No call sounded ….
O call sounded by the pipes of this New Era is more insistent than that of the Canadian Sea-coast. One sometimes wonders if Canadians as a whole even yet realize the important gift bestowed, when Heaven gave to Canada so magnificent a coastline as that which the constant sword-play of land and sea traces from Saint John, New Brunswick, to the Newfoundland-Labrador Boundary? The map of Eastern Canada is "a study in charts" worthy of closest attention. For it is here the Dominion rings up the outside world.
But to get the real "lay of the land", the true spirit of its people, one must not be a stay-at-home, a mere map-student only, but a follower of the Piper leading by the 'longshore road through New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, and Prince Edward Island. Canadians must be able to say, "these are our Maritime Provinces", and say it with a pleasurable, personal, as well as deep, national sense. And visitors from other lands must be able to become personally possessive if they are to enjoy the life etched quaintly enough of Grand Pré, of the Valley of the Gaspereau, of the bonnie Hielands o' Cape Breton. One hardly sets foot in any part of this long stretch, without being at once conscious that the sea invades all the life of Bluenose-land, that the marine spirit is here in a beautiful, intimate sense, like the figurehead on a ship, both soul and mascot of the "half -island".
Sailing-vessels in themselves, are genre crowding the Nova Scotia stage. Her earliest discoverer came hither, over the sea, in the picturesque craft of a Norse Dragon-ship. And the immediate chapters of her history, after these half-shadowy voyages of the Norsemen, were written by Basque and Breton fishboats a-sail, drawn across the Atlantic Ocean in the wake of Cod.
Cod is still, more than ever, King in Bluenoseland and beyond. Over all the vast stretch of the Canadian "Maritime" his huge fleet holds sway. And what is so romantic as a fleet-winged schooner speeding away under full sail on her voyage to the Banks? Unless it be the one coming in, her decks almost awash, with the full load? Oars and sails, and the tripping bows of the Dragon-ships and Breton bateaux founded this long line of "Bankers" and Dories – laid the foundation of Nova Scotia's talent for ship-building. The "gift" which turned out the big square-riggers from the Hantsport and Parrsboro "ways" was a natural sequence of the maritime beginning of this land, where thought turns so naturally to the sea, and to sea-power. It was those wooden wind-jammers, wind-jammers with mere boat-beginnings, which paved the way to the ocean-greyhounds which now home true to Halifax and Saint John. Oh, the "Maritime" is the life-blood of Nova Scotian and Newfoundlander.
Halifax is the heart of the Marine circulatory system. And serving Halifax with fish for re-shipment, are innumerable little Havens and Outports, all up and down Saint Margaret's Bay, Spry Bay, the Gut of Canso, and along the vast stretch reaching to Souris, P.E.I., and Havre Aubert in Les Madeleines. And in each of these little Outports there is, of course, a family behind every little "dory". The morning greeting among all these people is not, "Good Day!" but, "How's Fish?" To these coastal families, Halifax is not a mere cold city of business, but a "mother" to whom they can turn with the catch, be it great or small, and ask bread.
And so, in a morning spent on the Halifax waterfront, the lifting fog reveals schooner after schooner snugly riding against the old wet piers that artists love, or idly floating into dock amid harbour reflections, weathered spars and mildewed sails a-drip. Sometimes there is a clump of these schooners hitched together, all discharging at the same time. So in a single morning at a fish-receiving wharf here, we have chatted with skipper from Newfoundland, skipper from the Madeleine Islands in the Gulf, and skipper from Prince Edward Island, and not moved from the one dock.
Codfish overflows the roofs in the final stages of the drying, and lies upturned to the sun almost under the shadow of city cathedrals. And here on the wharves is an army of men and boys, the coopers and brine-mixers, moving about from barrel to barrel of mackerel, mending leaks and otherwise putting them in shape for trans-shipment; and over there, overflowing the basement of some old warehouse, the half and whole drums, called-for by the cod a-drying on the roof. Old scales are trundled back and forth to this schooner and that, as the flying cod hurtles through the air, hurled by some unseen hand at work in the hold of the "Nancy Ann", "The Village Leaf", or the schooner, "Passport."
HER DAILY PORTION
In sharp contrast to the fish-schooners is the brig, brigantine, or barque, painted white, with water-casks the last thing in paint and fancy designs on deck. She is discharging hogsheads of molasses brought from Barbadoes or other of the British West Indies. Molasses has played its part and commandeered the sailing vessel of the Bluenose fleet from the earliest times. For in the rationing of the sea-craft up and down the coast molasses was the "sweetening"; and old-timers to this day prefer it to sugar.
* * * *
In addition to her fishing industry and tale of ships, Nova Scotia enjoys a pastoral side no less rich in genre. Farms are here. In following the highways and little by-paths rambling among apple orchards and gardens, potato fields and hay meadows – paths etched in Spring by the pink flush of apple-blossoms, or in autumn by boughs curving to earth under weight of rosy Baldwins or creamy Bellefleurs – one follows everywhere hard on the heels of romance. It is her hand that beckons into every little cottage snugly tucked away in valley and glen; where every grandmother sitting carding, spinning, hooking rugs, knitting or reading her daily portion of Scripture, can keep you entertained with tales and the recounting of interesting happenings and not go outside the range of the half-dozen houses which have been her little world for more than half a century.
Along these roads and about these inland homes, friendly old willows mingle atmospherically with tall and stately Lombardy poplars. It is on these uplands of Nova Scotia one follows the old Post-roads – roads that recall the dashing coach of other days and still cross rivers by old covered-bridges, and preserve the quaint, rambling old houses that served as Inns where passengers of old sought refreshment, or spent the night, while waiting to make connections with the coach to this or that objective.
Sitting down by the roadside to rest, some old-timer driving a span of oxen and urging them along with an apple-bough goad, is sure to come along and enter into conversation in that happy way which is half the charm of adventuring by Nova Scotia highways. This old farmer-carter well remembers Harry Killcup, the Robin Hood-Jehu of the Post-road from Annapolis Royal to Halifax. He relates how Harry was talking to a girl and didn't pay attention to his horses, and drove them too near the edge of the bridge and they fell over, dragging the coach with them. "The river was in flood, too, but Harry managed to get the girl clear of the wreckage, and saved her, but the young man, with whom she travelled, was drowned." It sounds like a movie stunt in the cold light of to-day, whereas, in fact, it was Victorian realism and a typical incident of the dashing times of the chaise in which Sam Slick engaged a permanent seat in that other "chaise of Canadian literature" by which Judge Haliburton eventually established his name in Canada's Hall of Fame. The events live very graphically before you as recited by this old eye-witness; who, with many a "gee" and "whoa there", again starts his oxen on the way.
To the period of the Post Road belongs that old landmark of time and the road, Grand Pré Church, outstanding figure of the countryside in which dwelt Evangeline and her people. In order to catch its romantic spirit, the time to see Grand Pre church is in the evening, when there is just a wee flare of daylight and a soft mist arises from the waters of Minas, shedding itself like a diaphanous veil over the land, as one strolls up the country-road that comes through the village from the North, under willows and poplars, to the door of the old church and then rambles off to the South between clover fields and stacks of hay; the hay resembling Hottentot villages outlined against the ashes-of-roses sky. It is at dusk, that the rather austere lines of window, tower and roof lose their sharp, almost Quaker-like severity. It is at that hour that the old stones of the graveyard become time-softened, ivory-tinted pages of history assembled under the stately poplars. Inside the church, in the strong, simple lines of its painted box-pews and high pulpit; in the old gallery; and in the square windows with little panes, there is the quaint atmosphere which clings especially to old churches of the early Colonial Period. Sitting in these old pews during service is to be carried away on the wings of history to a pivotal point, whence to behold a Cyclorama of all Canada. To the left, on this great canvas – Glooscap and Micmac; succeeded by crude Breton and Portuguese fishermen in their strange bateaux; followed by stirring panels of Annapolis Royal and Louisburg, contrasted against panels of tenacious pioneer Scotch and English settlers; in the next, the clash between France and England for supremacy, not alone in this sweet countryside of Grand Pré, but in every other contained in the word Canada. These are followed by a panel of United Empire Loyalists – very realistic this, because, in the village, you have just been looking at an old oil-painting of Colonel Crane and fingering his fine old sword, that never wavered in its allegiance.
The other half of the Cycle, begins the New Order. First, a symbolic figure of the stream of emigration flowing through the Maritime Gate to the great Canadian West, followed by prairie scenes and mountain peaks, mining scenes, cattle scenes, tawny grain, and Trans-Canada trains, sisters of "Glooscap", and "The Flying Bluenose". That, is Grand Pré Church – a link between the Past and the Present.
One often wonders ….
NE often wonders what it is in handmade things that warms the heart and enkindles the imagination? It is evident that the charm is there regardless of the value of the object. Perhaps the attraction lies in the human story, the life, the thought and care, that collected the material, conceived the form and colour of the object to be made, and then put it together. How else could the barrels discovered everywhere at harvest time in Bluenoseland be considered romantic? Yet that romance sits on every barrel-head in the Gaspereau Valley, in Paradise, 'longshore from Lunenburg to Sydney, and on the wharves at Halifax, no one who has seen them, would ever doubt. Trade, itself, here waits on the barrel. How can apples go to market if there be no barrel? Lives there a man who has ever heard of shipping potatoes in a – box? How could mackerel swim in brine, out of Halifax, to the ports of the world, were it not for the barrel? "Why, business just leans on a barrel-stave down our way," a witty merchant of these parts was once heard to exclaim.
Each trade calls for a different barrel. There is a barrel for apples, another for potatoes, and still a third for the fish. And, behind each barrel stands the – Cooper – a character in the Gaspereau Valley. And housing the Cooper and his quaint trade, every so often, voyaging along these sweet country roads, one happens on the "Cooperage", always a landmark of its neighbourhood.
Stepping into the door of a cooperage, one is met by the smell of scorching wood and the smoke thereof. Through the smoke, and bending over the barrel, whence it comes, behold, the cooper! Plenty of finished barrels stand about in the large room. The cooper nods his head toward one of them and we step quietly to the proffered seat. For a moment, one fears that the cooper will stop work to talk, and the spell be broken. But no, he goes on. In the "tub" or "jack", with a groove in the bottom, he places new staves in a large iron ring or hoop the size of the barrel to be made. About the staves, creaking as the tourniquet is twisted tighter and tighter, a stout piece of Manilla rope slowly draws each stave to its fellow and all into a perfect round. Tauter and tauter the rope is wound, long after you think the breaking point has been reached. Then one's eyes are drawn from the barrel to the man. His eye is like an eagle's for clarity. He has forgotten everything in the world but the barrel. The tension in the room is so great one could hear a pin fall. Then, the hand relaxes, the spell is broken, the barrel is "set up". Afterward, the barrel, having no bottom or head in it as yet, is set over the drum-stove in which there is a fire. And while it scorches and dries and toasts a golden brown on the inside, the cooper talks a little, turning the barrel. He "cut the birch boughs that make the hoops, from the woods, in winter, in the slack season when time hangs heavy." No, "he does not work-up the staves." Buys them from a sawmill down the road (the direction of the mill being indicated by a sweep of the arm). Keeps them for a time, to season the wood. So with the bundles of split birches. Then following his eye glancing aloft, one sees the ceiling, hung with the straight, tobacco-brown withes afforded by the Nova Scotia woods, especially provided of Nature it would seem, to gird up the sticks of dumb wood over in the corner into – staves.
The smell of the scorching barrel by this time fills the cooperage with its own peculiar perfume anew, like puffs of incense, from a censor replenished. Now the cooper turns again to his work, visitors out of mind. He lifts the barrel over the head of the stove, selects an adze and a split birch-wand. In a twinkling, a curve is swept around the barrel and with the eye alone, expert measurement is taken of the long wood-ribbon. Slish! The adze has cut! Attention is now drawn to a handmade arrangement into which the cooper is slipping the ribbon. His foot comes automatically in contact with a treadle and the withe is turned out, curved permanently. In a twinkling, the adze cuts the little jib-slit – two of them, one in each end – into which the hoop, now wound around the barrel has its ends locked forever. Set like a garland about the barrel-head the hoop is driven into place, tapped round and round and round. The inner edges of the staves are now bevelled off; the groove cut and the head hammered into place. Then on goes the last hoop. And, presto! The barrel is done and thrown over to one side among two or three score of its fellows. The cooper puts some of the shavings into the stove and starts at once, all over again on another barrel. You can see that in his mind's eye he carries a vision of score upon score of waiting orchards, waiting for his barrels, the barrel that he feels it a moral obligation to supply.
INTERIOR OF AN APPLE-BARREL COOPERAGE IN THE VALLEY OF THE GASPEREAU.
IN THE ORCHARD.
How much does he receive in payment for each barrel? Just five cents. The most expert of these "Old-timers" make as many as eighty barrels a day, or enough to keep one skilful apple-picker busy from sunrise to sunset, enough to ensure two full loads to the old cart that looks like some strange tortoise on the highway.
One could sit here forever and watch, fascinated, the cooper at his work, so clean, so redolent of the winter landscape in its hand-cut and split birch rods, the air filled with the peculiar, refreshing incense of the toasting staves, the barrel all completed in the mind of the cooper before it materializes in his skilful hand – the barrel, a new barrel, appearing as if by magic every six minutes. What visions one sees through the old door of the men who have come in the carts to its threshold; what tid-bits of news given and received in the half century since the old cooper picked up his trade by long association with the cooper ahead of him, and he in his turn from the cooper before him. What tales the old man could tell, and does, while the barrel toasts. One wonders why the story-teller has never wandered into this open door and sat him down on one of these barrel heads.
Riding away from this door, in one of the ox-drawn carts, always atmospheric and redolent of a romance denied to speedier transportation, one sets out to follow the barrel into the world, as it were. The ribbon road curves and turns by streams dashing under spreading willows or straight as a line it etches its way between rows of stately Lombardy poplars. We overtake other carts passing Grand Pré Church or standing idly for the moment before a local smithy, one ox looking as if Nirvana had descended upon him, while his fellow steps inside and endures the agony attending the acquisition of a pair of new shoes, the world over. Past creaking carts we go with oxen straining under full loads on their way to the large shipping centres of the railroad. It is a countryside glowing with crimson and yellow, and placid as only autumn that still lingers in the lap of summer, can be. Presently we come to the orchard where we would be. And there the family is gathered, laughing and chatting, waiting for barrels, for orchards and many hands give the cooper and the carter all they can do to supply them with the sweet-smelling barrels.
It is a family party, even the baby is here holding an apple in hand. The family cat rubs its nose on every pair of legs before strolling to hunt a field mouse. A mother wagers with her lad, willowy as an apple branch, that she can beat him filling a barrel. Tall ladders, home-made, loll against the topmost branches of Bellefleur and Baldwin. The father of the family cuts out the full barrels for a trip to the Station or Packing house to which he sells. The general conversation may centre around apples or it may wander off, as it is likely to, into an epic of hunting, shooting and bringing home the moose John got yesterday. Or, it may take a turn and become a tale of adventure, telling how Jamie, coming into the orchard this morning, encountered two bears, berry-hunting, directly in the path.
In time we board the cart again and roll around to the Packing House. And one may pick and choose, for the line of the D. A. R. runs through the heart of the fruit region from Digby to Halifax. And at any of these stations one comes upon the potato barrels, sisters to the apple barrels, and also creations of the skilful old individual, the cooper. We enter, as upon a tide, to behold spreading before the eye a sea of apples, with cataracts of them pouring into the sorting troughs. And barrels! Barrels are everywhere. As one goes around these rooms, one witnesses a sort of transfiguration in the old barrel. No longer is it a mere barrel but an argosy, bearing Nova Scotia products – apples and potatoes – on the high tide of Trade into the ports of the world. Here is a group of barrels, tripping it to London. This is by far the largest group, Great Britain being the largest "Foreign?" market for the Nova Scotia apple. The barrel must be a strong one that carries the fruit across ocean and through fog, to the markets of England. There is a group marked "inland Canada" and these individual barrels must travel far. And still other groups with the impress of "South Africa" and "South America," where not the barrels alone must suffer hard usage but in the latter case the apples themselves grilled by the change of language, lose their English name and become – Manzana.
It takes some three or four million barrels to supply the demand made on them by the potato and apple crops alone, of Nova Scotia; not to speak of the fish which demands a barrel, and hence a cooper, of its own. What wonder if the barrel be called "a character" in the land, and if business leans upon it, as upon a staff of life?
Standing firmly behind ….
TANDING firmly behind the craft, whether large or small, that crown both Bluenose Fishing and Bluenose Foreign Trade with success, is an army of men and boys heterogeneously grouped together as 'Longshoremen. We find them in each and every village-by-the-sea, wherever there is a boat. Here is a caulker, there a tar-boiler and pitch-runner, an old knitter of fishnet, an old sailmaker – needle and "palm", in hand – a woodcarver, an oakum-picker, an old boat-builder, "the weather prophet", and all the old fellows who lend a hand when a heavy boat is to be hauled up the beach, or to be pushed into the sea again. In the evolution of coastal-life these men are amphibious. In their youth they went to sea, but in old-age they retired, not to idleness, but to uphold what is known in the trade, as the "Shore-end" of fishing.
As one follows the long coastal road macadamized by the Maritime, the 'Longshore men and the 'Longshore women afford some of the most picturesque genre encountered anywhere in all Canada. They are unique, in that in every individual case, the product is "the Sea-coast's Own". And no two of them are exactly alike. They not only mend and reinforce, tar and paint, but they are the Historians, the Spinners-and-Weavers of Traditions, the story-tellers, that keep alive in the hearts of their listeners the sea-spirit – without which, ships are useless. And so, some morning, when you come along over the cliffs, and see a smoke, black as the traditional pine-cone over Vesuvius before the burial of Pompeii, you know that some old fisherman and his pals are tarring the old boat.
The old boat that calls for tar is certainly a personality. Coming nearer, and taking care to keep to windward, you stalk this group and watch. First there is the fiery cauldron, that is the Tar-pot, above its blaze of driftwood, with its own special attendant, looking like a Prince of Darkness, wielding the long-handled dipper; and at a little distance by the boat two other figures with long brushes, calling for ladles of tar. Good and thick they lay it into the old seams and over the old plank, the smoke pouring upward like smoke of incense, offered on the altar of the great out-of-doors.
Such scenes are imminently in danger of passing out of Canadian life. For the old boat that calls for tar, and "the old-timer" that believes in it, are everywhere giving way before the modern gasoline-driven launch – "Gasolener" the Newfoundlanders call it – with "speed" written all over it, and in its tanks "Power" to laugh in the face of gales and head winds. But whereas the "gasolener" may boast of these things, she can never boast of the atmosphere and spirit of romance emanating from such a scene as – "The tarring of the Old Boat."
The men who tar the boat to-day may have turned their hands to something else by to-morrow. On fine days the old sails are spread out on the beach to dry or stood to flap-in-the-breeze from the mast-hole of some old boat on the beach, long ago condemned as unseaworthy and gradually being disintegrated by the elements. Oh what lovely seats these old gunwales make for the audience of men and boys, eyes aflame with imagination, as some old grandfather of the beach, in the role of raconteur, makes the details of a noted gale live anew in the vision of his listeners. To-morrow these listeners of to-day may themselves be tossing in the arms of a gale and half-drowned in the volume of green water encompassed by the "crest" and the "trough".
Inanimate individualities of every beach are the spreading fish "stages" generally of green or auburn-tinted spruce-boughs. These stage the women of the 'Longshore. It is a most interesting item of the Court of King Cod that the entire family is here, even to the baby.
Catching the Cod seems to be the least part of the work when one beholds the amount of labour expended on the Shore-End. Early and late, during the season, the women stand to their task of drying the fish. When the weather is fine two weeks often slip away before a batch of cod is properly hardened and "dry". Fish, destined for the long voyage to the West Indies and where Tropic heat is likely to cause a sweat in the "hold", the Canadian and Newfoundland fishwives "cure" until it is hard as the proverbial brickbat. The amount of fish-lore contained in the heads of these women with ballooning skirts, is amazing. As judges of weather, they often put the "Weather-man" to shame. Sometimes the coming cloud is entirely unseen by the mere stroller when these women begin pell-mell to take in the fish. And when a fine evening says it is safe to leave the fish out all night, these careful souls may be seen turning over each fish, "oil-skins" up, in case of a shower. These women turn easily to housekeeping duties, and often the out-of-door tasks accomplished, continue the web of romance with knitting, spinning and hooking rugs.
TARRING THE BOAT.
A NONOGENARIAN GRANDFATHER PLACIDLY CATCHING UP THE MESHES OF AN OLD NET.
The sailmaker is a romantic figure in the doorway of some old "gear" house, as he sits surrounded by billows of canvas, dark and mildewed, patching, roping and otherwise overhauling the old mainsail. His, too, is a figure in imminent danger of passing. The dashing motor boat, blowing the spume from her bow, says, "The day of sails is over."
One summer, visiting with the Lighthouse-keeper's family in their characterful little binnacle-home on the edge of the rocks at Peggy's Cove, our last day for adventuring having arrived, and even as we waited for the coming of the mail-carrier's cart by which we had engaged "outward passage", we strolled down to the waterfront to say a last farewell to our "old-timers". It was at that last moment, in what turned out to be the eleventh hour of his life, that we chanced upon a ninety-year-old grandfather in high boots and straw hat placidly catching up with his nonogenarian fingers the broken meshes of an old net. Mail-cart or not, we must have this picture! Click! As it happened, mending this bit of net was his last task. For before the picture which we promised to send back to him could come into his hand, the Great Reaper had brought him to his last illness and he was soon awa'!
SEA-COAST HOMES OF THE MARITIME PROVINCES.
The open-door ….
SEA-COAST HOMES OF THE MARITIME PROVINCES.
HE open-door to an understanding of the sea coast life, its enthusiasms, its joys, its sorrows and its toil, is by way of the little sea-coast homes edging the 'long-shore road in out-of-the-way coves and harbours, remote from towns, cities and the big sea-ports. These little houses are as a voice in the land; as soon as one heaves in sight by a turn of the road or a dip of the land we instantly feel their personality. Their dimensions may be small, roofs low, windows few, doors narrow – all these things are overlooked because they all fit in with the whole, to make a sweet, lovable little place, where we might easily fancy ourselves living happily – the big world far away, the horizon of our wants satisfied by the vision and tang of the gray sea, and the fishboat putting out in the early morning, to come again with the sinews of the evening meal. There are many ways of approaching these sea-coast homes, but the preferable way is – afoot. The man or woman who takes to the open road and puts up where he can when dusk comes down over land and sea, is the voyager likely to have the best adventures and to make the most discoveries. He discovers, primarily, that many tongues are heard in these little sea-coast homes – English, Gaelic, Breton and Acadian-French, and should he go far north enough, some "Huskie". He will even find little colonies of Jersey Islanders in the midst of the English-Gaelic-French stretches. Even so, the traveller coming to any of these sea-side doors in the evening light will never have to beg a place to lay his head. Hospitality is part of the unwritten code of these parts. An additional mouth to feed brings about absolutely no confusion. It matters not which language the housewife speaks. You may not be able to employ her Gaelic or she your English, but her heart is kind and friendly and the sea has taught her to be cosmopolitan. Her door is ajar to visitors; a small matter like languages will never close it. There are many common grounds on which to meet and always "sign" language and a little latent ability on both sides to "act out" any situation going beyond the combined vocabularies adds spice. Indeed I think the "acting out" one of the chief charms particularly in the little French homes.
The interiors of these sea-coast cottages in which we have frequently found ourselves guests, not one but many summers, are in every way as individual and winning as their exteriors are attractive. All the furniture is hand made, with odd "bits" here and there salvaged from wrecks, or which have otherwise "washed in with the tide". It is fitting that as the house is homemade – it shelters homemade things. On the floors are round, plaited rag rugs – pretty spots of colour but not so brilliant or so highly prized as the rough, hooked rug showing large patterns designed from nearby objects or some treasured association – the family cat, the dog, the flowers from the wee garden. In some of the French shore homes both the plaited and hooked rug give way to the Catalon. Having duly examined and admired those on the floor, Madame takes the visitor up into the garret to see the ponderous loom that holds another in the making. Scattered about are her wools, spun and dyed and perhaps previously sheared by herself. Catalons furnish material enough for hours of conversation and if the visitor is fortunate enough to be a guest under Madame's roof the chest of floor rugs and homespun couverts may be opened to view. Some of these couverts may be old, the work of Madame's or M'sieu's mother. Oh, many are the stories woven into the couverts of the Magdalen Islands and the Gulf of St. Lawrence shores from Quebec to Cheticamp – stories in detail more than one summer long.
In the Gaelic homes conversation is made easy if the visitor is interested in old-time China-figures. The Gaelic woman warms to you at once if you notice her "Highland Laddie" in kilties or the wee "lambie", or the faithful sheep-dog that stands upon the shelf. These all have a story too. Some of these China-pieces are very rich and handsome both in the quality of China and in colour, to say nothing of design – "Mary and her little Lamb", "The Sailor Boy", "The Lovers", "A Victorian Lady", in hooped skirt, poked bonnet and blue shawl, etc. A few of these figures are heirlooms. Others were bought by their present owner from some travelling salesman chancing into the glen half a century ago, when she was young. Sometimes the figure came from a wreck and was salvaged by the skipper in his little fishboat – fragile figures that survived the fury of the storm which smashed the great ship, which carried them, to kindling.
WITHIN SIGHT OF HOME
SAMBRO, NOVA SCOTIA.
DOOR-WAY OF THE LIOHTHOUSE-KEEPER'S HOME AT CAPE SHARP, NOVA SCOTIA.
This tale of wrecks brings into the story of the little sea-coast homes the men whose handiwork the houses are. The vikings of the Maritime Provinces are home-builders! In their turn wrecks and brave men introduce another type of home common enough to these parts, a necessity in fact, but unknown to inland Canada – the lighthouse keeper's little nest with which goes the white tower with its lamp connected with the house on isolated headlands and far away on the point, by itself, in others. A chart of the eastern coastline reveals hundreds of such lighthouses; and for every lighthouse, followers of the piper know, there is a little cottage tucked away somewhere. Great camaraderie exists between the unpainted, weathered, shingled cottage of the fisherman and the home of the man whose light and bell guide home through the fog the little dory to its place. The one is more fixed up than the other having the government behind it in the matter of paint, but both know what it is to crouch for shelter among the boulders. In time of storm "the holdings is what counts", as Big John puts it. There is just one thing that the sea-coast folk fear above the storms of winter, and that is – fire. There being no fire-department in these parts, every householder takes precaution by putting a ladder across the roof from eave to ridgepole alongside the chimney. This fire "prophylactic" is a fixture built-in with the house and looks like some "idea" in the architecture so universal is it.
In the long miles it is noticeable that groups of these seacoast one or two-roomed homes usually cluster together around some little harbour. These are companionably drawn together by the little sheet of water affording an anchorage or safe dry-dock in shelving shores for the little fish boats – breadwinners of the family. Peggy's Cove, on St. Margaret's Bay between French Village and Sambro on the south-western shore of Nova Scotia, is such a little rocky haven – looking like a miniature Newfoundland. The road fringes the shore for eighten miles after one leaves the railroad at French Village and one may make it afoot and getting tired beg a lift in a passing ox-cart, or may engage passage with the mail-driver. The mail-driver is an institution in all these out-of-the-way regions, and one may cover most of the distance as a passenger in his cart.
Many a little home we look into away "Down North" from Inverness to Grand Etang on the one side of Cape Breton, and from English Town to Dingwall on the other, whose open door we have been able to make with the mail-driver's, or the little coastal steamer's assistance, or by driving ourselves in a hired team part way, and walking part way, regular pilgrims, staves in hand. But there are thousands of little homes along shores where no roads go except that over the sea. One is rewarded for "making" any of these, over the cliffs, carving out a road for oneself, if it be possible, if not, taking to the boat. In fact, one soon likes these most isolated homes best. Their originality and their strength appeal to the pioneer latent in us all. And here dwell the men and their families who have held "the line", keeping alive the great fishing industry of Canada. Here dwell in truth our much to be admired codfish aristocracy. In fact, in all these little homes reside men upon whose personality "United Empire Loyalist" is indelibly stamped. These are people who accept the hardships of life with composure, relying less on outside supports than we of the cities. No stores are here to run to for supplies. The doctor comes not at all or only in summer. In the Magdalen Islands there is no communication except by telegraph from Christmas time till the following spring. Here, one winter, it became desirable to get "a mail" to the mainland. The men interested prepared a large cask, made it watertight, put the letters inside and headed it up. They gave it ballast and a little sail and consigned it to a strip of open sea, first painting on it a request to the finder to forward the "mail" to the nearest postoffice. Those letters reached their destination.
The Magdaleners are fisher-folk in the main, though of course in Havre Aubert and Grindstone there are a number of business, and a sprinkling of professional men. The homes here in these remote islands, being French, have the French touch of thrift well developed. Paint is here in most instances, and though the islands are bare of trees a little garden is generally managed with the aid of a fence made of bits of wood culled from sea-drift.
These real little homes may be a mile or a half mile inland among the smoothly rounded Damoiselles – a little unhandy to the boats – so the Frenchmen of Havre Aubert have built themselves a little row of summer cottages right on the shingle, so close to the waters of the Gulf on each side that they could almost step out of the boat into the front door, did it not happen to be on the second floor for safety from the waves in time of storm. Such a cottage has the double advantage of allowing greater despatch of the fishing and of saving the wear and tear on the "all the year round" home. We wonder it has never occurred to the coastal fishermen of other parts to have a summer home as well as a winter one.
Doubtless the new era will bring many changes and improvements into all this region of Canada. The new roads, the autos, the modern builder, the agriculturist, the large number of summer tourists, the shipbuilding, the improved methods of fishing, improved drinking water systems, direct and indirect foreign trade, library and lecture centres, expansion in railroads all radiating from and meeting again in Halifax – Queen of the Maritime cities holding in her hand the fate, among other things, of these little homes – will all come soon. But we hope the day will never come when these little gray cottages will disappear from the Canadian landscape. We hope sincerely that in their case it will not be necessary to destroy in order to build; that if their location is the one thing needed to conduct the fishing quickly they may be saved to form the fishing-season homes of our fishermen, an extension of the plan now followed out by the Magdalen Islanders, while a snugger situation may be chosen for the up-to-date winter home so well merited by those harvesting Canada's fish and those other deep-sea voyagers carrying her ships and trade into foreign ports.
LOW TIDE IN THE BAY OF FUNDY.
Of all the forces ….
LOW TIDE IN THE BAY OF FUNDY.
F all the forces of Nature governing human endeavour, none it would seem, are at once more intimate and exacting than Time and Tide.
But, while Time is everywhere, Tide is local. And though by a system of daylight-saving we have sought to get the best of Time, Tide, as wiseacres of old put it, "waits for no man."
Such a play of thought and words as can scarcely be conceived, surge and race with "tide". "A full tide," "a brimming tide", "high tide", are synonyms for success in life, for progress, for the acquisition of wealth, for "Bon Chance", as "good luck" is phrased in Quebec. Whereas "Low Tide", "Ebbing Tide", and kindred terms, we all know only too well what they mean – dull business and empty pockets. But over-riding all these is the cheerful swing of encouragement in "There's a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to Fortune."
Nowhere does the daily life of a people hang so intimately on tide as down Bay of Fundy way. Tide there plays a titanic scale. It lengthens out the scant octave spanned of other shores to fifty, and in some places it is said, to sixty feet. The people of these parts live "on the landwash" as it were, with "high tide" and "low", a daily portion. The Bay of Fundy apportions to its people the biggest slice of tide afforded to any people anywhere in the world. And, as it disregards the ordinary laws of all ordinary tides in the matter of ebb and flow, so, strangely enough, its physical "low tide" is more often than not, the "high tide" of business and affairs. It is when the edge of the Fundy Basin is a line of mud from St. John to Parrsboro, around the Minas Basin and back to Digby, that life awakens and things begin to happen. It is as if the old Bay said "Any old place can have a high tide but who can have a 'low' like mine?"
The Low Tide of Fundy is indeed its most prominent feature, playing an important part in the despatch of passenger and mail steamers from both Saint John and Digby. Indeed, the Bay-steamers actually play a game with the tide. If the steamer is "in" and the tide "out", the steamer must wait for the tide to come "in" before she can go "out", on its brimming fullness through Digby Cut. So, the schooners and square-riggers all come "in" and go "out" when the tide is full. But they load the deal in West Bay whichever way the tide "sets" 'round Cape Split. So, too, the stateliest Square-rigger or most sail-crowded schooner going up the bay for a load of plaster has the water out from under her keel when the Mower scythes the waves and sweeps them away to the ocean, leaving all keels, whether great or small, hard and fast in Fundy Sound.
The Bay of Fundy is the greatest natural drydock in the world. And in its day, which began the evening the stately ship of Sieur de Monts first floated in on its flood tide to found a settlement at Annapolis Royal, it has docked thousands of craft of all rigs and sizes. As drydock, as well as sheltering harbour, while it belongs in particular to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, in a wider sense it belongs to all Canada. So that in the great future in trade now before Canada, it requires no great foreknowledge to venture that the volume of vessels frequenting the Bay in the palmiest days of the past, will soon be eclipsed both in number of ships and in increased displacement. As yet, the Bay of Fundy is like a masterpiece hanging in a gallery, which we have not sat down to look at carefully and appraisingly.
No other country apart from the thought of it as a drydock enjoys such a haven for ships as Canada possesses in the Bay of Fundy. The Bay of Fundy whose "power" is the tremendous ebb and flow of its tides, has hitherto seemed something "out of us", and beyond our power to turn to account.
Bliss Carman, it will be remembered, penned a beautiful lament in "The Ships of Saint John". But we may take it that the condition lamented was but temporary, merely "the ebb tide" in affairs and that when the tide comes again, roaring round Blomidon, the tide of Canadian shipping, it will be such a brimming tide of prosperity as old-timers of these parts never even dreamed of. The ships of the world will surely dock again in numbers where "The fog still hangs on the long tide-rips." One saw during the years of the war a re-birth of old-time trade around the shore in the large number of square-riggers calling at Bay-ports for deal. You could count them three and four deep in West Bay by Partridge Island out of Parrsboro. And how all the forests and sawmills around were touched at once into new life by a mere sight of these stately old craft, many, an hundred years or thereabouts in age, in their turn awakened from graveyards in out-of-the-way havens of the Old World by the clash of arms.
IN THE RAQUETTE.
DIGBY, NOVA SCOTIA.
THE BAY OF FUNDY IS THE GREATEST NATURAL DRYDOCK IN THE WORLD.
To all the people living on the Bay of Fundy shores these old vessels, newly painted, with their "yards" abeam and "figureheads" on the bow refurbished, were happy sights indeed. It was like their own youth come back, in case of the old. To the young they brought "vision". Old ports thought dead awoke to new life. In "trade" around the Bay it was no longer "ebb tide".
One never ceases to marvel at the number of other trades that spring to life in the wake of shipping. Ships and big "waterfronts", such as Canada's are the things to make dreams come true. Ships resemble railroad trains in the matter of faithfulness to prescribed routes, having ports for stations. And there's not an ocean wanderer of them all, or a skipper of importance, but knows the Bay of Fundy and its "tides". Nevertheless, however important from the commercial point of view, hard and fast trade is not the only phase of Fundy life. It also has its romantic side.
"Low tide" fills the shoreline with the rich, wet colours which artists love to paint. It builds, too, new kinds of wharves, two-deckers with an upstairs and down, and greeny bronze seaweeds clinging to water-soaked piles; and "craft" of some kind, schooners, or tropic-bleached-and-warped old vessels with rakish yards, looking like pirate craft by reason of many trips in the white-light of Equatorial suns, leaning against them.
It is a signal, when the mud-line begins, to all the clam-diggers of the countryside to come out with shovels, forks, rake-hoes or any old garden tools that can be used to dig clams. Sometimes one sees here some old woman alone, using a rake-hoe as a staff, her skirts blowing in the wind and a genuine joy in her heart every time an oozy squish is emitted by her old boots. The tide of life has come and gone for her to the accompaniment of the ebb and flow of the waters of Fundy. In them she has found comfort and by them, perhaps, a living. They have been the outlook of a lifetime, companionable whatever their mood.
In the matter of clam-digging the Bay of Fundy has a decided rival in the long-stretching sandspits or barachois of the Madeleine Islands in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. There, one sees a score or more of habitant women, their skirts tucked about the middle, wading in the shallow water with their horses and carts and even dog-carts, themselves working for hours digging tubful after tubful of clams for as long as they can beat the tide to it. But, on the white sand of the Madeleines one sees no vessel careening in friendly fashion as on the soft mud of Fundy. It is on the Bay of Fundy one sees ordinary ladders of the farm, home-made affairs, no relation whatever to the usual ship's ladder, let down over a schooner's side with men going up into the ship or down to walk ashore over the mud, avoiding runnels and pools, while the anchor lies a little way off, in plain sight, on the cushion of mud. This is an unique picture peculiar to the Fundy region.
At another spot the kelp-gatherer is at work. Edible kelp can be bought in many Wolfville and other Bay of Fundy-town grocery shops. And in season the kelp-gatherer, with his sack, is an interesting figure of the Digby and Parrsboro tide-flats and algae-covered rocks.
Romantic treasures are uncovered by the low tides, in the amethyst geodes to be picked up along shore. Amethyst outcroppings provide a romantic objective for taking geologist hammer in hand in a jaunt to the cliffs of Blomidon and the jagged, beetling wall presented by Partridge Island on its southern side to the sweep of the Bay. Nor is amethyst alone, here. Other semi-precious crystals abound, making the gamut run by Romance one of great range. For, when the tide is low, over against the fire of the Glooscap jewels, are set the figures of carts going out over the wet mud, scintillating with the colours that artists love, to the amphibious little Bay coasting-schooners, stranded, for the time being, like so many jellyfish.
Then come out the caulkers, caulking-irons in hand. Then are old seams filled, old leaks and new made tight – the caulking mallet in a race against the fast-coming tide. For the caulker knows that with the return of that great force, gathering in strength with every inch of rise, the old plaster-carrier will slowly right herself, lifting, lifting herself out of the mud, "locked" to the higher level, by that greatest of natural forces – the flooding tide of Fundy, till, presently sitting like a swan on the water, she declares herself afloat and ready for the race to Boston with her cargo of "Plaster-of-Paris", out of Acadie.
Not until the waters ….
OT until the waters of the Gut of Canso sweep into the line of one's vision, does the fact that Cape Breton is an island have any special meaning for the traveller by train from Halifax to North Sydney. But when you feel your car actually quitting the land for the deck of a steamer, then the insularity of Cape Breton becomes something personal.
The "Gut of Canso" is – "The Grand Canal of the Maritime Provinces", one of the clearest, bluest, most beautiful strips of water in the world.
