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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsBaddeck And That Sort Of Thing - Chapter 3
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Baddeck And That Sort Of Thing - Chapter 3 Post by :jon_poland Category :Nonfictions Author :Charles Dudley Warner Date :May 2012 Read :3400

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Baddeck And That Sort Of Thing - Chapter 3

CHAPTER III

"It was then summer, and the weather very fine; so pleased
was I with the country, in which I had never travelled
before, that my delight proved equal to my wonder."
-- BENVENUTO CELLINI.


There are few pleasures in life equal to that of riding on the box-seat of a stagecoach, through a country unknown to you and hearing the driver talk about his horses. We made the intimate acquaintance of twelve horses on that day's ride, and learned the peculiar disposition and traits of each one of them, their ambition of display, their sensitiveness to praise or blame, their faithfulness, their playfulness, the readiness with which they yielded to kind treatment, their daintiness about food and lodging.

May I never forget the spirited little jade, the off-leader in the third stage, the petted belle of the route, the nervous, coquettish, mincing mare of Marshy Hope. A spoiled beauty she was; you could see that as she took the road with dancing step, tossing her pretty head about, and conscious of her shining black coat and her tail done up "in any simple knot,"--like the back hair of Shelley's Beatrice Cenci. How she ambled and sidled and plumed herself, and now and then let fly her little heels high in air in mere excess of larkish feeling.

"So! girl; so! Kitty," murmurs the driver in the softest tones of admiration; "she don't mean anything by it, she's just like a kitten."

But the heels keep flying above the traces, and by and by the driver is obliged to "speak hash" to the beauty. The reproof of the displeased tone is evidently felt, for she settles at once to her work, showing perhaps a little impatience, jerking her head up and down, and protesting by her nimble movements against the more deliberate trot of her companion. I believe that a blow from the cruel lash would have broken her heart; or else it would have made a little fiend of the spirited creature. The lash is hardly ever good for the sex.

For thirteen years, winter and summer, this coachman had driven this monotonous, uninteresting route, with always the same sandy hills, scrubby firs, occasional cabins, in sight. What a time to nurse his thought and feed on his heart! How deliberately he can turn things over in his brain! What a system of philosophy he might evolve out of his consciousness! One would think so. But, in fact, the stagebox is no place for thinking. To handle twelve horses every day, to keep each to its proper work, stimulating the lazy and restraining the free, humoring each disposition, so that the greatest amount of work shall be obtained with the least friction, making each trip on time, and so as to leave each horse in as good condition at the close as at the start, taking advantage of the road, refreshing the team by an occasional spurt of speed,--all these things require constant attention; and if the driver was composing an epic, the coach might go into the ditch, or, if no accident happened, the horses would be worn out in a month, except for the driver's care.

I conclude that the most delicate and important occupation in life is stage-driving. It would be easier to "run" the Treasury Department of the United States than a four-in-hand. I have a sense of the unimportance of everything else in comparison with this business in hand. And I think the driver shares that feeling. He is the autocrat of the situation. He is lord of all the humble passengers, and they feel their inferiority. They may have knowledge and skill in some things, but they are of no use here. At all the stables the driver is king; all the people on the route are deferential to him; they are happy if he will crack a joke with them, and take it as a favor if he gives them better than they send. And it is his joke that always raises the laugh, regardless of its quality.

We carry the royal mail, and as we go along drop little sealed canvas bags at way offices. The bags would not hold more than three pints of meal, and I can see that there is nothing in them. Yet somebody along here must be expecting a letter, or they would not keep up the mail facilities. At French River we change horses. There is a mill here, and there are half a dozen houses, and a cranky bridge, which the driver thinks will not tumble down this trip. The settlement may have seen better days, and will probably see worse.

