of speed,—all these things require constant attention; and if the driver was composing an epic, the coach might go into the ditch, or, if no accident happened, the horses would be worn out in a month, except for the driver's care.
I conclude that the most delicate and important occupation in life is stage-driving. It would be easier to "run" the Treasury Department of the United States than a four-in-hand. I have a sense of the unimportance of everything else in comparison with this business in hand. And I think the driver shares that feeling. He is the autocrat of the situation. He is lord of all the humble passengers, and they feel their inferiority. They may have knowledge and skill in some things, but they are of no use here. At all the stables the driver is king; all the people on the route are deferential to him; they are happy if he will crack a joke with them, and take it as a favor if he gives them better than they send. And it is his joke that always raises the laugh, regardless of its quality.
We carry the royal mail, and as we go along drop little sealed canvas bags at way offices. The bags would not hold more than three pints of meal, and I can see that there is nothing in them. Yet somebody along here must be expecting a letter, or they would not keep up the mail facilities. At French River we change horses. There is a mill here, and there are half a dozen houses, and a cranky bridge, which the driver thinks will not tumble down this trip. The settlement may have seen better days, and will probably see worse.
I preferred to cross the long, shaky wooden bridge on foot, leaving the inside passengers to take the risk, and get the worth of their money; and while the horses were being put to, I walked on over the hill. And here I encountered a veritable foot-pad, with a club in his hand and a bundle on his shoulder, coming down the dusty road, with the wild-eyed aspect of one who travels into a far country in search of adventure. He seemed to be of a cheerful and sociable turn, and desired that I should linger and converse with him. But he was more meagerly supplied with the media of conversation than any person I ever met. His opening address was in a tongue that failed to convey to me the least idea. I replied in such language as I had with me, but it seemed to be equally lost upon him. We then fell back upon gestures and ejaculations, and by these I learned that he was a native of Cape Breton, but not an aborigine. By signs he asked me where I came from, and where I was going; and he was so much pleased with my destination, that he desired to know my name; and this I told him with all the injunction of secrecy I could convey; but he could no more pronounce it than I could speak his name. It occurred to me that perhaps he spoke a French patois, and I asked him; but he only shook his head. He would own neither to German nor Irish. The happy thought came to me of inquiring if he knew English. But he shook his head again, and said,
"No English, plenty garlic."
This was entirely incomprehensible, for I knew that garlic is not a language, but a smell. But when he had repeated the word several times, I found that he meant Gaelic; and when we had come to this understanding, we cordially shook hands and willingly parted. One seldom encounters a wilder or more good-natured savage than this stalwart wanderer. And meeting him raised my hopes of Cape Breton.
We change horses again, for the last stage, at Marshy Hope. As we turn down the hill into this place of the mournful name, we dash past a procession of five country wagons, which makes way for us: everything makes way for us; even death itself turns out for the stage with four horses. The second wagon carries a long box, which reveals to us the mournful errand of the caravan. We drive into the stable, and get down while the fresh horses are put to. The company's stables are all alike, and open at each end with great doors. The stable is the best house in the place; there are three or four houses besides, and one of them is white, and has vines growing over the front door, and hollyhocks by the front gate. Three or four women, and as many barelegged girls, have come out to look at the procession, and we lounge towards the group.
"It had a winder in the top of it, and silver handles," says one.
"Well, I declare; and you could 'a looked right in?"
"If I'd been a mind to."
"Who has died?" I ask.
"It's old woman Larue; she lived on Gilead Hill, mostly alone. It's better for her."
"Had she any friends?"
"One darter. They're takin' her over Eden way, to bury her where she come from."
"Was she a good woman?" The traveler is naturally curious to know what sort of people die in Nova Scotia.
"Well, good enough. Both her husbands is dead."
The gossips continued talking of the burying. Poor old woman Larue! It was mournful enough to encounter you for the only time in this world in this plight, and to have this glimpse of your wretched life on lonesome Gilead Hill. What pleasure, I wonder, had she in her life, and what pleasure have any of these hard-favored women in this doleful region? It is pitiful to think of it. Doubtless, however, the region isn't doleful, and the sentimental traveler would not have felt it so if he had not encountered this funereal flitting.