It is, as anyone can see, the short cut from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. But it is not until you cast off upon its waters yourself that you realize how constant is the stream of vessels using this ocean highway! That material galore for picture and story hourly runs to waste here, is not the fault of the Grand Canal.
Cross this water-street when you will, schooners, "two", "three-masters", with big mildewed mainsails still hoisted, wait at anchor off Port Hawkesbury for a fair wind to carry them through, the while fleet-winged schooners from the Gulf, like the "Birds of Passage" that they are, take it, literally, "on the run". One wonders, watching them on-coming "wing and wing", if ever migratory birds strung out in a fairer perspective?
Your sea-adventuring train deigns after awhile to come ashore on the "Island", and after that it keeps to the straight and narrow path etched by the land, wherein trains may run, but it never seems just an ordinary train to you after its sea-going fling. And so you are quite prepared for the way it skims across the Bras D'Or at "The Narrows" and sets you down there to a "fish supper" in a little restaurant, and waits while you eat.
At Iona, it stops again, and sets down the passengers for Baddeck. And after that it hugs the lakeshore, till North Sydney reminds one that "business is business" and that one has arrived in the heart of it.
To speak of North Sydney is to think of coal. Yet, unless you undertake "the mines", look them up, because you have a fancy to from the viewpoint of Romance, they are not only not intrusive but they actually lend a hand in adding to the "figures" in the harbour. There the picturesque, black-hulled, red-bottomed steamers at anchor, are "colliers" awaiting their turn to load. These steamers make just the contrast needed to set off the fish-schooners riding at anchor, amid dancing reflections, when the setting sun of a calm evening mirrors every spar, rope and sail in the silvery waters of the harbour.
At Sydney the outlook is easterly. New elements creep into the atmosphere. "Over there," is Newfoundland. These waters that lap at your feet bring Europe within hail. That little, weather-worn steamer lying there by the wharf-side will to-morrow morning hitch to the Quai in Saint Pierre et Miquelon.
The "colliers" that came in yesterday, in a day or two may be nosing up the Saint Lawrence in the wake of palatial ocean liners to Quebec. Sydney stands for the extended hand of Canada; extended to Newfoundland as a link in transportation; extended in invitation to the British Isles and to Old Europe to send more settlers of the hardy type of Hieland folk and Breton sailor, who, in the early dawn of her history, stepped into Canada through these portals.
The interesting fact about Cape Breton is that it has preserved all the characteristics, the language, the customs of its Gallic and Gaelic settlers. Geographically, as well as ethnologically, there is a Gaelic Cape Breton in the North and a Breton Cape Breton in the south. They divide the land between them, and live in the same friendly fashion as did Scotland and France in the days of the Stuarts. Stepping into the northern part of Cape Breton is like adventuring in the Highlands of Auld Scotia. Stepping to the South is an adventure in Brittany.
There are three main ways of entering the "Highlands". Finding one's self in Sydney, take that "character" among coastal traders, the little S.S. "Aspey". The "Aspey" makes all the harbours between North Sydney and Cape North. Make her acquaintance and she will introduce you to "Who's Who", for she knows all the folk who are worth knowing, from Englishtown to Ingonish and from Ingonish to Nail's Harbour and Dingwall.
The second way to reach "the land of the Macs" is to take a train of the Inverness Railroad at Port Hawkesbury. By this road, which follows the shore-line of the Gulf side of the Island, you come immediately into the Scotch atmosphere. Scotch place-names stand out bravely from the name-boards of the railroad stations. The very scenery is Highland – mountains and mists along the shore side, while through the opposite windows of your car, the waters of the Gulf, spread out, like a "loch".
ON THE "GALLERY".
BOYHOOD DREAMS OF THE DAY WHEN 'THEIR TURN WILL COME".
The third, and ideal way to make the acquaintance of Cape Breton, is to hire an old horse and drive yourself, making leisurely trips in all directions, lingering wherever Fancy dictates, and putting up each night in any village, town or farmhouse which promises a comfortable night's lodging.
With your own horse you are at liberty to turn in at "gates" even though no houses are in sight, and continue in faith along the road until one appears. And, when the house – a "Crofter's Cot" transplanted – is reached, it is quite in keeping with the Highland atmosphere if only the man of the family speaks English, the women being happy in "Gaelic only" – Gaelic which they learned from mothers and grandmothers.
This difference in language makes no difference, however, in their hospitality. And oh, the pictures sketched by these little cottages so snugly tucked away in the glen!
The language of beauty which they speak is easily understood. Beauty that belongs to simple architecture speaks from every line of door and window and roof; speaks in every line of the great, whitewashed chimney, which, never lacking fuel, proclaims in friendly smoke seen curling up out of the glen – long before the cottage comes to view – that tea brews on the hearth.
The people of this part of Cape Breton, striking inland, and across country to Saint Ann's Bay and Ingonish, are, in the main, agriculturists. This is the farming section. So, in August and September, in the tawny fields of oats and barley, the figures of the reapers and gleaners, especially in the neighborhood of Ingonish, proclaim that Breton-Canada no less than Breton-France affords many "a Millet subject".
But even the farmer of these parts turns fisherman in season. Alongshore "Old man with lobster-pots" is a frequent "character", from Mabou all down the Gulf shore, doubling Cape North, and back along the south shore of the peninsula to Point Aconi; and, of course, on the Atlantic side, about Gabarouse and Saint Peter's. One of the dominating physical features of Cape Breton is Cape Smoky, towering a thousand feet above the waters where the Atlantic and Saint Ann's Bay meet. Smoky is a personality. Because its stern, old brow is always softened by an ever-moving fog-wreath, the English-speaking people call it "Smoky"; the French folk "Enfumez". It is worth travelling far to view Cape Smoky after rain, especially in the afternoon when the westering sun turns the shifting fog into rainbows, flitting, flashing, jewel-like bits of colour, gone in a moment.
There is something unexplainably winning about Cape Smoky. Cape Breton folk look to it as Nova Scotians to Blomidon. In speaking of it they sometimes say "Dear Old 'Smoky'," as if they loved it.
"Sugar-Loaf," near Dingwall, and "Cape North", the Lands' End of Canada, are each distinctive in character, and "landmarks" of navigation.
A feature of the road familiar in these parts is the mail-carrier. With an old wagon and his trusty horse, the road over Smoky presents no difficulties to the Jehu of "His Majesty's Mail". And when you watch for him to appear on the shingle at Ingonish from "Down North", if he has no passengers, it is an adventure to jump into his cart and ride over Smoky, even if you have to walk the six miles back, as we once did.
The Bay at Ingonish is sheltered by Cape Smoky, and so this small harbour has become a happy anchorage for fishing-schooners, and South Ingonish a place where codfish dries on fish stages. There is a family lobster cannery here, seldom boasting more than two big iron pots aboil in a sheltered nook of the shingle, but creating a romantic atmosphere with its driftwood fire.
Lads lend a hand with the fish-drying at Ingonish. It is from here, watching the fishing schooners going out to meet the ocean swell around Smoky, that, in dreams, they reach out to the day when their turn will come to sail away in a fishing-schooner to "The Grand Banks".
The MacDonalds, MacLeods, MacLeans, MacPhersons, and all the other Scotch families of Cape Breton are greatly in evidence on Sundays. It is then, driving over these roads, one encounters team after team on the way to the Gaelic meeting-house, or church. The church service is conducted in Gaelic and lasts practically all day.
FIT SUBJECT FOR A MILLET.
SOUTH BAY, INGONISH.
Having stepped aboard ….
AVING stepped aboard the Newfoundland mail-and-passenger boat at North Sydney, a little before ten p.m., the hour of sailing, one awakes next morning at Port aux Basques, in Newfoundland, hardly aware that one is out of Canada, until the courteous Customs Official with "Newfoundland" written on his cap, comes to examine one's baggage.
One hundred and twenty miles is the brief length of Cabot Strait which separates Newfoundland from Canada, but when one has crossed this Arm of the Atlantic, it is to find one's self in a new world, a world complete in itself. For Newfoundland embodies all that rugged, independent spirit, which, in part, belongs to all islands – notably to the British Islands – and, in addition, it has all the distinction which is a natural attribute of its position as Great Britain's Oldest Colony. National sense is very keenly developed in the Newfoundlander. "Love of the Empire and their Island" stirs strongly in the blood of every man from Port aux Basques to Saint John, and from Cape Race to the Straits of Belle Isle.
A casual glance at a map of Newfoundland reveals its striking resemblance to the map of England. And ties of blood and association, that intimately bind this oldest Daughter to the Mother-country, trail down the centuries from the day that Cabot first sighted Bonavista, until now. If you wish to step right into the atmosphere of a fine English society that is still "the Island's Own product", take the train to Saint John's, the oldest colonial capital in the British Empire.
But the Island of Newfoundland has yet another claim to distinction in its scenery. There is nothing quite like, or perhaps quite equal to, the scenery of Newfoundland, in all America. It so strongly resembles the scenery of Norway that the island is frequently spoken of as "The Norway of the New World"; and its deep inlets and bays are just as frequently referred to as "fiords". But, in reality, Newfoundland scenery gains nothing by these comparisons. The time will come shortly when the scenery of Newfoundland will need no such extraneous supports. It will be sufficient for the voyager to say "I have just returned from Newfoundland" for his coterie of friends to know he has voyaged among scenes of superlative beauty.
Cruising around the Newfoundland coast, taking one or more of its deep bays in a summer, reveals innumberable little outports tucked away in hollows around every headland, and all held shelteringly in the hand of the larger bay. Of these larger bays, White Bay, Notre Dame Bay, Bonavista, Trinity and Conception lie to the North, while Saint Mary's, Placentia, and Fortune upturn to navigation on the South.
Newfoundland is, of course, the heart of the Cod-fishing industry of the Western Atlantic. The Grand Banks, the playground of the fishing-fleets of France, of the United States, of Nova Scotia, are, when all is said, "The Grand Banks of Newfoundland." Figuratively and literally speaking "The Banks" are the island "Bread-Box." And the banking schooners – Newfoundland-owned, Newfoundland-skippered and sailed – are justly the pride of Newfoundland. Seamanship is so natural in a born Newfoundlander that it comes to him like a "sixth sense" or, as some of them say, "natural as sleeping and waking".
Modern "Vikings of the North", they are as much at home afloat, as ashore. It was thus the Newfoundlander stepped with such consummate ease from the thwart of the fish-dory, the deck of "The Banker", to that larger deck in the British Navy, during the War, where they covered themselves with glory and added fresh honours to the record already achieved through the centuries, by their Island-home in its Four Centuries of Sea-going!
By far the greater part of the population of Newfoundland is domiciled on the coast. To reach the fishing is, therefore, a mere step, and the adventure of it practically sits on every door-step.
Travelling inland on the continent of North America, one is often enough struck by the sameness of the houses, towns and settlements etched by Agriculture. One often hears that they "all look alike". But such could never be the complaint of these Newfoundland villages, products of the Sea and its Harvest. They are as variable as the sea's own moods. So, in cruising among the Newfoundland bays, every little headland turned reveals a different grouping, as well as different setting, of the tiny church, the little homes, the chief store; and a different arrangement of the wooden stages in wharf-like lines along the irregular waterfront.
As the island is one large unit, so in turn each of these tiny settlements is a unit, going its own sea-gait in its own craft; and commanding its own mail-service, and commisariat-service, from Saint John or Placentia.
So little are these sea-coast folk inland travellers, that there is often no road from one village to another, entrance and exit always being accomplished over the sea; by boat or steamer.
Settling down in any of these villages is to be constantly entertained by the variety of scenes afforded by the life. Early in the morning "the fish-boats" are under weigh with their tanned sails and homemade oars creaking against the pin. Later, the women go about their household duties, studying "the signs of the weather" from door or window. The old 'longshoremen open the fish-house doors and potter about with old ropes and picturesque "killicks" or homemade anchors, heavy, smooth stones held together in skeleton-frames of old bits of wood and a lashing of odd pieces of wire-rigging salvaged from some old wreck. But all the time, the men, like the women, have their weather-eye centred on the "signs of the mornin'." For the day's work, is – the fish.
The first peep of sunlight through the gray clouds or the fog, sees men, women and children, on the "fish stages", as the platforms are called, fish in hand. In the afternoon, the scene is reversed, with each "hand" driving hard to get the fish in again before night.
A cloud, during the day, sees the ever-watchful women coming on the run from all quarters to get the fish in before it rains. Codfish must not get wet.
The Newfoundlanders are especially happy in the place-names they have given to their towns, villages and "outports". Sea-folk are always, more or less, noted for romantic place-names. So, in summer, adventuring in Newfoundland, such names as Push-through, Thoroughfare, Come-by-Chance, Seldom-Come-By, Step-Aside, Happy Adventure, Heart's Delight, Heart's Content, Path End, write themselves indelibly in your memory map. Especially appropriate are the names given to the mountains. To realize the full beauty of some of these peak-names, one must fancy Newfoundland as a "ship", the surface as the deck. Then one has the viewpoint of the men who sponsored these in baptism. Then, the single peaks, springing up tall against the sky, have a beautiful psychology of their own. Here is "The Gaff Topsail", "The Main Topsail", "The Mizzen Topsail", "The Fore-Topsail". Collectively they are referred to, picturesquely enough, as, "The Tops'ls". Other individual peaks are "Blow-me-Down", a sort of challenge to the elements and, "The Butter-Pot", a maritime concession to the menu of maritime cabin-tables.
The surface of Newfoundland, its rocks and hills, is at its best in the fall of the year when the brush of Autumn paints all the foliage and fruit of the Bake-Apple, Partridge-Berries, wild red and black currants, Rowan berries, etc., gorgeous yellows, reds and browns. After the frost, the "marshes and barrens" afford miles of colour.
Among the treasures of the Newfoundland wildflowers are Gentians and Orchids.
It is at this time, when the berries are ripe, that the villagers turn out in family groups to pick bake-apples and Fox-berries to make jam. Bake-apples are a fruit peculiar to Newfoundland and Labrador. And Bake-apple jam is a dish of almost national magnitude. To express interest in the bake-apples and their picking is an open sesame to outport hearts. And no end of invitations and jaunts are assured you, if you become an ardent berry-picker. At this time human figures are everywhere to be seen. Children with a motley collection of pails are everywhere on the nearby hills. The best blueberries of all grow in the cracks and scarpings of the cliffs where one would not suppose a thimbleful of earth could cling. At Saint John, Cabot Head, gray and bluff, is a happy hunting-ground of the berry-picker. Many a morning have we spent there, hunting blueberries behind the lighthouse of this grim old Cape. Many a morning, too, have they been the goal of a scramble over the cliffs of Big Wild Cove and Little Wild Cove. And what is more romantic than tea with the lighthouse-keeper's little family at Twillingate, where one sits at a spotless table and is served with a heaping dish of delectable homemade Partridge-berry jam smothered in thick Island cream?
In the Newfoundland Outports, two days' work is crowded into one, of a Saturday. For the Newfoundlanders are very strict in the observation of the Sabbath Day, to do no work therein. Neither dories nor "Bankers" fish on Sundays. And Saturday night sees all the schooners which can possibly get there, in port; the drying fishnet hanging in festoons from the masthead being about the only concession to business.
Ashore, the women will not even draw water from the well on Sunday, unless under the stress of some dire necessity. On Saturday, therefore, a double supply of water must be drawn, and laid in for use over Sunday. The Outport well is usually situated at one end of the village and sometimes at a distance from it. And so, on Saturday afternoons, a stream of women, each carrying two buckets of water, flows along the undulating, rocky highway that is the village main street. A large hoop, in the midst of which the water-carrier steps, helps to relieve the weight and keep the water from spilling as the woman steps briskly along. This method of carrying water seems to be the Newfoundlander's own invention. The Water-Hoop is here one of the furnishings of every household.
Saturday is the day of the week for getting wood. And wood-getting in the outports involves a longer or shorter trip to the cliffs and hills where the low spruce-scrub affords many a scraggly bough for fuel. Along the footpaths, worn by centuries of wood-gatherers, and by the road into the village, one happens on many a figure carrying bundles of boughs on their backs and making pictures no less distinctive from a genre viewpoint than the water-carriers, with their picturesque hoops. Other figures of the road are the women and children carrying hay over their shoulders, tied-up in a piece of old net or the family pieced bed-quilt.
Owing to the rocky nature of the cliffs, hay is a scarce article. Some of the best is undoubtedly afforded by the little churchyard cemeteries, on the principle that "never blooms so red the rose, as where some buried Caesar lies".
Goats with curious wooden yokes around their necks, and the family cow, are well-known characters of these cliff, by-shore, village-highways.
Against the incursions of these roaming pirates-of-green, are set up the curious rodded-fences of the irregular-shaped little potato and turnip gardens. In summer the gipsying cow can forage for herself, but in winter there is nothing for her to do but fall back upon the little wisps of hay her owner garnered in the quilt against just such days as these. But the cow is grateful. Never anywhere does cow produce richer cream to go with the raspberries, the Bake-apple and Fox-berry jam, than these same seacoast cows of Newfoundland.
Considering the wholesome out-of-door life called for by the industries of the Newfoundland outports, it is not surprising that hand-weaving in the homes is rare. Another reason may be the scarcity of pasturage for sheep in the sea-going villages and their vicinity. Inland Newfoundland affords fine opportunities for agriculture, and sheep of a fine type yield splendid fleeces in the Codroy Valley, around Doucets and Little River.
Although the loom is rare, the spinning-wheel is not infrequently happened upon, yielding hand-laid yarn to supply the needs of the home-knitter. And her needs are many, for no one seems to wear out socks like a fisherman.
The knitter is therefore a figure by the window when the cool days denote the approach of winter.
* * * *
The guide-books have a way of declaring Newfoundland to be "The Sportsman's Paradise", and, if you have ever taken your gun under arm and sallied forth after Caribou, or had a thirty-pound salmon rise to your fly in either the Big or the Little Codroy rivers, you can personally testify that the writers of those same guide-books do not exaggerate.
It is little to be wondered at, therefore, that the "Sportsman" from the New England States, from Canada and from Old England, is a figure often chanced upon in the glens, and "beating the streams" of the Codroy Mountains, in the West. Nothing is quite so romantic as sitting by a deep pool, the one selected by your guide as "the very best" and watching for the supreme moment when "the big one" springs to life at the end of your line.
But the tramp to get to the pool has its romance, too. For the scenery of inland Newfoundland, its fields of daisies, its sheep in the lanes, the fog lifting and swirling like wraith-figures of light dancers about the brows of the mountains, all combine to create an atmosphere of enchantment, the more enchanting perhaps, that the numbers of its discoverers are not yet so many as to wear away the edge of exclusiveness.
* * * *
Pursuit of the Romantic in Newfoundland sooner or later lands one in Saint John's on the south side of the harbour, among the old, wooden square-riggers that compose that unique fleet peculiar to Terra Nova – the Sealers.
If you have ever seen a whaler of the old-type, belonging to the days of whale-boats and hand-harpoons, then you know something of the appearance of these old Sealers. Broad of beam, thick-planked, staunch-timbered, both steam-and-sail propelled, they go out of Saint John's in March, blasting a channel for themselves through the ice with gunpowder. They carry a crew of several hundred, all of them seasoned sealers. The man of expert knowledge in picking up "Seals" hies him aloft to the barrel crow's-nest.
And then begins that roaming quest of the seal that may stand these old Ramblers of the ice and the ocean, away to the northeast, or up toward "Belle Isle", or even far into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, anywhere that they can "pick up" the herd of drifting amphibians, which are to yield the invaluable sealskin.
In the Newfoundland ….
N the Newfoundland outports, especially those of the northern bays – Conception, Trinity, Bonavista and Notre Dame conversation with any old-timer is sure to turn sooner or later to experiences on "The Labrador".
Soon these stories accumulate into a magnetizing force, drawing you to explore that wonderful Northern shore of which these old-timers relate such wonderful tales.
Our first trip to the Labrador was decided by an old fellow with a scythe, mowing a pocket-handkerchief of hay at Exploits. He wore at the time a pair of sabots. Upon our remarking on them as unusual footwear in these parts, he looked down with a smile – that pleasant smile that always flits across aged faces at the recollection of an adventure – and said, "Oh, aye, them's my Denmarks. I bought them from a man on a square-rigger, on 'The Labrador'."
Two days after that we were haunting the telegraph office at Twillingate for news of "The Invermore" or "The Kyle" out of Saint John's to the Labrador. The Invermore blew out her tubes somewhere down the coast, and had to put back to Saint John's, and we had to wait several days for her substitute, who finally arrived at Twillingate in the middle of the night, so that we went up the ladder over her side with the bags of mail at two o'clock in the morning, carrying with us a feeling that perhaps we ought not to be going, as two old fellows encountered on the pier the night before, had said, in the face of a rather threatening sky, that it was "too late to go down on the Labrador."
However, we made that voyage safely and have since made another, proving that wiseacres are not always true prophets or their sayings to be heeded.
From Newfoundland to Labrador is but a step across the Straits of Belle Isle. In winter these waters are the hunting grounds of some of the sealers out of Saint John's. In summer they are the hunting ground of some of the "growlers" out of Labrador.
Navigators here in the first instance are happy at the cry of "seals!" from the crow's nest, but the skipper of the mailboat on this route runs away as fast as may be from the beautiful but treacherous iceberg so like in figure to giant Portuguese Men-o'-War "fishing with paralyzing underseas tentacles seeking whom they may devour." Then comes out on deck the figure least expected, the Moving Picture man, reeling off, like one possessed, the bergs that navigation fears. And so we land at Battle Harbour, first of the thirty or more ports of call made by these fine mail-and-passenger boats out of Saint John's.
The charm of the Labrador is hard to define. That it is there all will agree. Some say that it lies in the fact that the slightest miscalculation on the part of those adventuring in these parts may lead to an accident – accident that on so exposed a coast is instantly metamorphosed into irremediable disaster, as in the case of H.M.S. Raleigh. In other words, danger is its charm, the danger that lies so near, around the corner of every bay and tickle; danger of hidden rocks, of sudden gale, of fog, of bergs, washed by some fanciful twist of ocean current out of the beaten track. Romance follows danger as a twin sister. So, on the Labrador, many "figures" strut across the little stage.
There is the little Eskimo that paddles off to the steamer in his kyak, to dance on deck, while the ship rides at anchor off some port. That he ever reaches the ship or the shore again in the little scallop-shell he calls "boat" is a miracle. But he dances away or sings "gospel hymns" learned from missionaries, as free from worry as any child. The words are in Eskimo, but the old tune, sung out here on deck by the flare of the ship's lantern, carries with it a gripping power, the while the faces of strong men – fishermen coming or going, traders, missionaries, even Syrian fur-dealers – are intermittently lighted by the flare of the lantern.
Two old acquaintances, the "fishnet drying from the masthead" and the "pot-a-tilt" among stones of the ice-age, greet one on stepping ashore at a Labrador tickle. Spruce beer is also here to be had, if one has the good fortune to fall in with Liveyer's family up from Newfoundland for the summer-fishing and living in a hut with sodded roof, wherein the blooms of fireplant and live-for-ever make a splash of color against the gray background of sea and rocks.
These little liveyer homes bear a striking resemblance to the pioneer homes of foreigners on the Prairie, with sodded roofs abloom.
Two new characters peculiar to the zone emerge along this northern edge of the 'Longshore road – Eskimos, men, women and children, and Eskimo dogs; both of which Newfoundlanders invariably speak of as "Huskies".
HEARTY AT EIGHTY.
AN ESKIMO GRANDMOTHER.
The Eskimo as hunter is the angle from which hunters, trappers, and fur merchants, view these children of the Northland. The missionary sees in them children to be taught; the ordinary voyager merely a new and interesting facet of life – men and women, masters of the secret of living under conditions under which the probabilities are the voyager himself would come a cropper. They fire the imagination for the same reasons as do the children of the Desert – an interesting peculiar people wholly masters of interesting peculiar circumstances.
Some of the features of Eskimo coastal life are portrayed in the pelts brought in to swell the large collections at the several Hudson's Bay Company's posts, and in the evidences of "native art" as shown in ivory and wood carvings brought down to sell to the ship.
These latter articles are of interest from two points of view. They were taken from life and so, have pictorial and story value – little ivory komatiks or sledges drawn by dogs in harness and little wooden dolls with typical Eskimo features of old man or woman dressed in sealskin, cut in the same model always in vogue with these people; the men with trousers and short middy, the women in trousers and middy, short in front but often with a sort of longer rounded effect at the back. These vendors to the ship display in addition seal-skin port-monies for women and tobacco-pouches for men, but these are less interesting because the idea is imitative, caught from things of similar intent in the hand of voyagers from the south and civilization.
Eskimo dogs are not seen to advantage in summer. Only a few appear at each outport, more at some than at others. But under the boardwalk, climbing to the post office, a half dozen roly-poly puppies will snarl and snap under your feet like little wolves. And these "miniatures" of the pack – away at this season on some island out of harm's way and busy foraging for a scant support to life among fishheads cast up by the incoming fishboat – are merely little point-fingers of the road of the great untamed that stretches from here to Hudson's Bay.
Except in the neighbourhood of the Hudson's Bay Posts and the Moravian Missionary settlements, evidences of the native are comparatively few. The many outports of this rugged coast are posts held firmly in the strong capable hand of Newfoundland. It is said that thirty thousand Newfoundlanders yearly fish "The Labrador". And romance lies in the wake of this yearly pilgrimage to the Northern Shrine of Cod.
As the landing mailboat rounds the barren headlands, vistas of schooners and fishboats stretch before, lying at anchor in the harbour or "tickle". And if it be Sunday, as it is sure to be if the schooners are in port, a group of men and women are at the water's edge to pick up news that the boat brings, or eagerly await at the Post Office the letter from home.
The coming of the steamer from Saint John's and the ports of the Northern Bays of Newfoundland, once every ten days or so, is an event in these little settlements of summer-homes, clinging like so many crabs to the rugged shores of this outpost of Newfoundland, lying across Canada's great Northeast and shutting it off from an Atlantic harbour north of Cape Breton.
Missionary work among the Eskimos has been maintained here for several centuries by the Moravians. Trading posts have been maintained for as long by the world-famous Hudson's Bay Company. Sometimes the mission station and the H.B.C. Post occur at the same outport, as if in this northern land the desire for company had drawn them irresistibly together. But of course the mission must have decided that a fur-purchasing centre would concentrate the natives and they could be more easily reached, since the one sled-journey would answer all needs.
At Hopedale Mission there is a pathetic little "greenhouse" with a few flowers; and out in a corner of a garden, which is almost comical as gardens go, are seen a few struggling lettuce-plants though last year's snow lies thick on the rising ground scarcely twenty yards away. If the tide of Canadian trade ever sets "full" out of Hudson Bay, who knows but a century from now many gardens will flourish here, descendants of this little pioneer straggler, hardily holding its own, to give the missionary-table vegetables.
To the Moravian Missionaries of early days belongs the credit of reducing the Eskimo tongue to a language. The large, well-bound grammar which the Missionary shows you becomes indeed a character in itself, as it is shown that this is not merely a key to a language but the humble means upon mastery of which hangs the missionary's ability to interpret the "Old, Old Story" to these Nimrods of the North at home in Igloo, Komatik and Kyak.
Herein is the key to the hymn-singing, dancing figure that strikes such a colourful note on deck when the ship first makes this land of the Labrador.
At Hopedale, beside the Mission and the H.B.C. Store, with its simple stock of groceries and its pelt-rooms, sometimes packed and sometimes almost empty, according to the season, there are a few Eskimo wooden houses and a big community kitchen with a score of these short, round men and women gathered in the steam about the pot a-stew.
Here and there an old grandmother attends to coarse socks a-drying and knocks the kinks out of skin boots and komatik harness on a sloping roof concentrating the weak sun from the South, the while she minds the children and keeps a wary eye on the few old dogs that pace wolfishly and unceasingly up and down.
Labrador, like Newfoundland, has an interesting list of place-names. A harbour with two openings, usually made by an island lying close to the mainland or to another island, is called a "tickle". Not the least romantic feature of voyaging along the Labrador coast are these odd and appropriate place-names. Think of sailing by "The White Cockade Islands", "Run-by-Guess", or "Tumble-down-Dick"! Or of seeing the surf bursting over "Mad Moll's Reef"! Or of steering past "Lord's Arm", "Lady's Arm", and "Caribou Castle!"
SAINT PIERRE ET MIQUELON.
Nine miles from ….
SAINT PIERRE ET MIQUELON.
INE miles from Newfoundland lies Sainte Pierre et Miquelon, Island Colony of France, her last remaining colonial possession in the "New World", north of the West Indies.
It lies, geographically, in the group of island stepping-stones, a stone's throw, a night out of North Sydney.
It is attended by "an old character" among sea-going craft, by name "Pro Patria", which has been on the route between Halifax and Saint Pierre for perhaps more than a quarter of a century. She is little and worn and old, so that when she came in to the wharf on the morning of our sailing we were afraid to board her. But after awhile, seeing that the world around took her as a matter of course, we stepped across the little gang-plank,into a medley of general cargo, including several sheep on foot. Next morning we were at Saint Pierre, the harbour which has made it worth while to France to keep these "little rocky island-waifs of the western Atlantic."
Rounding Cap l'Aigle, a little Saint Malo lies outspread before us. And from the mastheads of shipping at anchor, the tri-color of France waves spiritedly in the ocean breeze.
The "Pro Patria" drew up at the Quai de la Ronciere. The Quai was black with the crowd come to witness her coming and to welcome old friends among the new arrivals.
* * * *
All the maisons and shops about the Square that faces the Quai, have steep roofs like the parent roofs back in France and like their sisters in Quebec. On the way to the door of Madame Coste's pension, which had been recommended, we passed the door of "The -Trans-Atlantic -Cable", which lifts its western end out of the water here, and saw the little, yellow telegraph blank in a frame outside the door – the little sheet that is Saint Pierre's one daily newspaper – a small "daily" this, but one the truth of whose news is wholly to be relied on. Every morning saw us reading the news with tout-le-monde gathered in front of this journal, itself literally wet and dripping from the Ocean! Marine Intelligence, indeed.
One of the earliest "signs" seen in a grocer's window, read "Beurre frais de Cheticamp a vendre". We looked out on it from our casement window at Madame C's. And though "France" was written in every line of street, in every shop window, in the great feather bed on which we slept, on the smaller one with which we were supposed to cover ourselves, who could feel themselves cut off in a foreign world, with Cape Breton speaking each morning, just across the way? And when we started out anew each day, a little water-soaked schooner as often as not came gliding in to the Quai with "Down North" and "Up Along" written in every line from masthead to water-line. Ottawa, Saint Pierre and Saint John's may be far apart, but Lamaline in Newfoundland, Cape North to Cheticamp, C.B., and Saint Pierre are as "The Three Musketeers" for brotherhood, drawn together by the ties of Trade, and the adventure that lies in "smuggling".
We had not been long at Saint Pierre before we began to realize that the arrival of the little coastal Noah's Arks with their floating menageries, the pigs grunting, cocks crowing, sheep too stunned to bleat, made a difference in our own menus. Madame C. chuckled whenever we were able to report a fresh arrival at the Quai.
Other old acquaintances beside these coasters were not long in coming to light. Cod is here, answering to the elegant title of "Monsieur Morue". Boats for his capture are rated in this island fleet as bateaux.
France operates on the "Grand Banks''; Saint Malo at home, and Saint Pierre on the West, being her "bases". But the fish-trade of Saint Pierre is not what it was when ten thousand fishermen came here every Spring to re-fit the "Bankers" put into winter-quarters here the previous Autumn. Most of the fish now goes to France "green", the dinner tables of the world calling for more fresh fish than of old. Still, now and again the steam trawlers come here, and there's always a cargo or two in "the making" on Ile aux Chiens, as well as on the south shore of the harbour.
It is over there across the harbour that one sees the fishwives and the women stevedores – women who take the fish in hand the day it comes from the boats and put it through every process up to the stowing in the transport's hold. The master-stevedore chants the number of fish passing through her hands in a loud, clear voice heard across the harbour. She has evolved a dirge, a rich Litany to fish, "Un", "deux", "trois", "quatre", "cinq", etc., as they go headlong to their last ocean voyage.
NEARING THE END.
AN ISLAND-WOMAN OF SAINT PIERRE ET MIQUELON.
On Ile aux Chiens, women meet the incoming dories and aid in splitting and cleaning la morue. Strong personality and sweet womanhood mark these island women.
Ile aux Chiens has a trade in Caplin-curing. A host of women work among these small fish, so much in demand in Paris restaurants.
* * * *
There are no trolley-lines in Saint Pierre and but few voitures. The ox-cart is here, attendant on the Salt Vessels, carrying off the salt from them to the warehouses. It is a decidedly French cart, with high sides. And the oxen wear a curious neck-yoke adorned with a fluffy sheep-skin. A French driver urges the oxen to move, with many a "Marche donc".
Not the least interesting sights on Saint Pierre streets are the gay uniforms of the gendarmes. But even these give place to the little dog-carts everywhere, looking as if they had been transplanted out of Belgium.
Two important and rather unique landmarks stand out at Saint Pierre above all others; one, the figure of the Blessed Virgin, life size, set in a deep niche of the cliff-side; the other, a huge Crucifix, mounted high on a slim wooden Cross, standing on the hills above the town, and silhouetted clear and strong against the sky.
Many stories centre around the origin of this cross. Some say it was erected by the citizens to show their gratitude for a miraculous preservation at the time of some great winter storm; others, that it was erected in order that sailors leaving port might be reminded to turn their thoughts and prayers to Him, Who alone has power to still the waves and give prosperity. Still another story runs, that it is for sailors entering port, to remind them to return thanks to Him Who has brought them safely out of dangers and given them, perhaps in addition, "a good catch". To those who have lost – it points the only Comforter.
The street passing under the shadow of this Cross goes by the distinctive name of Rue Calvaire. It is not surprising, therefore, to have some fishwife, whose photograph you have just taken, tell you, when asked for her address, that she lives "up ag'in the Cross"; that is, if she is of Newfoundland origin, and speaks English; if she is French, "'Rue Calvaire', Madame, s'il vous plait" – the street of the Cross.
The women of Saint Pierre wash their clothes in the streams, of which there are several running down the hills at the back of the town. They dam up the water with stones so as to form little pools, and kneel in wooden boxes on the edge of these to wash. They slap the linen with a flat piece of wood to make it very clean and white, and when all is done, they carry it in a wet bundle on their backs up the hill, to spread it to dry on the great rocks at the foot of the Crucifix.
A long way below this curious landmark of the hills, lies the cemetery, one of the most beautiful spots in Saint Pierre. It has been made so by a great deal of work, for so solid is the barren rock here that each grave has had to be blasted out with charge after charge of dynamite. But in the end each grave is surrounded by a wooden coping surmounted at one end by a wooden cross painted black or white. The coping is filled in with earth sifted from the debris of the blasts or brought from a distance. In these enclosures flowers are massed till the entire cemetery has the appearance of one great garden.
Love of flowers is a marked characteristic of the Saint Pierrais people. Though there is practically no soil in the place, every window is a mass of potted blooms. All these lilies, geraniums, oleanders, cacti, begonias, etc., were brought from France. It is even said that the soil in one little garden was brought here from France. Every Saturday morning a little boy goes the rounds of the pensions and perhaps the cafes, on his arm a small basket with a few nosegays of sweet old-fashioned flowers. And these are bought up at once.
The central building of interest in Saint Pierre is the fine white church, built to replace the old Cathedral destroyed by fire several years ago, together with the Palais du Justice.
The new church possesses rare and valuable appointments. The stained glass windows, most of them with Biblical motifs having to do with the sea, are supported by rich altar appointments; but the note of originality is struck by the score or more of tiny sailboats and schooners which hang gracefully on wires suspended from the ceiling.
These miniature craft appear especially appropriate in this church that owes its being to the sea. Each little boat is of course the votive offering of some grateful mariner for miraculous preservation in some great hurricane, collision or shipwreck, while pursuing la morue in one of its many haunts, immediately off-shore or on the Grand Banks.
The Curé of this church has possibly the best garden in town. And morning and evening he may be seen – a gardener in a soutane – doing his best to coax along the flowers and vegetables. Mais, oui.
The celebration of La Messe and "Benediction" in this French-Colonial church is attended with an unusual degree of pomp and ceremony. A military air of precision is supplied by the commanding figure of Le Maitre de Chapelle wearing the uniform and hat of a soldier of the Swiss Guard, carrying a battle-axe over his shoulder, a sword by his side, and in his gloved right-hand a tall, heavy black mace surmounted by a massive silver ball.
In the processions, this imposing figure is followed by acolytes in crimson and white gowns, each carrying a pole supporting a red, violet, or blue lantern.
The music is wonderful, the "time" being kept by the "Suisse", who also precedes the two demoiselles down the aisles when they take up the collection.
The church is situated at the opposite end of the town from the cemetery and, whenever there is a funeral, the procession passes afoot, heralded by a small boy with a beautiful voice, singing so ringingly the solemn chants set for these occasions, that he can be heard far across the harbour and distant points of the town, from which by reason of turns in the streets the procession itself is invisible.
˙ ˙ ˙ ˙ ˙ ˙ ˙ ˙ ˙ ˙ ˙ ˙
Because of the geographical situation of the Saint Pierre et Miquelon group, and the fact that they are a French Colony, conditions are found here, possible nowhere else.
French wines and liqueurs flow here as naturally as in France itself. Prohibition in Canada and the United States has made this font of wines so close to the coast "a gift of the gods". Smugglers deem it a good "base" from which to operate "spirits" in general. In this new trade, agents of the best Old Country distilleries have opened salesrooms here and consignments and cargoes are constantly coming and going or being placed in warehouses to await their chance of re-shipment.
In the cafes of Saint Pierre there is every variety of French wine. In all the general shops, on shelves, neighbouring dress material, sardines-in-oil, or petits pois in tins, Vin ordinaire, Cassia, Eau de Vie, Ginebvre, Anisette and Noyeaux appear as a matter of course.
During the war, trade came almost to a stand-still in Saint Pierre. The shops, usually so overflowing with good things, had their stock entirely depleted, and the women storekeepers were reduced to tears, as they lamented "La guerre, la guerre, Madame", as the cause of their inability to supply this or that.
But now all this is changed. The Sun of Trade once more has sent its enlivening rays along this foreign, island-waterfront. Gallic spirits have recovered themselves in the forests of masts springing up in the harbour.
It is in Quebec ….
T is in Quebec, the Old World city so curiously transplanted from sixteenth century France, and set down here on its commanding bluff, above the Saint Lawrence, that one takes the road of romantic history.
Driving through the steep, narrow streets, our two-wheeled Caleche, itself the voiture of other centuries, seems a talisman, unlocking the gray, steep-roofed, admirably-preserved houses, churches, monasteries, convents, colleges, public buildings, tiny shops, all of them of unmistakably French aspect, which flank our goings up or down the steep ascents, which are the Quebec streets.
Romance clings to the old in architecture. Nowhere does she more frankly look out upon the Canadian world roundabout, than from the casement windows of Old Quebec.