I preferred to cross the long, shaky wooden bridge on foot, leaving the inside passengers to take the risk, and get the worth of their money; and while the horses were being put to, I walked on over the hill. And here I encountered a veritable foot-pad, with a club in his hand and a bundle on his shoulder, coming down the dusty road, with the wild-eyed aspect of one who travels into a far country in search of adventure. He seemed to be of a cheerful and sociable turn, and desired that I should linger and converse with him. But he was more meagerly supplied with the media of conversation than any person I ever met. His opening address was in a tongue that failed to convey to me the least idea. I replied in such language as I had with me, but it seemed to be equally lost upon him. We then fell back upon gestures and ejaculations, and by these I learned that he was a native of Cape Breton, but not an aborigine. By signs he asked me where I came from, and where I was going; and he was so much pleased with my destination, that he desired to know my name; and this I told him with all the injunction of secrecy I could convey; but he could no more pronounce it than I could speak his name. It occurred to me that perhaps he spoke a French patois, and I asked him; but he only shook his head. He would own neither to German nor Irish. The happy thought came to me of inquiring if he knew English. But he shook his head again, and said,

"No English, plenty garlic."

This was entirely incomprehensible, for I knew that garlic is not a language, but a smell. But when he had repeated the word several times, I found that he meant Gaelic; and when we had come to this understanding, we cordially shook hands and willingly parted. One seldom encounters a wilder or more good-natured savage than this stalwart wanderer. And meeting him raised my hopes of Cape Breton.

We change horses again, for the last stage, at Marshy Hope. As we turn down the hill into this place of the mournful name, we dash past a procession of five country wagons, which makes way for us: everything makes way for us; even death itself turns out for the stage with four horses. The second wagon carries a long box, which reveals to us the mournful errand of the caravan. We drive into the stable, and get down while the fresh horses are put to. The company's stables are all alike, and open at each end with great doors. The stable is the best house in the place; there are three or four houses besides, and one of them is white, and has vines growing over the front door, and hollyhocks by the front gate. Three or four women, and as many barelegged girls, have come out to look at the procession, and we lounge towards the group.

"It had a winder in the top of it, and silver handles," says one.

"Well, I declare; and you could 'a looked right in?"

"If I'd been a mind to."

"Who has died?" I ask.

"It's old woman Larue; she lived on Gilead Hill, mostly alone. It's better for her."

"Had she any friends?"

"One darter. They're takin' her over Eden way, to bury her where she come from."

"Was she a good woman?" The traveler is naturally curious to know what sort of people die in Nova Scotia.

"Well, good enough. Both her husbands is dead."

The gossips continued talking of the burying. Poor old woman Larue! It was mournful enough to encounter you for the only time in this world in this plight, and to have this glimpse of your wretched life on lonesome Gilead Hill. What pleasure, I wonder, had she in her life, and what pleasure have any of these hard-favored women in this doleful region? It is pitiful to think of it. Doubtless, however, the region isn't doleful, and the sentimental traveler would not have felt it so if he had not encountered this funereal flitting.

But the horses are in. We mount to our places; the big doors swing open.

"Stand away," cries the driver.

The hostler lets go Kitty's bridle, the horses plunge forward, and we are off at a gallop, taking the opposite direction from that pursued by old woman Larue.

This last stage is eleven miles, through a pleasanter country, and we make it in a trifle over an hour, going at an exhilarating gait, that raises our spirits out of the Marshy Hope level. The perfection of travel is ten miles an hour, on top of a stagecoach; it is greater speed than forty by rail. It nurses one's pride to sit aloft, and rattle past the farmhouses, and give our dust to the cringing foot tramps. There is something royal in the swaying of the coach body, and an excitement in the patter of the horses' hoofs. And what an honor it must be to guide such a machine through a region of rustic admiration!

The sun has set when we come thundering down into the pretty Catholic village of Antigonish,--the most home-like place we have seen on the island. The twin stone towers of the unfinished cathedral loom up large in the fading light, and the bishop's palace on the hill--the home of the Bishop of Arichat--appears to be an imposing white barn with many staring windows. At Antigonish--with the emphasis on the last syllable--let the reader know there is a most comfortable inn, kept by a cheery landlady, where the stranger is served by the comely handmaidens, her daughters, and feels that he has reached a home at last. Here we wished to stay. Here we wished to end this weary pilgrimage. Could Baddeck be as attractive as this peaceful valley? Should we find any inn on Cape Breton like this one?

