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- Over the Border: Acadia - 3/18 -
and directly before one the peculiarly striking promontory of Blomidon, with the red sandstone showing through the dark pines clothing his sides, and at his feet a powerful "rip" tossing the water into chopped seas; a current so strong that a six-knot breeze is necessary to carry a vessel through the passage which here opens into the Bay of Fundy.
This is the place where schedules said nothing of a boat to convey the tourist across the inland sea--of thirty miles' width--to the railroad on its south shore,--the line which bears on its rolling stock the ominous initials W. A. R, but passes through the most peaceful country nevertheless. Yet our genial host's assurances that such a vessel will come are not to be doubted; and, after a dainty repast, a group sits on the pier, watching ghostly ships and smaller craft emerge from and vanish into the mist. As the mists disperse and the moon comes out clearly, it reveals the "Hiawatha" approaching,--a graceful propeller of five hundred tons burden, and one hundred and some odd feet in length.
Partridge Island, which is close at hand, commands exceptionally fine views, as Blomidon does also; the famous Capes d'Or and Chignecto, seven hundred and thirty to eight hundred feet high, with Advocate Harbor, are within pleasant driving distance. There are twenty varieties of minerals on Blomidon; as many more, with jaw-testing names, on Partridge Island "and thereabout"; so in this locality a geologist would become quite ecstatic. Some of the finest marine scenery of the Provinces, as well as lovely inland views and the noted and singular Five Islands, can be seen within a radius of twenty miles.
"No country is of much interest until legends and poetry have draped it in hues that mere nature cannot produce," says a pleasant modern writer.
Geologists believe that the range of hills known as the North Mountain was once a long narrow island, and that a shoal gradually formed near Blomidon, in time filling in until that headland became part of the mainland.
This striking cape, five hundred and seventy feet high, one would naturally expect to find associated with strange wild myths of the aborigines; and
"Ye who love a nation's legends, That like voices from afar off Call to us to pause and listen,"
It seems that this was the favorite resort of Glooscap, the Indian giant, who, like "Kwasind the Strong Man," in "Hiawatha," entered into a fierce combat here with the Great Beaver (Ahmeek, King of the Beavers, is spoken of in that same poem), and contended with the gigantic creature in similar manner, throwing huge masses of rock, which, falling in the water, became, in this case, the Five Islands. The Indian legend says that at this point a stupendous dam was built by the Great Beaver; and because this was flooding the Cornwallis valley, Glooscap, whose supernatural power was unlimited, broke and bent it into its present shape, forming Cape Blomidon, afterwards strewing the promontory with gems, some of which he carried away to adorn "his mysterious female companion." Here also he held a wonderful feast with another giant; and, ordinary fish not sufficing to satisfy their enormous appetites, the two embarked in a stone canoe, sailed out into the Great Lake of Uniras, as they called the Basin, and there speared a whale, which they brought to the shore and devoured at short notice. The approach of the white man causing the Indian giant to desert his old haunts, he sailed out on the great water and vanished from sight; but some day, when men and animals live together in peace and friendship, he will return and resume his royal sway on the Basin of Minas. Before his departure he gave a farewell feast to all the animals, who swarmed from all over the country, turned his dogs into stone, and left his kettle overturned in the shape of an island near Cape Spencer, across Minas Channel. Since that time the loons, who were his hunters, wander sadly about the wildest lakes and rivers, searching for their master, uttering their dolorous cries; and the owls keep up their part of the lament, crying "Koo koo skoos," which, being Indian language, they evidently learned from the giant, and, being interpreted, signified "I am sorry."
The crown of France is adorned with a fine amethyst from Blomidon; and those early explorers, De Monts and Co., "found in the neighborhood" (of Parrsboro) "crystals and blue stones of a shining colour, similar in appearance to those known by the name of Turkeese." One of the company, "having found a beautiful specimen of this kind, broke it into two pieces, and gave one to De Monts, and the other to Poutrincourt, who, on their return to Paris, had them handsomely set by a jeweler, and presented them to the King and Queen."
At the base of Cape d'Or there is a very powerful current with great maelstroms; this is known as the Styx, and through these terrible whirlpools two fishermen were carried this season (1883), one losing his life; while the other, an expert swimmer and athlete, was saved by less than a hair's breadth, and afterwards described most thrillingly his sensations on being drawn into and ejected from the frightful vortices.