But, if she only leaned from the windows, she must be a creature to worship afar off. But Romance believes in "close-ups". In Quebec she draws near, takes you by the hand, and leads you over the threshold of La Basilique – the French Cathedral.
Within, she continues to act as guide, while, paradoxically enough, she is the essence of the treasures, paintings, altars, crypt, etc., to which she points.
She steps with you into the almost holy quiet of L'Hotel Dieu, the hospital founded by Madame La Duchesse, the niece of the great Cardinal Richelieu; herself one of the most helpful and romantic figures that ever stepped into Nouvelle France. It is to her, that French-Canada owes L'Hotel Dieu, one of the finest hospitals in present-day Canada, or, for that matter, in America.
The soft-stepping Sisters, passing from one bedside to another in their picturesque robes, gently administering to the suffering of twentieth century Quebec, are the descendants in an unbroken line of the "Hopitalieres" who came here with La Duchesse in 1639.
Between the Basilica and the Hospital an old gateway opens into the quadrangle of the Quebec Seminary, founded by Monsignor Laval, the great figure of the Church in pioneer Quebec. Here, in the yard below the long, gray building with its rows of open, French windows and its thick walls, the youth of present-day French-Canada, in uniforms of blue-tailored, skirted coats, with emerald-green sashes – rush hither and thither in their games, directed by willowy figures of teacher-priests in round hats and clinging soutanes. Romance seems to linger long here, and to treasure greatly the atmosphere of Laval University adjoining. Here is youth and its enthusiasms, a miracle-play of welling human interest giving life to these old walls and halls and never suffering them to grow old in spirit despite their years.
Then the caleche sets us down at the door of the Ursulines, and there one asks to see the skull of General Montcalm. A sister brings it.
Montcalm! Wolfe! One cannot think of one without thinking of the other. And thinking of them both, from the perspective afforded by a century and a half, what do you see but the hand of Destiny gradually eliminating the players in the game for the possession of a country far greater than either side had any idea of, until only these two were left in the limelight, one wearing the Fleur des Lys, the other the Rose of England; each a true knight; each defending to the death, "the cause" he had espoused; each, poetic and romantic figures in whom a United Canada now rejoices.
But the sister is drawn out to talk of the city, of its many points of interest, and of its general atmosphere of romance; agrees with you that it is a wonderful treasure-house of souvenir and story. And then you are moved to compliment her on her fluency in English. And she laughs and says "she ought to speak it easily seeing she was born in Providence, Rhode Island."
Then, with an unmistakable flash of Yankee humour, she inquires if we do not think it strange that a "Yankee" should be guardian of the skull of Montcalm in Quebec? And we counter back: "Not so strange, as – romantic, Sister!"
In strolling along that renowned promenade, the Dufferin Terrace, which affords a glimpse of the Saint Lawrence far below in such a panorama of natural beauty as beginning at one's feet stretches away mile after mile till lost in the soft mist of distance, one looks down upon the Lower Town, whose narrow, old streets, and market-squares call to one to explore them.
And so some morning we find ourselves in Lower Champlain Street – one of the queerest old streets in the world. It leaves the markets and docks behind and doubles around the base of Cape Diamond between the river and the cliff, until all the city is lost to view and its sounds as completely obliterated as if you were miles away from any mart.
THE RAG MAT.
It was down here, in houses looking like rookeries under the: great cliff, and facing the watered-ribbon of a street, that in the great day of Quebec's wooden shipbuilding, lived with their families the shipwrights, Hibernians and others, who came out from the Old Country to engage in the shipbuilding trade.
But the life of this street was paralyzed when the industry declined; and now many of the old, home-roofs are caving in and the old sides bulging, and only here and there an octogenarian stands in her doorway knitting in hand. Such an old orphan of a dead-and-gone industry is Mary Ann Grogan. You stop to speak with her. Her knitting needles click faster on the sock in her old hand, a-tremble with excitement that anyone should care to "hear about old times".
At first her story is an epic of wooden hulls. Through her spectacles, as it were, you look out there to the edge of the River, the River where now rides the visiting fleet of the North American squadron, and you see the low-lying keel, the up-standing ribs, and men everywhere. And the picture calls up other craft a-building at Levis, and on the banks of the Saint Charles. And so great is the power of suggestion, that you even include in the vision the three long ships of Jacques Cartier putting in that "first winter". "Surely, this is a wonderful old face," you think.
From the ships, she goes on to the street itself, the picturesque little church, the Sisters' little school, where the youngsters of the remaining families struggle with the three R's. But her story becomes more dramatic, when she tells of the great landslide of the cliff itself, the historic landslide that carried such loss of life and destruction of property in its wake. One might read about it forever and yet not visualize it as one does when Mary Ann tells you that "the noise of it", still lives in her old ears; "that she was born here and lived here, but never before nor since, has she heard or seen the likes of that morning."
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The habitants of rural Quebec cling as tenaciously to the life and atmosphere transplanted here from rural France more than three centuries ago, as the inhabitants of Quebec city cling to the atmosphere of ancestral French cities.
Here are the wayside ovens, the wayside crosses and shrines, the old grist-mills, with water-wheel and upper-and-nether mill-stones. Here are towers and windmills descended from Seigneurie times. Here are century-old wool-carding mills with the ancient sign "Moulin a carde" over the doorway.
Here are the little maisons with whitewashed sides and steep-curving roofs whose birth-certificates date back to the days of the first settlers. Hundreds of years old are these little habitant houses, but because of the tender care they have received, they are, to-day, as clean and fresh, within and without, as though built but yesterday. Canada is rich in having in her possession such a sweet type of architecture as these dear little farm-houses of the Province of Quebec. She is rich, too, in the quaint French villages clinging to the straggling, long highway, which as street culminates in l'eglise, or the Parish church.
Quebec is especially rich in its atmospheric landscape, a landscape so dear to the habitant heart that outstanding features have become personalities. Thus, Montmorenci Falls is called "La Vache" – the Cow. A landscape too, where peaceful church-spire is seldom out of sight of church-spire. And all are within hail of some river – Saint Lawrence, Richelieu, Saint Francois, or the Saguenay.
In the matter of place-names Quebec is not behind Newfoundland, except that her taste runs to figures of the church rather than to figures of the sea. Every Saint in the calendar must, we think, have a village namesake in Quebec. On the north side of the Saint Lawrence, L'Ange Guardien, Saint Anne, Saint Joachim, Saint Gregoire, strike a balance with Saint Henri, Saint Fabien, Saint Hilaire on the south.
And if the villages be strung together aerially by church-spires, no less are they united by the quaint roads, whereon ox-cart and dog-cart are as frequent as that of le cheval – roads flanked by the roof-curving, French farm-houses homing the crafts of carding, dyeing, spinning and weaving.
The spinning-wheel and the loom are not "has-beens" in the Quebec home, by-gones relegated to the attic – but intimate pieces of furniture actively a part of everyday life. And so when you step over one of these thresholds, it is to find madame spinning – her clever fingers feeding so fast from the distaff that the wheel flies around in a blur of motion; or, to find her in the room under the eaves sitting at her loom, in her hand the flying-shuttle, about her, everywhere, on chairs and boxes and overflowing to the floor, balls of yarn of all sizes and colours.
And when Madame is not weaving her "couverts" or "tapis", she is toying with wool in some one of its preparatory stages from the sheep's back to the finished homespun. Or she may even be caring for the home sheep, bringing up a lamb by hand or something of that sort. The habitant women are never at a loss for work.
And when Madame is not thus engaged one may happen upon her in the shade of some dooryard-tree, sitting before a homemade quilting-frame, busily quilting her hand-pieced coverlets of artistic, original designs. On these occasions she is accompanied by her little daughter of six or seven years, daintily tracing the thread-line with her little fingers in imitation of "Mama".
In these habitant homes, Grandmere's busy fingers take much of the knitting for the grand famille in hand. Grandmere it is, too, who moulds the high-coloured peaches, grapes, apples, plums, "hands", and what-not figures, from the wax that is the byproduct of the honey-making, home-bees.
Whenever one turns in to these country yards, the geese, that are the watch-dogs of the habitant farm-yards, herald your approach; but the work of the day is not stopped, although M'sieu, Madame, the children, one and all welcome the visitor, taking it for granted that the life and industries connected with the running of these self-supporting farms should prove entertaining to anyone.
Thrift is the keynote everywhere, but the habitant apparently never hurries. Life has not changed much in the centuries, except that with the growth of the times the habitant farms have increased in wealth, represented in part by a larger stock. Cows, porkers and sheep are everywhere. But behind the split-rail fences are the same little pocket-handkerchief patches of growing tabac in cup-like shields of white birch bark as M'sieu's father and grandfather planted.
The passage of Time makes no radical changes. M'sieu is as handy a craftsman as ever. Nor is there any appreciable line of demarcation as to who shall do this or that, but all members of the family work helpfully together. Madame goes into the fields with the children and helps her husband to get in the hay. And, in his spare moments, M'sieu picks over and lightens up the wool a-drying on the little balcony.
On Sundays the entire family gets into the roomy carry-all and drives to Mass at the church. The weather must be bad indeed, which causes the pious habitant to fail in his attendance at La Messe.
In keeping with his deep regard for the spiritual, one is not surprised in Quebec, in more or less every household, to find, in a corner of the living-room, on a neat, little handmade shelf, a large or smaller figure of Christ, Mary, or Bonne Sainte Anne, with a tiny lamp burning before it. The same figures give distinction to the little grocery-shops and boulangeries of the towns and villages, each figure lighted by its little candle or incandescent bulb, smiling down, as in sweet benediction, upon merchant and customer.
The demand for holy figures of this type creates a rare personality of the Quebec gallery of genre in the "Sculpteur".
Strolling along some morning, one may chance to come upon the "sculpteur" at work, at the window of his little shop in the outskirts of some St. Lawrence town, the white figure of the Saviour with extended arms in his hand, and on the table row after row of smaller figures, in various stages of completion.
The use of the religious figure is not confined to the indoors of Quebec, but over the barn-doors of the farms throughout the Province, the carved figure of some guarding Saint sheds atmosphere upon the churn, the wooden shoulder-yoke for bringing water or pails of maple-sap in its season, or on milk-pails glistening in the sun, on the fence-posts.
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In travelling in Quebec, one cannot help but be struck by the harmony between artistry and toil. This, doubtless is a French trait, curiously and happily preserved through centuries of pioneer life. Seldom indeed, if ever, in Quebec, is the most trifling thing wrought that is not made in some simple way to have its own art-character. If Madame knits a sock she combines some little thread of colour to give it character. The rag mat, which the little daughter tresses in a long braid around the back of a chair, though it may be put to hardest wear eventually, is made a symphony in colour. It is the same when M'sieu chooses to paint the little maison, he has a way of painting the ends of the house one colour and the sides another, yet effecting by a combination of two harmonious shades a whole that is – charmant.
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In passing: out of Quebec City the romantic road of history is not left behind. Few villages of rural Quebec but have been the stage of some outstanding historic event or personage. Beauport knew Montcalm. Montmorenci found the Duke of Kent so enthusiastic over "la vache" that he has a villa built almost immediately on its banks. Cape Rouge knew Cartier and Roberval. Tadousac knew the Basques and Bretons who came to fish and to barter with the Indians for furs, received some of the earliest missionaries, and to-day boasts a tiny chapel founded by them in the early years of the seventeenth century, one of the earliest Mission chapels in Canada, and dedicated to Sainte Anne. To this little church Anne of Austria gave a bambino, still among the church's treasures.
TADOUSAC HAS LOST NONE OF ITS SCENIC BEAUTY.
AN OLD TRADING-POST AT BAIE ST. PAUL.
Scattered here and there over the northern end of the Province one happens on some old Hudson's Bay Company trading post. A house of more pretentious dimensions with steeper roof than its neighbours, usually remains as mute evidence that the great Company was once here. Such a house stands at Baie St. Paul, behind a sentinel-like line of Lombardy poplars and carrying over a door the date 1718.
Quebec is a piece of fine tapestry, in which multitudinous threads combine to form the warp and woof of the perfect whole, a whole, wonderfully woven under the hand of Romance.
LES ILES DE MADELEINE "THE NECKLACE".
Having met some ….
THE WOOL FOR THESE HOMEMADE LOOMS IS GROWN ON THE SHEEP GRAZING ON THE SLOPES OF LES DEMOISELLES.
SEUMAS O'BRIEN, AUTHOR AND SCULPTOR.
LES ILES DE MADELEINE "THE NECKLACE".
AVING met some notable woman, Queen or Court lady, and been charmed by her graciousness, and having recounted some of the qualities which are component of that grace, one's thoughts turn naturally to memory of her adorning jewels. It is like that with Quebec. Quebec's outstanding jewels are Les Iles de Madeleine in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The earliest French navigators seeing the islands for the first time were so impressed with their beauty, they called them, in the poetic language so natural to those gentlemen-explorers of the sixteenth century, "The Necklace". Time has substantiated the courtly compliment. For that is just what they are – Canada's "Necklace of Pearls" on the bosom of the Gulf.
The pearls of the Necklace are small, and there are not many of them, only six or seven in all, but each is of the finest quality, handsomely strung together on long threads of creamy sea sand – embryo pearls-to-be perhaps – circling to partly enclose an indicated rather than attained roadstead where navigation may find a little shelter from the fury that at times strides about the Gulf.
The Madeleine Islands, though in the path of passing ships, are seldom approached directly except by the staunch little sea-boat of the "Pro Patria", "Lady Sybil", or "Amelia" type, that once a week brings and takes the mails, freight and such passengers as chance affords.
The "Amelia" is a rugged character, a wayward "bird of passage", at one with the unbroken spirit of the Islands she serves. We do not know what Madeleine would do without her. Variations which she chooses to make in the matter of "first ports of call" on the weather wisdom of her skipper, but add to the charm of voyaging in her to these remote objectives.
Coming thus to the "Magdalens" from Pictou, it is in the early morning, when the summer sun tips above the Eastern horizon of waters, that one beholds the first speck of land. Unfolding before you as the Amelia proceeds, a curiously-rounded beehive hill appears above a stretch of land tapering to a long sand-spit edged with curling sea-wrack. Approaching yet nearer, other fair, rounded, treeless hills complement the first. These hills, exclamatory remarks of fellow passengers soon enlighten one, are "Les Demoiselles". They, with the sand-bars, miles in length, are the chief physical characteristics, as it later turns out, of these remote islands.
Then, after coasting miles along, the Amelia picks up an opening between a sand-bar and an island and comes alongside the Government pier at Havre Aubert on Pleasant Bay, Amherst Island.
Of course, we "put up" at Shea's Hotel. It sounds very commonplace, as names go, but Shea's is the heart of the Madeleines. The proprietors are three, (or is it four?) unmarried sisters of what may be briefly summed up as "the land-mark type". Their father before them kept a cottage boarding-house, so the past is theirs as well as every detail of present-day island life. In addition to her work at the "hotel", Miss Mary keeps a little shop on the shingle between Mount Gridley and Amherst and Miss Johanna, beside bringing the palatable food from the kitchen to the table, is the telegraph operator.
"Shea's", too, is the rendezvous of all the "drummers'' of Canadian trade on these islands. So that although the Islands have no newspapers, one is here in daily touch with a remarkable ebb and flow of world news, all the more vivid and impressive because of the dramatic, human touches which each raconteur puts into the telling.
But the Madeleines are places where the out-of-doors is constantly offering attractions to win one to wander near and far. The views everywhere reward one's walks.There is, too, a daily excuse to hunt mushrooms on the smooth rounded hills and grassy cliffs which few find themselves able to resist. In this intimate way one comes to know La Demoiselle.
La Demoiselle appeals to the imagination. It is one of those rare spots which remains a high-light of memory. One never forgets climbing over it, following the sheep-paths, feasting on its insular and marine outlook, or watching the rare sunsets, almost tropical in their richness, which are the lord of the day's parting salute to these sea children.
"La Demoiselle" was the expressive name given this hill by those same early French adventurers who first called the whole group the "Necklace". They had the imagination and fancy which pictured the land as a woman, and these fair hills, as the pulsing breasts of the sea-maiden sunning herself, with her sand-spit body awash in the waves. O Canadian sculptor behold a "figure" to hand in Les Madeleines.
Not the least attractive feature of the scenery are the ashes-of-roses colours acquired by some parts of the cliffs, especially those west of la Demoiselle. These colours are wonderfully effective when, contrasted against the gray sea, or the velvet greenness of the cliff grass. It was while rambling along these cliffs a few summers ago that Seumas O'Brien, author and sculptor, happened by chance upon an outcropping of clay of so fine a nature that he later took some back with him to "Shea's" and there, in a little studio improvised in the vacant cottage that was the former hotel, he soon had several charming "figures" to his credit, among them, "The Head of a Child" and "An Irish Troubadour", one of those quaint Irish figures of village and road who entertain with stories to the accompaniment of an old fiddle.
The inhabitants of the Madeleines are of Acadian-French descent. The life which centres in the scattered cottages reveals unspoiled the Acadian spinning-wheel, the ponderous loom, and handicraft that takes the raw wool direct from the sheep's back grazing out in the eye of the wind on Les Demoiselles, and converts it into homespun garment, sock, or tapis.
The handiwork of the Madeleine spinners and weavers reaches its highest achievement in the catalogne or bedspread. Not alone is the work fine but the favourite white ground forms just the right contrast needed to bring out the sweet colours employed in the motif. Not even in the heart of Quebec have we seen any weaving to compare with these catalognes of the Madeleines. They catch added character, it often seems, from the looms on which they are made. At Havre Maison, on Alright Island, we once happened on a Madame weaving at an old loom made from the flotsam and jetsam pieces of wood which had at different times been salvaged from the sea – here an upright out of an old mast, there a bar from a broken oar. Madame, with shuttle from the same source, rudely shaped, in her hand, was working as under the fire of inspiration, her bobbins and wools all scattered about her on boxes and on the floor, the while the attic window by which she sat looked out upon the barachois or lagoon enclosed by sand, and beyond that to the far-stretching gray waters of the Gulf.
In Les Iles de Madeleine, catalognes and tapis are heirlooms. Once at Grindstone Island an old gentleman seeing our interest in these fruits of the Island looms, bade his daughter take us into the attic and show us those which his mother had made. There were several sea chests full. And each was of sufficient beauty to justify the old gentleman's pride in them.
Wool is an indispensable raw material in the home economy of the housewives whom circumstances have set down on these islands so far removed from marts of the "ready-made". That is largely the reason why so many sheep are seen everywhere, there being seldom a family but owns one or more. And what fine, clean wool it is! And what excellent flavoured mutton comes to the Shea table via a boat-market from Entry Island.
The chief industry of the Madeleines is mackerel fishing, with cod running it a close second, and lobstering employing a number of old-timers whose day of fishing is done.
The waters about the Madeleines are the magnets of sealers in the Spring. But it is mackerel which chiefly magnetizes the life and sketches the characters especially Madeleinian.
Sprightly white, clinker-built, skiff-like boats are here, boats with long and graceful lines, eager in sailing but of sufficient "beam" to carry the "catch". These harbour in haven-pools which seem to have been scooped out of the waves for just such a purpose. One of these little harbours is called La Bassin, a name which speaks for itself.
The waters about the Madeleines have a curious way of throwing up a sand-bar some distance away from, and parallel with, the beach itself, between the bar and the beach there being a long strip of water of differing widths. This lagoon is called a barachois, and each island seems to have at least one of these. The mackereling appears to centre around the Barachois, perhaps because there is something in the set of the Gulf currents which brings the marine food of the mackerel in their direction, or because the mackerel-boat, with the Barachois behind her, is never without a way of retreat in case of being overtaken by a squall. So, wishing to catch the atmosphere, one has to go down to the Barachois at dusk when the boats begin to come in. Then are seen women coming from all directions in their two-wheeled island-carts with flashing lanterns casting a flare and flicker of light, now brilliant, now dim to extinguishment, as the horses step into a rut or sink in the yielding sand.
THE LASSIE WITH BRETON CAP.
The boats, one or two at a time, come hurrying in from the Barachois, unstepping their masts and sails and simultaneously burying their bows in the wet and heavy sand of the landwash. Then is witnessed, a spirited bit of action to be seen nowhere else in Canada. The women pass the supper they have brought to the men, and while these hungrily consume their evening meal on the sands, Mesdames having taken the horses out of the carts, hook the traces on to the boats and before M'sieu can come to their aid, first one and then another has "clucked" to her horses, the reins in the strong hands are taut, the horses are straining and floundering in the shifting sand, madame or sturdy demoiselle skillfully keeping her own feet and admonishing "les chevals" with a commanding "Marche donc!" "Marche donc!" which would make any horse obey. Thus is attained the lively progression of the boat up the beach, to the appointed place of safety above the reach of the high tide, however angrily, through the night waves may curl and foam.
If you come here in the early morning, as many as sixty or seventy boats stand gunwale to gunwale on different parts of the long beach, answering the roll call of a great industry.
But it is on the north shore of Amherst, about the sand bar joining Amherst with Grindstone and partly enclosing Basque Harbour, that one sees still other groups and figures essentially of the Madeleines. Women and children, horses and carts, and dog-carts here appear far out from land, afoot in the low water that washes for miles the undersea sandbanks. Women and children and lassies with Breton caps, stand ankle-deep in the water with hand-made three-pronged forks, like the trident of a sea-god, in hand, digging and digging clams for bait, piling them into the receiving baskets and pails, and thence into the waiting carts – the carts in which island horses doze between the shafts, the rising tide lapping their fetlocks. It is a rare sight this clam-digging in the Madeleine barachois! And so far as we know one not duplicated anywhere in America. It occurs only at low-tide and it is therefore possible to pass any number of times at full tide and not see anything of it. But should it once be chanced upon, it will never be forgotten. Never was there a "piece" with so much atmosphere and action. While the tide is still ebbing the women wade far out to the edge of the clam line and begin their uncovering of the mollusc harvest. Even after the tide turns and begins to come in, they still hold their own with a bold front, retreating a few inches only, at a time. Atmospheric indeed is the effect produced by all these people, the horses in the two-wheeled carts, and the tiny dog-carts, when they are half shrouded in a soft wet fog creeping in from sea. Then it is as though Nature wished to reiterate that 'tis she who is the Great Artist, composing Aquamarines that no mere human artist can ever hope to touch.
Sometimes the low tide happens at night. And at dusk one meets the women driving in their carts, the lighted lanterns beside them, lanterns which later in the evening will appear to one looking off to the barachois like so many amphibious fire-flies dancing above the waves and lighting up the restless waters and the night gloom with a ghastly flare.
This night-scene is of even rarer quality than that screened by the day. Certainly this is exclusively a Madeleine canvas.
But the clamming is a serious industry. On it hangs the success or failure of the mackerel-fishing. Only so can M'sieu start out in the little boat early in the morning to fish. Only so can the "Mackerel from the Madeleines" arrive in Halifax to keep busy caulkers and brine-boys, and keep flowing the stream of Canadian export trade in fish.
But not until one passes on the highway at Grindstone some morning when it is too rough for the "Amelia" to make her call at Etang du Nord, and mets the procession of island-carts with their loads of barrels going overland to the public wharf on the lea-side of the island, does one carry any idea of the vast number of "Number Ones" which actually go out from here to Halifax, and thence, to the tables of the world.
It is on "shipping days" that one realizes that Madeleine, no less than Evangeline, is a sport, risking all her business success on the turn of the "barrel".
But fish is everywhere – a summer trade. And summers pass all too swiftly. It is in winter that Madeleine is thrown in upon herself; cut off from the world by the ice for six months of the year.
It is then the Mesdames of the islands – Amherst, Grindstone, Alright, Coffin, Grosse Ile and Entry – settle down to the loom, take the old spinning wheels between their knees; and make the Catalognes, the Catalognes, the equals of which are seen nowhere else in all Quebec. It is in winter the island-artizans choose and blend the colours that make the prettiest "couverts" to use and to lay away in the old sea-chests.
In winter, spinning by the window, madame looks out upon long endless stretches of ice-imprisoned sea, solid masses of the Gulf ice that closes navigation and separates herself and family from habitant families ashore. Yet because "the Sea" is in their blood not one of these Islanders would change places with the people ashore. "What of adventure," inquire they, "is there in inland lives compared with ours, literally held in the sea's hand? Mais, non." The Amelia makes her last trip a few days before Christmas. But even so, although no one can get off the islands after that, news still comes and goes by way of the Telegraph Cable and "Miss Johanna" becomes a figure in the limelight, as operator.
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Lying to the North and somewhat apart from the main pearls of "The Necklace" are "The Bird Rocks".
On the largest of these a lighthouse stands, an aid to navigation. It is a very lonely spot and no one except the lighthouse keeper and his family live there. But these desolate rocks have a claim on Romance through the thousands of wild sea-birds, who in summer make them their habitat and nesting-place. These seabirds, chiefly the beautiful cafe au lait coloured gannet, have three major haunts in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, at these "Bird Rocks", at Percé Rock and at Bonaventure Island off the Percé-Gaspé shore.
The first signs of human life the lighthouse keeper sees in the spring are brought by the Sealing ships coming into the Gulf after seals that frequent the ice pans.
Usually the keeper of the Bird Rock Light is a Madeleiner from Grindstone or House Harbour. Once, spending a week at Havre Maison we boarded with a widow whose husband had been a keeper of this lighthouse. Graphic indeed were her tales of the weirdness, loneliness and yet fascination of the life. She told, too, what happiness was theirs on seeing the first birds coming in the spring.
No visible connections ….
O visible connections exist between the faraway Iles des Madeleine and Percé, between Mal Baie and Baie des Chaleurs; but, in the fact that both the Bird Rocks and Percé Rock have been selected as summer homes and nesting-places by those beautiful creatures of the air, the wild sea-birds, there is a certain psychological bond of the deepest nature.
Percé Rock, according to surveyors, is fourteen hundred feet long and three hundred feet high at the highest end. It is a rock that carries in its sharp, almost cutting lines, an air of great dignity and strong personality. It is outstanding. People speak of it as "The Rock", as if nowhere around this rocky coast there were any other like unto it. And there is not. Along the Gulf it is a landmark; along the entire Gaspé shore a dominating character.
In itself it is barren and without life, more than a stunted scrub of tree and a little sprinkling of green at one place on the top. Its almost vertical sides are of a metallic, coppery hue. Its heart is burnt out. Geologically it is a mausoleum, a grave, wherein millions of trilobites were buried and turned to stone in that far away age to which the trilobite belongs. Yet it is this great heart of stone that the seabirds have undertaken to warm and have succeeded in making a thing of life, with mother hearts and baby cries, and the flashing wings of their constant coming and going.
The bird life here is a sort of commonwealth, in which the magnificent cafe-au-lait colours of the gannet predominate. "Watching the birds" is one of the pastimes indulged in by all visitors to Percé. And there seem to be more and more people here every year just "watching the birds".
With a powerful telescope you can see mothers feeding the young mouths in the seaweed nests. You can see them teaching the A. B. C. of flying to youngsters yet in their pin-feathers. And you can see them on the day they almost push their young to their first take-off. And when they have taught the nestlings to fly, they must, having conquered the air, begin all over again on that even more difficult element, the water.
Out there beyond the Government Pier which the mother does not mind in the least, having somehow sensed that the same parental hand behind the old piers holds her and her brood in its protecting palm, (both Ottawa and Washington are pledged to the protection of these wild birds of the sea), she gives her brood their first swimming-and-diving lessons and afterwards, almost without telling, they learn "to fish" for themselves.
Apart from The Rock and its feathery crown of life and its raucous voice, stilled only at night, other, many human "birds of passage" have from time to time landed here at Percé.
Along the long North Beach, fenced on the West by walls of rock – Les Muraille's and beetling Cape Barre – came, five hundred years ago, the fleet-winged bateaux from whose decks stepped down that most picturesque figure of the early Canadian stage, Jacques Cartier.... After him came the Recollets to say Mass on the beach, and set up the parent wooden cross on Mount Joli. Years and years after these, a colony of Jerseymen from the Channel Islands was weaned from the tides that race about Jersey and Guernsey to fish in the waters of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence contiguous to Percé, and to carve out for itself homes and a footing in the business world of Nouvelle France, now merged in Canada. Side by side with the habitant homes of Percé are the places of business and the cosy homes of the Channel Islanders, now among the leading figures of the fish and general-merchant business of this shore.
The fleet of fishboats, anchoring in the little haven afforded by Cape Barre, are thus still curiously French in model and rig, notwithstanding the fact that many of their old sides and seams are tarred in sisterly fashion with the old boats of Newfoundland. Of course, Percé has its up-to-date motor boats, etc. But for all that, the heavy fishing, the big catches of morue, are still brought to the North and South Beaches by these old-timers among boats.
Of all the fisherfolk of the long Coastal road – and what a road it is – none work so late at night or so much by lantern-light as those around Percé beach. The land-end of fishing always makes a picture, wherever happened upon, but when the twinkling of lanterns lights the faces of the splitters at work about the splitting tables and the fish gleams white as it slides from the table to the tub as it does at Percé there is something Romantic indeed in the scene. Till ten, even twelve, and once as late as two o'clock in the morning, we have seen the lanterns gleam on Percé Beach and watched the black figures of the men flitting to and fro with handbarrow and cart, carrying the loads of cod into the waiting room to the hand of the salters.
AT PERCÉ, ON THE GASPÉ COAST.
A LITTLE ANGLER.
No less Romantic is the pageant afforded by the boats and their lanterns upon the nights on which the men jig for squid. Squid is the bait in favour among Percévian fishermen, as clams are in the Madeleines, and bait-getting is an industry in itself, here as there.
In the darkness of the night a long line of black boats, like huge bodies of lantern-fireflies, may be seen jigging for squid, under the pale light of the stars, half a mile or so beyond the Government Pier. The effect of these queer dancing lights above the black water and the blacker boats, when seen from shore, is just as weird and romantic as the clam scene out there further, in these same Gulf waters about the Madeleine Islands. A difference lies in the fact that that scene is staged by women and this entirely by men. At Percé the men get their own bait, without aid from their women-folk, and at the same time must go out to the fishing-grounds with the morning tide; while in the Iles des Madeleines, as we have shown, it is the women who stand in the trenches of the farms-of-the-sea, turning out with their homemade forks the clam-nubbins that are the potatoes of these amphibious fields.
Along the codfishing-shores of the Maritime Provinces and in all the long line of Newfoundland-Labrador and Saint Pierre outports the women are co-workers with the men in this great coastal business of Cod. It is their hands that double the help on it, enabling the men to handle large catches because they can stand to the line for longer hours. The Mackerel-men of the Madeleines never have to ask where bait's to come from.
The women-folk of Percé are in no way to blame. Different conditions are here. To jig for squid one must get into a boat. And it will be noted that coastal fishwives stop at the water's edge. The most venturesome among the women, lending the strongest hand with the fish, always stops short of getting into a boat. With terra firma under their feet they are helpmates indeed. But the instability of a keel afloat shears them of all strength. One and all coastal women strange as it may seem are landlubbers of the deepest dye. So, Percévian fishermen must perforce hold up both ends, and that they do it well the splitting-tables and the flakes of both the long beaches, North and South, testify.
A character often encountered on the North beach is the old lobsterman who, too old for the boats, has taken to lobster-pots. No greater picture is made from the pierhead than that made the moment he in his little punt pushes out on the silver-gray sea against the projecting headland of the great Rock about which the wheeling sea-birds circle and cry.
Another beach character is the man with the ox-cart, who comes to gather seaweed for the fields. Deadweed and other seaweeds washing in all around this Gulf coast create an atmosphere all their own, coming as they do in deep drifts along the shelving beach, themselves the "crop" of many an undersea garden near and far; a voluntary contribution to the land-gardens that are enough of sea-salts themselves to understand and appreciate the sprawling, dragon-like motif thrown up by the sea.
And as the seaweed cart goes geeing and hawing along the Percé main streets to some hinterland farm, no fragrance seems so tangy and refreshing as that thrown out by the dying weed, blindly obedient to the laws governing the great Epic, spelled by Production.
It would indeed be strange if the superlative coastal scenery of Percé – its rare cliffs and rocks so magnetic to the scientist, both Geologian and Zoologist – had not drawn to itself the artist, the man or the woman to whom line and color are as meat and drink. An occasional figure, solitary on the pierhead, holding palette and brush, essaying a group of schooners and boats clumped against the pierside, may make a figure in your morning picture of the Gulf and the riding boats flanked by the bronzy rock cradling the birds. But these figures are rare – one or two in a summer perhaps. Of these Mr. James is still the outstanding figure and his is – "a dead command."
James came to Percé twenty-five years or more ago. A landscape artist of note, he hailed from Philadelphia. Percé in the individuality of her headlands and cliffs, sharp as edges of broken china, in the towering Mount Sainte Anne, in the spaciousness of the Amphitheatre facing toward the mountains that the geologist says are the vertebrae of the continent, in her homing birds, in the sprightly boats continually going and coming, wound about his artistic soul all the magic of her spell. He built himself and wife the home that so gracefully sits on the top of Cap au Cannon. From here he sallied forth day after day with his canvasses. Home here he brought them metamorphosed, replicas of the beach, the cliffs, the vanishing roads, the great Rock. Home, too, from his many jaunts and his many friends among the country-folk, he brought the wonderful gems that go to make up the valuable and interesting James collection of old Lustreware. Both Mr. James and his wife became a part of the Percé life. At his death Mrs. James continued to live in the home on the cliff. The poor of Percé speak of her as "Our Lady of Percé", playing on the word Mercy. For the poor and needy have in her an understanding and helpful friend indeed. From her husband's paintings she has had postcards made and with the proceeds keeps many a lone old woman under the wing of comfort, whom the dark days of a bitter Gulf winter must otherwise pinch.
It was Mrs. James who sponsored Marie's little tea-house five miles out along the Coulie toward Corner o' the Beach. Every summer tourist knows "Marie's" where the tables ranged on the grass are enclosed with windshields of sweet smelling spruce trees cut and stuck into the ground, and weighted down with wild strawberries and country cream.
And speaking of "Marie's" reminds us that the wayside oven and the big French loaf are characters of the Percé highway – reminds us that here la vache wears a neckyoke as in Les Madeleines.
Percé boasts the spinning wheel, with Madame, second to none of her habitant sisters up and down the whole Province, in her mastery of laine.
Among its quaint maisons Percé has an unique figure, happened upon by us nowhere else – the Beachmaster's Cottage. The Beachmaster as a "character" was unknown to us till we crossed his "stage" at Percé.
Bonaventure Island, too, lies three miles offshore – Bonaventure Island that harbours the memory of Peter Duval of buccaneer fame, skipper of a privateer named the Vulture. How he did harry the French coast during the war with Bonaparte! Who knows but Captain Duval was a connoiseur in Lustre ware, who knows but many of the beautiful pieces in the James collection and others in many a home of this shore crossed the seas at his instigation? At any rate, Bonaventure Island, which was his last "ship", is now skippered by kindred spirits, the wild sea-gulls whose ancestors may many a time have snatched of the crumbs that washed astern from the Vulture's tables.
WAYSIDE CROSSES AND GARDEN SHRINES.
Vanishing roads ….
WAYSIDE CROSSES AND GARDEN SHRINES.
ANISHING roads," no less than "the broad highway" of rural Quebec, are all more or less edged by wayside crosses and tiny garden shrines. From east to west and north to south the Quebecquois travels a la rue Calvaire.
But this via crucis is by no means a via dolorosa. Far from it! For the habitant does not set up his handmade, roadside cross, abounding with symbols of the crucifixion, in a spirit of sadness, but rather as the expression of a happy life full of rich traditions of such crosses in Old France, brought over by his forefathers, and reproduced here in old Quebec since Cartier's time.
The wayside cross is now part of the landscape, in the habitant's eye, and to his mind, a happy calendar by which to notch events. It is in this spirit that the habitant landholders and heads of families in old Quebec set out to carve "the cross" that is the age-old milestone of the roads – the cross by which they will be remembered long ages after they have taken the hill-road to the cimetiere.
The carving is a winter-evening task, begun after the day's work is over, when the grande famille have all had super. C'est bon. All the family is interested in le pere's intention to make a new cross. The wood in hand is carefully gone over and the best pieces selected. Measurements are made "according to the cloth" and the sawing and planing begun. Mon Pere's ideas are rounded out by suggestions from le mere et les enfants. Not one evening but many are consumed, till the winter runs away. And when in the spring all is ready and the new cross is set up, what wonder if it has an individuality all its own? This being the way these roadside crosses grow, there is good reason why not any two are alike.
One sometimes notes these crosses, shrines and chapels in the heart of towns but usually they stand beside country roads in coastal, agricultural and mountain sections. It is country-folk who set up these rich milestones of the highway, in old Quebec. And whenever they appear in the heart of town or village it means either that some old-timer caused them to be so placed or that they were before the town, and that the latter encroached.
Such a case as this is to be seen in two little wayside chapels to bonne Saint Anne in Levis. Modern town life has encroached upon them to such an extent it is extremely difficult to get even a picture of them clear of telegraph poles, wires, etc., yet these little chapels, built one in 1789, the other in 1822, before electricity was heard of for power and light, are still in use for the feast of good Sainte Anne.
What a cyclorama of Canadian history these little chapels could sketch for the pilgrims of to-day, looking out from their doorways upon the bosom of the Saint Lawrence. How many a vivid chapter of the olden days was read by these little wayside shrines before it happened. Through what stirring times has the little red light before the altar not pointed the way of hope to men along the road of life? We hope that Levis will never grow so big but she will have a place for these wayside chapels that belong by right of the years and the things they have seen, to all Canada.
But to the highway voyager of to-day it is their size that points a revelation. How few, he thinks, must have been the people of this parish at the time these chapels were built, if all went to mass at the same hour. It is a tradition in Quebec that "at first wayside crosses were set up at points where mass was said in the open air and later these little chapels were built." If this be so, here on this spot missionary priests of pioneer times caused "a wayside cross" to be set up long years before the foundation stone of these chapels was laid or Levis as a town thought of – another reason why the sacred land should never be absorbed by the town.
One reads much and hears much in Quebec of the landing of the great sea-adventurers of the French discovery, who invariably brought with them missionary priests. No tale in history appeals more to the imagination than the landing of the Recollet Fathers at Percé and the setting up of the cross on the bluff headland opposite Percé Rock. If you go to Percé to-day – like "the weathered skeleton of time", the cross with its extended arms silhouetted against the sky, still stands on the same spot chosen in 1535. A similar wealth of tradition gathers about the head of the little wayside chapel at Tadousac. To the visitor, much of the charm of Tadousac centres in this chapel dedicated to "la patronice du Canada" – bonne Sainte Anne – and out of use these fifty years except on special occasions, chief of which is naturally the fete day of good Saint Anne. By the way, Saint Anne holds not only an esteemed but an adventurous enshrinement in the heart of French Canada. It was she who protected the early navigators, she who encouraged, sheltered, finally havened the Breton sea-adventurers in the bays and coves of the Lower St. Lawrence. And the farther seaward reach the highways of this part of Canada to-day, the more popular appears Saint Anne for wayside shrines. She is a personality with a very human and approachable heart to all fishermen; and every little boat dancing in and out of Baie de Chaleur feels the eye of Ste. Anne upon her. La Protectrice de Pecheurs! Every fisherman carries a little figure of the saintly woman whose specialty is navigation, fishing, storms, boats, la morue, and a thousand-and-one angles of his life; and then, as if fearing something might be overlooked, clinches all with du Canada.