"Never was on Cape Breton," our driver had said; "hope I never shall be. Heard enough about it. Taverns? You'll find 'em occupied."

"Fleas?

"Wus."

"But it is a lovely country?"

"I don't think it."

Into what unknown dangers were we going? Why not stay here and be happy? It was a soft summer night. People were loitering in the street; the young beaux of the place going up and down with the belles, after the leisurely manner in youth and summer; perhaps they were students from St. Xavier College, or visiting gallants from Guysborough. They look into the post-office and the fancy store. They stroll and take their little provincial pleasure and make love, for all we can see, as if Antigonish were a part of the world. How they must look down on Marshy Hope and Addington Forks and Tracadie! What a charming place to live in is this!

But the stage goes on at eight o'clock. It will wait for no man. There is no other stage till eight the next night, and we have no alternative but a night ride. We put aside all else except duty and Baddeck. This is strictly a pleasure-trip.

The stage establishment for the rest of the journey could hardly be called the finest on the continent. The wagon was drawn by two horses. It was a square box, covered with painted cloth. Within were two narrow seats, facing each other, affording no room for the legs of passengers, and offering them no position but a strictly upright one. It was a most ingeniously uncomfortable box in which to put sleepy travelers for the night. The weather would be chilly before morning, and to sit upright on a narrow board all night, and shiver, is not cheerful. Of course, the reader says that this is no hardship to talk about. But the reader is mistaken. Anything is a hardship when it is unpleasantly what one does not desire or expect. These travelers had spent wakeful nights, in the forests, in a cold rain, and never thought of complaining. It is useless to talk about the Polar sufferings of Dr. Kane to a guest at a metropolitan hotel, in the midst of luxury, when the mosquito sings all night in his ear, and his mutton-chop is overdone at breakfast. One does not like to be set up for a hero in trifles, in odd moments, and in inconspicuous places.

There were two passengers besides ourselves, inhabitants of Cape Breton Island, who were returning from Halifax to Plaster Cove, where they were engaged in the occupation of distributing alcoholic liquors at retail. This fact we ascertained incidentally, as we learned the nationality of our comrades by their brogue, and their religion by their lively ejaculations during the night. We stowed ourselves into the rigid box, bade a sorrowing good-night to the landlady and her daughters, who stood at the inn door, and went jingling down the street towards the open country.

The moon rises at eight o'clock in Nova Scotia. It came above the horizon exactly as we began our journey, a harvest-moon, round and red. When I first saw it, it lay on the edge of the horizon as if too heavy to lift itself, as big as a cart-wheel, and its disk cut by a fence-rail. With what a flood of splendor it deluged farmhouses and farms, and the broad sweep of level country! There could not be a more magnificent night in which to ride towards that geographical mystery of our boyhood, the Gut of Canso.

A few miles out of town the stage stopped in the road before a post-station. An old woman opened the door of the farmhouse to receive the bag which the driver carried to her. A couple of sprightly little girls rushed out to "interview" the passengers, climbing up to ask their names and, with much giggling, to get a peep at their faces. And upon the handsomeness or ugliness of the faces they saw in the moonlight they pronounced with perfect candor. We are not obliged to say what their verdict was. Girls here, no doubt, as elsewhere, lose this trustful candor as they grow older.

Just as we were starting, the old woman screamed out from the door, in a shrill voice, addressing the driver, "Did you see ary a sick man 'bout 'Tigonish?"

"Nary."

"There's one been round here for three or four days, pretty bad off; 's got the St. Vitus's. He wanted me to get him some medicine for it up to Antigonish. I've got it here in a vial, and I wished you could take it to him."

"Where is he?"

"I dunno. I heern he'd gone east by the Gut. Perhaps you'll hear of him." All this screamed out into the night.

