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- Over the Border: Acadia - 10/18 -
In our various wanderings we visit the Indian settlement at the head of this crooked stream, but find its residents too civilized to be very picturesque. We are interested in learning what the Canadian Government does for their welfare, and wish a similar policy could be instituted in the States. Here, as with us, liquor is their curse. The once famous chief of the Micmacs lives at Bear River, and is addicted to the bottle. One day a young girl, who was a summer guest at this place, sat down on an overturned canoe which this chief (now known as James Meuse) had just completed; and, as the bark bent with her weight, the wily Indian pretended that the boat was irretrievably ruined. The girl's father, asking what amount would compensate for the damage, received reply, "Ten, twenty, dollar"; and receiving thirty dollars from the generous stranger, Redskin remarked afterwards that he "wished more girl come sit on boat", and probably turned the money into liquid fire, and poured it down his throat in a short space of time. As there is a heavy fine for selling liquor to Indians, one of that race will never divulge from whom he has received it, however intoxicated he may be.
Another Indian sachem noted in history--Membertou--lived to the age of one hundred and four, and was buried at Annapolis, then Port Royal, with military honors, as befitted the companion of soldiers. At Poutrincourt's table he was a daily and honored guest in that olden time, and, when the "Order of Happy Times" was instituted there, of course became a _member too!_ Query: Did that ancient convivial society offer suggestions to the famous old "State in Schuylkill Club" of Philadelphia when they were organizing so many years after?
In the drive to Digby, twenty-one miles, we pass along all the ins and outs of the shore of Annapolis Basin, finding the succession of views on that curiously land-locked harbor a perfect study and delight, and more picturesque than on the trip to the same place by steamer, as we discover later.
There we see a bright-eyed, pretty little maiden, who wears a gay red handkerchief in place of a hat, and makes a picture as she drives her cow over a bit of moorland. Driver says she is "one of the French people", and that her name is Thibaudia, which, with its English signification (a kind of heath), seems appropriate for one living in the wilds, and deliciously foreign and suggestive. We wonder if old Crumplehorn understands French, and conclude that she is a well educated animal, as she seems to obey directions without needing a touch of willow branch to punctuate them.
Sometimes it seems that the names conferred On mortals at baptism in this queer world Seem given for naught but to spite 'em. Mr. Long is short, Mr. Short is tall, And who so meek as Mr. Maul? Mr. Lamb's fierce temper is very well known, Mr. Hope plods about with sigh and groan,-- "And so proceed ad infinitum"
At one point on our route, when we are passing through a lonely and apparently uninhabited region, our jolly driver, "Manyul", remarks, "Here's where Nobody lives."; and one replies, "Yes, evidently; and I shouldn't think any one would wish to." But a turn of the road brings a house in sight; and driver says, "That's his house, and his name is actually Nobody" (Charles, I believe). We quote, "What's in a name!" and conclude that if he is at all like the kindly people of this region whom we have met he may be well content to be nobody, rather than resemble many whom the world considers "somebodies", but who are not models in any respect.
Our driver is quite a character in his way, and in the winter he "goes a loggin'". On learning this we ply him with questions in such manner as would surprise a lawyer, eliciting in return graphic pictures of camp life in New Brunswick wildernesses, and the amusements with which they while away the long evenings in their rough barracks. He describes their primitive modes of cooking, their beds of fragrant spruce boughs overlaid with straw,--"Better 'n any o' your spring mattresses, I tell _you_!"--the queer box-like bunks along the wall where they "stow themselves away", and where the most active and useful man is, for the time at least, literally laid on the shelf.
Octavius, thinking how much he would enjoy "roughing it" thus, asks what they would charge to take a young man to board in camp; and driver indignantly replies, "_Nothin'_! Do you suppose we'd charge board? No, _indeed_! Just let him come; and if we didn't give him a good time, and if he didn't get strong and hearty, then we'd be ashamed of ourselves and _sell out_."
Here we approach a cove which driver calls the Joggin (as it makes a cut or jog-in, we presume); and beyond, a wide arm of the Basin is spanned by a rickety old bridge, at least a quarter of a mile long, named in honor of her Majesty,--hardly a compliment to that sovereign, we think. The boards are apparently laid down without nails, and rattle like a fusillade as our vehicle rolls over them. Here and there planks are broken or gone entirely, showing the green swirling water beneath. Our chaperone, having more faith in her own feet than those of the horses, dismounts and walks across; while we, being naturally reckless and romantic, are willing to risk our necks for the sake of the charming views.