LA CROIX. THE AGE-OLD MILESTONE OF THE QUEBEC HIGHWAY.
Therefore, where the abrupt Laurentians fling their beetling brows to the wild gales and dun sea-fog, there on la montagne at Percé, at the very top, as if to see well the little boats balanced in calm majesty on the quarter-deck of the continent, is a life-size figure of the Saint.
Many a time, lingering after the long steep climb, under the shadow of this figure-of-the-ages looking down upon the weathered arms of the cross upon the headland, I have been struck by the force of allegory brought into being by these two figures in juxtaposition. Out of the heart of the one, protective, evolve the protecting arms of the other. Yet there was no motif or thought of this behind the erection of these two figures. The cross is simply the cross of the Recollet Fathers and pioneer missionaries, renewed continually through the centuries whenever age and decay or some sudden storm made a new one necessary. Bonne Sainte Anne sur la Montagne was set up by the local fishermen of a generation ago.
All these things are written on the south side of the St. Lawrence, and as we take the shore-road west many a shrine and highway cross continue the tale of rural piety and peace. But it is possibly the north shore of the St. Lawrence including Ile d' Orleans where the shrine takes on clear-cut historic importance.
The most famous shrine in all America is situated at Saint Anne de Beaupré. Here Ste. Anne comes in close touch, laying her healing power yearly upon the spirits and ill-bodies of thousands of pilgrims hailing from widely separated regions of Canada and the United States, with a sprinkling from every other quarter of the globe.
One would think that a region overshadowed, as it were, by so dominant a force as Ste. Anne de Beaupré might easily show poverty in the matter of the simple farmers' crosses and wayside and garden shrines of which we write, but along the Montmorenci and the Beaupré road quite the contrary is to be observed.
Remarking on this and the surprising frequency of the wayside crosses in this region, to a prominent Quebecquois, he assured us, to his thinking, there were not so many now as of old. "Why," said he, "when I was a boy every house had one." However their popularity may have decreased in the eye of the old-timer, backed by a memory reaching back more than three score years, they still recur frequently enough to-day to notch every mile of the twenty-one between Quebec City and Saint Anne de Beaupré village. So that to the visitor, without such perspective, it is evident that the habitant of these parts had no intention of relinquishing his personal and intimate belief in the mascot of the Cross, Sacre Coeur, and bonne Ste. Anne for his farm, garden, mill, meadows or bit of roadway, because the world has a shrine at Beaupré that rivals Lourdes.
Nor do these milestones cease at the church. Rather they are to be happened on all along the road east to Saint Joachim, and peep out at intervals along the Cap Tourment road into the heart of the Laurentides at 'tite de Cap, St. Feréol, St. Tetes, etc., as far as the road and the habitant home pushes back into the heart of Northeastern Quebec.
In the wayside crosses of this north shore, however, we have fancied finer work in execution, though perhaps not so strong and bold a concept, as a rule, as in the sea-coast cross. This finer handiwork is no doubt traceable to the influence of the art in the basilica of Saint Anne with which the people hereabouts are in almost constant contact. At least the church gets the credit till one remembers that these wayside crosses are the handiwork of a long line of carvers dating back into Normandy and Brittany, and that to the Tremblays, Gigueres, Couchons, Desbarats, Gagnons, as well as other families, the Beaupré wood-carving of sacred figures and symbols "runs in the blood" and is an inherited talent handed down from generation to generation.
Whether the inspiration comes from within or at the suggestion of the beauty in The Great Shrine, it is certain these wayside crosses, crucifixes, chapels and shrines of this Laurentian highway stand out among Canada's finest landmarks. Seldom one of the crosses but has simple wood-carved symbols of the Crucifixion attached – cup, ladder, hammer, hands, nails, the crown of thorns. Not all are present on the very old-timers, but an absent cup, a wind-blown hammer, a broken nail gives them a greater grip, especially when about the weather-worn "foot" a wild rose has sprung up and been spared by the scythe of the mower. This same St. Lawrence section is also the rambling playground of the tiny garden shrine. It is as if the hand of an aviator had scattered from the clouds these miniature niches of the saints; so that one or more dropped into every garden far and near.
These little garden shrines, many no larger than the breadbox, are the pride of every habitant home-gardener. The entire household takes an interest – especially grandmere et grandpere. It is the old man's fancy that every spring mixes the paint and guides the brush that freshens into new life the old colours.
And are they dun colours that he mixes? Most assuredly not! –White and light blue – the colours of the heavens.
The touches of life –the blood, the flesh, the hope –are given with real flowers, picked fresh every morning from the surrounding garden and set –a tiny bouquet votive-offering before the holy figure of "Mary", "The Son of Mary" or maybe "Bonne Ste. Anne".
The private gardens fringing the main street of Ste. Anne de Beaupré rival each other in these happy little shrines. All stand on elevations of stone or willow-wood post; and a clinging vine or tall peonies or ambitious poppies or nestling mignonette tone down the newness of the sky-colours and touch with effective life the tiny figure in plaster or bisque that symbolizes the faith of M'sieu and Madame.
In the garden of the summer home of two American ladies, adjoining the highway of Beaupré toward St. Joachim, is a specially attractive little shrine with a collaret of St. Joseph lilies – lilies which, appropriately enough, are always in full bloom, for the fete day of bonne Sainte Anne.
Some of the Quebec cross-makers often cut a niche in the cross in which is set the Christ-figure, the statue being protected from the weather by glass as in the case of the garden shrines. A good example of this is seen in the cross from the Indian village of Caughnawaga across the river from Montreal. This particular cross is further distinguished by the figure of a cock surmounting it.
On the highways of Quebec one likes the way trade salutes the cross. Men and boys passing in their two-wheeled carts find time to lift their hats and busy pedestrians often stop to murmur a prayer at the foot of the cross by the edge of the road. These things are a matter of course in picturesque, thrifty Quebec. They belong as naturally as the St. Lawrence or the Laurentians, but one is surprised on running into Sudbury in Ontario to see there, on the bare rocks high above the tracks, a large grotto, found on closer investigation to contain a life-size figure of "the virgin" as Regina Galloram.
Local men say it was erected by an old French Count, who had been coming to Sudbury for many years prior to 1914, but who failed to come over during the war. They say the Count sat daily in the grotto at the feet of Mary.
Then came the war. And the only word of him since has been the receipt by a townsman of a paper edged in black, as big as the page of a ledger covered with the names of relatives killed in action. Ontario may be proud of its wayside shrine.
At least two other widely separated wayside crosses are to be seen in Western Canada, one, a large crucifix in the Roman Catholic Hospital at The Pas; the other, a crucifix with figures on a platform in the cemetery at St. Norbert, near Winnipeg. There is also a shrine in a little wood at St. Norbert to which it is said small pilgrimages are made. However, it is undoubtedly rural Quebec which carries off the palm for wayside shrines and crosses. Somehow her "milestones" are an historic "part of the landscape", belonging both to yesterday and to-day.
It is worthy of note, too, that the Quebec farm which has set up a shrine or cross somewhere along the road, invariably appears prosperous. And those localities most particular in the observance of this old custom brought from France by the first settlers are never down-at-heels. It is evident it is the industrious, thrifty landowners who have inherited their demesnes from industrious, thrifty and religious forefathers who look most carefully to the old cross, the milestone of the years as well as of the road.
Straight back without a break these old weather-beaten shrines of the seacoast and the narrow farms trace their lineage to that first Cross, where all roads meet.
SAINT ANNE L'EGLISE.
Saint Anne de Beaupré ….
SAINT ANNE L'EGLISE.
AINT ANNE DE BEAUPRÉ, Saint Anne l'eglise!" Thus, the car conductor on the "Electric" between Quebec and Saint Anne de Beaupré on the arrival of the car at the station-gate to the great Shrine.
He pronounces the name of this station with an air not expended on any of the other stopping-places along the line. The people in the car receive it in a different manner, as if with the baited breath of assurance that now "something is going to happen", something they have long waited for, a miracle perhaps.
And so, daily, come and go the thousands of Pilgrims who have come and gone since those early years running back to 1658 when occurred here at this spot in the meadows "The First Miracle". It was out there on the river, the Saint Lawrence, north of Ile d' Orleans, on a small bateau, ancestress of the wood-boats that now go upward with the daily tide with their cargoes of firewood to Quebec, that Saint Anne first discovered herself to the crew of hard-pressed mariners, as habitant of this particular bit of shore. It was Saint Anne who snatched them from a watery grave in the treacherous river. And what a sea that bit of the river can make up! Only navigators in these parts can have any idea of the way that river, out there beyond the pier, can make up a sea! Old-timers and scientists say "There's something about the gaps in the mountains back yonder," pointing beyond the Côté, "that does it. They've got an awful spite in 'em when they brew a storm in their old cauldron."
So, watching one of these storms and seeing the old-timers alongshore, from Visitation to Cap Tourment, shaking their heads, one is impressed by the fact, that nothing Sainte Anne could have done would have so firmly established her authority and power in the popular mind as the fact that she was not afraid of the river; that, never mind how hard a cross-sea were lifted up to the tide and the wind crossing swords for supremacy out here in this narrow passage beset with mud-banks and rocks, residue of the ice-age, she could, and did, guide that little boat to a safe landing here, and the sailors to the terra firma they had never expected to feel underfoot again.
Sailors are grateful. They belong to the Big-hearted. They promised Saint Anne an A.B.'s share of the voyage. And they kept their promise. They built her first church in these parts – a seamen's church be it remembered.
And from that day to this Saint Anne l'Eglise has held true to her course. Every church that has been here erected has suffered the fortune of a ship at sea. The foundations of that first church were, as it were, laid in a gale. But staunchly it weathered the same and came to port all spars standing.
The little old Church still stands against the hillside, sheltered in an honoured old age in the arms of the Côté, anchored in its own little haven under the hill.
Soon the old church became too small, and the foundations of a new church were laid and, in time, the beautiful Basilica reared its two spires tall against the sky with the statue of Ste. Anne high between them, still in the "Crow's Nest," en garde. The Basilica became enshrined in the hearts of people far and near. Yearly its hold on public affection broadened until Saint Anne de Beaupré became a "Shrine" to a continent.
Five, six, seven thousand pilgrims in a day became the order and still they came, overflowing the pensions, spreading out on the benches in the yard, eating lunches under the maples in the garden and washing down the big slice with copious draughts of water from the big Fountain – Saint Anne's fountain.
"Saint Anne's" became as well known in the land as Ottawa, Quebec or Montreal, more popular than Halifax, Saint John or Vancouver. Why? It is the Capital of Faith, the Place of the Miracle. And faith lies very close to the human heart. Hence the Pilgrims by the thousands.
And each of these Pilgrims goes away to talk about and tell to others what he has seen and heard at this Canadian Lourdes. And the following year sees a wide increase in the number of people coming here and a greater geographical range of the pilgrimages, like spokes in a wheel narrowing to the hub. In the foundation stones of the Basilica were set forth in letters, deep-cut in the granite on the outside so that all the world might read, the characteristics of Saint Anne and the departments of life entrusted to her protection. They read like a splendid chapter out of some epic – La Protectrice de Pecheurs – de Navigateurs – du Canada.
IN A CONVENT GARDEN.
SAINT ANNE DE BEAUl'RE! – SAINT ANN L'EGLISE! THE CAPITAL OF FAITH – THE PLACE OF THE MIRACLE.
Inside La Basilica, the same air of bigness; people coming and going; benediction in French or in English; the great altar at Mass, a concentration of flowers and –light; the sun itself throwing through the beautiful stained-glass windows a rich amethystine ray on the priestly robes, on the altar linen, on the purple and white Campanulas.
A thousand votive candles burn in the side chapels. Processions of the lame, the halt, the blind, creep faltering in step though bold in spirit to kiss the relic. Till ten o'clock at night the great doors stand open. In the Sacristy are the gifts that came dripping like dewdrops from the hands and hearts of the Pilgrims of the Ages and of the day. Things of inestimable intrinsic value rub edges with the intrinsically valueless – the gift of a poor servant girl with the handiwork of Anne of Austria. La Basilica! La Basilica!
Habitants of the Côté looked down upon it with the utmost satisfaction. If La Basilica were the Shrine of all America, to them it was intimate – their dear Parish-Church, the Church where Mass for the Parish was said every Sunday morning. When any of them were sick, out of its great doors came the Blessed Sacrament in the hand of their Priest, heralded through the streets of the village by one of their boys, an acolyte with the bell. When any of them were to be married so early in the morning almost before the sun was up, was it not to La Basilica Cecile or Angelique, Henri or François repaired with their families for the ceremony? And when the Angel of Death flew low over the Côté was it not to La Basilica that all that was mortal of Madame or M'sieu went out to the last Mass?
Built in 1876 it was woven deep into the hearts of people widely scattered in habitat, widely removed from each other in wealth and social standing, antipodal in learning. It was the Mecca of the faithful, the objective of many an idle sightseer.
Built in 1876, for forty-six years it had been a landmark of the Beaupré countryside. Its tall shining towers were as channel-marks to the wood-boats a-wash on their way to Quebec. Chevals of distant farms knew the road to its door almost by heart. Old women from 'tite de Cap and Saint Feréol coming in to sell their quarts of wild framboise or the new pommes des terres crossed themselves, passing hurriedly to supply the hungry tables of les Pensions.
The blind beggar who lost his sight in its building gathered his pennies in his little tin cup at the gate. The old fellow with the row of empty bottles by the Steps of Scala Sancta eked out a living and sent a wave of cheer to many a poor sufferer in remote villages who wiping his face with a dash of water from Saint Anne's well felt in body and soul a little – refreshment.
Then one morning a short while ago, a little tongue of fire, out-of-bounds, caught up in the palm of one of those gales brewed in the cauldron of the mountains to the north and northeast, as it played with wild fierceness down over the Côté and licked up the Saint Lawrence from the east, threw its lurid veil through the sacristy. Inch by inch, then suddenly, foot by foot, the servant, that was Light, became a master of destruction. The Brothers did their best from the first. But the fire driven by the gale was soon out of hand.
It swept into the church carrying all the great building before it. The fire department came with apparatus from Quebec. But in a few hours the Basilica was but a heap of smouldering ruins.
* * * *
All that was fundamental, of course, remains. Saint Anne is still "Saint Anne de Beaupré", the Saint of the beautiful Meadow.
Her first miracle was wrought here long before there was any church. She saved the storm-tossed sailors of the Seventeenth Century on just such a night, from just such a gale.
Saint Anne is a character and must ever remain so, one of the very real personalities of Canadian life. An image of her rides in every fisherman's pocket out of Percé, Baie de Chaleur outports, and in the mackerel-boats of Les Madeleines. A bisque or plaster figure of her stands above every habitant mantelpiece from Montreal to Tadousac.
But La Basilica belongs to a page of Canadian history, too. It was a part of a Canadian landscape for nigh on half a century, in which time it was the scene of many a miracle. Optimists encouragingly say "But it will be restored, or a better and larger church built. Anyway, that was even now almost too small for convenience. So many thousands of Pilgrims! Oh yes, a bigger church was needed."
Thus the young folk look forward and plan. But the old, what of the old?
Aged men of the Côté feel that with the destruction of la Basilica something spiritual passed out of their lives. They felt it a gallery wherein were stored the life-pictures that they treasured. Memories of mothers and fathers in the old pews, themselves as boys by their side; memories of their own wedding, memories of first masses and of christenings... of requiem masses.
What of the people who have received spiritual and physical aid here? Did not Saint Anne's l'eglise fill a page in their life, a page licked up in the flames, and not to be re-written, as when an Hour-Book, finely illuminated, was lost in Time?
Who can restore the mazarene blue to the tablet of Labradorite that stood by the door? Who can bring back the voice of the great organ? Or who restore the exquisite lines of the old pulpit?
But the fundamental remains – the great out-doors, le jardin. Still the Pilgrims come. Still on calm evenings there will be the long processions through the dusk winding up the hill, faces aglow from the lighted candles in their paper 'sconces.
Still five thousand voices will sing "Magnificat, Magnificat!" Still, on midsummer mornings, the old Brother will go round, watering-pot in hand, among the flowers.
How constantly experience….
OW constantly experience reminds us that in the overwhelming presence of outstanding natural scenery, world events and great men, we are apt to completely lose sight of equally beautiful, though perhaps less magnificent scenery, events only a little less momentous and of many men, who except for the tedious bugbear of comparison, would be great in our sight, being truly great in themselves.
Personally our eyes were thus opened only a few summers ago at Saint Anne de Beaupré. For weeks our attention had been completely absorbed by the beautiful Basilica, its surrounding grounds, monasteries and convents. We desired above all to see a miracle, and to this end haunted the quaint church, stepping in to the beautiful garden whenever inclination suggested. Again and again we strolled along the hill-climbing woodsy road of "The Stations of the Cross", the spreading maple trees overhead, the river in a flowing vista before.
Most of all we were interested in the pilgrims, individually no less than in the pilgrimages as a whole. At Saint Anne's it is the pilgrim who furnishes a fascinating round of human interest, against a background of the church aglow with festive lighting from hundreds of electric bulbs, and the glowing, beckoning, flickering flame of thousands of red and green votive candles.
Then, one morning, something prompted us to turn our wandering footsteps toward the opposite end of the town away from the church. And there, in a plain old workshop, we experienced our awakening, the miracle we had been waiting to see – a miracle in Art rather than in healing. And yet, are not the two one?
As we climbed the road up the hill past Madame Giguere's Pension, we were at once surprised and attracted by a life-sized figure of Napoleon Bonaparte occupying one of the roofs ahead.
Napoleon Bonaparte in Saint Anne de Beaupré? Can greater contrast be imagined than the realism of Napoleon and the realm of the spiritual out of which we had just emerged? Yet it was no mirage. There he stood, life-sized. After a moment of doubt we knew it must be some woodcarver's "Sign". For we recognized at sight that this "Napoleon" was some old "Figurehead" from a ship, "stranded here" as it were in this Old-World village of French Canada.
We could scarcely wait to meet the old Carver. Already we imagined him old. And – charming.
The figurehead proclaimed that he belonged heart and soul to the age of the sailing-ship. Therefore, we knew beforehand that we should find as the French say, Un Caractere. So we hurried and turned in down some steps and knocked at the door of the old shop.
In answer, there came to the door a little, almost aesthetic-looking old man with a sweet smile and an equally sweet voice. He stood a moment looking at us and at our camera, entering as if by intuition into our enthusiasm. Then he bade us, in a charming manner, combination of the sweetness of old age and courteous French, "Entrez, entrez!"
That was our first glimpse of Louis Jobin, whom we have since come to regard as "The Dean of Canadian Religious-figure Wood-carvers" – a man possessed of so sweet and simple a nature that he approaches easily and naturally, the carving of Christ on the Cross.
The little shop in its simplicity is just the place one might expect to find Jobin working in. Everything in it falls behind its master – not a single offending note. There is a wooden thumb to hold his hat. Everywhere on the walls bits of carving – models and patterns – an old trumpet, a cherub's head, an angel's wing. On the floor the old stove for heating, the tool-bench and the figure or figures on which he happens to be at work.
Jobin found for us one chair and that curious movable bench with legs resembling a colt's, known in the trades as a "carpenter's horse". I sat the "horse" and never has one carried me into more enchanted country.
Jobin made us feel at home at once, continuing his work and chatting at the same time. There is about the man and his shop a sweet restful spirit of repose, as if no vaulting ambition had ever here o'erleaped itself to fall on the other side.
I cannot recall all that we talked about that first morning. I remember it rather as the occasion on which Jobin invited us to come in again whenever we felt inclined. It lingers as the morning on which we discovered that now rare nook "a woodcarver's studio".
It is no little thing to have such a door open to one in these days of hurry – a little shop full of the spell of Holy Figures, here and there, and about the door.
M. LOUIS JOBIN IN HIS WORK SHOP.
The acquaintance with Jobin has now extended over several summers and in that time we have learned from this old Canadian woodcarver's lips many a legend of the Saints, legends that have none of the usual cut-and-dried wording of a book as they are told by this old man of Quebec, but all the vitality and realism which only one having working knowledge of them for a lifetime can give.
Monsieur Jobin, in point of years far up in the seventies, gives Saint Raymond as his birthplace but says that he spent much of his boyhood at Point aux Trembles above Quebec.
His answer to an inquiry if he carved or whittled much when a youngster, proved him a man of humour. "O, oui! I cut up all my father's firewood into something or other." Smiling at the recollection of those days he paused and raised himself chisel in hand. "There was a good deal of wood in my figures then. Their bodies were what you call? – clumsy." "Clumsy?" "Yes?"
But these early attempts were evidently of sufficient merit to determine his parents as to a trade for him. They apprenticed Louis to the woodcarver's trade under M. Francois Xavier Berlingeret, a master carver of the city, of the generation before Jobin, so that Jobin represents in direct line a century of Canadian woodcarving. Jobin served three years. "Religious figures?" we inquired. "Oh, no. All sorts of carving with M'sieu Berlingeret. Some religious figures too, but in those days it was mostly 'figureheads'." Big wooden ships were everywhere.
"You know the figurehead?" He seemed very happy when we answered affirmatively. As his mind turned back to those days there came into his eye all the light and fire of an artist recalling some old masterpiece.
* * * *
His apprenticeship to Monsieur Berlingeret over, Jobin set out for New York "to finish". In New York he worked for a year with Mr. Bolton, "John Bolton, an Englishman located at St. John Street, Battery Place".
The mere mention of those New York days recalls to mind old haunts and famous old "figureheads" and carvers of Gotham. It was all "downtown" in those days, – "Battery Place" and "Castle Garden". Then naturally followed talk of this carver and that, of this and that old sea-rover among the wind-jammers coming in and sailing out of New York fifty years ago.
It requires little imagination for us to be able to see this young French-Canadian artist in wood passing from one to another of these ships, searching with his artist's eye for fine specimens of the figurehead-carver's art on the bows. It was in reality like a morning spent in a Cosmopolitan Gallery wherein the work of artists from many lands appeared – here, a Scotchman, there a Dane, here a Norwegian, there a Nova Scotian. And when the latter, it was like happening suddenly upon "an old friend from home".
When the year in New York ended, back came Jobin to Montreal. And from that day to this he has never left Canada but has given every day of his life-work to her. Canada reared him and with the exception of that brief year in New York she can claim him and his work.
It is somewhat in the nature of a revelation that there should have been, and that there continues to be enough trade and demand for wooden figures to have kept this old carver busy for a lifetime. Woodcarving is one of the oldest Arts under the sun and the fact that woodcarving is so widely appreciated in Canada and the United States that a few of these old artists are in their shops every day regularly, keeping steadily at the bench from morning until night, every day of the working week, year in and year out, reveals a phase of the national life and taste which cannot but fill many, who deemed the day of the wooden figure a thing of the past, with surprise.
But, for affirmation, there is the venerable figure of Louis Jobin bending over an angel – a tiny gouge in his old fingers slithering lightly here and there, "bringing out" just a little more each time the spirit, which, when all is finished, speaks out to the forgetfulness of the medium.
The regularity with which orders come in, no less than the air of the shop itself, gives one even stronger assurance that when Jobin has passed to the Land o' the Leal his mantle will fall to many a successor, provided the carver of the coming generation puts out work up to the standard of this old artist of Saint Anne's.
Jobin belongs to a long line of woodcarvers whose genius has given the wooden figure a sure niche in the heart of Canada as long as there shall be saint of legend left.
The establishment of Jobin in Montreal after his return from New York extended over a period of five or six years. Making figureheads there for Captain McNeil, he recalls that one was the "Chief Angus".
With a sweep of the arm, Jobin makes you see that proud hull – those royal-yards sweeping down the Saint Lawrence under the leadership of the spirited figure of the old Chief on the bow, leading one of the clan to victory on the high seas, and the ports of the world. Then the Frenchman speaks, and he recalls the figures of an "Avoçat", for a gentleman of the legal profession." He recalls that it stood opposite the Court House on the Rue Notre Dame in Montreal. No doubt many an old Montrealler recalls this landmark of Notre Dame.
Jobin's work in Montreal lasted as long as sails on the high seas created a demand for figureheads, and as long as the Red Indian with his calumet idled the day outside the Tobacconist shops. But steam blasted the growth and life of sails, and paper signs and bill-boards did away with the Indians except in Old Quebec city where the Red Man is still to be seen on Saint Jean Street.
Only then, in the lean years that followed these changes, did Jobin move to Quebec – the home-city of sacred "figures", and begin what turned out to be his forte and life-work, – the carving of religious figures.
He tells how he had a shop first in Quebec City. But from Quebec out to the quiet shop in the little town of Saint Anne de Beaupré was for a man of Jobin's feeling a short and natural step. At last his barque had come from the busy marts of the New York waterfront into this quiet little haven, whose main street has at one end this little shop and at the other la Basilica, Mecca of a continent.
Every evening at the close of the day's work the striking figure of the old carver may be seen on the street of Saint Anne's wending his way to Benediction. And, however numerous the pilgrims, his is one of the figures to be remembered – a benediction in its sweet humility.
Jobin has been an indefatigable worker. In his day the number of figures carved by his hand is almost incredible. The very mechanical part must have occupied more than a lifetime of a man less talented and sure of every stroke. He talked of one figure after another so rapidly that track of all could not be kept. Yet not one of his figures seen could in any sense of the word be termed "mechanical"; rather, he was able to work quickly because his every stroke ran true.
There is, of course, a difference in his work, depending on the ultimate position to be occupied by the figure. Those to stand out of doors on an eminence, or on the roof of some church to be viewed from a distance, are executed in big broad touches of the chisel. Detail would be lost if indeed it did not spoil in such instances. But the figure to stand in some church, and to be closely approached by a supplicant, lacks nothing in detail of line that would express the fine nature and understanding of the saint that is symbolized.
All of Jobin's work, whether Saint or otherwise, has about it a distinctly individual touch, so that once you are familiar with his work you are able to see a figure for the first time and say at once whether it is a Jobin or not.
Since our first acquaintance with Monsieur we have happened on many a "figure" of his. And nothing affords us greater pleasure than to come on one at some unexpected place and moment. These we recall to Monsieur on the occasion of a next visit. And how it delights the old man to hear of these, his "art-children", whom he never expected to hear from more.
It pleased him that we should recognize the Province of Quebee as his Gallery and go along her highways and byways with art eye open for his figures.
It was during one of these conversations that he let fall that he carved the figure of "The Blessed Virgin" on the top of Trinity Cap on the far-famed Saguenay. Jobin gives the dimensions as twenty-five feet in height and says that around the head of "Mary" he carved twelve stars. He carved it in 1880 or just forty-two years ago, long before many who now view it were born. Many have wondered why the figure on this cape, twin with Cape Eternity on this scenic river of eastern Canada? Here is the reason from the carver's lips. A gentleman out driving was in a run-away accident. The carriage was thrown over a very steep cliff but almost by a miracle he was pitched to safety as the voiture went down. He wished to erect a memento of his wonderful escape and as the accident had been over a cliff, he conceived the idea of having an heroic figure of the Blessed Virgin erected on the beautiful and beetling Cap Trinité.
From the Blessed Virgin to Neptune seems indeed a far call. Yet it was mention of this figure which recalled to Jobin's memory that about the same time he did this he also carved the figure of Neptune to stand on the old hotel of that name on Mountain-Hill Street near South Matelot, in Quebec.
The student of history, abroad in Quebec, is familiar with the old carved-wood figure of General Wolfe, now sacredly preserved, after an escapade to the West Indies, in the library of the Historical Society of Quebec. But few there be who know that Jobin carved the substitute which fills in the niche in the old house on the street corner, and that it is thanks to Jobin that Wolfe still mounts guard on the corner of Rue Saint Jean. A new interest must cling to this old scarlet-coated figure of the General whose romantic boat-ride down the river to attack the city in the rear gave Quebec to the Empire. It is said that a condition of an old will provides that a figure of Wolfe must always stand in this niche in the old house facing the street, so that the passing world may never forget how much it owes to Wolfe.
Jobin's work of carving sacred figures either for use in churches, in cemeteries, in church or monastery gardens, or as crosses and calvaires by the roadside, has been deeply appreciated. For some churches he has carved practically every figure in use.
For l'eglise at Saint Henri, he says he has carved as many as thirty-two figures in all; for the church at Riviere de Loup, seventeen; for the church at Saint Foye, three – the Blessed Virgin, Christ on the Cross and The Sacred Heart.
As Jobin told of the Saint Foye "figures" he rasped the wood of a new figure growing under his hand. He paused in his work as he recalled "That church was burned, but my figures they...." No word completed the sentence but the rasp went up in a dramatic sweep to indicate the high standing figures escaping the flames.
Of the roadside calvaires carved by Jobin, one at Beaumont is a good example. Another stands at Visitation. The latter is a new one erected last summer.
Although much of Jobin's work is bought in the Province of Quebec, orders are constantly coming to the old carver of Saint Anne's from other parts of Canada. And many a figure in the United States attests to his skill as woodcarver.
It is one of the interesting incidents of the Jobin figures that, before sending them out in the world, they are taken down to the Basilica to be "blessed".
We have seen a pious pilgrim kiss the hand of one of these waiting figures, – taking it for one of the regular figures of the Basilica garden. This incident is a tribute to the quality of soul attained by Jobin in his work.
Luck indeed attends the pilgrim to Saint Anne's who happens there at the "Blessing" of one of these figures. For picturesqueness in ceremony it has few equals – the figure on the grass under the trees, the priest in his robe, holy-water in hand, generously be-sprinkling, as it were, this Soul of the Woods.
The Basilica garden at Saint Anne's is rich in Jobin "figures". The large gilded figure that stood on the roof was, however, not one of his, though the little Saint Anne in the old church, he says, is.
Last winter he was at work on a new figure for the fountain in the yard to be given to Saint Anne's by a wealthy American.
The weather has always stood in the way of the popularity of the wooden figure. Jobin now sheathes his figures that are to stand in the open.
If some such measure had only been used in early days, how much richer in figures would Canada be. Many of her old-timers, some of them brought over from France by early pioneers have been completely lost through wind and weather.
Wealthy societies and churches with a taste for gold often have had Jobin completely overlay the entire figure with gold-leaf. Mr. Jobin's nephew is the shop's operator in laying on the leaf. This too is a most interesting process, and the little shop offers as it were "a double bill" on the mornings when in addition to Jobin carving, the nephew is also at work gilding a finished angel or saint.
Part of the charm of mornings in the Jobin shop is the almost constantly changing subjects on which he is at work. Sometimes he chisels away on a Saint Anne, sometimes on the face or flowing robes of the blessed Vierge; at other times a triumphant angel with a trumpet, or a petitioning angel with folded wings, humbly kneeling.
One morning we dropped in to find him at work on an heroic-sized Christ-figure on the Cross. It was like coming on the old carver at his devotions. An holy silence pervaded the little shop. We dropped into the chair and upon the horse as silently as into a pew in church. Jobin carved by inspiration. No model stood in sight. Further, this old man of three-score, carved as one who has seen the Master very close and feels no need of outward suggestion. So the Old Masters must have painted, one thinks.
After a while, Jobin, resting, talked a little, quite easily. Then he began to work again continuing to speak now and then. The chisel gouged lightly back and forth and then with one of his worn hands he brushed away the shavings and critically eyed his work on the Face, to see if it told in its lines, so far as wood, or paint or marble, can, its Love, its wonderful Patience and its Strength.
As we sat watching in the quiet of that old shop, it was impossible to tell which spoke the more directly, the Figure as it slowly came to perfection or the childlike figure of the old Master-Carver bending so gently over the image of the Lord.
Not one, but several mornings, we came to watch. And as we watched and listened to the quiet voice of this old Quebec-carver, now nearing the end, it was in our heart to wish that all Canada could step over the threshold to witness this strange scene, wherein one of her forest trees in the hand of one of her talented sons, is metamorphosed from a tree into the Figure of the Saviour of the World.
ROMANCE AND THE TWO-WHEELED CART.
Two wheels are both leisurely….
ROMANCE AND THE TWO-WHEELED CART.
WO wheels are both leisurely and elegant. No doubt it was these considerations which in the beginning of Time decided Romance on riding in a two-wheeled cart. We cannot imagine Romance anything but leisurely. She lives where time stands still, yet paradoxically hitches to the wheels of Progress. It is true we cannot imagine the automobile or even the aeroplane without a four-wheel carriage. But it is equally difficult to think of either of these as leisurely. They are the symbols of speed and utility in a commercial age. Nevertheless, despite the new order of this age of speed, Romance, though not utterly ignoring car and plane, continues to ride in her old cart –
"Jiggity jog, jiggity jog!"
Bad roads, or no roads at all, never betray the ox or Dobbin into the ditch. "Get out and get under" is a song not in the two-wheeler's repertoire. Yet of course the slow-coach misses, as by a great gulf, the thrills which are the auto's and aeroplane's very own. So, between two or four, for the time being, honours are easy.
Yet to the two-wheeler must go the honour of pioneering transportation. With it began all life in Canada. And there are parts of the Dominion where two-wheels are still a people's dependence. All Eastern Canada still pins faith to the two-wheel cart, whether it be Quebec or dear old Nova Scotia or the far-away Islands of the Gulf. Big wheel or little wheel, or whether "cheval, chien or le boeuf" produces the motor power, Romance, in the East, still rides in the two-wheel cart.
It appears on every road. Where there are no roads it must go along as if there were one. Unless a forest obstructs no lesser obstacle can ever hope to turn one of these old carts from its objective.
One may tramp a country road in Quebec without seeing a sign of life. Then presently a speck heaves in sight on the distant horizon. Long before it can be "made out" intuition says, "It is a two-wheel cart".
As it comes towards you, its own individuality becomes more and more evident. You can distinguish it perhaps for the cart of the old woman from Saint Feréol who comes down once or twice a week to sell her pickings of wild framboise or mountain raspberries to berry-hungry Pilgrims-to-the-shrine-of-bonne-Saint Anne. For, shrewd old woman that she is, she knows that even "pilgrims" must eat.
This old weather-beaten French-woman and her cart from the hill country are well-known characters of the Beaupré road; and every woman having anything from a farm to sell, hails madame as she drives along, so that when this particular cart arrives in the town every village housewife is agog at her door to see what madame has brought them to-day "pour diner". And as for the cart itself, it overflows with beets and carrots, potatoes, maple sugar, a jar or two of honey; and, from the mass, struggling chickens gasping for breath. But "des oeufs et framboise" are all carefully protected under layers of cool leaves. Some morning we engage to ride back with madame when she has sold all her berries and what-not. We sit, one on the board beside the fat figure of madame, the other, on a box among the empty berry pails in the body of the cart. We ask madame how she got so many tins? "Du lard, mesdames, du lard", she responds quickly. Looking about on the heap of lard tins, it seems to us as if the mountain folk must buy lard just to get the tins for their berries.
At first the springless cart is a little too much of a good thing, but we soon get used to the jolting and then forget it in speculating on the sights and sounds of the road. That whirr and buzz is not bees but a spinning wheel at work. We look in at an open door and there is madame at the wheel. She and the market woman exchange a hearty bon jour. The houses are fairly close on this road. Scarely one is passed before another heaves in sight.
In some yards the hay-cart goes into the barn with a full load. In another there is heard the heavy thud, thud of the loom. From our high seat we can see right into the room where madame is at work, shuttle in hand, bobbins in basket, balls of yarn on the floor.
Then behind us comes the honk of an automobile. Neither Dobbin nor madame seems to have heard. Their sang froid is in no wise disturbed by the speeding motorist or the cloud of dust in which he envelops our cart as he flies past. It is not until we turn off the main highway, where the catcher-up-of-dust motor meant little more to madame than a summer whirlwind, that she and Dobbin rouse themselves to an interest in the road.
MANY OF THE SEATS IN THESE TINY CARTS ARE BUILT UP, SO THAT THE DRIVER SITS ABOVE HIS "HORSE".
BAD ROADS, OR NO ROADS AT ALL, NEVER BETRAY THE OX INTO THE DITCH.
The road here does two things. It goes off into deep woods and it begins to climb up and up. Madame gets down on her side of the cart. Simultaneously we fall out of it behind. Dobbin gets a drink at a cool spring. We wash hands and faces.
The old woman cries " Allez, allez", and Dobbin once more takes to the road, now leafy and sylvan but steep and winding, urged along with many an admonitory "marche, donc" from madame. This shade is very grateful to both Dobbin and his mistress after the hot morning in town vending berries.
It is such a road as the motorist down there would never think of attempting. There is now a look about Dobbin at one end and madame at the other of the worn leather harness and reins, and a something about the lines of the old weathered cart which bespeak the satisfaction of the master. Down there, the Ford had the road to himself. He flew over it. But up here, this perpendicularity belongs to this trio of the old, belongs to the two-wheel cart and the old French market woman.
Just for a moment down there, our heart went back on our conveyance. Our allegiance weakened. We said, "Oh, for a car!" But up here in this "land of the sky", where the road comes out on the mountainous brow of 'Tite de Cap and the gray St. Lawrence lies far below like a silver ribbon, the blue mountains of Northern New England against the southern sky, and away behind to the West, a smoke in the sky that is Quebec, our faith in the cart returns with smashing convincingness. The two-wheel cart's the thing!
When madame begins to stop in front of cottage gates to pay out of her deep pocket the proceeds of each morning sale and we hand out to eager hands the right number of lard tins going to repeat their mission as berry containers, to our minds nothing is wanting in the Romance which weaves itself about the scene and the figure of the old cart and its mistress.
But we must not ride forever in this mountain-climbing and thrifty "hope of the hills". Other carts are calling. Let us drift down stream on the bosom of the St. Lawrence, far out where it is "The Gulf", away past Prince Edward Island to the Magdalens. In this corner of Quebec the two-wheel cart is practically the only means of land transportation. These Island carts, like the islands themselves, overflow with originality and character. They are soft and full of the sea's wetness as they come toward us along the treeless, island-landscape. We notice, too, a difference in the horse. The Magdalens cart is drawn by an island pony. Mares are accompanied by shaggy colts, all legs, running beside the mothers, or following behind the cart, noses over the tail-board. When the load is a long mackerel boat going into winter quarters, after a season's fishing on a distant beach, it is indeed a strange procession, the up-hill-and-down road causing it now to heave in sight and now to disappear as if the boat still rode the mobile crests and valleys of the Gulf.