But the horses are in. We mount to our places; the big doors swing open.
"Stand away," cries the driver.
The hostler lets go Kitty's bridle, the horses plunge forward, and we are off at a gallop, taking the opposite direction from that pursued by old woman Larue.
This last stage is eleven miles, through a pleasanter country, and we make it in a trifle over an hour, going at an exhilarating gait, that raises our spirits out of the Marshy Hope level. The perfection of travel is ten miles an hour, on top of a stagecoach; it is greater speed than forty by rail. It nurses one's pride to sit aloft, and rattle past the farmhouses, and give our dust to the cringing foot tramps. There is something royal in the swaying of the coach body, and an excitement in the patter of the horses' hoofs. And what an honor it must be to guide such a machine through a region of rustic admiration!
The sun has set when we come thundering down into the pretty Catholic village of Antigonish,—the most home-like place we have seen on the island. The twin stone towers of the unfinished cathedral loom up large in the fading light, and the bishop's palace on the hill—the home of the Bishop of Arichat—appears to be an imposing white barn with many staring windows. At Antigonish—with the emphasis on the last syllable—let the reader know there is a most comfortable inn, kept by a cheery landlady, where the stranger is served by the comely handmaidens, her daughters, and feels that he has reached a home at last. Here we wished to stay. Here we wished to end this weary pilgrimage. Could Baddeck be as attractive as this peaceful valley? Should we find any inn on Cape Breton like this one?
"Never was on Cape Breton," our driver had said; "hope I never shall be. Heard enough about it. Taverns? You'll find 'em occupied."
"But it is a lovely country?"
"I don't think it."
Into what unknown dangers were we going? Why not stay here and be happy? It was a soft summer night. People were loitering in the street; the young beaux of the place going up and down with the belles, after the leisurely manner in youth and summer; perhaps they were students from St. Xavier College, or visiting gallants from Guysborough. They look into the post-office and the fancy store. They stroll and take their little provincial pleasure and make love, for all we can see, as if Antigonish were a part of the world. How they must look down on Marshy Hope and Addington Forks and Tracadie! What a charming place to live in is this!
But the stage goes on at eight o'clock. It will wait for no man. There is no other stage till eight the next night, and we have no alternative but a night ride. We put aside all else except duty and Baddeck. This is strictly a pleasure-trip.
The stage establishment for the rest of the journey could hardly be called the finest on the continent. The wagon was drawn by two horses. It was a square box, covered with painted cloth. Within were two narrow seats, facing each other, affording no room for the legs of passengers, and offering them no position but a strictly upright one. It was a most ingeniously uncomfortable box in which to put sleepy travelers for the night. The weather would be chilly before morning, and to sit upright on a narrow board all night, and shiver, is not cheerful. Of course, the reader says that this is no hardship to talk about. But the reader is mistaken. Anything is a hardship when it is unpleasantly what one does not desire or expect. These travelers had spent wakeful nights, in the forests, in a cold rain, and never thought of complaining. It is useless to talk about the Polar sufferings of Dr. Kane to a guest at a metropolitan hotel, in the midst of luxury, when the mosquito sings all night in his ear, and his mutton-chop is overdone at breakfast. One does not like to be set up for a hero in trifles, in odd moments, and in inconspicuous places.
There were two passengers besides ourselves, inhabitants of Cape Breton Island, who were returning from Halifax to Plaster Cove, where they were engaged in the occupation of distributing alcoholic liquors at retail. This fact we ascertained incidentally, as we learned the nationality of our comrades by their brogue, and their religion by their lively ejaculations during the night. We stowed ourselves into the rigid box, bade a sorrowing good-night to the landlady and her daughters, who stood at the inn door, and went jingling down the street towards the open country.
The moon rises at eight o'clock in Nova Scotia. It came above the horizon exactly as we began our journey, a harvest-moon, round and red. When I first saw it, it lay on the edge of the horizon as if too heavy to lift itself, as big as a cart-wheel, and its disk cut by a fence-rail. With what a flood of splendor it deluged farmhouses and farms, and the broad sweep of level country! There could not be a more magnificent night in which to ride towards that geographical mystery of our boyhood, the Gut of Canso.