"Well, I'll take it."

We took the vial aboard and went on; but the incident powerfully affected us. The weird voice of the old woman was exciting in itself, and we could not escape the image of this unknown man, dancing about this region without any medicine, fleeing perchance by night and alone, and finally flitting away down the Gut of Canso. This fugitive mystery almost immediately shaped itself into the following simple poem:


"There was an old man of Canso,
Unable to sit or stan' so.
When I asked him why he ran so,
Says he, 'I've St. Vitus' dance so,
All down the Gut of Canso.'"


This melancholy song is now, I doubt not, sung by the maidens of Antigonish.

In spite of the consolations of poetry, however, the night wore on slowly, and soothing sleep tried in vain to get a lodgment in the jolting wagon. One can sleep upright, but not when his head is every moment knocked against the framework of a wagon-cover. Even a jolly young Irishman of Plaster Cove, whose nature it is to sleep under whatever discouragement, is beaten by these circumstances. He wishes he had his fiddle along. We never know what men are on casual acquaintance. This rather stupid-looking fellow is a devotee of music, and knows how to coax the sweetness out of the unwilling violin. Sometimes he goes miles and miles on winter nights to draw the seductive bow for the Cape Breton dancers, and there is enthusiasm in his voice, as he relates exploits of fiddling from sunset till the dawn of day. Other information, however, the young man has not; and when this is exhausted, he becomes sleepy again, and tries a dozen ways to twist himself into a posture in which sleep will be possible. He doubles up his legs, he slides them under the seat, he sits on the wagon bottom; but the wagon swings and jolts and knocks him about. His patience under this punishment is admirable, and there is something pathetic in his restraint from profanity.

It is enough to look out upon the magnificent night; the moon is now high, and swinging clear and distant; the air has grown chilly; the stars cannot be eclipsed by the greater light, but glow with a chastened fervor. It is on the whole a splendid display for the sake of four sleepy men, banging along in a coach,--an insignificant little vehicle with two horses. No one is up at any of the farmhouses to see it; no one appears to take any interest in it, except an occasional baying dog, or a rooster that has mistaken the time of night. By midnight we come to Tracadie, an orchard, a farmhouse, and a stable. We are not far from the sea now, and can see a silver mist in the north. An inlet comes lapping up by the old house with a salty smell and a suggestion of oyster-beds. We knock up the sleeping hostlers, change horses, and go on again, dead sleepy, but unable to get a wink. And all the night is blazing with beauty. We think of the criminal who was sentenced to be kept awake till he died.

The fiddler makes another trial. Temperately remarking, "I am very sleepy," he kneels upon the floor and rests his head on the seat. This position for a second promises repose; but almost immediately his head begins to pound the seat, and beat a lively rat-a-plan on the board. The head of a wooden idol couldn't stand this treatment more than a minute. The fiddler twisted and turned, but his head went like a triphammer on the seat. I have never seen a devotional attitude so deceptive, or one that produced less favorable results. The young man rose from his knees, and meekly said,

"It's dam hard."

If the recording angel took down this observation, he doubtless made a note of the injured tone in which it was uttered.

How slowly the night passes to one tipping and swinging along in a slowly moving stage! But the harbinger of the day came at last. When the fiddler rose from his knees, I saw the morning-star burst out of the east like a great diamond, and I knew that Venus was strong enough to pull up even the sun, from whom she is never distant more than an eighth of the heavenly circle. The moon could not put her out of countenance. She blazed and scintillated with a dazzling brilliance, a throbbing splendor, that made the moon seem a pale, sentimental invention. Steadily she mounted, in her fresh beauty, with the confidence and vigor of new love, driving her more domestic rival out of the sky. And this sort of thing, I suppose, goes on frequently. These splendors burn and this panorama passes night after night down at the end of Nova Scotia, and all for the stage-driver, dozing along on his box, from Antigonish to the strait.