But the most romantic of all the carts is the procession across the long barachois, a winding procession crossing the sands – cart after cart – a Canadian caravan of the desert. All sorts of weird and bizarre shapes of dusk and distance and creeping sea-fog add to the romance of this strange train.
What takes the caravan into the desert? Not the trade in rich silks and carpets of far eastern looms or the bringing of precious stones from one mart to another, but a trade just the same – an individual and romantic trade peculiar to the Magdalens – the culling of the clam, the tiny, hard, white mollusc with as pretty lights in it as the pearl when it comes wet from the underseas sand-home out there where the wet sea-fog begins in the eye of the wind.
One may think the path-finding lead-cart of this caravan has nothing to do. But try to find your own way across these sands and you will soon be glad to follow along behind any old cart that heaves in sight, even if it is navigated by an old cow in harness. Out here the sea-wind licks up the sand and fills in and levels off landmarks just as the Scirocco levels off the shifting dunes of old Egypt.
Over there, there is the instinct of the camel, the desert knowledge of the man, and the light of the stars to guide – but out here on the sands of the Magdalens it is a woman's hand that holds the reins of the lead horse. Her cart may be made of bits of driftwood and in the half-barrel tub, in the waist of this semi-sea craft, a rusty three-pronged homemade digging fork, and a lantern by her side, may be the only gauges to a rising tide.
Could your eye follow the long caravan winding its way across the sands at night, lantern after lantern, a Will o' the wisp line of light and black figures in whose path lies the sinister quicksand, you must easily fall under the spell of this wet and mystical wraith of the night which, coming nearer, resolves itself into a succession of carts coming from or bound to the clamming.
Like light comedy, sunny and bright and tenderly human by contrast with the night caravan of the barachois is the scene of children of the Islands playing in the two-wheel cart next morning in the home yard. Elder brother plays Dobbin. Two garcons and a habitant maid occupy the driver's seat. Mother in Breton cap and ample apron gives confidence to the baby who fain would ride too, but fears the big adventure. Another year, however, and he will ride with the boldest....
At Percé the two-wheel cart is a beach character. Sometimes "le cheval", but just as often "le boeuf", comes swinging along over the beach shingles and sand with the cart for codfish heads. Nowhere but among coastal folk is the codfish head either available or prized as garden fertilizer. Tradition says that our forefathers learned the value of the buried codfish as fertilizer from the Indians. The fish-guano of trade is ground into a powder. But old-timers of the seacoast let nature do her own pulverizing. They bury or half bury the heads which are now the only part of the fish spared to the land. Every old woman's turnip or potato bed hereabouts rests on a but partly concealed foundation of heads. Every afternoon when the boats come in from sea with fish you can watch the old men and boys coming with their carts to spear up with pitchforks the residue of the splitting-tables. And when it is not heads that are up, it is a load of seaweed they are after. The sea can always contribute something with which to make or enrich a garden.
Between the Government pier and the renowned Percé Rock, after a heavy bit of weather from the North, the beach is strewn with a carpet of algae rich in the chemicals "good for the garden". Truly there are "subjects" galore awaiting the artist in Canada!
All these carts mentioned are big and are found anywhere on the coast. The dog-cart is tiny and is especially of Quebec. For three hundred years the dog-cart has been reigning in Quebec. When one hears the habitant talk of "le chien", one may be quite sure the subject is the dog which draws a cart. There is no other dog known thus generally to the whole countryside. Most of these little carts are homemade affairs, and, strange to say, unlike the larger carts, usually have springs. Many of the seats in these tiny carts are built up, so that the driver sits above his "horse". Many of the carts are fitted with iron foot-rests which fall below the body of the cart. This arrangement is handy when the driver happens to be a tall man. The driver and rider in a dogcart is not always a child as might be supposed. In Quebec labourers ride to their work of a morning in a dog-cart. Sometimes the load is as much as the dog can navigate, but having deposited his master at mill or factory he is free to roam all day until closing time, when he must be on hand to carry his master home again. For many miles they come, these little carts and but for the dog how would the workman get to his work? The dogcart is by no means a toy. It serves a phase of Canadian life and helps along Canadian business.
Another phase of the dogcart life is seen at noon when from all around the countryside dogcarts foregather bringing to the workmen hot dinners the wives have cooked. It is a sight to behold when thirty or forty of these little wagons dash along the Saint Gregoire highway at noon bound for the cotton mill at Montmorenci Falls. The driver in each cart is now a small boy and, dinner or no dinner, there is sure to be a race as to who gets there first. The dogs look as if they enjoyed the sport as much as the boys. Coming back, the children take their time, there being no hurry to get back to home and play with the empty pail.
In many parts of Quebec the dogcart is often enough the perambulator of the smallest member of the "grande famille". Older children, in these cases, usually go ahead of the dog which follows drawing in his tiny cart the little monarch of the household and the road. On all boyish adventures the dog comes in, with the cart. Of course, there are dogs and dogs, even here. Some are finer and sturdier than others and none are thoroughbred but all are suitable for their work in the little cart. And it is surprising what loads they can pull. All the carts are constructed so that little weight comes on the dog.
Such scenes along the Quebec highway where dogcarts may even be seen taking a bag of mail from train to post office, carry one back to similar scenes in old France and Belgium. But in the outlying districts the dogcart's chief use is for bringing in firewood, in some instances from the handy pile in the yard, but usually in the form of boughs from the scrub of the sea-coast, or the distant hills.
The highest form of the two-wheeler, however, though perhaps not any more picturesque than its humbler brethren, is of course the caleche. The caleche was the earliest voiture of seigneury times. It had a period of great popularity. Jaunty in line, it swayed with every rut, in the day of the bad road. Then the more elaborate four-wheeler was brought in from both England and France and the caleche fell into disuse, soon almost entirely disappearing from 'the Quebec highway. A few lone remnants of former glory now appear daily before the Hotel Frontenac, picking up an occasional "fare". Someone with enough of the romantic spirit left will wish to see Quebec, city of the Intendents, revert to the vehicle used in that day. Nevertheless, though the caleche has practically died out, even at this moment, darkest in its history, there comes word that it is to have its renaissance; one more proof that Romance still lives in the hearts of modern life; one more proof that the two-wheel cart of Romance is still a prime favourite with this old world, which is more than ever a-wheel.
BUBBLE, BUBBLE, BUBBLE.
From early spring….
BUBBLE, BUBBLE, BUBBLE.
ROM early spring until late in the fall, by every highway and by-path of rural Quebec, and almost as generally in Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, the visitor happens upon many a housewife turning into multitudinous service a great iron pot or cauldron, neatly suspended from a log, or perched skilfully between two heaps of field-stones.
These wayside cauldrons of eastern Canada, with their constant fires, and their contents always "a-bubble, bubble, bubble", unlike the witches' pot on the heath of auld Scotia with its song of "trouble", are to the countryside emblematical not of disaster but of a wonderful domestic prowess that is far-reaching indeed in its scope and effect upon national life.
For although many of these wayside pots look common-place affairs in themselves, the crudest and least artistic of them represents the individuality and the effort of some man or woman who stands behind it, who fathers the thought of it and the work it is intended to aid in accomplishing.
Even when you pass one of these out-of-doors pots, whose fires are extinct until wash-day or dyeing day comes round again, you unconsciously feel at once through the pot's suggestion that in that little farm-house, over there by the barn, dwells a woman with initiative; some strong capable soul – some mother of invention – who turns every simple object at her command into a tool of service.
Investigation of the pots in active service reveals a long list of different works which this one utensil is able to accomplish. The Quebec habitant woman graciously informs madame, that by means of the pot she accomplishes the great wash for her "grande famille", and that in it she dyes her home-grown wool clipped from the sheep grazing over there on the Laurentian hillsides. After every operation she scrubs the interior of the pot thoroughly, so that though one day it accomplishes the dyeing, the next it may be used to heat the water for M'sieu to convert the big porker into winter meat for the family, etc.
Madame's faith in the great pot is expressed in her tones. To her mind the pot is indispensable on every well-regulated farm, an absolute necessity in every household. The very children take it for granted. The wood-pile and the pot-by-the-running-brook are to them as natural objects of the landscape as the blue mountains or La Chute de Montmorenci.
Moreover, the pots are more than this in their enfant days. The youngest child of Old Quebec looks upon work avec plaisir. To little French Canadian children, what we are pleased to call "work", is the highest form of play. Every child, and nearly every grown-up, loves to build and keep going, a wood-fire out-of-doors. The great pots of Quebec and Nova Scotia give children an opportunity to serve at a fire and to serve with pleasure. They run about and gather the chips and the flotsam and jetsam yielded by the nearby stream, or fallen branches from the trees, while an older girl pushes the various contributions of wood into the bright and cheery bonfire under the pot that, with the strange faculty of inanimate things, often takes on a look of enjoying it all as much as the children. Thus, wash-day or soap-making day becomes to these eastern households a sort of picnic. Many hands make light work, and madame of the grande famille of sixteen or eighteen children accomplishes her wash of seventy-five to a hundred pieces with signal ease and entirely without complaint through the pot's assistance – the pot that hangs under the blue skies above the glowing coals – the out-of-door pot that magnetizes the willing hands of normal children.
A WAYSIDE POT.
Dye-pots, wash-pots, soap-pots are essentially and quite naturally enough presided over by women. These things come under "women's work". Such pots, as I have hinted above, have their positions determined by the presence of some small brook that runs through the farm. The place of the pot, of necessity, follows the vagaries of the brook. ("If the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain".) Thus it follows that the eastern Canadian wayside pot may be situated near the house or several hundred yards away, in some pasture through which the brook flows. The pot is carried to the water, but the water is never brought to the pot, which is a thing to remember. Canadian women are canny! And, the farther away from home the pot stands, the more of a picnic soap-making day becomes for both mother and children. The ways of these wayside pots are past finding out to the casual man or woman driving over these rural ribbon-roads of the Laurentides, unless this is remembered. For one pot may be so close to the road as to cause his horse to shy, while the next may be off in a field with no house in sight, and still another may be lost to sight down some stony river-gorge, the ascending smoke alone telling the tale. But, apart from the dye-pots and their sisters, there is yet another class of pot found near the coast regions, pots that play an equally important part in the upbuilding of Canadian life. These are the tar-pots, the lead-pots, the seal-oil pots, etc., necessary to the fishing industry of our extensive Gulf of St. Lawrence and Atlantic coast. These pots differ, too, from the first class, in that these are presided over by men and boys. From Percé to Digby, the shore-road throughout its many hundreds of miles via Cape North and Halifax is "the way of the out-of-door pot" no less than "the road of fish".
When the magnitude and the significance of this is realized, it is easily seen that these out-of-doors pots hold in their iron sides considerable power over national industries and national life.
The sea-side pot is a sort of freelance. It is a man's affair, often wearing a sort of devil-may-care expression, no doubt produced by environment. When the Nor'easter freshens to a gale it may strike the old pot abeam, just as at sea it strikes his master's schooner. But the pot never capsizes any more than the schooner's seams, which the tar-pot tarred, open. So the old pot squints an eye to windward and laughs in the face of the dun cloud and the freezing spume, knowing the dory will come again to him for tar.
What fisherman can go after King Cod or any other fish without "a sinker," and a heavy one, for his deep-water lines?
So the beach-pot is also a lead-pot. Any bit of lead, sheet-lead that lines tea-boxes, any old scrap however small, the old-timer saves and consigns to the magic pot.
The king of the sea-board pots, in point of size is the dye-pot, in use for cooking the concoction of spruce-bark employed to dye the seines the pretty art-brown, which coast-fishermen consider the perfection of camouflage against the piercing "submarine eye" of the silver herring – so necessary as bait.
A pot of net a-soak, or men and boys spreading the wet net from the pot on the beach-stones to dry, is a common sight on any fishing-beach of the Maritime Provinces.
These pots presided over by the men are never kept as neat as the inland out-of-door pot presided over by the women and children of the family, but their usefulness is by no means inferior.
Up in the Bay of Fundy, nature in the great tides of that region aids the work of the tar-pot. When the tide goes out, leaving the bottoms of the plaster-carriers bound New Yorkward hard-and-dry, then the tar-pot, aiding the indispensable oakum of the caulker, closes once for all and to a certainty, the seams that open, insuring the delivery of the cargo, aiding in its humble way the success of Canadian trade, no less than the tar-pot of the Atlantic coast and its brother-worker the lead-pot aid Canadian production.
The seal-oil pot of Les Iles des Madeleines approaches nearest to our idea of the witches' cauldron. Standing on a narrow sandpit by the road to Havre Aubert, the black-smoke and the dancing figure of the man stirring the oil, the odour, and the gray sea, a stone's throw away on either hand, make a dramatic picture such as, I am sure, would be encountered on no other highway in the world.
Making things out….
AKING things out of wood" seems to be a "gift" with the Quebecquois. But wood-carving is not confined to Quebec, although possibly it occurs more generally in that Province than in any other.
All Canada sponsors "woodcarving" in her sons, because of the generous supply of wood everywhere, with the exception of the Prairie Provinces. And even these may easily obtain it from their generous sister Provinces East and West.
Down Nova Scotia way a man seems to concentrate better if he has a bit of wood in hand to whittle. And as his thoughts are concerned more or less with the sea; almost without thinking the bit of wood in his hand becomes a little model of a boat or a schooner, an oar, or a miniature mast. The wooden-ship was cradled in the fingers of these old-timers. Her spars may have been contributed by British Columbia, but what of that. Is not British Columbia, Canada's Maritimer, too? So it is, from coast to coast.
Quebec's carving is of a more domestic nature. M'sieu builds a house, a little maison with "lines", mais oui. In his conception and execution, there is a certain deftness purely French. He carves some original design in the piece of wood over window and door-frame, pointing and panelling it to fancy, and afterwards painting it some pretty colour – strong reds, blues and yellows – striking a bizarre harmony, attractive enough; especially when Madame puts a piece of Royal-blue wall-paper, sprinkled with gold fleur-de-lys inside the windows as shade.
Down the north shore of the Saint Lawrence one meets little girls hugging in their arms long sticks of firewood, which ingenious grandpere has carved into "dolls", life-size; and to which he has nailed shapely arms, terminating in rather wooden hands.
The face has been made more life-like with a touch of paint, carried out in the hands too, if there happened to be enough to go round. There are no elbow-joints, but the arms turn at the shoulders most ingeniously on the old nail. And the child who possesses such as one among dolls, always wears a happy smile on the little, frank, French face of her, as she totes the heavy stick across the grain-field-path, the waving ears almost higher than her head and she the envy of every other child in the village.
For the boy, there is the toy-boat, or the miniature warship, from the same source – the rough log from the woodpile..... When M'sieu throws the axe over his shoulder and goes off into the woods to cut firewood invariably he returns with some old root that has struck his fancy and in which he sees a latent "figure" of some sort. So, up on the highland road to Murray Bay one happens on many a farmer who whittles pipe-bowls from the little roots; and on the Lowland road before it becomes highland the big root resembling a moose's head, is the prop of many a stack of firewood.
Everywhere there is the universal, homemade, wooden Cross and the handcarved symbol of the Crucifixion standing by all roads.
Every graveyard in Quebec, whether it be in the Laurentides section, clear against the sky with the Saint Lawrence a panorama at its feet, or whether it be some Indian graveyard, boasts its hand-carved wooden head-and-foot pieces and, of course, the big central wooden cross.
These wooden memorials of the graveyard are frequently very artistic. The figure of an Angel in silhouette and life-size, with shoes and stockings, encountered in one cemetery, appears especially adapted to the Paradis it would have the passing world remember. Somewhere in that district there lives a man with the instinct of the sculptor; yet he works in wood. And the pity of wood is that it is so very perishable. In a year or two at most, the elements take these wooden memorials in hand to their destruction, and that is the reason stone is now almost universally taking the place of these old-timers.
But to return to the houses! Much of the furniture of the farmhouse is handmade. Tables, with sliding tops, which allow the table to be converted into a comfortable chair, are the pride of many a habitant housewife. And, of course, there are the loom and the spinning-wheel, with its accompanying shuttles and bobbins, all handmade.
But this woodcarving is an art that, though so common in Quebec, recognizes no Provincial limitations; and so for the climax of profane carving as against the religious subjects, say, of Monsieur Jobin, we must go down into New Brunswick and interview Rogerson the master Figure-head carver of Saint John.
CALL OF THE SEA.
THE FIGURE ON THE BOW.
Rogerson is a Scotchman. As you look into his keen blue eyes it is difficult to realize that eighty-three years have intervened since he first saw the light of day. He came to Canada in one of the old sailing ships that held the Atlantic passenger trade 'tween-decks seventy years ago. One of the sweetest word-pictures ever listened to, Rogerson sketched, of his old mother cooking their meals on deck in the brick fire-place included in the culinary appointments of the Atlantic trip in those days. Soon after his arrival in Canada his father died, and he was apprenticed to an uncle, a master figurehead carver of Saint John, about 1850. Figuring it out, it would seem that for a hundred years at least, there have been figurehead carvers of this one family in the old city of Saint John, that, with Halifax, is Canada's Twin-Gate to the Atlantic.
When Rogerson had completed his time as an apprentice and worked awhile with his uncle, "he felt", to use his own words, "that he was repeating himself." So he gathered up his tools and went off with them over his shoulder to Boston, much as any ambitious art-student, whatever his chosen medium, hies him to Paris. Boston, in those days, was the centre of the sailing-ship trade in America. "Out o' Boston" sailed the "clippers" in the China trade. Rogerson tells how at evening, after his day's work was done, he used to go along the docks from ship to ship studying "The Figure on the Bow." And he tells, too, how he worked for first one leading firm and then another of the master figurehead carvers of old Boston till he himself presently stood in the first ranks, able to turn out any figure on demand in red-hot time. "Skippers couldn't wait in those days", he adds. And even as he talks you see that his memory has reverted to the time when "sails" must need jump when winds and tide beckoned." Then having learned all that he could in Boston, he returned with high hopes and the skill and confidence of the "Master-Carver" in his fingers, to the business-opening he recognized in Saint John, with all the new ships a-building on Bay of Fundy "ways", at Parrsboro, Windsor, Hantsport and, who knows how many more of the old bay's outports.
And now he follows with such a list of Figureheads, as seems incredible, until one recalls Rogerson's long span of life, and that he worked "in red-hot time." Among those standing to the credit of this Saint John carver "The Highland Laddie", "The British Lion", "Ingomar", "Governor Tilley", "The Sailor Boy", "Honolulu", and "Lalla Rookh," held high place. About each, Rogerson relates some interesting legend. Of his "Sailor Boy" he tells how a man came into his shop some years after it was carved and told him he had a rival carver somewhere – that "there was a ship out in the harbour with the finest figurehead on it he had ever seen!" This haunted him so, that next day he closed the shop, got a boat and rowed out to the vessel. On coming round her bow, there, above the waves and himself, stood his own figurehead!
Of "The British Lion", he says, "It was a rouser!"
The ship that bore Governor Tilley at the bow had a long and successful career, but was at last wrecked on the Norwegian coast. Through one of those mysterious channels of Marine Intelligence, that sailors on the waterfront know, Mr. Rogerson learned that though the ship was a total wreck the figurehead was salvaged, and that his "Governor Tilley" now stands in a Museum in Norway; and Rogerson thinks that it should be brought back to Saint John.
The "Lalla Rookh" he had not seen since it left his hand to sail forth upon the high seas till we showed him a photograph of it obtained while the ship, at whose bow it stood, loaded deal at West Bay, near Parrsboro, for the trenches of France. To think it was so near and yet this old carver did not see it! Yet it pleased his old heart to know that "she" was still afloat and carrying-on in the hazardous runs across the Atlantic, with only sails and the courageous spirit symbolized by the figure on the bow to aid her against enemy submarines submarines, the last word in sea-craft. It was on the "Lalla Rookh" that Frank T. Bullen served his apprenticeship as sailor.
Of the "Ingomar" Rogerson says: "I always think it was my finest piece of work. Strange to say," he continues "I have no photograph or even rough sketch of it. It was to be, I suppose, for the ship that bore it was wrecked near here in the Bay. I went out to see the figurehead and found it had escaped damage and I made every arrangement to return and take it off; but the very next day a gale of wind came up and when the gale abated not a vestige of my figurehead remained."
"Old-timers among ship-owners had fads for names", Rogerson says. "Sometimes it ran to Indians, sometimes to mythological figures, sometimes to reigning sovereigns; at other times to their own wives or daughters, or to some popular man about town, or to a popular governor, etc." Among his Indian figureheads he recalled "The Indian Chief", "The Indian Queen", "Pocahontas", "Hiawatha".
When fancy ran to the name of the ship-owner's wife or to those of well-known persons, the figurehead carver worked from a favourite photograph, so that some old figureheads of this type are in fact sculptured figures of the people themselves, people who in most instances have long since passed away. The "Governor Tilley" figurehead is a case in point and Rogerson is right in saying it belongs to New Brunswick rather than to Norway.
Rogerson's last piece of work was a labour of love. Not many years ago he took a trip to Scotland to see the place of his birth and to revisit the scenes of his early childhood. While in Scotland he collected, here and there, a number of pieces of fine woods from old historic buildings, etc., and these he brought back to Saint John, where in his leisure moments he designed and carved therefrom a beautiful chair, which he presented to the Saint Andrew's Society, in whose assembly-rooms it now stands.
Slish – squish!….
LISH – squish!
Who is it comes so swiftly down the snowy highway? Who is it cuts "eights", "eighty-eights" and Paisley patterns, among the snowbound trees of the northern Canadian forests? Who tames the wild, free, northern country into proper service? Who follows the fur-bearing animals to the death far in these same northern wilds? Who but the man on snow-shoes? And who makes snowshoes?
Dropping down for a week at Indian Lorette in the Province of Quebec we found "rooms" in a very quaint, steep-roofed, old house in the Indian village by the Falls of Lorette where dwell the last of the Hurons.
There we came and went – idling the mid-summer days – down the little lanes in slow and friendly fashion; coming upon children at their games; women in door-yards sewing or embroidering moccasins, ornamenting them with fancy designs in dyed moose-hair and porcupine quills; stepping into rooms where small groups of men, and occasionally a woman, were building canoes; chancing into still other rooms where men were at work making – snow-shoes.
"Oui, oui, m'sieu, madame, the Hurons of Indian Lorette 'tis they who make the snow-shoes."
And, who are these Hurons – makers of the moccasin, the canoe, the snow-shoe?
"Oh, m'sieu, madame, what will you in one leetle week?"
But at the same time, a week in Lorette is a long time if one gives every moment to it, as we did, scarcely stealing a moment for dejeuner or diner.
The Indian Village that proves itself only partly French, despite its French name, since it utterly refuses to follow one long street, is neither all French nor all Indian, but resembles some little escaped English garden romancing as the capital city of the Hurons – nine miles by the Lake St. John Road out of the city of Quebec.
The English lanes of Indian Lorette all seem to convene at the old church. And that too, strangely enough, gives one the impression of an English village church. Perhaps it is the green in front, with the old George III. cannon, that village tradition says "came here after the Crimea". At any rate "the English atmosphere" is there. But the resemblance blends into old Jesuit, once we cross the threshold. If Angleterre speaks in the cannon without, m'sieu, the dulcet voice of France charms as sweetly within. First, we must see "the little house of the Angels", let into the wall, high above the altar. It is not very big but great significance attaches to it, for this little house was used as an object lesson by diplomatic missionary priests of the early days to drive home to the Indian mind the sanctity of the home and the value of the centralizing agency of a house as against the tepee.
"It is a little figure of the house of our Saviour and Mary, his mother," an elderly Huron woman told us in a half-whisper, "and some bad men stole it, one time, and the people prayed and prayed; and one morning, they got up, and the little house was back. The Angels had brought it in the night."
It is a dear little house in old dull blues; and somewhere about it, lines of ashes-of-roses melt in with the blue, and there's a little touch of real old gold to give values. A bit of art in its simplicity, is this little house from France, the "house of the Angels", that won a tribe to architecture and – higher things.
I think the Angels did bring it!
I think, too, they tempered the wind to the shorn lamb in sending "Louis D'Ailleboust, Chevalier, troisième gouverneur de la Nouvelle France" to be, as the crested tablet on the opposite walls says, "Ami et protecteur des Hurons".
Born at Ancy in 1612, "the friend and protector of the Hurons'' died at Ville Marie "en la Nouvelle France, en mai, 1660". So reads the third Governor's life history as here quaintly but all too briefly written.
One could spend hours in this little church, so French within, so English without; weaving with its souvenirs pages of history! For there are many treasures locked up carefully in the sacristy – anciennes pièces of hand-wrought church-silver from France, and many rich embroideries and a priest-robe wrought by the hand of court ladies and presented by the queen of Louis Quatorze. "Ah, oui, oui, madame, c'est magnifique!" In detail – but who cares for detail? It is sufficient that these valuable relics of olden days are here for our modern eyes to look upon on a summer day, greatly enriching our experience. Nevertheless, who would expect this sort of treasure in Indian Lorette?
To the left of the little "international" church lies the old burying ground where at dusk one parching summer evening we came upon the graceful figure of little Marie watering the precious flowers growing on her "family" graves – graves with the curious "wooden" head-stones – so popular all through rural Quebec – made by the local carpenter or some member of the family who is also something in the way of a woodcarver.
As all Lorette roads lead to l'eglise, so they ramble their lane-like ways away from it, wandering first by the little village grocery occupying a cottage – once an old homestead and neat as a new pin – picking a tree-lined way between little whitewashed maisons in yards, flower-filled, up to a grande maison with steep pretentious French roof, vine-covered porch and dormer windows – a house that was once an H.B.C. Post, according to village tradition. One can readily believe it. To speak briefly, it shows the "hall-mark". Nevertheless its pretentious dimensions are as much of a surprise here in Indian Lorette as the exquisite embroideries of l'eglise, to which all that this house suggests of frontier life, when this was the frontier, appears so entirely opposed, and yet, of course, was not.
For in the "olde days" a strange unity often existed between phases of life apparently wide apart, giving zest and ambition to adventure and investing commerce and the early church with the halo of a dramatic interest that still clings.
All over the British Empire are nooks with these touches – the union of the truly great of time and circumstance with little places. Canada appears especially rich and happy in the possession of innumerable villages and towns of this description. One has but to follow "the trail" to discover them everywhere.
The atmosphere of Indian Lorette is not all of the dead and gone variety. "Non, m'sieu, Lorette is still – a stage in the limelight."
It is "a stage" that has moved forward its appointments in a truly marvellous and skilful fashion so as to link up "the Canada of all time". For nothing we could name so bespeaks the true spirit of Canada in one breath as do the things found here in Indian Lorette in the full swing of production – the snowshoe, the moccasin and – the canoe.
The canoe, especially is a motif – a giant pattern gliding powerfully through the very warp and woof of the land. To go back – modifications of the canoe were here long before the Norsemen or Cabot or Columbus. To go forward – who can foresee the canoeless day?
So, stepping up to a Lorette door and over the threshold, to happen upon a bright, berry-eyed, deft-fingered woman with sure and certain strokes tacking a canvas over the frame of a canoe, the boat that typifies Canada, was like coming unannounced upon the spirit personality of the land itself.
Ma'am'selle was all graciousness; at the same time artist enough not to lay down her tools but kept at work as she talked – tapping punctuations with her little hammer that had a character of its own, taken on by age and much use.
"Mais oui." Many years she had worked at the canoe-making "avec mon père." "Mais certainement" she liked it.
"Difficile? Mais non."
The canvas went on as we watched – then the stem-bands. Ma'am'selle worked quickly but without haste, after the manner of an old hand. The stem-bands in place ma'am'selle rested and began to talk again.
"Would we not see the beginnings?"
"Oui? Then upstairs, mesdames." This invitation was accompanied by a slight bow and a sweep with the hammer in hand towards a little pine-board stairs. And up we went to make the acquaintance of le bateau itself in its "beginnings".
Have you seen a canoe in the making – the swift manipulations, the decided, skilful movements, in which every stroke counts? Have you seen the surety of the French-Huron hand at work at this inherited trade, how fingers, guided as if by magic, lay the thin, slim boards in place; how the knives swish through the wood at the desired length; how the little plane disappears in the maze of shavings it has created? A tap here, a nail there and the last plank is on. – A moment ago, it was a board lying on a bench. Now, it is – a canoe!
If you have thus watched, then you know the sensation, as we do, of having beheld a clever trick performed without knowing how it is done. For to say the least, canoe-making at Indian Lorette is a fascinating bit of sleight of hand! Ma'am'selle says it takes two days to build a canoe. But the preparations – oh yes, that takes much longer.
We inquired as to the market, where they were sold. At this ma'am'selle contracted her shoulders in a French shrug, threw out her hands – still holding the hammer in the right – and cried, "Mais oui – all over Canada.''
Hand-and-glove with canoes and snowshoes goes the moccasin. The moccasin in Indian Lorette is an old, old story – as well as an elaborate one – real and flourishing to-day. It was a surprise to us to find that the Hurons still wear them, in lieu of shoes, about their daily business. Men and women pass silently up and down these little lanes, with no need of rubber heels, where the sole is like velvet.
The tannery lies across the bridge above the famous "Falls of Lorette". In the tannery yards moose-hides from the Canadian northland flap in the wind, side by side with "hides" from Singapore. (For moccasin making here is a business big enough to call for imported skins.) And yet "the factory" is small, because most of the moccasin making is done in the homes. The cutting, cutters and machines are at "the shop" but the artistic embroideries in coloured beads and porcupine quills grow under the skillful touch of women and girls sitting on their vine-clad, tree-shaded balconies or making purchases from the butcher's or baker's cart in the shady lanes, moccasin in hand.
In this way moccasins enter into the home life of this "remnant of the Hurons" in a most intimate fashion. Even in the days of their prosperity as a tribe the number of moccasins made never equalled the trade of to-day. Nor was the market so large or so far-flung. One hears half a million pairs spoken of with equanimity. One is surprised that so many moccasins find their way to the woods and boudoirs of Canada and the United States; surprised, too, that the Indians have made good to such an extent from the commercial angle, creating, as it were, their own market.
Followed through all its quills and fancies, it is a pretty, homely story. But after all it is a story that brings one back to the people themselves. The chief is Monsieur Picard, residing in the old Hudson's Bay Company house. He is a young man who saw service in France. The ex-grand chief – M. Maurice Bastien of maturer years – is actually the ruling power. Chief Bastien belongs to "the old school" is very dignified, quiet, stands on ceremony, is the real head of the moccasin industry and has the gift of entertaining. He has an exceedingly pleasing personality and can carry solemn functions through to a successful issue. All the responsibility of doing the honours of the tribe to distinguished visitors falls to him. It is he who owns the precious wampum and the invaluable silver medals, gifts of distinguished sovereigns to himself and predecessors in office – one medal from King George III, one from Louis Quinze of France, one from King George IV, two from the late Queen Victoria.
Monsieur Bastien lives in a fine house tastefully furnished. On the table in the parlour stands a photograph of Philippe, Comte de Paris, in a blue vellum frame, a simple gold fleur-de-lys at the top. The Comte presented his photograph to Chief Bastien's father who was the grandchief on the occasion of the Comte's visit to Lorette.
There are many other valuable souvenirs but we liked best an old oil painting of the pioneer days, showing Hurons approaching, as visitors, the Ursuline Convent in Quebec. As a work of art it is probably of little value, but its theme – its theme, m'sieu, il parle.
As Monsieur Bastien talks of the past while graciously showing his visitors all these souvenirs, including his own feathered head-dress and the blue coat with its time-faded brocade which he wears on state occasions, he has the true story-teller's art of making the times and occasions live again, so that through the ages you see the long procession of great families – Siouis, Vincents, Picards, Bastiens – from the earliest time down to the present – hunters, makers of the moccasin, the canoe, the snowshoe.
You see them off in the northern wilds of the Laurentides hunting the skins that enabled them to fill British Government contracts every fall for several years after 1759 for several thousand pairs of snowshoes, caribou moccasins and mittens for the English regiments garrisoning the citadel of Quebec.
A Sioui is still the central figure in the making of snowshoe frames. Siouis and Vincents are still keen on the chase. 'Tis they who in season guide the sportsman from over the border to the haunts of the moose and truite rouge, ensuring plenty of sport.
But at this season of the year the Huron of Indian Lorette is off on his homemade snowshoes far in the silences of the great fur country and the timber lands of Northern Quebec working for a living – "hunting the fur and the big log, m'sieu".
THE ABENAKI BASKET-MAKERS.
It is the proud boast….
THE ABENAKI BASKET-MAKERS.
T is the proud boast of the people of Pierreville on the St. Francois river, on the south side of the St. Lawrence, that there is no bridge other than the railroad bridges over any river between Pierreville and Montreal, and that if you desire to cross any of these rivers you must do so on the picturesque ferry-scow which m'sieu the ferryman, guides over the calm water, mirroring reflections on every hand, on a wire-cable cleverly seized by him in the snapping jaw of a sort of a wooden monkey-wrench.
We "called the ferry" at this Twickenham of Canada for the first time in August and set up house-keeping in a cottage on the main street of the village of Odanak just at the point where the street comes out on the high bank overlooking the river St. Francois. So that to watch the upper ferry from our front porch became a daily amusement.
Pierreville and Odanak adjoin each other but enjoy separate post-offices. Pierreville is the French-Canadian town and Odanak the village of the Abenakis. Our "maison" was a sort of boundary line, I believe. Odanak when translated, we were told by the Episcopal clergyman, means "Our Village", so what with the picturesque ferry and literary suggestions of Miss Mitford in "Our Village" name, our August camping-ground became atmospheric at once.
But wherever there are Indians they take the centre of the stage and hold it. Odanak is "Our Village" to the Abenakis. And as far as I know it is the only home-village in the possession of what is left of these people.
The Abenakis were the "original Yankees". They came to the banks of the St. Francois from Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts. If you wish to know more about their interesting past read "Histoire d' Abenakis, depuis 1605 jusqu'a nos jours, par L'Abbe J. A. Maurault". It is a thick volume and makes a pleasant tale to read by a roaring fireside of a winter evening. But this present sketch deals with the living present – the Abenakis of "our day" from the human interest angle.
Just as the Hurons of Lorette are snowshoe, canoe and moccasin-makers, the Abenakis are sweet-grass basket-makers. And their market? Mais oui – all over Canada – east and west – , north and south, and the United States. Rumour says that the turnover to the village and region from the baskets is in the neighbourhood of $250,000 a year. Men, women and children work at this basket industry. There is no factory. It is all pleasant homework. Women at work sit on their porches. Housewives ply their fingers in the kitchen, picking up the basket, as other women pick up knitting. Little children braid the grass over backs of chairs in the door of the little play-tent on the lawn. Schoolgirls make pin-money at it. Neighbours gossip in dooryards, basket in hand.
Baskets talk in the grocery and dry-goods shops in Pierreville as successfully as money. If a man or a woman needs a little change, he or she takes a basket in hand and comes back with the silver. It was a happy discovery when the founders of this people trekking it to Canada came by chance on the original grass growing on islands in the river. It was a still luckier turn of fate that prompted some old squaw to dry it as a simple herb and in so doing – though she must have been disappointed from the herbal point of view – to learn the astounding fact that dried, the grass gave forth a pleasing odour – that it was – in her simple language – "sweet".
So simple a discovery as this, and determination to put it to use, is the Abenaki's stock-in-trade. Out of it he has built up a quarter-of-a-million dollar business. And he now farms the grass as do more or less all the French farmers of this neighbourhood, because the business has grown to such an extent that the natural supply is not enough. The only part of the basket taken in hand by the men is the preparation of the splint from the big log. The only factory (?) for this work stood across the street from our door. It was merely a neat yard with a board top for shade. Here every morning two big ash logs were pounded with the head of a wood-axe until the layers or rings of the tree's growth could be stripped off. Little by little these strips were made thinner by a man who separated the ends of each strip and tore them asunder, through their entire length, by means of two small boards held between his knees.
Other men ran the strips through a planing machine. Two keen steel teeth in a board, paralleled the required width, and the wooden ribbon rolled into a bolt was ready for both the market and the dye-pot of madame. I should not be surprised if this is the only factory of its kind on this continent. Certainly it is the only one with Abenaki labour – and Abenaki atmosphere throughout. Its counterpart has been here a long time. Its beginnings reach back very far into Canadian history.
"POUR MADAME'S BOUDOIR."
THE TWICKENHAM OF CANADA.
Visiting the dyer, madame, swishing her ribbons into her pots of boiling dyes and out again even as you watch, speaks with regret, and if she is an old-timer, with genuine sorrow, at the passing of the old homemade dye of which her Indian forbears knew so well the secret. "Those dyes", she says in her soft English voice full of the plaintive tones of the red man, and rich with memories of the past, "those dyes were beautiful! and, oh, we could get such lovely colours with them! Oh, but now we couldn't make the dyes. It would take too much, and so we use the store dyes. And of course we are very glad to get them. But the old colours were lovely."
And in dreams, you can see, she still beholds the pinks and blues of other days. And herein lies what for her is the tragedy of the larger trade.
However, the younger woman snapping the ribbons into splint-lengths with her sharp scissors has no regrets. She holds up for inspection the spokes of the bottom-wheel. "Six colours, madame," says she – "yellow, purple, vivid green, light blue, red and then pink."
But the wheel turning in her hand like the wheel of fortune, brings us around to the grass again without which there can be no basket.The grass is a story in many chapters spreading out to the countryside and, crossing the river, trailing its way through St. Francois du Lac, the large town facing Pierreville, out to the French farms bordering the high-road to popular Abenaki Springs, where summer visitors go "to drink the waters" and idle away the summer days.
The grass is grown in a bed. When grown it stands up in long wisps two to three feet high. Pulled while still green, girls of the farm-family clean it of decaying leaves but do not bother to clip any clinging roots because these hold the plant together better for the braiding. Apparently it is wilted or dried only a few days when the "tresseuse" takes it in hand. All down both sides of the river thousands of miles of this grass-braid is turned out. Winter and summer the braiding goes on. We saw them braiding away in August – the same hands are braiding to-night. Abenaki fingers learned the A.B.C. of it in 1685 when they erected their wigwams on the east bank of the river and here in the year 1922 they are still – braiding.
The "braid", of later years, has grown to be a business in itself. French farm-families of the neighborhood often grow the grass and braid it. Then they make it up in hanks or echeveaux, and retail it to the basket-weavers in Pierreville and Odanak. An Abenaki who can make more baskets than she can grow grass for, is very glad to invest a little capital in the hanks, as she also invests in the rolls of wooden ribbon from the factory.
The Abenakis, despite all the work being done in the homes, are a very neat people. They are nearly all well-to-do. Even if they do put all their dependence in one – basket! So far it has proved a very safe investment yielding a high rate of interest. They mostly all own splendid little homes, some quite fine houses in spacious grounds.
"Our village" is as sweet a village as old Quebec affords anywhere! Its main street is shaded by tall and stately old trees. In the centre of the village and situated in a grove on the high bank overlooking the river is their fine church, a simple yet dignified and peaceful little place of worship.