Just at daybreak, when Blomidon looks out all glowing from the gauzy veil of mist, as the lazy zephyr wafts it aside, and the placid water repeats the glorious tints of radiant clouds, we regretfully take our departure. Cape Sharp and Cape Split, bold promontories which stand like mighty sentinels guarding the entrance to the Bay of Fundy, appear in clearest azure and violet; while the mountains of the north shore are sharply defined in pure indigo against the brilliant sky, as the propeller steams away. The sail across, two hours and a half in length, is a vision of ideal and poetic beauty, all too brief; and as we step ashore we feel tempted to quote, "Take, oh boatman, thrice thy fee!"
At this point (Hantsport) we take the W. and A. R. R, and in a few hours are set down at the place which we have been so long planning to reach; the place of which our host, who is probably not familiar with the history of St. Augustine, Florida, wrote proudly as "the oldest town in North America."
It certainly is one of the oldest settlements in North America, having been founded in 1604, and, until 1750, it was the capital of the whole peninsula of Nova Scotia: Annapolis,--the old Port Royal, the historical town which has been the scene of so many struggles and bitter contentions; but is now the very picture of peace and utterly restful quiet.
Here the Eight settle down for a long sojourn; basking in the delicious atmosphere, devoting themselves to searching out the most picturesque views, in a series of rambles, drives, and excursions, and visiting all points for miles around, to which history and romance have added charms almost as great as those of river and mountain which they always possessed.
Those of our party who hail from the city of Brotherly Love naturally feel a special interest in Acadia and the sad story of Longfellow's heroine; as a patent for the principality of Acadia, which included the whole American coast from Philadelphia to Montreal, was given by the "impulsive and warmhearted monarch," Henry IV. of France, to Pierre du Guast, the Sieur de Monts, constituting him governor of that country, and giving him the trade and revenues of the region.
Consequently some of the ancestors of our Philadelphia friends were Acadians, though not French peasantry. There also:--
"In that delightful land which is washed by the Delaware's waters, Guarding in sylvan shades the name of Penn the apostle, Stands on the banks of its beautiful stream the city he founded. There all the air is balm, and the peach is the emblem of beauty, And the streets still re-echo the names of the trees of the forest, As if they fain would appease the Dryads whose haunts they molested There from the troubled sea had Evangeline landed, an exile, Finding among the children of Penn a home and a country."
In that sedate and sober city was--
"the almshouse, home of the homeless. Then in the suburbs it stood, in the midst of meadows and woodlands, Now the city surrounds it, hut still, with its gateway and wicket Meek in the midst of splendor, its humble walls seem to echo Softly the words of the Lord,--'The poor ye have always with you'"
There the sad exile's weary search was at last rewarded; the long parted lovers were reunited, though but for a moment on the verge of the grave; and thus was ended--
"the hope and the fear and the sorrow, All the aching of heart, the restless, unsatisfied longing, All the dull, deep pain, and constant anguish of patience,"
The city almshouse stood, we are told, at the corner of Twelfth and Spruce Streets; but the belief is quite general (and we incline decidedly to that) that our beloved poet intended by his description to portray the quaint building formerly known as the Friends' Almshouse, which stood in Walnut Place (opening off of Walnut Street below Fourth), and which was torn down in 1872 or 1873 to give place to railroad and lawyers' offices.
The entrance from the street, by "gateway and wicket", as the poem says, led through a narrow passage way; and there faced one a small, low roofed house, built of alternate red and black bricks (the latter glazed), almost entirely covered by an aged ivy which clambered over the roof. The straggling branches even nodded above the wide chimneys; at both sides of the door stood comfortable settles, inviting to rest; and the pretty garden charmed with its bloom and fragrance. The whole formed such a restful retreat, such an oasis of quiet in the very heart of the busy city, that one was tempted often to make excuses for straying into the peaceful enclosure.
In a book printed for private circulation in Philadelphia some years ago, there is an item of interest about the Acadians. The author narrates that she and a young companion, in their strolls to the suburbs, where they went to visit the Pennsylvania Hospital (Eighth and Pine Streets, now in the heart of the city), were timid because obliged to pass the place where the "French Neutrals" were located.
These people, because they were foreigners, and there was some mystery about them which the girls did not then understand, inspired them with fear; though Philadelphia residents of that time testify that the homeless and destitute strangers were in reality a very simple and inoffensive company, when, "friendless, homeless, hopeless, they wandered from city to city." Through the influence of Anthony Benezet, a member of the Society of Friends, they were provided with homes on Pine Street above Sixth, where the two little wooden houses still stand; one, when we last saw it, being painted blue.
What a picturesque company of adventurers were those French noblemen, who, turning their backs upon the luxuries and fascinations of court life, sailed away to this wild and distant land, where, in the pursuit of gain, fame, or merely adventure, they were to suffer absolute privation and hardship; consorting with savages in place of the plumed
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