"Here you are," cries the driver, at length, when we have become wearily indifferent to where we are. We have reached the ferry. The dawn has not come, but it is not far off. We step out and find a chilly morning, and the dark waters of the Gut of Canso flowing before us lighted here and there by a patch of white mist. The ferryman is asleep, and his door is shut. We call him by all the names known among men. We pound upon his house, but he makes no sign. Before he awakes and comes out, growling, the sky in the east is lightened a shade, and the star of the dawn sparkles less brilliantly. But the process is slow. The twilight is long. There is a surprising deliberation about the preparation of the sun for rising, as there is in the movements of the boatman. Both appear to be reluctant to begin the day.

The ferryman and his shaggy comrade get ready at last, and we step into the clumsy yawl, and the slowly moving oars begin to pull us upstream. The strait is here less than a mile wide; the tide is running strongly, and the water is full of swirls,--the little whirlpools of the rip-tide. The morning-star is now high in the sky; the moon, declining in the west, is more than ever like a silver shield; along the east is a faint flush of pink. In the increasing light we can see the bold shores of the strait, and the square projection of Cape Porcupine below.

On the rocks above the town of Plaster Cove, where there is a black and white sign,--Telegraph Cable,--we set ashore our companions of the night, and see them climb up to their station for retailing the necessary means of intoxication in their district, with the mournful thought that we may never behold them again.

As we drop down along the shore, there is a white sea-gull asleep on the rock, rolled up in a ball, with his head under his wing. The rock is dripping with dew, and the bird is as wet as his hard bed. We pass within an oar's length of him, but he does not heed us, and we do not disturb his morning slumbers. For there is no such cruelty as the waking of anybody out of a morning nap.

When we land, and take up our bags to ascend the hill to the white tavern of Port Hastings (as Plaster Cove now likes to be called), the sun lifts himself slowly over the treetops, and the magic of the night vanishes.

And this is Cape Breton, reached after almost a week of travel. Here is the Gut of Canso, but where is Baddeck? It is Saturday morning; if we cannot make Baddeck by night, we might as well have remained in Boston. And who knows what we shall find if we get there? A forlorn fishing-station, a dreary hotel? Suppose we cannot get on, and are forced to stay here? Asking ourselves these questions, we enter the Plaster Cove tavern. No one is stirring, but the house is open, and we take possession of the dirty public room, and almost immediately drop to sleep in the fluffy rocking-chairs; but even sleep is not strong enough to conquer our desire to push on, and we soon rouse up and go in pursuit of information.

No landlord is to be found, but there is an unkempt servant in the kitchen, who probably does not see any use in making her toilet more than once a week. To this fearful creature is intrusted the dainty duty of preparing breakfast. Her indifference is equal to her lack of information, and her ability to convey information is fettered by her use of Gaelic as her native speech. But she directs us to the stable. There we find a driver hitching his horses to a two-horse stage-wagon.

"Is this stage for Baddeck?"

"Not much."

"Is there any stage for Baddeck?"

"Not to-day."

"Where does this go, and when?"

"St. Peter's. Starts in fifteen minutes."

This seems like "business," and we are inclined to try it, especially as we have no notion where St. Peter's is.

"Does any other stage go from here to-day anywhere else?"

"Yes. Port Hood. Quarter of an hour."

Everything was about to happen in fifteen minutes. We inquire further. St. Peter's is on the east coast, on the road to Sydney. Port Hood is on the west coast. There is a stage from Port Hood to Baddeck. It would land us there some time Sunday morning; distance, eighty miles.

Heavens! what a pleasure-trip. To ride eighty miles more without sleep! We should simply be delivered dead on the Bras d'Or; that is all. Tell us, gentle driver, is there no other way?

"Well, there's Jim Hughes, come over at midnight with a passenger from Baddeck; he's in the hotel now; perhaps he'll take you."