Father de Gonzaque, the curé, is himself of Abenaki descent and a most genial man. Calling on him one Sunday morning after Mass, the Grand Chief happened to drop in and between them they kept the Abenaki ball rolling to our enlightenment for upwards of an hour.
Father de Gonzaque is not only of Abenaki descent but he has been priest here twenty-five years. And this is the Grand Chief Nicholas Panadi's third time of office, so we were indeed fortunate that Sunday morning.
Among other things we learned that the present church is the fourth on this site. The first was a wooden one built in 1700, and was burned in 1759 by British troops, the Abenakis having espoused the cause of France – and lost in the game for half a continent. But the Abenakis were good churchmen. They built a second church the following year, in 1760, this held the river-bank and the tribe until 1818, when it was accidentally burned. Then for ten years they had no church, and Mass was said in the council room. In 1828 the third was built and this in 1900 was struck by lightning and burned to the ground, and since that time the present edifice has been erected, so that in a double sense this is Father de Gonzaque's church – for he built it.
An interesting tablet occupies a conspicuous place in the wall on the left-hand side facing the altar, and reads thus:
To the Honourable Mathieu Stanley Quay, Senator of
Pennsylvania, U.S.A., of Abenaki descent.
"He made glad with his works
And his memory is blessed forever."
In the grounds of the church, in addition to the parish priest's house, the sisters have a large school for the Abenaki children, and there is also a neat graveyard, and the Grand Chief's house borders upon a little lane bounding the church property. In front of the church on a bank overhanging the river is a large summer house apparently for the convenience and pleasure of Abenakis awaiting the church service. It is remarkable for its rusticity, all the work being the handiwork of Indians. And this in addition to commanding a superb view up and down the river made it an interesting rendezvous for us of an August afternoon. Not all the Abenakis are Catholic, however, as is testified by the little brick church – also beautifully situated in a grove of trees on the riverside – of the Church of England. The church is of historic interest in that Queen Victoria herself gave the sum of fifty pounds towards the building of it. It dates back to 1866.
There is also a Church of England school, and there they teach both Abenaki and English. So that all in all the Abenaki children are well taught, and all claim that the Abenakis are very intelligent and quick to learn.
When the United States Government sent an observer to Canada some years ago from the Indian Department in Washington to see what could be learned from Canada as to the government of the Indians, the Abenaki at Pierreville was one of the tribes and villages visited. The visitor went back enthusiastic. He wrote pages about them in his report which began: "In the beautiful little village of Pierreville".
And this report was certainly borne out by all that we saw of the Indians there. Like the Hurons they have intermarried very much with the French, so that there are very few full-blooded Indians now living. One of the purest is now an old man of eighty. He lives a little way out of town and spends the evening of his life in comfort though not in idleness. For he is the toy canoe maker of the tribe. He specializes in little birch-bark canoes about a foot long.
Whenever I see, no matter where, one of these little craft exhibited for sale, it carries me swiftly back to the morning we came on old Joseph Paul sitting at his bench in the shade of a big tree in his dooryard. The old man is a little deaf but his pins and tools were all laid out so neatly! Everything – twine and strips – just where he could put his fingers on it with the least loss of time. It was inspiring just to watch him building the little boat in hand. I had always had an idea somehow that it was squaws who built the canoes till I saw this old man at work. Is it ten dozen canoes a week he makes?
As I hold one of these little canoes in my hand what does it not symbolize?
It symbolizes for one thing the voyagings of this people. Even now, although they have homes here, the Abenakis are still voyageurs. In the summer the men go off as guides to the sportsmen from the "Clubs". The reedy places of the wild duck's nest, the best pools for trout, the haunts of deer and bear and other wild creatures are familiar chapters in their nature book. Those who are not guides turn a penny by tripping it every summer to fashionable resorts of the Adirondacks with their baskets and canoes. But chiefly baskets! The sweet-grass baskets are made in many shapes. One company especially, one of the largest wholesale dealers in Indian wares in Canada or the United States, shows a sample book with many patterns and each pattern done in several different sizes. Some are all green and others in colour. The basket-makers have the trade at their finger tips. Never at a loss, they can make anything which can be made with grass. The very old women are expert napkin-ring makers, which is their specialty.
One old woman sits in her garden on the hill-climbing road from the traverse, as the French call the ferry, and weaves her rings that are to grace the dinner-tables of the east and west. She invites us, in her frank manner, to sit down, seeing perhaps in the summer visitor a possible customer. But no, she does not sell retail. "They are all engaged, madame," she remarks modestly. Then she adds, "but maybe, I think, perhaps you like to look?"
So we take the chair madame offers, and a neighbor comes out and leans over the garden gate and we chat, and on the calm river le traversier ferries the flat-boat to and fro and his passengers in their strange heterogeneous ensemble present a passing show that carries one out on imaginary roads that lead back to the age when romance was in flower here and Louis Crevier was le Grand Seigneur over all this fair demesne.
That one may have some idea of the passengers who traverse the St. Francois at Pierreville the following comprehensive avis or public notice at the landing-place will tell more in its quaint way than a dozen paragraphs:
1 personne 5 cts.
1 Voiture semple 15 cts.
1 voiture double 20 cts.
1 Personne a cheval 15 cts.
1 Cheval ou 1 bête a cornes 15 cts.
Plusieurs chevaux chacun 5 cts.
Plusieurs bêtes a cornes chacun 5 cts.
1 Mouton 1 cochon 1 veau chacun 15 cts.
Plusieurs de ces bêtes chacune 5 cts.
Tout voyage de Bac 15 cts.
1 Automobile 25 cts.
In addition to the basket-industry, the men at the factory by our door, make rustic porch-furniture out of their ribbons of white ash. They paint the frames of the chairs that bright art-red which gives our porches such an air of welcome on a warm summer day.
Seldom a train goes out to Montreal – and there is just one a day – but carries crate upon crate of baskets and shipment upon shipment of this handmade furniture. When you come to think of it $250,000 worth of sweet grass baskets spells a great many baskets. It spells application and swift industrious fingers. It spells good homes and comfort for the three hundred Abenakis living in "the beautiful little village of Pierreville", and it spells a dainty sweet-grass basket for many homes in Canada and the United States.
"TO MARKET, TO MARKET."
There is a day….
THE FLOWER OF ST. ROCK'S.
"TO MARKET, TO MARKET."
HERE is a day in the year 1676 which must ever stand out from the murk of the early centuries as a Red Letter Day in Canadian history.
That is the day whose dawn broke on the first Canadian Public Market in full swing.
The scene is laid in La Place de Notre Dames des Victoires in the shadow of Chateau Saint Louis, in old Quebec.
It takes but little imagination to reconstruct the colourful scene upon which the first beams of the rising sun, touching with light the gray and frowning walls of the towering Chateau, lifted the curtain of night.
Here were the market-boats from far and near drawn up on the beach. Here were the rude stalls and booths laden with the vegetable products of the little clearings beyond the city walls and at Ile d'Orleans; here were Quebec's first Market-women; and hither flowed throughout the morning a most colourful pageant of patrons.
Viewed from to-day this market-scene is not important on its own account. Its little turn-over is blotted out. Its significance lies rather in the fact that here were planted the beginnings of the market-carts, the stalls and booths, the long line of Market-women, the wealth of products, "and a' that" from the finger-like farms of to-day.
Its significance affords the markets of the hour an unbroken retrospect of nearly two hundred and fifty years.
And of course that first market of Notre Dame des Victoires was herself but a daughter of the old markets everywhere in vogue in France transplanted to Quebec. So that if "blood counts" the "'scutcheon" of the markets now scattered throughout Canada, many of them in the great out-of-doors literally under the banner of the Maple Leaf, is certainly that of an "Honourable Company".
To Quebec then, belongs the title of "Mother of the Canadian Market". It was on her foot that the Province children of the Dominion learned to ride:
"To market, to market, to buy a fat pig.
Home again, home again, jiggety jig."
And that they learned it well there is Dominion-wide proof: for not a city of worth-while size but has its public market. Everybody knows the Halifax market. Prince Edward Islanders claim that the Charlottetown market is ne plus ultra! Quebec now has as many as four open-air markets. In Montreal "Bonsecour" is a word familiar in every household. Its vegetables and flowers line-up under the very shadow of the Nelson Column, the Cathedral de Notre Dame and the Chateau de Ramesay.
Kingston, Toronto, Brantford and every other considerable city of Ontario draw out the line of the market.
Winnipeg magnetizes the products of the truck-farm under the shadow of her city hall. And here the Market-train, that is Vision, calls "All aboard for Points West" and so, if you wish, in time you come in to Saskatoon, Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria. And when you get to Vancouver the stalls of colour are grouped about the Post Office just as they used to be in Halifax.
Each city has its own ideas of a market. And so, although the line of the market is long, each has its own urban individuality.
The four in Quebec, although they are all of Quebec and all French, would never be mistaken for each other. The same individuality is evident in each stall, in each market.
Madame of Saint Roche's sells from her cart, seated in the middle, with her vegetable family all grouped around her.
She is packed in, as it were. She never alights, like her sister of the Montcalm, using the bottom of her cart as a counter, or walks about a little as do the vendors of Finlay, or spreads her stock out on boxes as do the saleswomen of Champlain. So it is at Saint Roch's we come upon the little Flower-girl seated among her posies and sweet as the flowers she sells.
But she is not the only vendor of les belle fleurs even in Saint Roch's; here is the old woman from Charlebourg seated behind a jar of peonies and Saint Joseph lilies, and here another beaming old face outlined by cauliflowers, bunched like so many nosegays up and down the roof-supports of her old cart.
Oh, what an air to these old French-markets of Canada! "Bon jour, madame, bon jour" the same old voice hails patrons year after year. And the attendant pageant of citizens who come to buy! What a humanly interesting tide flows back and forth, now here now there, now this way, now that, through the avenues of colour afforded by the fruits, vegetables and flowers.
Here is a Sister, face almost lost under the picturesque black bonnet, in her hands the long basket, from her side depending the Crucifix silently reminding the pious habitant in whose Name she begs.
In the early morning come the housewives who believe in the old adage of "the early bird". These know what they want. They pounce and go.
By and by the stragglers begin to trip in, mothers who have had to see their children safely off to school, and blow off steam a little in the colourful atmosphere, before beginning to buy.
But the respite enjoyed by the old women in the carts is not for long. Their gossip and chat and calling back and forth from cart to cart, is cut short by a rising-tide of housewives arriving to buy in a heat for the noon dinner. Ten o'clock sees the tide of trade in flood, with women behind stepping on the heels of women ahead and tumultuous streams of purple beets, the chrome of carrots, the spring-green of lettuce, the pearl of onions, the fruity bloom of peach or plum, cascading into waiting basket or bag.
Now, mingling with the throng may be seen the rather more sportily dressed figures of the summer visitors, temporarily domiciled at the Frontenac and out to "do" the city – Quebec, the Capital-city of Canadian romance.
The Quebec market has filled the pages of two centuries and a half, and in all that time there, over there, a little to one side away from the crowd, a little on the outskirts of Food, as it were, has sat and still sits "the vendor of baskets" (without which no woman can come to market), and a curious appendage of "simples" – dried herbs, little squares of Spruce-gum, tiny bunches of wizened roots.
* * * *
It is but a step from the Markets of Quebec to the markets of Ontario in a matter of miles, but in atmosphere you step from Old France to Old England.
Here in Kingston or Brantford is the old Market Hall that might be in Nottingham or Newark or any other English market-town. And here the market-men are of the English type – Old-Country fellows or United Empire Loyalists. Here is the canvas-covered farm-wagon looking like the spiritual ancestress of the prairie schooner. There is a change from women to men as salesmen. There is not the customary tumultuous chatter of the French. But there is more sunlight, more massed dashes of cadmium, larger splashes of greens, reds, and purples thrown out by the Ontario peaches, cucumbers and watermelons, netted baskets of tomatoes, grapes of the Peninsula Vineyards.
Ontario is so modern….
NTARIO is so modern, and, to use a popular term, "up-to-date", that some years ago we were told by Torontonian after Torontonian that if we were on the quest of the romantic we would not find it in Ontario.
We did not know what to make of it at the time, having in mind a number of quaint old field-stone houses which we had seen along the road from the car window in coming through from Montreal.
About these houses there was that certain unmistakable "something" which for lack of a better word is called "atmosphere". "Atmosphere and story" just seemed to radiate from all their old windows.
I see yet, the picture made by their old, yellow-brown stone sides and their steep roofs; all, in a clump of Lombardy poplars and smooth, rolling fields, with here an apple orchard, and here a sprinkling of sheep grazing on the rounded knolls, and cows standing with feet in the brook.
Then I tried to make my Toronto friends see those old stone-houses. "U-u-mph," they said, "but they're damp."
Not long after that we came in contact with that other type of early-Ontario house. The one with the low sides made of wood thinly stuccoed with white plaster on the outside – the "Roughcast" houses of Ontario. They of course carry in their now "peeling" plaster an appeal to remember the Old Pioneers and days – the days when the hardships of the wilderness rose up as a wall to deter all but the hardiest spirits from blazing a trail here; here, where the true West had its portal.
Usually a clump of lilac bushes stands by these old doors, the boughs gnarled and thick with age and the increasing struggle for existence – the old lilac that strikes the human interest note and tells plainer than words, of the domesticity that once was the pride of the little family domiciled here so far away from "Home," in the Old Country. And over against these two old types of Provincial houses are set the really palatial dwellings that represent the newer Ontario. And yet to prove that no hard line separates Old and New, there is a fine, old home down Saint Catharine's way that claims to be one of the earliest houses in the Province which, under the skilful renovation of a modern architect, still holds itself proudly with "the best".
If one had time to go into all the old houses of the Province, the real old-timers – I am sure one would still find, as in Quebec, many fruits of the loom. The old, woven carpet and bedspread, the old loom, and here and there, perhaps, a grandmother to weave and many sitting and sewing at squares for "pieced-pattern" bedquilts.
In Empire Loyalist homes, of the country, there is, of course, still to be found many a handsome and valuable piece of old furniture. Some of the oldest and daintiest chairs we have ever come across, and one of the dearest collections of little, old books, we once encountered in British Columbia, out of Ontario.
Ontario is a sweeping Province of magnificent lakes and waterways. Her coastline is almost as extensive as that of any Province. If it were not that certain Atlantic Provinces have almost a monopoly of the word, she might even be called "Maritime".
Toronto is even now entering upon an era of a new waterfront with docking accommodations of the best. For the Lake trade? Yes. And presently for the Ocean's.
So, in Ontario the trail of Romance, we soon discovered, led almost as surely "By the 'longshore road" as down Nova Scotia way.
Ontario being a land of lakes, is, in consequence, a land of campers and camp-fires; a land of the canoe; a land of fishing and hunting. And in the North a land of logging, with the picturesque figures of the lumbermen on snow-shoes.
Out there in the Georgian Bay is the romance of thirty thousand islands. There are the picturesque figures of the Ojibways in canoes, still taking the same old fishing and "trade" routes as in the days before the coming of Champlain. Still there is Manitoulin.
The craft in greatest favour everywhere on lake, river and bay of Ontario, is the canoe. I do not think anyone can know what an extensive cult is the "canoe" till they see it in Ontario. In season it creeps on the bosom of the lake like a leaf dropped silently from the tree. And Romance rides in more or less every canoe, so that, if anything, the Romantic may be said to be more difficult to keep up with in Ontario than any of the Provinces. The trail of the Romantic invariably leads to a tent somewhere by a stream. And a camper may be just as romantic a figure as one who mows the hay, or lists to the Angelus out of the Percé fishboat. What can be more Romantic than a group around a campfire? Here seems to be situated the very source and fountain-head of "pipe-dreams", stories of the forest, legends of the Indians – all interwoven and crossed with traditions of pioneer explorers.
AN OLD ONTARIO HOMESTEAD.
ONTARIO. A LAND OF CAMPERS AND CAMP-FIRES.
And these old tales are always having new chapters added, every time an angler catches a fish; every time a hunter takes a gun under arm.
Go out anywhere with an Ojibway of the Georgian Bay region, and you will happen upon a black pot a-sling over a log upheld by two other logs, and a roaring fire under the pot. Across the log may be several bits of branches with a forked branch cut to give "beard" to the hook from which swing a number of smoky teakettles and lard-pails, all hard a-boil with tea, potatoes, or fish, or maybe just pork, suspended in the flame and the smoke, or above the live coals, toward which a frying-pan is tilted to bake the dough it holds into a cake of bread.
Do not these pots and kettles call to the cauldrons of Quebec, the Madeleines and far Newfoundland, as to sisters? Ethnology of people! Sometimes, it would seem, there is an ethnology of inanimate things.
Here in Ontario, among the Indians, one finds skilful workers of sweetgrass, though apparently there is nowhere such a concentration into a trade as in Pierreville.
But the Ontario squaw shows much delicacy in the use of porcupine quills. These she dyes, or uses au naturel, in combination often with birch-bark, to make a basket that is of Ontario, and one which would hold its own everytime with the Quebec basket "pour Madame's boudoir." The Ojibway woman shows an innate taste in design. The "patterns", as well as the colours employed in her basket, are frequently exquisite in their harmony.
Somewhere on the beach or under trees, clinging to life, yet half decadent, as a thing whose usefulness has been "outclassed", one happens here and there on the tribal or community-canoes, long, sinuous lines of boathood half bizarre by reason of design, simplicity of material and traditions of the builders; but more than half "bizarre" by reason of things that cannot be classified yet nevertheless are positive in suggestion. Was it in such canoes the Iroquois pursued the Hurons fleeing toward the wilderness and out of it, to the shelter of the French at Quebec? Was it in such canoes that the old explorers, Champlain, Frontenac, the old Jesuit Missionaries, Breboeuf, Carron, pushed along these lakes and water-highways? Was it in such, the coureurs du bois, the trapper, the pioneer, the soldier, all those characters of old – romantic characters of Old France, Old England, Old Scotia – was it in such they took the paddle in hand, metamorphosing it at a stroke into a "quill" wherewith to write "France" and "England" across the page of a continent?
Here, too, among the Ojibways is still in use the hollowed stone with its companion, nicely smooth and rounded for grinding corn. Old squaws of the Ojibways can, and do still, "turn the trick" easily enough. Then there is another form of mortar, with a wooden pestle four or five feet in length, bulky at each end and slender in the middle, so that two hands may grasp it quite easily.
Thus, by these two instruments, comes the grain to the dough of the frying-pan loaf.
History furnishes Ontario….
VIEW FROM HIS BRITANNIC MAJESTY, GEORGE III'S CHAPEL TO THE MOHAWKS, NEAR BRANTFORD.
FORT MlSSISSAUGA, NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE.
ISTORY furnishes Ontario with a dramatic inheritance hardly less colourful than that of Quebec. In the early part of the seventeenth century this was the real battleground between conquering Europeans and the Redmen for the possession of the vast inland stretches of country about the Great Lakes. It was the sanctuary of thousands of Empire Loyalists after the war of American Independence. And it was again a battleground in the war of 1812.
Many great names are written in, many striking figures illumine the Ontario log. And as one wanders about in present day Ontario as in Quebec, memories of this fine past are constantly creeping out at unexpected moments to convince one that the past is ever present.
Great men and great events do not die. To these early days belong many an old fort and earthwork whose frowning severity is now time-softened and mellowed by the touchstone of romance.
Such a flambeau of story is old Fort Mississauga, at Niagara-on-the-Lake. In the clearing about this old tower, where men under arms drilled a hundred years ago, sporting figures of golfers now roam, and caddies "present" sticks for this "drive" or that. From the ramparts – recalling the ramparts at Annapolis Royal – one looks down to watch the waves playing "Hide-and-Go-Seek" among upstanding timbers that resemble the weathered and bleached ribs of some old wreck. These were the old Fort's seaward-straining palisades.
Across the river is that historic old French fort, Niagara, now belonging to the United States, and up the river at Fort George grow the thorn trees, which a pretty legend says came from slips sent from France to French officers stationed at Fort Niagara. And while thinking of the old fort, which is the symbol of history to the people of to-day, what can be more romantic than the Martello Tower cropping up suddenly out of the waters of Kingston harbour like some sea-creature come up to breathe?
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The period of the influx of United Empire Loyalists brought also that interesting people, the Mohawk Indians, to settle under their chief, Brant, on their allotment of land at the mouth of the Grand River, and to give a name to one of Ontario's most prosperous cities.
The story of the Mohawks' loyalty to the Crown is one of the longest and most romantic stories of those romantic times. But the objective peak of interest is reached in "His Britannic Majesty George III's Chapel to the Mohawks" – a few miles out of Brantford. Down in this old wooden church with the Royal Coat of Arms quaintly set over the door, abides that atmosphere of tranquility only attained by the old church, old home, or old person that has lived through great experiences and scenes, but now, having come out of all these, has reached the detachment of a placid old age that "regrets little, and would change still less".
The view from this old "Chapel", up out of that stormy period, dually staging Indian warfare and Colonial pioneering, is like a pastoral benediction bestowed on those white men and red who fought so hard for Ontario and the unity of the Empire.
And somehow, as you sit in a pew of this quiet church with the spirits of the great Chief Brant and others, whose graves stand in the churchyard, hovering in the air of splendid achievement which makes up the Province's inheritance, you cannot but feel that there is a great bond of common experience uniting into one family this church – the quaint church with the little "House of the Angels" over the altar at Indian Lorette – the Catholic church at Pierreville, whose forbear went up in flames during the French and English struggle for supremacy on the Saint Lawrence, and the old Colonial church at Grand Pré, standing amid its curtain of Lombardies, and surrounded by memorial gravestones whereon are cut names now immortally chiselled in the history of Nova Scotia and of Canada.
Recognition of the fact that this chain of old churches, to which many another throughout Canada of its own right belongs, has stood for the fundamental in an age when the very grip of the pioneer on the land was in a sense uncertain, must tend to reveal the hand of destiny, and strengthen the Canadian's national consciousness.
That, it seems to me, is the first lesson Romance reads to the people of Canada from the doorway of these old churches, happened upon here and there from the Atlantic to the Pacific and striking northward with the great rivers running toward Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean. The very name of this old Mohawk church is national.
In the city of Brantford, in addition to the fine bronze memorial of Brant, supported by the figures of other Mohawk warriors, there is an unique monument marking an event of worldwide interest – the invention of the telephone by the late Alexander Graham Bell. The early home of Bell, where he perfected the marvellous invention which was to render such signal service to mankind, and which by virtue of that invention is more than a Provincial landmark, stands a few miles out of town on a high bluff above the Tugela. It is a quiet spot, and one of those ample old houses whose very atmosphere must have been conducive to research and experiment. Canada not only possesses the distinction of this homestead and all that it stands for, but for years Mr. Bell came back every summer to his chosen home near Baddeck on the Bras D'Or Lake to carry on further researches and experiments; and it seems in keeping with his deep love for his home here that when the Great Voice rang him up, it should find him in Canada; and that he should be buried, as he is, in Canadian soil.
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A great deal of story and romance is bound up with the canals of Ontario. The building of canals at so early a date proves the practical attitude of the early settlers of this section toward the importance of good water-highways for craft and commerce. The canals seem to ante-date the roads in some places. In all cases, they supplement the great lakes and rivers, amplifying the span of Provincial and National waterways.
The canals of Ontario are pivotal as the Province is pivotal. Without them the Great Lakes would never come to the sea or the sea to the Great Lakes.
Romance gets aboard the canal-boat of Ontario no less than aboard her sisters of the Richelieu. Nor does she stop to question whether it be a thousand-ton freighter, or a mere barge with picturesque windmill-sails to the pump and a line of family wash strung out from the caboose; or a blackened line of hulks with coal, "bound up", or "bound down", she steps aboard. Romance is true blue. She rides with the humblest, or on the white-and-gold pleasure boat to view the majesty of Capes Trinity and Eternity on the Saguenay, with equal ease.
What wonder then, that the canals of Canada have their individualities – individualities no less romantic than those of the lakes, the sea, or the rivers. The largest and most imposing of these is of course the Canal-town. The very presence of the canal gives one of these town the right to reach out understandingly, and with a certain degree of similarity, to any of the old river-towns of the Saint Lawrence, and to claim relation with any town of the coast whose harbour and trade-interests have given it the distinctive name of "sea-port".
Canal-towns have just a little more atmosphere than a town minus a "water-gate" and a "water-street". Craft of one kind or another seek out these towns, coming to them, not in the usual marine settings, but apparently upon the bosom of agriculture. Everyone knows what a shock it is to look across what is apparently a solid field of grain or potatoes and to see sailing through the vegetation a steamer's red funnel, capped by a plume of black smoke. Yet this is a "headless horseman" effect which the inhabitants of some of the canal regions of Ontario know well.
Another feature, purely the canal's own, is the lock. What pictures are afforded of the different types of traders which without any orderings except those of chance and circumstance, assemble here from time to time, forming little groups which are as a collective voice asking the lock-master to open the gates! And when later they string out one behind the other through the lock, what are they but so many carriers of Canadian trade? Here is one with paper-pulp, one with lumber, another with coal. And so the list could be drawn out indefinitely.
At the locks, pictures are made by the power-buildings in well-kept lawns and gardens; gardens with their riotous splashes of bloom waved over by that world-known dash of colour which is the British Flag.
HOME OF ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL.
ON THE CANAL.
Across the ship-canals land-traffic must needs throw its turn-bridge. The opening of the lock-gate is the signal to the bridge attendant to give the dusty old viaduct its swing. And so the "locking" of a vessel calls into being many interesting facets of life, which would not exist except for the canal. One of these facets is the collection of country teams which drive up and are called upon to wait while the ships go through. It is a pretty illustration of land-trade waiting on sea-movement – which has been the law since the world began. Another, and more individual feature etched by the Canal is the old-time fisherman. All the canals of the world must know this type of Isaak Walton. Mrs. MacRobie of Iroquois is an authority on this kind of fishing. Her favourite fishing-ground is the Galops Canal at Iroquois just where the clean ribbon of water crosses the foot of her back-yard. For thirty years she and her husband sat beside each other daily on the canal-bank. Now, her husband having died, she is left to fish alone, except when the neighbours' barefooted boys come along with their poles and cans of wriggling earthworms and drop their cork-bobs on the water next to hers. Mrs. MacRobie has a store of local history from which she draws, on the evening we join her at the fishing. Her father and grandfather have handed down to her medals which show the part the family took in the Battle of Windmill Point, in the war of 1812. On another evening she invites us into the house to see these treasures. And then it is she brings out what seems to be an old-fashioned prayer or hymn book, in a calf binding, but turns out to be a clever earthen receptacle for "spirits". This "book'' is very old; and the story that goes with it is to the effect that a man could take it into church when he had had a long cold journey to get there and not be suspected of having reached the church largely by the aid of John Barleycorn. It is said of it, too, that its ancient owner found it of great convenience in his campaigns. This little "Treasury of Devotion" is now of increased interest in view of present day Prohibition, and it is also of interest in showing that indulgence was not without artistic and literary camouflage even in days of yore.
The Canadian Prairie….
CANADA, "THE BREAD-MOTHER OF THE WORLD".
HE Canadian Prairie may be compared to a vast stage set through the length of three entire provinces for the enactment of one great epic entitled "WHEAT".
Wheat is the greatest piece of realism staged in Canada. And its companion-piece, in point of size and importance, is "Fish" – The Maritime. Taken together they seem to point to Canada as the living parable of "the loaves and the fishes." The ovens of Quebec as well as the ovens of all the other Provinces look to the Prairies for fulfilment.
But the wheat of the Prairie Provinces does not confine itself to, nor is it used up by these home ovens! rather it overflows to other ovens overseas, converting Canada by a sweet yet subtle power into a symbolic character – the bread-mother of the world. The thousand-mile wave of tawny grain from Thunder Bay to the foothills of the Rockies is a rippling voice; the voice of a most pleasing personality; a voice that carries across the stage in accents at once assured and winning, speaking to the world at large, so that it penetrates to remotest nooks and corners of the earth, speaking as the finest voices do, to the heart and the individual. One has only to follow the long Prairie trail to see how many and varied are the ears that have heard the magic call of Canadian wheat.
On the Prairie, Englishman, Scotchman, Irishman, American, have one and all hit the trail in the train of wheat. On the Prairie, too, are to be found other followers in that train, men from the wheat-lands of Old Europe and men who never saw a field of wheat until coming here – Icelanders, Poles, Ukrainians, Austrians, Finlanders, Swedes, Bukowinians; and how many others? Talking with the old-timers, the pioneers, the prairie schooner, the ox-cart, the buffalo herd, are still vividly within the memory of men now living beside the main highway of railway tracks with fast fliers from Halifax to Vancouver passing and re-passing several times a day.
Nowhere is the quick development of Canada so evident as here on the plains. Yet the steady voice of wheat is still calling; and to her voice are now added other important voices, and still others. Men and women with families are still coming and will come. The Prairie is big and generous and it gives. At the same time it admits that what it needs is more people; on the principle that the bigger the stage the more people are on demand in the chorus. The individuals who have listened to the call of the Prairie and followed its pipe have one and all brought with them their own individuality as well as some of the fundamental things which were theirs by reason of the old life back in the rural parts of Europe.
They are now giving these, the best of themselves and of the old lands, to the Prairie Provinces. As a class the foreigners are now known as "New Canadians". The tiny homes which these built when they first came to Canada out of saplings and such wood as the country roundabout afforded, are in many instances little gems of architecture. The sides of these houses outside the framework of wood are plastered –usually by the women of the household –a yard or two at a time, each yard of plaster being scrupulously whitewashed as it goes along. Sometimes the roofs are sodded and masses of wild-flowers not infrequently bloom thereon. But more frequently the steep little roof is built of split-by-hand shingles, rough and artistic.
Inside these little houses, so strongly resembling their quaint cousins of Quebec, are all the handmade things and furnishings which mark the century-old French homes of Eastern Canada. There are, first of all, the same little windows flung open to the breeze, the same manifestations of art-reds and blues in paint over doors and windows. Inside, in the living room are handmade wooden benches, many with lines distinctly Russian; on the floor, hand-loom carpets and about the walls, a bit of the same home-weaving in tapestry effect, lined, perhaps by a frieze of empty egg-shells with bizarre patterns in red and black, almost Egyptian. So fragile are some of these simple things, so passing their reign in the rapid prosperity overtaking the children of the older generation that it seems to be a question as to whether these abilities to create a house and artistic furnishings out of almost nothing will survive to enrich the national life as in Quebec.
In the dooryard of these houses there are strange contraptions of wood for holding a log in place while it is being sawn. So easily manipulated are these things, that stepped into Canada as an idea from somewhere in the Carpathians, that even a small boy operates them successfully.
In these yards, too, are wells with big wheels and artistic roofs of hand-split shingles of a foreign steepness – wells, whence women with plotoks on their heads, call as sisters, to the women at the wells in Nova Scotia, in Cape Breton, in the Madeleines.
Here in many instances are to be seen the same rodded fences as occur in Newfoundland, each of course, with its touch of individuality, some fairly straight and others serpentining about the little garden of flowers which the old-timers love. In many cases too there is the same little patch of tobacco, as that met with in the jardins along the Saint Lawrence. In the kitchens of these houses are homemade wooden spoons, stirring-sticks and wooden forks. Some of these are given a coat of red or blue paint. Lemon yellow is a favourite colour for the wooden benches that stand against the walls.
It speaks well for the sturdy character of many of these old-time places that some of them have been able to hold their own within thirty miles of Winnipeg – not being obliterated by the wave of modernism of which the great capital city is the crest.
The New Canadians, representing many lands and widely separated sections of Old Europe, have contributed to the Prairie Provinces a variety in the way of Church architecture. Cupolas and domes distinctly Eastern, almost Turkish, startle one above the tops of Manitoba maples or the bush of the river-banks. These architectural figures of the landscape, apart altogether from their religious significance, are centres where, crossing the threshold on Sundays, one has an opportunity of hearing Swedish music or the rich, deep chanting of the Russian responses; and of viewing at close hand the artistry that goes to make up the interior appointments of these churches transplanted from the East to the West. Here, too, silhouetted against the sky, is the little separate bell-tower and perhaps the three-barred Cross of the Eastern Christian Church. Here and there in the corner of a wheat-field, at the cross-section of a Prairie highway, one sees, as in Quebec, the tall, uplifted Crucifix set up. It is indeed a mosaic of vast dimensions and great breadth, essayed of the Prairie.
Genre of wheat is no less distinct than genre of the 'longshore road. Here is the Sower, here the Reaper, here the Stacker-of-the-big-Sheaves – the Stooker as the Prairie calls him. He may be a man from the East, a Sioux, or a townsman out to lend a hand. With his brown water-jug and his bronzed face, he is almost a symbolic figure, building the golden sheaves in stacks of five for the playing breeze and warm sun to give the ripening touches to the grain that makes Canada – the bread-giver of the world.
"THE STOOKER." AS THE PRAIRIE CALLS HIM.
ROMANCE CLINGS TO THE SKIRTS OF WINNIPEG.
An extended sojourn….
ROMANCE CLINGS TO THE SKIRTS OF WINNIPEG.
N extended sojourn in Winnipeg is in the nature of a revelation. One goes to Winnipeg expecting and finding it as a city – the Colossus of the Plains – modern, business-like, a pattern-builder in wide streets, with everything else in keeping on a big scale, but just a little crude and bare along certain lines, as every new city, or even house, is bound to be. That is the picture one draws aforetime. But the fact is that a few weeks in Winnipeg reveal it – and the revelation is almost sharp enough to be a shock – as a centre of the Romantic – itself a personality, involving the life of the entire West and especially the Prairie – combining the east and the west, the great north and trailing south, the old and the new, the Indian, the French and the English – the great epic of fur and afterwards that of wheat. No city of the Dominion is more closely of the same Romantic blood as Quebec, than Winnipeg, and strangely enough, one conceives this western city of Canada, from the viewpoint of a sculptor, not as "a strong man" but as a woman, eternally feminine, with trailing garments, with the immediately surrounding country out and beyond as far to the north and west as Canada goes, extending the hands of Romance, to cling fast to her skirts; as the figure of a mother held in leash and hardly able to step for the many loving hands of clinging children.
Romance is a free spirit of the air. One cannot tell where she will alight, or what she sees that makes her choose some one spot and reject others. But when you recall the many characters of history who have written their sign manual across the Winnipeg page, these mellow and tone the sharp edges of big business until you regard it not as the growth of a day, but as the attainment, the reward, for which all the fine personalities stepping up to recognition out of the colourful pageant of the Past gave their best efforts and their lives. These towering buildings, these wide streets, are the fulfillment of the dreams of men who looked forward.
When Romance takes your hand in Winnipeg she leads you first to, and then out on her favorite trails, via the Fort Garry Gate. And there she conjures up vast companies, organizations and individuals, enough to fill a library and to cover every canvas in the largest gallery. Book on book has been written on these old forts and their occupiers, and still there remains material galore – a store which will never suffer exhaustion. But the fact to be dwelt on in stepping here with Romance, is that they were touchstones drawing together men from enormous distances, obliterating distances and difficulties, creating Cartographers of Canada, soldiers who subdued the part to the whole; that in the gatherings around their hearth-fires, Hudson Bay, the Northwest, the region of the Mackenzie, the Saskatchewan, the names of the Fort-posts of the then almost unknown new North, tripped from men's tongues as if they were out there just a little way beyond the Gate. It was the love of the Romantic, the love of adventure, and the love of action, in the hearts of the listener and the stay-at-home to which the story-teller, arriving from who-knows-where in the wilderness, appealed. It was the human interest that centred around Winnipeg and radiated thence, that, trickling back to the Old Country, determined new spirits to leave behind the old lands and step out boldly into the new country, though it were becurtained of hardship, cold, hunger and promise. One cannot very well hang back when Romance takes one's hand. So you think, when some bright summer morning you motor down to Lower Fort Garry with your clubs, "Here is another old Fort given up to Golf." And at once you recall the morning you tramped the Fort Missisauga links, fanned by the breezes of Lake Ontario. Strange, the eternal kinship of the Romantic in Canada!
It is a far cry from an Old Fort to truck farms. Yet Winnipeg changes from one to the other with the ease of a dancer of the minuet coping with the jazz of the moment. The big thousand acre wheat land represents the loaf, but the vitamine of the vegetable is as necessary as bread to the modern table, keen on the chemistry of foods. The truck farms encompassing Winnipeg and doubly upheld by her home-tables and her pickle factories, stage an army of picturesque foreign-folk – Galicians, Russians, Ruthenians, Mennonites, Dutch – who have the art of truck-farming at their finger tips. This is no mere figure of speech but a simple fact. And this knowledge they have employed to make Winnipeg one of the richest cities in the Dominion in this matter of fresh vegetables.
But the human interest centres in the picture made by these cauliflower, cucumber and rhubarb stretches. Especially since the laborers in these field-gardens are mostly women, one of the farms, if no more, being owned by a woman and personally operated by herself, with the aid of skillful woman employees. These women in the beans make picturesque figures with heads in white kerchiefs, full skirts tucked in gracefully at the waist and the big bushel basket in hand. Chatting with a motherly soul, broad and short with blue eyes it is revealed that she is a Mennonite, straight from Holland. Talking with a tall, thin young woman she tells that she came from the borderland of Poland and Russia, and that she speaks seven languages, but that she has always worked on the farm. And she touches the beans with a sort of stroking tenderness, as if she loved all things that grew.
AT THE WINDOW.
AND THERE IN THE SUMMER FIELD IS OLD KITTY.
In the onion field seven or more women working together make the weeds fly. They, too, cling to the kerchief of the Old World rather than to the hat of the New, as a protection against sun and the weather in the fields.
Here are women with bundles of rhubarb in their arms, loaded up to and steadied by their chins. These are assisted in the bundling by a homemade wooden contrivance for holding the refractory stalks together, while the strong fingers of the women gather and jam into a slipless knot the coarse cord which enables the bundle of pie-plant to come invitingly to the Winnipeg market. And here are cabbages fit for kings, whose heads, though they look solid and heavy enough, are evidently touched with the wand of wanderlust, since the farm-superintendent explains while we stand looking at them, lost in amazement, that these same cabbages charter whole cars to themselves and go off some fine morning east and west and even over the border to points South, he knows not where.
And there, in the cucumber fields, is Old Kitty wearing her bag apron, her old face cobwebbed with the fine lines etched by a long life spent beneath the Manitoba sun that ripens the wheat. Kitty belongs indeed to old times. She must have been among the first of the women emigrants to these parts. She speaks little English. Schools were not for her. In her youth it was not "Kitty against a Textbook", but "Kitty against the Wilderness", and the prize was Existence. And Kitty won; so that her aged dumbness before you, is the most eloquent oratory. And her smile is like a benediction.