The village of Digby stretches along the shore, and from the hills surrounding it the Basin with its islands, the Gap, and Annapolis River, are charming.
Disciples of old "Izaak" would be likely to meet with greater success here than at Annapolis; as the current of the river at the latter place is so strong that, as a general thing, only the "old salts" are anglers; and they being most of the time out in the Bay or off on cruises, it follows that fish are scarce in the market.
An "ancient and fish-like smell" pervades the atmosphere in some parts of the village where the herring--humorously known as "Digby Chickens"--are spread on racks to dry; but this odor, the odd little shops and restaurants, the clumsy and queer lumber boats, the groups of tars gossiping about doorways and wharves, only add to the nautical character of the place, and suggest reminiscences of "Peggoty", "Ham", and others of Dickens's characters.
We ignore the pleasant embowered hotel "in bosky dell", far up the street this time, though we visit it in a later sojourn; and, "just for the fun of it", take lunch in one of the peculiar little restaurants; where, seated at a minute table in one of the tiny calico curtained alcoves, we partake of our frugal repast (the bill of fare is extremely limited), amusing ourselves watching the odd customers who come to make purchases at the counter across the room, and "making believe" that we are characters in an old English story.
On the bluff beyond the village, beneath great old Balm of Gilead trees whose foliage is perpetually in a flutter from the breeze through the Gap, there are several cannon, which it seems could not possibly have any hostile intent, but appear to be gratifying a mild curiosity by peering across the Basin and up the river beyond.
The long and very high pier stretches far out into the Basin, and upon it picturesque groups unconsciously pose for us, adding to the effect of the picture.
That the climate is salubrious and conducive to longevity we are convinced after visiting the cemetery, where one tomb records the demise of a man at the age of one hundred and two!
A peculiar taste for wandering among the tombs we have acquired in this summer jaunt. Here we see the tomb of one recorded proudly as "descended from the noble families of Stuart and Bruce", who, tradition says, was supposed to have held the position of servant to said scions of nobility. One who was known as a scoffer during life here is virtuously represented ah "a sincere worshipper of Eternal, Almighty and ever just God"; reminding us of the popular adage, "lying like an epitaph". Twice have we seen one stone made to do service for two in an amusing manner: on the upper part the usual, "Sacred to the memory of," etc.; then half-way down had been carved a hand pointing to one side, and under it the words "There lies"; while the name, age, etc., of the later decedent was inscribed below the first.
One old tomb we were with this epitaph:--
"Tho' gready worm destroy my skin And gnaw my wasting flesh When God doth build my bones agen He'll cloath them all afresh."
"What says the silent dead He bids me bear my load With silent steps proceed And follow him to God."
We notice that the English rule of the road maintains here, and our driver turns to the left when other vehicles are approaching. Captain C., who is from the States, tells us that he did not know of this custom, and in his first drive nearly collided with another vehicle, the driver of which thereupon used strong language. On being informed that he had almost overturned the conveyance of the Governor of Prince Edward's Island, the rash Yankee, undismayed, remarked, "Well, I don't care who he is, he don't know how to drive!"
Of course, as we are in the neighborhood, we must see the locality to which--in mild and humorous profanity--States people are sometimes assigned; and therefore proceed to Halifax and thoroughly "do" that sedate, quiet, and delightfully old-fashioned city.
_En route_, as the train passes beyond Windsor, one says, "Here we are out of sight of land"; and we then understand that it must have been some one from this locality who christened the valley of Annapolis the Garden of Nova Scotia; for here a scene of utter sterility and desolation meets the view: not a foot of earth is to be seen, but rocks are piled in wild confusion everywhere. A few dead trees stand among the _débris_, emphasizing the loneliness; and Conductor says when the world was created the "leavings" were deposited in this dreary tract.
By special arrangement with "Old Prob", there are none of the prevailing fogs during our stay; and Aurora Borealis gets up a special illumination. Regiments of red-coats, with torches and band,--aware doubtless of the presence of such distinguished strangers,--march past
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