A few miles out of town the stage stopped in the road before a post-station. An old woman opened the door of the farmhouse to receive the bag which the driver carried to her. A couple of sprightly little girls rushed out to "interview" the passengers, climbing up to ask their names and, with much giggling, to get a peep at their faces. And upon the handsomeness or ugliness of the faces they saw in the moonlight they pronounced with perfect candor. We are not obliged to say what their verdict was. Girls here, no doubt, as elsewhere, lose this trustful candor as they grow older.
Just as we were starting, the old woman screamed out from the door, in a shrill voice, addressing the driver, "Did you see ary a sick man 'bout 'Tigonish?"
"There's one been round here for three or four days, pretty bad off; 's got the St. Vitus's. He wanted me to get him some medicine for it up to Antigonish. I've got it here in a vial, and I wished you could take it to him."
"Where is he?"
"I dunno. I heern he'd gone east by the Gut. Perhaps you'll hear of him." All this screamed out into the night.
"Well, I'll take it."
We took the vial aboard and went on; but the incident powerfully affected us. The weird voice of the old woman was exciting in itself, and we could not escape the image of this unknown man, dancing about this region without any medicine, fleeing perchance by night and alone, and finally flitting away down the Gut of Canso. This fugitive mystery almost immediately shaped itself into the following simple poem:
"There was an old man of Canso, Unable to sit or stan' so. When I asked him why he ran so, Says he, 'I've St. Vitus' dance so, All down the Gut of Canso.'"
This melancholy song is now, I doubt not, sung by the maidens of Antigonish.
In spite of the consolations of poetry, however, the night wore on slowly, and soothing sleep tried in vain to get a lodgment in the jolting wagon. One can sleep upright, but not when his head is every moment knocked against the framework of a wagon-cover. Even a jolly young Irishman of Plaster Cove, whose nature it is to sleep under whatever discouragement, is beaten by these circumstances. He wishes he had his fiddle along. We never know what men are on casual acquaintance. This rather stupid-looking fellow is a devotee of music, and knows how to coax the sweetness out of the unwilling violin. Sometimes he goes miles and miles on winter nights to draw the seductive bow for the Cape Breton dancers, and there is enthusiasm in his voice, as he relates exploits of fiddling from sunset till the dawn of day. Other information, however, the young man has not; and when this is exhausted, he becomes sleepy again, and tries a dozen ways to twist himself into a posture in which sleep will be possible. He doubles up his legs, he slides them under the seat, he sits on the wagon bottom; but the wagon swings and jolts and knocks him about. His patience under this punishment is admirable, and there is something pathetic in his restraint from profanity.
It is enough to look out upon the magnificent night; the moon is now high, and swinging clear and distant; the air has grown chilly; the stars cannot be eclipsed by the greater light, but glow with a chastened fervor. It is on the whole a splendid display for the sake of four sleepy men, banging along in a coach,—an insignificant little vehicle with two horses. No one is up at any of the farmhouses to see it; no one appears to take any interest in it, except an occasional baying dog, or a rooster that has mistaken the time of night. By midnight we come to Tracadie, an orchard, a farmhouse, and a stable. We are not far from the sea now, and can see a silver mist in the north. An inlet comes lapping up by the old house with a salty smell and a suggestion of oyster-beds. We knock up the sleeping hostlers, change horses, and go on again, dead sleepy, but unable to get a wink. And all the night is blazing with beauty. We think of the criminal who was sentenced to be kept awake till he died.
The fiddler makes another trial. Temperately remarking, "I am very sleepy," he kneels upon the floor and rests his head on the seat. This position for a second promises repose; but almost immediately his head begins to pound the seat, and beat a lively rat-a-plan on the board. The head of a wooden idol couldn't stand this treatment more than a minute. The fiddler twisted and turned, but his head went like a triphammer on the seat. I have never seen a devotional attitude so deceptive, or one that produced less favorable results. The young man rose from his knees, and meekly said,