While you watch Kitty with her stick carefully turning aside the leaves to discover thereunder the cool-green cucumbers, and wait for the moment when she straightens her back to rest and give you that whimsical, sweet smile that bids you stay though no word is exchanged, the man who partly owns this farm, with his sister, comes up, and as you move away with him to watch the carts loading ready for the early morning start to market, you speak of Kitty and he amazes you with the intelligence that he and his sister called her "Mother".
"Our own mother died when we were children and perhaps we would have died too if it had not been for that old woman. Those were hard times, and life was difficult enough for grown-ups on the Prairie in those days, let alone children. But she pulled us through. And she still orders me around and tells me what to do," he added, laughingly.
So that was old Kitty's "bit" – her contribution to the life-line of Prairie settlement! Yet if Kitty had to come over now she might be debarred on the score of illiteracy.
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At Selkirk, before you have forgotten the towering offices and the bustle of Winnipeg not an hour behind you by trolley, there is the same little scow ferry on a wire, by which to cross the Red River, as that by which you crossed the Saint Francis at Pierreville. It would seem, too, as if this calm water and its wet reflections of grass and trees, were a re-cast of the pastoral streams meandering to the Saint Lawrence. And, having hailed the ferry, turning toward the city again, following the road of the East bank, one comes upon Gonor, a village that follows the highway for several miles. This village, which might have been lifted up root and branch from somewhere in the Carpathians and set down here in the heart of the Canadian West is made up of row on row of little foreign houses with quaint, whitewashed sides and the steep hand-split shingle roofs, set about by little farm-buildings, with overhanging Swiss log-roofs and everywhere, farmyard chickens, ducks and tiny porkers! And here and there down the long street a little church peeps out, each with its own distinctive architecture, the straight, almost Puritanical lines of the Swedish, the breath of Asia in the minaret of the Russian, the voice of poverty and hard struggle in the low unpainted little Bukowinian.
Back from this village and the River stretches mile after mile of sparse settlement and pioneer farm, some well on the road to prosperity and others still rough-cast; and here and there the neat little cottages of the Manitoba Department of Education – the little cottages that are a part of the new scheme for having the teacher reside among the people, maintaining in these home-like, modern houses an example of the kind of comfort to which the foreigner on the land can aspire. The school is a centre for drawing the parents as well as the children together. It is a very practical idea, but compared with notions only lately prevalent, there is certainly a touch of Romance in the determination of Manitoba to bring the school to the child rather than the child to the school.
Here on these roads and others in the vicinity of Winnipeg, and in fact everywhere throughout this Province, on the small farms just hacking their way out of the bush with rows of wheat – rows every year planting their feet to a longer stride – the Scarecrow is a character not to be despised. In fact, he plays the important role of a Knight of the Fields, defending the defenceless wheat from the piratical incursions of crows and small birds. The Scarecrow is a substitute for a man. And wherever one defying the battle and the breeze is spied, it unfolds the story of some man who has planted his foot on a portion of land and is tenaciously hanging on by the aid of any invention or device which he can bring to his assistance.
It must feel less lonesome for the man, toiling alone in these fields out of sight of any neighbour, and sometimes of his own little cottage, to look up and see that "the other fellow" is still on the job and means to stick it. O, there is no doubt about it that even the Scarecrow has its psychology! Why else has it stood the test of Time, come up simultaneously from the fields of all lands, crossed the ocean and surmounted every difficulty in its path across the continent, arriving here to hold its own as "Knight of these Western Plains"? Oh no, you cannot take the scarecrow from these old-timers – these old flotsam and jetsam farms and gardens, East and West, without a distinct loss in Romance to all Canada. For this old man of the fields speaks a universal language which appeals to all hearts, young and old. In fact, he seems to be the very fountainhead of youth. For whenever one happens upon him unexpectedly, instantly, swift as light, there is an outburst of laughter – "The Scarecrow! The Scarecrow!"
In the early days of the Northwest, the days when the Garrys and sister forts were in their heyday, before the city was; in the days when dog teams and sleds furrowed their paths along the big trails north and south, when the patient ox-teams motored the would-be settlers from Auld Scotia and elsewhere, from Winnipeg to some land-grant along the Buffalo Trail; in the days when the farmer hauled his wheat in the creaking ox-cart back to Winnipeg to be ground into flour by the one gristmill that then served this now elevator-dotted land; in other words, in the days when red men and furs held revelry, and agriculture was yet hidden in the womb of Time, the wander-loving French-Canadian came here in the character of settler, trapper, canoeist, fur-dealer, boatman and coureur de bois out of Old Quebec, much as he is now pushing out to settle his own Provincial north.
In such suburban towns as Saint Boniface and Saint Norbert, and in their citizens, present-day Winnipeg traces her French strain back to Quebec and through Quebec to Normandy and Brittany, whence came many of the customs and touches met with here, clinging so curiously to the skirts of the West.
These little French "Bluffs" loom on the landscape not only in the vicinity of Winnipeg, but are happened upon here and there throughout all the Province, especially in the North.
At Saint Norbert one steps down out of the car to be met by a colourful wayside sign of the Jefferson Highway, "From New Orleans to Winnipeg", with "'Palm to Pine" illustrations in colour. The Romance covered by this sign, cosmopolitan as any on the continent, lies in the complete metamorphosis suffered by Winnipeg and the middle west for which it stands, in the matter of distance. Distance with a big "D" has been wiped out. You are as near to the world, in touch with it as intimately in Winnipeg as anywhere else in Canada or over the American border.
This elimination of distance, owes its being to distance-created needs. In this, Winnipeg was a pathfinder, an urge. The things which she stood for in the North led Prince Rupert and navigation to conquer Hudson Bay. Raw trails were broken and river-boats built to reach her fur-preserves and fur-market. She shod the ox and designed the big wheels of the prairie-cart to recover the waste lands of the Prairie from the heel of the Buffalo. The Prairie and the Pacific called for the railroad that primarily grouped Canada into one whole, with a united morale. It was the remoteness, once for all definitely broken by the railroad, which hatched the modern passion for "close connections". The voice of the West is passionate in its demand for great highways like this, bringing within hail the sunny seaports of the beautiful Gulf of Mexico on the one hand, and the equally individual climate-and-trade-romanticism of the New North, practical Hudson Bay ports with navigation and ships coming and going, piloted hither by the wraiths of the Elizabethan Galleons, pioneers in sea-adventure, on the other. Distance, for which this section of Canada once stood, sponsored the automobile, the airship, the telephone, the radio – the things that are drawing individuals and families together, co-relating separate businesses into one great co-ordinated momentum, called Trade, making every city suburban to all the others, and uniting, supporting and developing the National consciousness. Transportation, good roads! They introduce the man in Vancouver to his brother in Winnipeg and Halifax. Canada is a unit. There is psychology and powerful suggestion in linking up the fronded palm, fanning beside the Gulf, with the sturdy evergreen of the North.
A "KNIGHT OF THE FIELD" DEFENDING THE WHEAT.
FOOT BRIDGE TO TRAPPIST MONASTERY, SAINT NORBERT.
At Saint Norbert there are touches of Quebec, in a little altar-chapel in the woods, to which small pilgrimages are made. There is the Church and Convent and a most picturesque group of Holy figures about La Crucifie in the cemetery.
The French language commingles everywhere with the English. In the little shops here, as well as in the big shops of Winnipeg, two delicacies are offered for sale – Fromage de Trappe and Miel de Trappe – Trappist Cheese and Trappist Honey. And here, within a stone's throw of Saint Norbert, is situated the Trappist Monastery whence these products hail. This Trappist Monastery is the only door we have ever found closed to us in Canada! But that makes it the more romantic. Nevertheless, we have ridden in their empty wheat-cart, driven by a Trappist brother in his flowing habit, the reins in one hand and huge rosary with individual beads, comparable in size with small crab-apples, in the other. We passed on this ride other brothers swinging down the beautiful tree-line approach to the Monastery, driving spans of horses with full cartloads of "No. 1 Northern", and saying their Rosaries at the same time – a rare subject even in Canada's immense gallery. Surely, Prairie wheat rides to the elevator in a variety of carts, and many languages urge the horses to their task. A little office at the gate was as far as our driver dared take us. The Brother in the office takes orders for the cheese and honey, and entertains us with a book of photographs showing the chief Trappist Monasteries of the world. We returned by a little foot-bridge over a stream, and by a woodland path edged with blueberry-bushes and other attractive undergrowth of the cool woods.
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Although the immediate vicinity of Winnipeg is able to show such a profusion and variety of colour, the entire Province of Manitoba, together with Saskatchewan and Alberta, produces a riotous line of romance equal to these nearer roads or any of the older Canadian Provincial gardens. The little Russian boy standing by a window blowing soap bubbles, through a wheat-straw, unconsciously presents a symbolic picture of the romantic dream both projected and fulfilled by the Prairie. To all those with vision, its Voice called. It called above all to the home-hungry children of the Old World to come and settle here. Called them to visualize their dreams, and, is still calling. But its call reached only those with initiative, for it offered on the surface only tasks and difficulties – put the wheat-straw in their fingers and said "Build your own dream-castle. Here is land without boundary. But the vision, the dream, – is yours."
MINE HOST – THE MENNONITE.
One morning in autumn….
CURING A PELT, WHICH, SOONER OR LATER, GRACES THE SHOULDERS OF SOME LADY OF THE LAND.
ON THE GIRLS' SIDE.
MINE HOST – THE MENNONITE.
NE morning in autumn we left Winnipeg by a C.P.R. train to Morden with the avowed intention of visiting the Mennonites of that section, getting acquainted with them and seeing their community life from the inside.
On arriving in Morden we were somewhat at a loss to find ourselves far away from the typical Mennonite village to which we had been recommended by a young teacher in a "new-Canadian" school in another part of the Province. When we had asked her about the Mennonites, their habits and customs, she had told us as much as she knew of their quaint ways and at the end added: "They have their faults no doubt, and many of their customs are strange, but I shall never forget how kind they were to us children when our mother died."
I had treasured this in my memory because if these people were a people ready to be good to children, I had no doubt but they would show the same milk of human kindness toward – visitors.
In Morden, the mayor kindly lent us a time-yellowed chart of "The Old Mennonite Reserve", and steering by this we left Morden in the early afternoon on a branch line of railroad running south. It was an obliging sort of coach-train and set us down some six miles out of town at a grain elevator. The boys "running" the elevator got out their Ford and drove us over to Ostervick, which was our destination. Thus the day, begun in Winnipeg, found us in the late afternoon driving down a tree-lined Mennonite village street, with the prairie-wind scattering golden, autumn leaves in the car and under our wheels.
The Mennonite village here is the most perfect bit of camouflage in the world. It is located in a wood and as no house is visible it differs in no respect from any of the bluffs in sight, until you come right upon it. Even in the wood the houses are all set back from the street and a little tree-lined lane leads into the yards. Nothing can surpass the privacy thus obtained for each family. We turned in at the lane leading to David de Fehr's house and when we presented the teacher's letter of introduction, David and his wife laughed at our venture, looked us over, looked at each other, and agreed to take us in. This, briefly, was the manner of our reception into a Mennonite home with the opportunity of seeing at close quarters the life in a Mennonite village on the "Old Reserve".
I think the first surprise came to us, after the idyllic situation of the village, in the large, substantial houses. Most of them were painted, usually white, all having Dutch shutters painted a Delft-blue.
Most of the houses are long, one-storey affairs with shingled roofs and are not unlike "Cape Cod houses" of the early type. The de Fehr home was a new, two-storey cottage with the characteristic Dutch shutters at the downstairs windows. It joined the barn by a separate room where water is pumped up for the stock in the winter. We visited a number of houses, drove through other villages and were at Morden and Winkler, but I saw only one house that might be said to be in the barn, after the manner of the old-time farm-houses in France, although more or less all appeared to be connected with the barn so that you could step out of one into the other without going out-of-doors. At Mr. de Fehr's a fair white door led into the barn from a room with pumpkin-yellow floors which looked as if they had just been painted – as they look down in Quebec. There were, by way of furniture in the room, which might be called the winter-kitchen, two lounges, a table, two or three chairs, and a rocker in which David de Fehr sat to read his mail, including the different newspapers to which he subscribes.
In addition to this room, on the first floor, were a large parlour, a smaller room used as an office, and the family bedroom. There were three bedrooms upstairs. In our room, in addition to the bed with its heavy homemade all-wool comforters, a large Russian chest with black, iron handles, occupied one side.
I speak of the room on the ground floor as a winter-kitchen because the summer-kitchen is a dear little white cabin in the yard, under the Manitoba maples. A Mennonite custom which went at once to our hearts is this of outside-kitchens for summer use, we having seen so many in the West Indies and the South. The little summer-kitchen here was a house of magic from the cooking angle. There Mrs. de Fehr prepared all her long list of Mennonite dishes, and at her large stove with her kitchen apron about her, she was the typical housewife – an example to her sisters scattered far and wide all over Canada.
Every Mennonite gate had its family group at night standing inside or sitting on the fence to watch the cows come home. Evidently it is an event of which, in all these years, they've never grown tired. And a little variety creeps into it every night in watching how the cows will carry their tails, for on this hangs the weather for the next twenty-four hours according to Mennonite lore. "If the cows run with their tails straight out behind them when they come home in the evening, it is a sign of rain, and if they come with their tails down it is a sign of fair weather." The manner of their going in the morning apparently doesn't count, probably because the cows are then too sleepy to know more than that their tails are behind them.
The Mennonites, though primarily grain-growers, are generally interested in stock. They keep horses, cows, pigs, chickens, geese. A few own automobiles, but these are not "old kirk" folk. The deFehrs are Old Church people, and were to us even more interesting on that account, as we felt that our visit was with the real old-timers. The Old Church folk have little points of dress which aim at simplicity. Men of the Old Church do not wear a tie or a white collar, and the married women wear black caps. Otherwise the house-life seemed little different from any other prosperous farmer's, believing in the simple, old-time rural life. One aim of Mennonite life, it seems, is to keep its people loyal to the soil. And this is a fundamental thing in these days of farm-need.
Madam de Fehr is a great spinner. Indeed, in the winter the spinning wheel fills in much of the time in every home. But in summer there's the cooking and the horses and other live stock to attend to. The Mennonite women in all the villages lend a hand with the horses, grooming them and getting them harnessed, ready to go in the wagon or to draw plough or harvester. We had not noted this work so much among other foreign women. The women work very capably and easily with the horses and it doesn't seem hard work to them. They are at their best, however, in the little kitchen, before the door of which the wind was strewing the golden leaves when we went for afternoon – no, not tea – coffee! It is a Mennonite custom to have coffee and bread-and-butter and perhaps jam, every afternoon at four o'clock. The men leave off ploughing and come in from the fields for their cup of this refreshing hot drink. Mr. de Fehr said the Mennonites think coffee very stimulating and good for a man that works. I fear that all our Canadian farmers are not so well looked after by their wives in the cold autumn afternoons at the ploughing! The coffee is ground fresh in the little mill over the stove at every making – a pointer for any who wish to adopt this custom.
At dusk the cows come home – two hundred and twenty-two of them – in the village of Ostervick. Supper is at seven. And at night while we were at table the herdsman came to make his report to Mr. de Fehr, who this year holds the office of head overseer of all the herd. The holder of this office is elected for one year. He keeps the books, knows just how many cows each villager has, and pays the herdsman out of the several kinds of grain – so much of each – and the money that each owner pays per head. The arrival of the herdsman disclosed the fact that the cows are assembled each morning at the blowing of a horn after six o'clock. We were up betimes that first morning and every morning after to watch a scene of old-world life which we believe can be witnessed nowhere else in Canada.
The piper starts from one end of the village, blowing the horn or bugle, as he goes, down the whole length of the street – carpeted at that time with the golden autumn leaves! When he has passed the entire length he turns around, and the cows come out of the first gate, the second, the third, as fast as the rats followed the piper of Hamelin. Our gate happened to be near the centre of the village so we had a box-seat at this strange performance.
Of course before the cows come out of each picturesque lane it means that an army of milkmaids have been up betimes getting them milked and ready to come upon the stage at the psychological moment of the herder's arrival at that point. It spoke well for the girls that few cows were late. Unless one has witnessed this strange foreign sight and heard the bugler coming on, with the bugle in one hand and cracking his heavy whip with the other, driving those two hundred beasts to pasture, one cannot imagine how dramatic an event it is. But I think perhaps that, except as the early morning is always the hour of charm and witchery, the manner of the herd's arrival home in the evening, though different, is equally dramatic. For then the cows come in a hurry to be milked.
All the Mennonite women are good cooks. Some of them still hold to the out-of-door ovens as do the habitants of Quebec. For heating these ovens the women cleverly make use of the straw-pile, and many are the loaves of homemade bread and the pies that find their way in and out of these ovens!
Marking the progress of this people, in some of the yards, stand the log houses of the pioneers, mute witnesses of the wilderness life to which these people came nearly fifty years ago.
We noticed that Mr. de Fehr often looked with apparent affection upon the trees in his yard. So one day we commented on them, their sizes, etc. "They were planted?" we inquired.
"Yes," he said, "my mother planted them. She brought them from the mountain in her apron. We boys went with her to get them. Each of my brothers had a bundle of them – I had a little bundle too."
What a picture he conjured up! Can't you see that old peasant-woman from Berdiansk with her saplings and her boys – saplings, too? And the mountain? We could just see the outline of it against the distant horizon. That will give you some idea of the journey she made and the distance she brought her load. As we looked at the arboreal beauty of Ostervick, to which she had contributed, we found it in our hearts to wish that every woman-settler in the West would direct some of her energy to tree-planting and tree-culture. And we wondered what this dead-and-gone mother could have given her son for remembrance one-half so precious?
Speaking of trees, the Mennonites are fond of flowers, too – hollyhocks being especially popular. But I did not notice that they kept bees in quantity as do the Doukhobors. The Mennonites are not vegetarians like the "Douks" but eat meat of all kinds, and fish. Macaroni, homemade, is a staple dish, also noodle soup. But plemm-moose, a sort of pudding-soup made of stewed fruit, prunes, raisins, etc., thickened with flour, seems to be the national dish. And their cottage-cheese dumplings served with cream and melted butter, make a dish fit for a king. There were other good things to eat, chickens, eggs, fried crabapples, etc. The Mennonites may be a plainly dressed people, but they certainly live well as to food. They say "silent grace" before and after meals. Smoke-houses stand in many yards and we saw one Dutch windmill for grinding grain. At Winkler there is a fine flour mill.
In one house we saw a quaint old clock brought over from Russia. It had no case, merely a large face with sprays of pink roses, and long brass weights. In the same house the chairs were newly painted in art combinations of black and lemon yellow.
Among the Mennonites we were everywhere struck by their thrift. Indeed, in thinking of them, my memory flies back to those substantial well-built, well-kept-up farm-houses. "Real Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod houses" – long, low, shingled, with sides painted white, against which the clean delft-blue shutters make a Dutch picture. Especially do I recall one freshly painted home which, in addition to white sides and blue shutters, boasted a terra-cotta band at the base of the sides, lemon-yellow balcony and steps, with apple-green railing above white bannisters with green centres. And this dignified, yet gay, little house with the real air of charm about it, sits well back in a wide lawn of its own, with a lane leading into the backyard and stable and out to the tree-lined highway, which passing straight through the length of the village, is this little rural settlement's only street.
The day we left Ostervick it blew a slight prairie gale, but after lunch, the wind abating, Mr. de Fehr and his wife put the horses to and drove us nine miles to Winkler. The wind was still high, however, and the dust like smoke, so we were very thankful to accept the kerchiefs which Mrs. de Fehr lent us to tie over our heads, and in the picture of all in the wagon it is very difficult to distinguish between Mennonite hostess and the guests now thoroughly won over to the "plotok".
THE PAS: GATEWAY OF THE GREAT NORTHLAND.
Romantic Canada is….
KASI.O AFTER RAIN.
MOUNTAIN GOATS. SNOWFI.AKES AGAINST THE BLUE SKY.
THE PAS: GATEWAY OF THE GREAT NORTHLAND.
OMANTIC Canada is never halted by natural obstacles. Like the true diplomat, she wins over hindrances to become aids. High mountains, large rivers with swirling rapids and falls, immense lakes, inland seas, have thus become to Romance, mere stepping-stones. So the cold of the Great Northland, from being a barrier of conquest, has simply inspired Madame Romance to call for her heaviest and finest furs, her dog-team and sled, her snow-shoes, and a supply of good pemmican. Snow is to her but Nature's cosmetic for rosy cheeks.
"Trade" long ago, claimed The Pas, in Manitoba, as "The Gateway to the Great Northland" and at once Madame proclaimed that "solemn-faced Business" was justified in this; but at the same time she herself reserved the right to spread her pelts for a mat, and sit in this Gate at all times.And Trade, which always walks hand-in-hand with Romance, was very glad to hear her fiat, knowing that the Romantic and business are so close interwoven as to be almost one and inseparable.
The Pas, as a town, is new; but its site was a Trading Post ages upon ages ago. Old in this particular, to the Indians before the advent of the Hudson's Bay Company in these parts, it was an objective of the Crees, perhaps before Leif coasted from Greenland to Newfoundland. The Pas is still remarkable for the absence of ordinary roads. To get to and from the Pas of old there was only the broad bosom of the Saskatchewan inviting the canoe. But of late years advancing civilization has pushed northward the Hudson's Bay Railroad. Pioneer wit and humour, with its gift for nomenclature, at once personified the trains for this romantic adventure in rails. The train from the South was christened the "Tamarack". The sub-Arctic Explorer conquesting to the North they aptly called the "Muskeg". These two names speak for themselves concerning the nature of the country.
Anyone, who has watched the indomitable "Muskeg" go forth from the Pas station in the thick of a driving snowstorm, knows, beyond doubt, that Canadian courage is a driving force practically at work to subdue to the service of the nation all that vast coastline of Hudson's Bay which has hitherto been allowed to run to waste.
For all this great enterprise "The Pas" is the "Gate". Nevertheless when one goes down to the bank of the Saskatchewan and looks up and down the silvery bosom of this ribbon of water, which makes its start somewhere out there in the Rockies, one knows that The Pas has a waterway which must always place it in the first ranks among the busy centres of the country. The river is to The Pas what the Grand Canal is to Venice. The gondola here is the canoe or the old stern-wheel passenger boat, tapping the neighbouring country.
There was a time when The Pas knew that romantic flotilla, the York Boats of the H.B.C., which periodically passed here with cargoes of pelts between York Factory and the Old Stone Fort or Lower Fort Garry. The York Boat has long ago "cleared" for her last long voyage and, with her passing, passed also that old Character of the Canadian Northland – usually come hither out of the Shetlands or the Orkneys – the H.B.C. boat-builder. No more are heard either, the chansons of the rowers. In the place of these old boats of the fur-trade there is now the flotilla of Ore-boats; for The Pas, the gate to the fur-country, is likewise the water gate for receiving the rich mineral wealth of northern Manitoba. Copper comes down the river and steps ashore here, destined for the smelter away off at Trail, B.C. This is indeed a long, long trail for ore to take; but it is an admirable illustration of the unity between widely separated parts of Canada. To-day there is more inter-provincial business, and more universal assistance from one section of the same Province toward the development of some other section, than has hitherto existed. In this, Canada has caught the National stride with remarkable celerity. What helps one helps all. The Pas is the natural gateway to the opening-up of the mineral wealth of the New, Old North.
Sitting in this Gate a long caravan of prospectors files past, carrying in their packs "supplies" furnished by the local out-fitting stores. Strangely enough, Pas stores are among the finest in Canada. It is claimed that in them anything from a miner's shovel to embroidery-silks is in stock. These things, though commonplace on Yonge or Saint Catherine's Streets, become romantic, indeed, in this far Gateway to the Great Northland; the more so when the woman who goes to the H.B.C. or any of the other stores, for a hank of embroidery-silk or cerise or art-blue horse-hair, put up especially for her use, is a light-stepping Cree, whose habitat is across the river, but who roams the vast stretches of the hinterlands as other women walk in their gardens. The Crees are especially artistic. They take beads, embroidery silks and the horsehairs in hand as other women take pen or brush. But their embroidery is not wrought on cambric or linen, but on skin of moose or caribou shot by their family hunters and cured and tanned or "smoked" by their own hands.
The Factor will tell you that it is one of the interesting sights of the Christmas Season at this northern town to see the young braves turn out to the English Church, adorned in richly embroidered skin-gloves, edged perhaps with a border of plucked-beaver, the gift of their fiancees. Nevertheless, the Cree women still make their infants' little beds of reindeer moss, carefully washed and picked clear of all grit, and on the road they still carry their babies in a tikanagan strapped to their backs. The "tikanagan board" is often decorated by the mother in stains of reds, blues and browns, and the reindeer-moss nest, on which the baby reclines, is held in place by facings of smoked moose-hide neatly thonged together. This cradle of the Cree-baby is always provided with a handle, so that the mother, unstrapping the contrivance from her back, can hang it up in some tree and be sure that the gentle swaying of the bough by the breeze will keep her baby asleep, while she herself fishes or cooks a meal for the rest of the family. This Cree mother and the Japanese woman in the salmon factories of British Columbia have never heard of one another, yet it is interesting to note that both strap their babies on their backs while at work.
The Hudson Bay Railway crosses the Saskatchewan on one of the finest steel bridges in Canada. It is some 850 feet in length and of ample width for vehicles and pedestrians, as well as for the railroad. It is a bridge of the most up-to-date type, yet the tikanagan sways from the trees on either bank where this Colossus plants its feet as it bestrides the river. And when the "Muskeg" thunders by, it is a signal for Eskimo dogs in the yards of the Big Eddy Reserve to set up a howl of protest against the invader of their transportation-copyright in the great Northland.
To the old-order-of-life represented by the tikanagan and the dog-team, belongs the canoe on the river. Come the "Muskeg", come the "Tamarac", come the automobile, the steamboat, the barge, ore- or grain-laden, the canoe holds its own on the river. Playing with the paddle is an inheritance. As has been said "A canoe represents not only Cree but Creed in this Northern-Gate."
But the Pas has many sweet as well as strong touches. Surprise awaits the traveller in the beautiful flowers in the gardens of Pas homes. Flowers are always a surprise in the Northland, and when encountered they have an especial appeal created by their very rarity.
On a bluff of the river-bank stands the historic old Church of England, first church in these parts. Dropping in to matins here of a Sunday morning is to find one's self surrounded by the "atmosphere" that is the Northland's Own. Here, the old pews, pulpit and reading-desk were carved by men belonging to a Sir John Franklin Relief Expedition which wintered in these parts and at Cumberland House, while they waited for the ice to break up. Sitting in one of these old pews brings back to life all that long stirring period of the Nation's history involved in Arctic Exploration. Sir John and Lady Franklin become personal to you sitting here in a pew fashioned by the hands of men who adventured their lives in noble effort to bring back news of England's great Explorer.
The atmosphere of Arctic Exploration brought to life by the old pew, appears mysteriously amplified and fulfilled in the Ten Commandments in Cree on the right and left walls of the little Chancel. The Crees are the children of that Northland into which the pew-carver ventured. Old Chief Constant sits over there in the corner of one of these pews, the Assomption belt, a gay dash of colour, about his portly waist, attentively listening to the service, which is the tribal "Voice of 'Mahneto' – The Great Spirit".
In the wake of the church are the schools for the Crees. There is a boarding-school at the Big Eddy under the management of Archdeacon MacKay. The fine school building, with accommodation for eighty pupils, was erected by the Government and opened in October, 1914. The Woman's Auxiliary of the Diocese of Ottawa furnished the parlor as a memorial to their one-time Corresponding Secretary, Helen Josephine Fitzgerald. This Body also built the pretty little stone church in the grounds; but the fine hospital was the gift of the Government.
Archdeacon Mackay, the principal of this Indian School, is a Canadian and an octogenarian, who has spent fifty-six years in Missionary work in this North. The Archdeacon paddled us the five miles down the Saskatchewan to The Pas in his canoe, with two of the Indian boys to assist, as nonchalantly as any young man of twenty. All through his long ministry, beginning between fifty and sixty years ago, he has been able with the canoe's aid, to carry the double Message of the Gospel and Canada to a remote and savage people. He has lived to see The Pas become the centre of the Northward-urge of Canadian life and development, now so much a part of the national ambition.
On the North bank of the river, not more than halfway to the Big Eddy boarding-school, is a little, whitewashed schoolhouse, which is kept by a young Indian woman, a graduate of the Elkhorn School; and here all the little local youngsters pursue "the Three R's." The school garden is laid out in tiny beds; but the true atmosphere of the life is tellingly indicated in the small bows-and-arrows which each little boy carries in hand as he comes through the woods to the schoolhouse. The Cree is a born hunter. These bows and arrows of childhood are, after all, but stepping-stones like Readin', 'Ritin' and 'Rithmetic. It is as a hunter the Cree must make a living.
The Cree, having trapped the wary fox, or other furred animal, brings the pelt to be smoked in the yard of the little homes that radiate in the woods from the schoolhouse. In the smoking and curing the women take the pelt in hand. A green and pliable branch is cut from a tree. The skin is then turned under side out and stretched tightly over the green and springy wood. The ears and legs are stuffed with hay. After the process of stretching the skin, it is laid over a frame of sticks like the ribs of a tepee, and a fire is made underneath and kept going with half green wood to make plenty of smoke. The Indian woman keeps turning the skin from time to time so that all parts are evenly cured, and, every once in a while, the man comes out and takes a look, fingering the skin, and then, when it is pretty well cured an old man or old woman, grandfather or grandmother, a living manual of pelts, comes out, and grunts a last opinion. Thus is cured the pelt, that, finding its way from Cree hands to the fur-markets of the world, sooner or later graces the shoulders of some lady of the land.
No greater contrast….
A MADONNA OF THE KOOTENAYS.
DRAWING WATER FROM THE COLUMBIA.
O greater contrast can be afforded by Nature than that between level Prairie and the Rocky Mountains. It is at the moment of the change from one to the other that one realizes both are Characters, each separate, individual and eternal. Here, as the train swings along by the banks of the Bow River, one looks up to those towering peaks, their gray and aged cheeks flushed with the wine of the air into perpetual youth, the Character that is Nature dominating all others. One cannot think of those peaks as still and dead matter only. They must be alive! There is the sharpness of the Craig, the smoothness of the scumbled bloom upon it, head after head against that faultless blue that one has hitherto thought of as exclusively Italian. But there it is – Capri inverted.
And so one comes to Banff, or drops down at Lake Louise, or bestrides a pony to the Valley of the Ten Peaks, or watches the Mountain Goat a riotous snowflake against the blue sky or wanders at the end of a rope about the face of the Great Glacier and, doing these things, feels it good just to be alive. That must surely have been the thought behind the preservation of this section of the Rockies as a national playground in perpetuity when it was reserved by the Dominion Government as a great Park.
But British Columbia, in addition to being a land of Mountains, is also a land of large tumbling rivers and fingerlike lakes pushing out into the fruitful valleys. It was the West of early days that enriched the language with that word "Trail". British Columbia is the land of the Trail. The Trail or mere thread-road of the early pioneer from the Prairie to the Coast has now been completely metamorphosed into the orderly double-track of the railroad; so that hardships have vanished and, in their place, positive luxury attends a trip to the Pacific Coast via the Canadian Rockies.
Yet there is more than enough of the "primeval" remaining to give sauce to the voyage. Romance still clings to the Columbia and the Fraser Rivers. The mere names of Sun-Dance Canyon, The Crow's Nest, Glacier, Jasper Park and a dozen others but faithfully record the existing charm and atmosphere. They suggest, too, that these Ranges were once the Hunting Grounds of Indians. Some old-timer says that these now have headquarters "down about MacLeod". Nevertheless the Indian still comes back to the hot sulphur springs at Banff which it is quite probable he knew and used long ages ago, before even the discovery of the American Continent.
The Indian in British Columbia, like the Indian all through Canada, is still a romantic figure of the atmospheric background. He is still and always will be a page from the tome of the simple life, retiring before the advance of that form of society which involves living indoors. He still clings to the wigwam, to the canoe and to fishing and hunting for a living. (Although, of course, even among the Indians there are many notable exceptions and some of them carry on business and own fine homes of their own).
Romance, however, clings to the blanket of the old-timer. The web of fancy is not confined when a bend in the road reveals a group of Indians spearing salmon from a flat rock, perilously overhanging the swirling, canyoned cauldron of the Fraser. There is something bizarre in the simple arrangement of the bleached wooden poles whereon their salmon swings a-drying in the wind. One feels that if anyone knows the secrets of the great Ranges, the towering peaks, the vast stretches between the Pacific and that faraway Northern mysterious Arctic, it is that man, a ragged-spot-of-brown above the swift cascade; too steep for all navigators except the salmon, madly daring every obstacle in efforts to reach the very highest pools where her spawn will be safe. A well of tradition is stored up in that old squaw's head down there by the calmer waters, cooking the evening meal where the spiral of blue smoke trails upward.
These folk know the Nature-book of these parts by heart. For long centuries there trails in these old hearts and minds a survival of the fittest in picture. And that is all there is in history and Tradition... a series of pictures, a few outstanding facts and figures. Time in the aggregate is like that. As a Figure, the Indian is a Synopsis.
The land embraced by British Columbia is elemental – big. Every form of it, rivers, peaks, lakes and valley, is grand in the sense of bigness. It is a land of big trees, big mines, big ranches, big outlook. And the big outlook not only glances Eastward across a Continent, but wings its way outward across the Pacific with its ships touching the shores of Asia and Australia.
The co-relation of interests between those most widely separated of Canadian Provinces, British Columbia and Nova Scotia, has been strikingly increased by the prominence acquired by the Pacific since 1914. Canada has now a Pacific Maritime Province as well as the Atlantic group which for so long has held exclusive rights to the term. But the craft of the Pacific coast are laid down on different lines from those of the East. Nova Scotia started with sails and she still stands by the halyards of Banker and Coaster. Vancouver came into the race at a later date. Steam, now oil-burners, and the Panama Canal, have opened her way to European as well as Oriental ports. Truly the Canadian Trader is a big ship!
But British Columbia has its little 'longshore boats too. And the Westerner, with Cowboy breeziness, looks upon these half-indulgently and dubs them the "mosquito fleet". In this lesser fleet are found the halibut-fisherman and the whaler, cruising, the one, many hundred miles out in the Pacific; and the other off the Queen Charlotte Islands or along the Alaskan shore, in fact anywhere a skipper deems he can raise the cry of "Thar she blows" from the lookout. A whaler out of the Pacific ports is a steamer with mechanical devices and bombs for killing and inflating the whale at once, so that the carcase floats and can be brought in to market. Her counterpart in Newfoundland and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence is the sturdy old "sealer"; but what a difference in model! The Sealer is old. But with her staunch, wooden timbers and planks and roomy deck, with a "crow's-nest" for the lookout, her ocean-wisdom for seals, is every bit as keen, as the Westerner's for oil.
In British Columbia great stress is laid on the proper "smoking" of fish and delicious indeed is the flavour attained by the Western process. A range of characteristic atmosphere follows in the long trail of "smoked" salmon and herring. Scotch lassies have come out from fishing-towns of Old Scotland to give the proper "Scotch Cure" to the Pacific bloater in the curing houses at Vancouver. It is a far cry from these girls, and the big plant, with its chill-rooms for freezing the halibut, the latter with its own private car to Boston, to the old Indian woman, who has her little "smokehouse" on the shingle at Alert Bay and trusses up her salmon on splints in the shadow of the wet piles of some old boat-landing.
These are sea-pictures and pictures of 'longshore life. British Columbia in its valleys is a land of farms. It raises its own famous apples around its lakes, as Nova Scotia brings Bellefleurs and other beauties to perfection, round the Bay of Fundy. Okanagan, Arrowhead, Kootenay, all have their ranches with their acres of meadow, bench-lands and climbing fields. And here, on these Ranches beside the Lake, backed by mountains from whose peaks the snow never melts, are perched the homes of the ranchers.
Each of these homes presents its own epic, each family tracing it to the chosen spot from somewhere in Eastern Canada – Nova Scotia, Quebec or Ontario – or coming here to this Alpine region of the Dominion from somewhere over-seas, the British Islands, France, and indeed, all other countries of Old Europe, even reaching a finger into Asia at India and Japan. Truly the human-interest element of British Columbia is as big as its outlook.
Each little homestead and ranch stands for a family uprooted from old associations, whether Eastern Canadian, British or Foreign, transplanted here to the West, on the edge of things: but now – within the past ten years – coming to a consciousness of itself as no longer on the edge of wilderness and remoteness, separated from its fellows of the East by the great barrier of the Mountains, but a part of the beautiful curve of the World-circumference of the British Empire. Each little log-cabin in its forest or surroundings of stump-land (and the big trees of British Columbia make an endless number of big stumps) is a stake in the land. Practically it represents the bombardment of the black and unfriendly wilderness with a home and a family – the best ammunition in the world for the pioneer.
There is a long list of miniature cities and little towns, with a hotel, a bank, a couple of grocery shops, a butcher, a drug-store with week-old newspapers from Winnipeg or Calgary, yesterday's Vancouver Sheets and the Newspaper from the nearest Over-the-Border large city; all these business places with large single-pane show-windows, in utter contrast to the little old-fashioned shop-windows of the small towns and villages of rural Quebec. The arrival and departure of trains once or twice a day is a thing as personal as the letter which comes into the hand of the butcher, the banker, the druggist, from that same adventuring train that kicks the level dust of the Prairie miles behind it, with the ease of a thoroughbred, and climbs the gorges, the canyons and the steeps of the passes, and enters the black mysteries of the long tunnels as nonchalantly as a cowboy, hand on hip, sits astride his pony.
These little towns may be rather dull, with a society only partly stirred into life by an occasional Movie, but there is always more than appears on the surface, since, behind them somewhere out there in the miles, threaded up sometimes by mere trails, are the little homes of the ranchers converting the soil to agriculture, "making land" – a curious phrase – where every ranch is a stage of dramatic action, and every little simple act of everyday life takes on heroic proportions from the very closeness of success or disaster constantly stalking the adventure on which the rancher has staked his all.
THE DOUKHOBORS: A COMMUNITY RACE IN CANADA.
In the Russian Doukhobor….
IN A COMMUNITY DOOR YARD.
DOUKHOBOR WOMEN WINNOWING.
THE DOUKHOBORS: A COMMUNITY RACE IN CANADA.
N the Russian Doukhobor settlements of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia, the Canadian West houses the Community-life of a curious religious sect. Through them it may be said that Canada is perhaps the only country in the world outside Russia having a very intimate living, human-interest acquaintance with the Slav on the land – the only country presenting an opportunity to study him in his daily life. And what pictures this life does make! Not even Old Russia has just such pictures, for although the Doukhobor is Russian the religion of these peasants in British Columbia gives them a certain distinction and grace of their own, shearing the elements of coarseness from even ordinarily coarse work. Indeed a rare dignity attends the individual Doukhobor as it attends the transaction of all work and all business involving the people of one "village" with those of another.
As religion is the foundation on which the very existence of these people is laid; as it was religion which brought them into existence as a separate people; as it was the source of all their difficulties with the government of the Czars, and as it was the immediate motive which brought them to Canada – "the Promised Land" – some twenty years ago, it is necessary here very briefly to touch upon the chief item of the Doukhobor Faith. And this can best be done by giving an example.
Romance seems to have reached idealism indeed when one of these peasants here on the uplands of a British Columbia valley meeting another on the highway, lifts his hat and makes a ceremonial bow – a bow arresting and almost Eastern in its slow dignity. The habitant of Quebec is hardly so solemn in making his obeisance to the roadside calvary. Yet these men are in a hurry, too. Work presses.
Questioning them as to this ceremonial greeting brought out the fact that the Doukhobor believes first of all that Jesus is actually a living presence, alive in every human being! All other articles of the Faith it appears are merely the natural sequence of this condition. One man bows to the Christ-spirit in the other, rather than to the man himself. He bows in reality exactly as the habitant, man or boy does – to the beautiful thing that is symbolized by the roadside Cross. Life is a Universal brotherhood, to the Doukhobor – hence the Community idea in which all share alike. Peasants often lay hold of many elemental facts and ideas of religion and holy things as to which other people are, for some reason, more timid. There is the world-famous example of the peasant rendering of the "Passion", at Oberamergau.
The Doukhobor talks about Jesus with the sweet simplicity of a child. A swift shade of surprise, as quickly gone, flits across the gentle face of any of them that you question as to how they get along without such institutions as poor-houses, old peoples' homes, asylums, jails, etc. They tell you the idea of "the Spirit of Jesus in all men", simply lived, prevents all the sins of the Decalogue and so renders these institutions unnecessary. For this reason, they explain, they object to military service because they believe that in killing a man they are killing Jesus. They go even further, claiming that even the taking of animal life for food is contrary to the spirit of God, and therefore sinful; so that they are vegetarian not because they think vegetables more wholesome, but because they know meat and fish can only be achieved by the destruction of a life. In this matter their belief is carried out to the letter. Some of the old folk even now find it difficult to kill flies. And it was only after a long time and many inroads on the precious grain that they could be induced to kill rats and gophers.
Legally the Doukhobors have now exchanged the name "Doukhobor" for a name in English. They call themselves in all business dealings "The Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Ltd". "Doukhobor" is, strictly speaking, their religious name, only.
Neighbours however will always call them "The Douks." Brilliant, Grand Forks and Verigen, their three outstanding settlements, are worth in the neighbourhood of five million dollars; and approximately eight to ten thousand persons abide in these settlements, – the largest successful "Community" settlement in the world. Its success, as against many another attempt at Utopia that has failed, is undoubtedly due to the fact that it is founded on a basis of simple religious faith rather than either a colonization scheme or a business trust.
In the settlements, the houses are set up in groups of twos. Local wit aptly calls these "the twins". The Doukhobors themselves call these groups "villages". Each village contains anywhere from thirty to fifty people who are apportioned a certain amount of land for culture. The women in these villages take a hand in all work, at home and in the fields.
Stepping through the big Russian gateway into one of the yards, or all of them, reveals an almost interminable series of tableaux of heroic significance. Women with sieves in hand play them, full of seed, millet, etc., above their heads as dancing-girls the tambourine, in an effort to scatter the chaff on the breeze. Under their feet tarpaulin is spread to receive the grain or the seeds. From some doorway an old woman appears, with a broom of dried twigs, and brushes up a circle or a corner whereon to lay a mat. Laying aside the broom, she disappears around some corner to return with voluminous apron stuffed with beans in the pod. Sitting down on the mat she begins to belabour the beans with a billet of wood. Thus the shelling is accomplished. Two women appear carrying a plank between them. Presently they come again with a tub of apples already cut, and these they carefully spread to dry on the plank already brought. A mother appears out of a door, plotok on her head, a cup in hand, and begins to feed from the cup a little boy, with bread-and-milk, in which there is a dash of mustard. Other women are picking over tomatoes on the porch-floor. The cook for the week appears in the doorway of the great community-kitchen, seeking a momentary rest for her eyes, so long centred on her pots and pans with their contents, in the life and scenes going on in the yard. In the sun an old grandfather warms himself as he amuses his old age with making wooden spoons. Over there, two boys with their heads together are making a pair of nut-crackers by hammering two long wire nails into shape. Everywhere, there are flowers.
When the tasks in the yard are completed the women repair to the fields; or, on other days the field work comes first.
Here is a group of women in a field of sunflowers, some passing from plant to plant plucking the seed-discs into their aprons and carrying them to a group of women and children sitting about a big mat. This scene resembles some religious festival, the women and girls with white plotoks on their heads and sticks in their hands beating, on the reverse side of the seed-plate and the seeds falling, like a rain, in a drift on the old tarpaulin.
Sunflowers seeds are the peanuts of this people, unaccustomed, as they are, to candy. Shy children met on the highways, overcoming their shyness, and falling into step by your side, offer you little handfuls of sunflower-seeds drawn from their stuffed pockets. And when men or women go on long journeys afoot they always take with them a supply of these seeds to munch by the way. As one chats with the sunflower harvesters, the bright figures of the clover-seed gatherers flit in the upland-climbing clover fields; and among the leafy green on the mile-stretching orchards of plum, apple and peach are to be seen the carts, the pickers and the boxers all working together like bees in a hive.
Everywhere children accompany their elders, naturally imitating with their tiny fingers the tasks of the larger hand. Thus, quite easily, the children learn, and, learning, look upon work as pleasurable. A Doukhobor child is seldom or never told to do any especial task. They simply fall in, of their own accord. The Douks are very gentle with their children and a child is as free to speak, and is listened to with as much courtesy, as an elder. This applies in "church" as well as in the daily life.
The flowers growing everywhere in the dooryards and in every little pocket of soil here and there on the edges of the orchards and flanking the vegetable gardens, are explained, when one happens on the bee-hives in some sheltered nook of more or less every "village". The Doukhobors place honey on the market and it is a stand-by on the home tables.
The interior of the "twins" presents no fewer pictures than the yards and the fields. The kitchen and the living room occupy all of the ground-floor. The kitchen is always a large room. In the middle of it stands an enormous brick oven wherein are baked innumerable loaves of brown bread. These loaves are always round and, for size, put to shame the "big loaf" of Quebec. After the bread is done, the pans are lined with straw, and, filled with fruit, are replaced in the cavernous mouth till the oven is full. Thus pears and apples are dried for the home-table. The dining-table is a long board resembling a giant carpenter's bench and painted an art-red, standing across one end of the big room. Long benches serve the big table in lieu of chairs.
The chief stand-by on the Doukhobor menu, as seems to be the custom with peasants everywhere, is soup. In this respect one is carried back to the habitant table of Quebec. But here the soup is solely vegetable, fat being supplied by butter which makes this Russian borsch more delicate in flavour than la soupe of the habitant. Butter is the one Doukhobor extravagance.
Pancakes, with jam or honey, boiled millet-and-butter, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, big slices of the Russian brown bread, all sorts of vegetable pies, beets, carrots, cheese, little triangles blanketed in a pastry of millet or a mixture of brown flour and white, make up one of these vegetable meals, all being completed by unlimited draughts of Russian tea sweetened and flavoured with raspberry or black-currant jam. The women take turns at the cooking, a week at a time, and as there are usually six or seven women in each village, no woman is worn-out at the stove, but each has a six-week interval before the wheel of time brings her turn round again.
In this time her spare moments are filled with knitting, making rugs for her room, spinning and weaving, and embroidering her own or her children's plotoks or kerchiefs. The Doukhobor women are especially clever at all work of this kind, showing exquisite taste in the selection and blending of colours in their rug-making. Occasionally one of the older women brings out to show you, a Turkish rug which she wove, in conjunction with a Turkish woman, at the time, when, by the Czar's decree they were banished to the wild parts of Southern Russia bordering on Turkey; in the hope, perhaps, that the Turks would put them to the sword. Instead, it seems the women of each side took to making rugs together.
In the threshing of straw into a fine powder, to help-out in feeding horses and cattle, a peculiar kind of instrument is used, consisting of a board, its under-side teethed with sharp stones. This instrument the Doukhobor men tell you they learned how to make from the Turkish men, so it is evident that the men of both sides fraternized, as well as the women. It seems strange indeed to happen on these things in Western Canada, until we remember that Romance knows no political or racial boundaries; that there is a great sisterhood in spinning and weaving, in embroidery, in rug-making, and in home-making everywhere.
No phase of this Community life is more Russian or Tolstoyan in appearance than the great threshing-floor, in the centre of the Settlement, at Brilliant, B.C.
The action of threshing is like that of a chariot-race, with the driver on board the drags, and the horses racing in pairs, one behind the other, round and round the large, circular earthen floor, in which the dust of the flying chaff arises and half conceals horse and driver, passing in a whirl. Ten minutes of this and the man in charge signals a halt. Each horse is then given a bucket of water and a new driver takes the place of the old. These drivers are usually mere boys, entering into the race with all a boy's excitement in the sport.
While the horses are resting, the older men come out with pitchforks made from forked branches cut in the woods, and shake up the chaff, the heavier wheat falling to the bottom. After the race has gone on for several hours or until all the grain has escaped from its tiny straw-sack, these men pitch the chaff to one side, and the wheat is swept up and carried off in the big carts, to store in the community-granary till it goes to mill.
WASHING FLAX IN THE COLUMBIA.
DOUKHOBORS: A COMMUNITY RACE Continued.
Early in the morning….
DOUKHOBORS: A COMMUNITY RACE Continued.
ARLY in the morning of a Sunday when daylight still leaves the shadows deep under the fruit-trees in the orchard, and the grass is wet and the air full of the dewy freshness that only melts with the sun, the Doukhobors may be seen – a figure or two at a time – stepping lightly under the apple-trees, clad in their homespun suits of bleached linen, the men in their Russian blouses and bareheaded, the women in full skirts, and tight "bodies" with snowy plotoks on their heads, all barefooted, all converging upon the church. Inside, gravely bowing, the men range down one side of the empty room and the women line up on the other. In the centre of the aisle between, stands a table always supplied with a little dish of salt, a loaf of bread, and a jug of water, the three elements that are the Trinity of life. In season, these three simple elements are supplemented by offerings of a plate of the most perfect specimens of tomatoes, a plate of the finest peaches, another of the largest plums, a fullgrown watermelon, and a bunch of asters. This dash of colour against the simple purity of the white linen suits of the congregation is indeed effective.
The Doukhobors are very fond of singing, and this carries one back to the daily life in the "villages". For at almost every meal the Doukhobors, in addition to saying a solemn "grace", end the meal with the singing of old religious chants. At the evening meal in particular the singing is never omitted. It is worth while going among these people just to listen to this sweet community part-singing gathering in volume as it goes rolling through the miles of the "Valley of Consolation" caught up from village to village, and borne away on the romantic wings of the dusk enfolding the mountains, the rushing river and the orchards.
The garments of linen worn as the ceremonial dress at these early Sunday morning services, are the offering upon the altar, as it were, of the epic of flax. The Doukhobor women though "Doukhobor" in religion are Russians in their knowledge of flax. This knowledge is their own special contribution to Canada. Other wheat-wizards there are, other masters of mixed-farming, other specialists in stock, others who would find them children at the fishing. Perhaps no Doukhobor has ever been a sailor, (because this is a strictly earth-loving people) but nowhere else in Canada is the complete story of flax, from the seed to wearing of the woven linen, to be come upon, without moving outside a settlement! Flax knowledge is the Doukhobors' gift to Canada but up to this time, apparently, there has been no attempt to employ these people as Flax-teachers.
In the fields at Verigen one comes upon the figure of a woman stooping over and seizing in her strong hands a full handful of the tall plants. These she pulls and ties with a twist of green into a sheaf. "Flax must be pulled", she tells you. In response to inquiry as to the quality and length of the fibre in this Canadian flax, she raises herself to rest awhile, and drawing a wisp through her fingers says half-reminiscently "Oh, good, vera good. Vera long fibre."
The British Columbia woman "rets" her flax in the river. And she keeps the swift current from running away with her precious plants, by weighing them down with the rounded river-stones, the smoothed product of the ice-age. These smooth stones serve the Indian-woman as pestles for the stump-mortar wherein she grinds her corn, and this Russian woman turns them to service for anchoring her flax, as though they were made to order. A week or ten days and the flax, now clear of all wood-fibre, is given the final washing and then carried up the steep bank of the river to sway in the wind, the while it dries on some "village" clothes-line. After this it comes into the hands of the heckler and the spinner, in every odd moment between drying fruit, picking beans, winnowing seeds, gathering aprons full of ripened millet and the thousand and one tasks the hand finds to do on these almost self-supporting farms.
The spinning-wheel is as common in every household here as in Quebec. Indeed, in the big yards, one often happens on several women at their wheels, while indoors, other women are sitting at the big handmade loom that their husbands have concocted of the B. C. cedar log. The Russian flax-wheel appears smaller than the wheel of de laine in Quebec. But its whirr and blurr of action is no less musical and rapid, and its measure of spun thread as long. The only difference between the spinners of the East and West is that the Russian woman spins flax and her habitant sister wool.
The Doukhobor woman is also a spinner of wool but as yet the keeping of sheep on the Doukheries is in its infancy.
The Russian woman's flax-wheel is light so that she can easily take it under her arm, spinning here or there, as she wishes, indoor or out. In the heat of the midsummer day, when work in the fields is only pursued early in the morning or in the late afternoon, you find her spinning in her bedroom or on the porch. Or she sits out of doors among the flowers abloom in her dooryard enjoying the blossoms and the shade thrown by peach-trees – laden boughs bending, a symphony in fruit, to lay themselves across the heart of their Earth-mother. Indoors, the blur of the flying shuttle hums a minor accompaniment to the song of the bees busily planing from flower to flower, gathering up the nectar, that, as honey, is later to come to home tables. Then some morning the bolt of linen is finished, the linen that will, with ordinary care, long outlive the women whose industry has brought it into being.
CLOSE OF THE SEASON.
CHRYSANTHEMUMS A-BLOOM BY A STEVESTON DOOR WAY.
Every Sunday evening at six o'clock during the salmon-run, the signal gun that marks the beginning of another fishing-week rings out upon the evening air of Steveston the capital of the British Columbia salmon fisheries at the mouth of the great Fraser River. Not a net passes over any gunwale of the hundred odd motorboats that for the past hour have been jockeying up-and-down picking up the great river's signals-of-fish and the way they "set", until the crack of the official gun rings out over the water. The moment, however, that this is heard, over go the great seines, imported here from Old Scotland for just this dramatic instant, entrants in the great race, boat against boat, and all in league, against salmon.
Of all the stories of animal-life, none is more wonderful or pathetic, than the story which the salmon of the Fraser have given to Canada. From out the deep-sea they come by tens of thousands, crowding, pushing, over-leaping each other, a silvery mass of fighting-mad mothers, trying to start their off-spring on the perilous road of fish-life, somewhere in a pool, high up in the mountains out of harm's way; and here across the river, near its mouth, is this line of boats and their submerged nets lying in wait, while on the river's bank in league with the boats are the huge canning factories, like so many Molochs open-mouthed, waiting to swallow to-day's catch and to-morrow's, as they have snapped up those of the years gone by.
One has not spent an hour on this waterfront before story and romance have flitted across the stage in almost confusing numbers. Each figure in the vaudeville of fish, a flashing mosaic, stepped out of the Far East to serve this river of the Far West. For the Japs are the servitors of Salmon at Steveston. Out of the Islands of Nippon have come these fishermen, to serve in the ranks of Fraser salmon-fishing, men with wives and little families, caught in the net of circumstance and landed far from home, to work here where the snow-capped Mount McKinley, over in the State of Washington, gleams an intermittent nimbus of light above the foggy head-veil of distance, suggesting, like a lighted candle on the altar of remembrance, all the sweet associations and memories clinging to the snow-capped brow of Fujiyama.
Here in the boats are the nets, all the way from the hand of the old net-maker in Scotland, and here the hands handling the nets come from the other side of the world to bring Canadian salmon to the tables of the home-land and to carry the overflow to the tables of the world. For when one comes to think of it, there must indeed be few, if any lands, that do not know Canadian salmon, and few undertakings calling for a ration of canned-food which do not depend on canned-salmon to hold up the fish-end.
These up-to-date motorboats, so broad in the waist to hold the net and the fish-cargo, bear in their rounded bows striking psychological resemblance in quaint twist of line to the old Saint Malo fishboats riding in the anchorage sentried off Cape Barrie at Percé, while at the same moment in that blunt blow, there is suggestion both of the tripping old canal-barge of the Richelieu and of the craft of the Yang-tse, so that one involuntarily murmurs "Sampans of Salmon''. So too, in the lower river-silt bank platformed by rough planks and water-soaked piles, there is both touch of Fundy and whiff of Asiatic Deltas.
The little wooden shack homes of these Japanese fisher folk of Steveston are raised above flood-danger on wooden platforms and set about with wooden yards, fronted by clear-running canals crossed by foot bridges of wide plank.
Who can screen a picture of Japan without a bridge, or of a Japanese home, however homely, but its poverty is beatified by masses of flowers? So, here against the unpainted walls, set about on the floor of the wooden yard, are buckets and tubs of Chrysanthemums a-bloom, Japan-transplanted. And do the flowers stop at the bucket or the box? Not at all. Marigolds and cornflowers and candytuft and many others under the loving hand of the Jap-mother, are coaxed out of every crevice of river-silt staved-up by any old bit of wood. Vines set near the edge of the tiny canals trail tendril fingers to touch the water. And the little bridges are so invaded by pots of bloom that the man of the family must surely object to the narrow gangway allowed him to and from his boats, did he not love flowers as keenly as his little Flower-of- Japan wife.
Passing to and fro here and in the salmon-factories one begins to realize that the Japanese women share the work on the fish with the men. One might even call these little women "the 'longshoremen of Salmon" as they stand at the tables, – groaning under the weight of sockeye and its lesser brethren – their babies tied to their backs with a soft shawl, in the same way that the Cree mother carries her baby in a tikanagan. Many a lullaby is crooned while the skilful brown fingers place the juicy steaks in the little flat tins. The gentle rocking of the mother's swaying figure sends the baby to sleep more effectively than any cradle. And the mother and her baby are together through the long day of toil.
As one steps along the factory-floors between the long rows of women, figures just made by Nature for the kimona and the smooth shiny ebon-elegance of the Japanese coiffure, these plump little women with their brown-eyed babies on their backs are indeed a picturesque contribution to the genre appearing on the vast stage from Atlantic to Pacific that is – the Dominion. Nor is canning the fish the limit of the Japanese woman's usefulness. Not all of them work in the factories. Figures of the wharf-side and of the platform-yards by the flowering banks of the canals are the great seines a-drying. And while one sees men, sitting about in the sun, netting-needle in hand, mending these nets, just as frequently one happens on some strong Japanese woman, long knife in hand, cutting away the large wooden floats, against the net's being laid away at the close of the season, her baby, released from the back cradle-perambulator, playing at her side.
THE INDIANS OF ALERT BAY.
Although situated directly….
THE INDIANS OF ALERT BAY.
LTHOUGH situated directly on the Alaskan coastal highway, with a constant stream of large freight and passenger steamers calling at the cannery pier or dropping anchor in its fine harbour, Alert Bay is a spot haunted by the spirit of the untamed, full of those powerful undercurrents that thrive on the edge of the wilderness. It is altogether mysterious and bizarre.
Part of this spirit is due to the wildness of nature hereabouts, to the high-reaching mountains, the low-hanging, encircling mists, the dark woods, and, in the rainy season, the general atmospheric wetness clinging to the nearer distances; but specifically it is due to other things, things which the natural setting helps to accentuate and for which it forms a splendidly effective stage. Merely to mention Alert Bay is to think of Indians. For this little trading-post, now grown to prime importance as a Pacific coast port-of-call, has filled a high place in coastal Indian life from time immemorial.
Just how long the Indians have had homes or congregated at Alert Bay no one knows, not even they themselves. But as far back as their traditions go, this particular spot on the coast has been a gathering-place focussing all the events of tribal life in peace and war. Time, therefore, has vested Alert Bay with all the importance of a capital and hallowed it to the red men all up and down the coast. Far within the Arctic Circle, away off on the shores of Queen Charlotte Islands, the aboriginals look to Alert for guidance in many things and in ways that are a mystery to us.
Building on established foundations, Alert Bay is now an Indian reservation, with an Indian agent and government school. For upward of a score of years a Church of England, established here with a resident rector, has maintained two boarding-schools – one for Indian boys and the other for Indian girls. But despite all these civilizing influences, there still obtains in the village the mysterious philosophy of life embodied in the community-house without windows, the open wood-fire in the middle of the floor and the hole in the roof for escaping smoke. There still remain the picturesque dugout or kayak, totem poles, big and little; tree burials, potlatches, including wild orgies, and a host of other curious customs that lend colour and weave a motif of weirdness into all the life hereabouts.
A curving beach and a boardwalk above the swishing waves following the bend of the beach, form what might elsewhere be termed "The Avenue of the Totem". These totems, or "family trees", the chief attraction of visitors to Alert Bay, are curiosities indeed! British Columbia giant trees sculptured by some old redskin into heraldic insignia of tribe and family, dealing mostly with leviathans that dwarf "our family trees" to nothing by comparison.
Crude? Yes, and no. The writing is a little unformed, perhaps, but the tale itself, one of the most perfect bits of symbol the world contains.
Whales, bears, giant kingfishers, thunderbirds and fish tell the life-history of the primitive ancestor, sitting astride the giant sulphur-bottom, harpoon in hand, with a pictorial accuracy and vim that far exceed the ordinary printed page having to do with early times. It must be remembered, too, that the early Indians did not know how to write in any form but that of carving and colour, so that the men who at different times carved these totems were not only artists of a kind, but historians, limning history – valuable Canadian history – upon the heart of the giant British Columbia cedar, to the end that all ages may read what happened in these parts when the world was young.
As family history, in this peerage of the race, there are doubtless many errors. Details are probably exaggerated to reveal personal prowess to greater advantage. The teeth of the bear are very large, the whale is a perfect giant and rapid in movement as was no whale before or since, so that the forbear who leapt astride the giant back, from the kayak, harpoon in hand, was a veritable master among Indians – a hero of heroes. All of which everyone admits to be legitimate poetic licence in the totem-maker and wisely calculated to whet the edge of the most callous imagination. But although the place of the whale is great and the lure of him, even at this distance in time, well-nigh impossible to resist, since through the length and breadth of him a wicked spirit seems to look at you through the mist, out of very spirited eyes fairly dancing with mischief, still it is the "Thunder-bird" who is the reigning spirit of these totems, swaying the imagination of the tribe far more than the whale, or the bear, who is here depicted holding against his great hairy breast the sacred "copper" emblem of "Chieftaincy" to this day. Even to uninitiated eyes there is a magic weirdness in the very look of the "Thunderbird". Its beak resembles somewhat the prows of two kayaks inverted one above the other. The bow of the lower, forming the under half of the beak, is hinged and allowed to drop open on state occasions. At the time of the potlatch, by dint of much writhing and wriggling, the "braves" make their entrance to the house of entertainment through the "Thunder-bird's" open mouth. It requires but little imagination to see how this beak might be converted into a diabolical trap. Indeed, there is a story common in Alert Bay that at one time a tribe of enemies were invited to "potlach" and treacherously slain, a man at a time, as they entered the house through the beak, the arrangement being such that no Indian on the outside knew what was happening till he received his death wound. The entire number of guests was thus wiped out.
Standing before the bird, mystery shrouding the crude mechanism, you feel that it was designed for some such coup d'etat as the one cited. It is so simple and so subtle withal. Every time you see an Indian pass it, stolid and reserved, he seems to glance that way with satisfaction, proud that here among his people should be a device that holds the interest of the white man, to the extent of repeated visits, if his stay in the neighbourhood be for long. The times assure us that the treacherous "feast-of-blood" will never be repeated. Yet the potlatch survives and who, even of the Indians, knows if the diabolical spirit of the bird is dead?
It is not altogether the natural scenery that makes the mystery and charm for the visitor to Alert Bay, but rather those unfathomable, sometimes intangible things, which having no articulate voice yet speak with marvellous power to every generation, and I suppose have so spoken since the dawn of time. One day as we were looking the "Thunder-bird" in the eye, trying to read his secret, a group of little Indian boys played nearby with their bows and arrows. Presently another lad came out of a "community house" with his family coffee-pot, which he set up on a post for a target. Soon the twang of the bow-strings and the tinkle of the falling coffee-pot spoke eloquently of the quality of the youngster's markmanship. Over against the sea-edge of the board-walk a group of men and fat kloochmans (squaws) squatted on logs, watching the tableau and giving a deep, satisfied grunt every time the coffee-pot was shot from its perch. To the Indian – whose ancestors fought the giant sulphur-bottom, single-handed, on his own ground, and invented the Thunder-bird's wily beak to trap the foe – skill in the use of the bow and arrow even to-day is of far more value than any coffee-pot ever made! At least the Indian mind is not hampered by little things! Marksmanship is still the perfection of acquirements to him. All his training hitherto has been along such lines. It is in his blood. But in these days, he turns his skill to different ends. He is broad and big in his conception of nationality now, where formerly it was the "tribe" that was the biggest concept of his days. To-day the Alert Bay Indian almost reverences the privileges of nationality! The British flag means so big a thing to him that when at death he now consents to be buried in the ground instead of being put far up in one of the giant trees in some old box or trunk much too short for his six feet unless doubled up once or twice, he usually has one and sometimes two or three handsome British flags set up over his grave on a pole or an overhanging tree – a rich bit of colour among the dark green pines. What faith in the flag and in its conquering ability to drive away evil spirits! Day and night, year in and year out, above that lone grave in the mists "the flag is still there" – waving above great painted whales, giant kingfishers, yellow moths and other symbols of name and place.
In keeping with this loyal spirit is "the roll of honour" hanging on the little English church door! An honour roll on which the names of red men and white men commingle! Some of the volunteers have made "the supreme sacrifice" "somewhere in France", and are now taking their long sleep under the poppies in Flanders; and "the flag is still there," with its deeper significance for the red man than ever before. For with his life's blood he has bought the right to add it, a new theme, to his family totem.
A splendid work is being done among the Alert Bay Indians by both the Government and the Church. The Indian agent here is a hardy Ontario Scotsman, who understands the Indian and has won his confidence to a splendid degree. "'Tis true," he himself assured us, "they still live in the community-house. But I'm not sure," he added with characteristic Scotch humour, "but what the hole in the roof gives better ventilation than the window in the pretty cottage that's never opened."
THE FAMILY TREE OF THE PACIFIC COAST INDIANS.
SPIRIT OF THE UNTAMED.
The work of the minister and his assistant teachers in the boys' school, and the English women giving their lives to work among the girls, is another fine medium for developing patriotism in the Indians here and to the north. Indian children appear at these schools from "anywhere up Arctic way" and on their arrival are frequently suffering from troublesome diseases, of which they must be cured before anything can be done for them from the the teaching point of view. The kindness and skill of the teacher in such cases does much to win the love and respect of whole tribes whom she has never seen and probably never will. On the other hand, the Indians have never seen her, but in their minds these teachers belong to the flag – the big scarlet flag that they love, and that, is enough.
The teacher in charge of the Indian Girls' School at Alert is the oldest daughter of an English colonel of the Imperial army, a man who, in his prime, superintended the construction of one or two forts which in their day were rated as "Keys of Empire". She considers her life well spent here and although she and her father are separated by vast distances, they are united in the national service; and I take it the old colonel is as proud of his daughter and her work as of his forts. Here at school the future chiefs and braves and squaws of tribes-to-be learn to speak the mother tongue – English, the language of the world – with passable fluency, though, often coming from far-distant sections of the Northland, they cannot understand or speak each other's dialect – a fact rather surprising to the casual visitor, who is apt to fall into the error of thinking all Indians speak the same language.
Sunday at Alert Bay offers rare opportunities to the visitor. Dropping in to church in the morning, it is indeed a novel service one happens on, all the old familiar prayers and hymns in the strange tongue that seems to express only k, w and a sounds! After church an incoming steamer with passengers from the North offers a very satisfactory excuse for a stroll along "Totem Avenue", where Indians of all ages sit sunning themselves, or are arriving and departing in family groups in the kayak to visit some distant settlement far up the Nimkish. The young folk in their civilized and rather good, if somewhat bright-coloured "Sunday bests", are all down on the Cannery pier, seeing the crowd come off the boat. The older women, not caring for such "modern proceedings", paddle off alone in kayaks to gather driftwood from the opposite shores of the bay; the shore-edge of the tree-cemetery being an excellent "catch" for the "chips" that are the gift of the sea.
But it is the Indian of the week-day, the Indian going about his business, that spells the most interest after all. A stroll along the boardwalk then reveals sights that have to do with subjects of world-wide interest – like food supplies and women at work. For it is the Indian woman (kloochman) who does the work, as board-walk scenes so frequently demonstrate. A group of squaws – bending low, heads together – on the grass at the front door of a cottage are trussing up a dozen juicy salmon between homemade frames of clean pine-sticks. A little nearby shack, from every crevice of which an acrid smell proceeds, proclaims the "smokehouse". A proper fire is revealed every time the crude door swings on its creaking hinge to admit another fish to the council of its peers. A little farther along, an old squaw sits crouched on a shawl on a float under the wet pier-head, cleaning, opening and splitting salmon from a loaded kayak. Every now and then talking to herself, she works away with a will, while you, looking on from above, wish you understood enough of her guttural talk to tell whether she herself was the Izaak Walton of this good catch or whether it was her lord and master, who has walked off and left her all the dirty work of preparing the fish while he squats on the bench in the little summer house that forms part of the sea wall, and smokes.
Farther along the beach little smoke-houses sweat and smoke – veritable volcanoes of the trade! For it is part of the life that every cottage and community-house should smoke its own winter supply of salmon. In the community-houses the fish is hung to smell and smoke anew over the perpetual flame that burns on the open hearth in the middle of the floor.
Such an odour of fish as greets the nostrils of a caller at the door of one of these community-houses! It takes courage to cross that threshold, and if in the middle of your call the chef of one of the many families, reaching aloft to the cross-pole from which the fish hangs, brings down a piece to cook over the altar fire, the smells which went before are as nothing to the vile odours now filling the room and lifting themselves to heaven through the hole in the roof.
In the community-house no one seems to mind, but all squat around in the semi-darkness and smoke, hugging knees and drawing on pipes, gazing in meditative silence at some old fellow stirring a pot of boiling rice perched in the elbow of the burning stump, with a wooden spoon, blackened and polished with age, and of a pattern suggesting the unearthed treasures of Thebes. Over at one side of the room, in a compartment partitioned off by cracker-boxes and blowing curtains, and all open on the side facing the fire, sits an aged woman, claiming to be a hundred years at least, and how much older – who can tell? – weaving pretty little baskets to sell to visitors from the boats. Despite her great age, the old woman has all her faculties and is really an interesting personality, dyeing some of the roots and straw and weaving fancy patterns into her basketry. In the room on the opposite side of the cracker-box partition, another woman kneels before a crude loom, on which hangs a half-woven blanket. From out the gloom of distance the man interested in the rice fetches an armful of sticks and under their influence the fire leaps into a big blaze, revealing more compartments in which women work, or sick children lie in bed looking wistfully at the leaping fire. In some enclosures no one is at home, but outside on the boardwalk in the dusk of the evening, wending our way homeward to our room in the old Mission-house, we often met the squaws returning from the woods, large hand-woven baskets of scarlet huckleberries, neatly covered with cool sprigs of evergreen, strapped to their backs by hand-embroidered bands of wampum. Next morning little pats of drying fruit, set breast-high on a clean pine board on a post between the sea and the boardwalk, with a man's hat and coat hung over them to scare off the crows of which there are great numbers at Alert Bay, give one an inkling that even the Indian woman has heard the echo of the "Preserve or Perish" slogan of her more southern sisters and is doing her "bit".
No one goes to Alert Bay and comes away without paying a visit to "Old Kitty" – a rheumaticky old soul squatting on the floor of a tiny cabin whose open door adjoins the boardwalk. Kitty loves tobacco! Her heart goes out to anyone bringing a present of the weed. Kitty also confirms one's faith in the Indian woman's jam-making ability. Jars, bottles, bowls, old cracked cups and mugs, old spoutless teapots, etc., all overflowing with stewed fruit, stare at you from all directions. Tables and chairs are not popular with the average Indian. Kitty, squatting on the floor, pipe in mouth, has all her possessions scattered around her. The jam-pots flank the little floor-bed, outline the rude little pillows, are marshalled four-square against the mop-boards, and others more timid or worse cracked than their fellows are propped up behind the little old stove, itself dropping to pieces! Apparently Kitty is a happy old soul, with a great capacity for jam. One is puzzled to know how she gets sugar enough for it all, until one learns that she picks up a living by mending socks and stockings – everybody's in town, from the minister's down, at five cents a pair.
But Alert Bay food-producing and economy in food do not begin and end with Indians. The white man here takes a big hand along these lines. The salmon cannery collects fish for the home market and for shipment abroad, from motor-boat and kayak alike. The lumber-mill makes fish-boxes for the Canadian Pacific coast and with its waste the great mill warms the whole village without distinction of colour, setting free much coal for use in other parts of the country where wood is not to be had.
Wireless, too, does its share from its place on the top of the hill above the totems, to keep open and safe the navigation up and down this dangerous coast for the Alaskan ships carrying copper and fish.
For all emergencies there is a good-sized hospital. Here lumberjacks, meeting with an accident in felling or handling the giant trees and timber which are helping to give Canada a mercantile marine, are brought for medical treatment and care.
Alert Bay on account of its situation is a meeting-place for all sorts of interesting people. There is only one hotel and that, picturesquely enough, is the old Mission-house, which with its huge timbered ceilings and tales of early days and Indians would fill a book with sketches. Here over the crackling fire roaring in the great chimney-place "trail-beaters" for the woods, mines, or fisheries succeed each other in endless procession, yarning of experiences, as they wait for a steamer "up" or "down". Here is Canadian history in the making – yarns that are world-history, too. For men from this "company from the hinterlands" of British Columbia and Alaska who sat here by the fire often enough in the old days, have, many of them, travelled far since then, some never to return.
Truly the currents and cross-currents, as well as undercurrents, of life here are past finding out, and that is what lends atmosphere to this niche in the coast. If it lacked these mysterious happenings and these out-of-the-ordinary people, it would have no more charm than dozens of other places one could name. Life is never dull here, where action is the keynote and where extremes are always meeting. Alert Bay is an outpost truly Canadian, truly British. Therefore one is not surprised here, on stepping into the rectory drawing-room, to come upon a bit of our social life at its best; the rector's wife pouring tea for several of the teachers – the doctor who has dropped in from the hospital, a visiting minister and wife from the mainland, the cannery operator's bride, etc., with, over the teacups, the usual interesting talk.
A visit to the Indian agent's attractive home, redolent of cosy comfort, produces an equally good cup of tea and reminiscences of interest connected with the Indians for the past quarter of a century. At the Mission-house there's a scholarly old Scotsman of the clan MacLean and his wife "Becky", always ready with a story and tea, and making a real home at the old mission for men who are carving Canada's fortunes out of the northern wilderness. Indeed, you may sip your five o'clock tea in as cosy and homelike drawing-rooms and from as delicate china in Alert Bay as anywhere in Canada; which, considering its remoteness, speaks well for those who are holding this outpost of the red men with totem pedigrees! The Indians need, and deserve, a high standard. With their "family" they have an idea of what's what, and who's who. No one stands more on his dignity than an Indian! One Sunday afternoon we were received by the present chief and his wife. They live in a neat cottage, furnished with chairs, tables and rugs and having family portraits on the walls. At our request the chief donned his handsome official coat, covered with symbols of great snakes, bears and eagles wrought in beads. Courteously he explained the significance of each emblem. He also brought out a handsomely carved "speech-pole", taller than himself, and showed with pride the "copper", which is the most important emblem of office. For the "copper" he paid five hundred dollars. The chief speaks very good English, is a pillar in the church, and enjoys a potlach. In other words, he is a man of parts.
The potlatch is a giving-away feast among the Indians. Wishing to impress the tribes with the importance of himself and family, some man announces a potlatch. Frequently he spends thousands of dollars on his gifts – hundreds of sacks of flour or as many blankets as will reach from one totem to another half a mile away. China and glassware, pots and pans are favourite gifts. A roaring fire in a selected community-house, guests in costume, a wild-man hunt, braves dancing and a good wild time, lasting sometimes for several months. This is the potlatch – a sort of winter carnival. On the most important night the chief, donning his robes, enters, speech-pole in hand, and makes the address to his people. On these occasions he is accompanied by his wife and son, the latter wearing a robe embroidered in design with many pearl buttons, and on his head a heavy crown of yew-wood, inlaid with mother-of-pearl and ornamented with sea-lion whiskers. The potlatch, however barbaric in its dances and roaring fires and flickering light and shadows, is now within civilized bounds when compared with the traditions of those of the long ago. The Indian is now beginning to see other more profitable ways for investing money. With his wider knowledge, comes a moderation of old habits. They do not now "potlatch" every year. The young folk are not enthusiastic, having other ambitions. Their friends and brothers were "overseas" in that strange, rare, old world of Europe in the Great War. Who knows what new ideas of life took root with every word that trickled to this people of the coast, from their "boys" at the front? The Alert Bay Indians never saw a train full of returned soldiers coming in, or a ship with men from overseas dock at Halifax, but they had a glimpse now and then of British naval authority in the rattle of a gunboat's chains coming to anchor in the little bay. None knew whence these little boats came or whither they went, but while in port, the gray hull and shining brass, angled-cannon, hour-bells and bugle-calls, were tangible proofs of that larger fleet which keeps England "Mistress of the Seas".
They know, these braves of the family tree, that the son of their agent, who lived down the "Avenue" and played with their lads as a boy, fought in the navy at Gallipoli. They know that their sons and brothers were at Ypres with the rector's son, who will never come back.
It is comforting to realize that the Canadian Government's confidence in the coastal Indian has not been misplaced. For not only did he serve abroad, adding fresh glory on the battlefields of France to the "totems" which are a landmark, not alone to his own people, but to the entire Pacific coast, but at home he was and is a food-producer, when it comes to salmon, of no mean accomplishments. And salmon, be it known, is an important item in the life of Canada.
HIS EDITION OF "ROMANTIC CANADA", WHICH BOOK IS WRITTEN BY VICTORIA HAYWARD AND ILLUSTRATED WITH PHOTOGRAPHS BY EDITH S. WATSON, AND PUBLISHED BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY OF CANADA, LIMITED, IS PRINTED AND BOUND BY THE T. H. BEST PRINTING COMPANY, LIMITED, TORONTO, CANADA.
A Window at St. Martin's House
About This Edition
Size and placement of illustrations may vary from the originals; they have been moved to avoid breaking up paragraphs.