Our hope hung on Jim Hughes. The frowzy servant piloted us up to his sleeping-room. "Go right in," said she; and we went in, according to the simple custom of the country, though it was a bedroom that one would not enter except on business. Mr. Hughes did not like to be disturbed, but he proved himself to be a man who could wake up suddenly, shake his head, and transact business,--a sort of Napoleon, in fact. Mr. Hughes stared at the intruders for a moment, as if he meditated an assault.

"Do you live in Baddeck?" we asked.

"No; Hogamah,--half-way there."

"Will you take us to Baddeck to-day?"

Mr. Hughes thought. He had intended to sleep--till noon. He had then intended to go over the Judique Mountain and get a boy. But he was disposed to accommodate. Yes, for money--sum named--he would give up his plans, and start for Baddeck in an hour. Distance, sixty miles. Here was a man worth having; he could come to a decision before he was out of bed. The bargain was closed.

We would have closed any bargain to escape a Sunday in the Plaster Cove hotel. There are different sorts of hotel uncleanliness. There is the musty old inn, where the dirt has accumulated for years, and slow neglect has wrought a picturesque sort of dilapidation, the mouldiness of time, which has something to recommend it. But there is nothing attractive in new nastiness, in the vulgar union of smartness and filth. A dirty modern house, just built, a house smelling of poor whiskey and vile tobacco, its white paint grimy, its floors unclean, is ever so much worse than an old inn that never pretended to be anything but a rookery. I say nothing against the hotel at Plaster Cove. In fact, I recommend it. There is a kind of harmony about it that I like. There is a harmony between the breakfast and the frowzy Gaelic cook we saw "sozzling" about in the kitchen. There is a harmony between the appearance of the house and the appearance of the buxom young housekeeper who comes upon the scene later, her hair saturated with the fatty matter of the bear. The traveler will experience a pleasure in paying his bill and departing.

Although Plaster Cove seems remote on the map, we found that we were right in the track of the world's news there. It is the transfer station of the Atlantic Cable Company, where it exchanges messages with the Western Union. In a long wooden building, divided into two main apartments, twenty to thirty operators are employed. At eight o'clock the English force was at work receiving the noon messages from London. The American operators had not yet come on, for New York business would not begin for an hour. Into these rooms is poured daily the news of the world, and these young fellows toss it about as lightly as if it were household gossip. It is a marvelous exchange, however, and we had intended to make some reflections here upon the en rapport feeling, so to speak, with all the world, which we experienced while there; but our conveyance was waiting. We telegraphed our coming to Baddeck, and departed. For twenty-five cents one can send a dispatch to any part of the Dominion, except the region where the Western Union has still a foothold.

Our conveyance was a one-horse wagon, with one seat. The horse was well enough, but the seat was narrow for three people, and the entire establishment had in it not much prophecy of Baddeck for that day. But we knew little of the power of Cape Breton driving. It became evident that we should reach Baddeck soon enough, if we could cling to that wagon-seat. The morning sun was hot. The way was so uninteresting that we almost wished ourselves back in Nova Scotia. The sandy road was bordered with discouraged evergreens, through which we had glimpses of sand-drifted farms. If Baddeck was to be like this, we had come on a fool's errand. There were some savage, low hills, and the Judique Mountain showed itself as we got away from the town. In this first stage, the heat of the sun, the monotony of the road, and the scarcity of sleep during the past thirty-six hours were all unfavorable to our keeping on the wagon-seat. We nodded separately, we nodded and reeled in unison. But asleep or awake, the driver drove like a son of Jehu. Such driving is the fashion on Cape Breton Island. Especially downhill, we made the most of it; if the horse was on a run, that was only an inducement to apply the lash; speed gave the promise of greater possible speed. The wagon rattled like a bark-mill; it swirled and leaped about, and we finally got the exciting impression that if the whole thing went to pieces, we should somehow go on,--such was our impetus. Round corners, over ruts and stones, and uphill and down, we went jolting and swinging, holding fast to the seat, and putting our trust in things in general. At the end of fifteen miles, we stopped at a Scotch farmhouse, where the driver kept a relay, and changed horse.

The people were Highlanders, and spoke little English; we had struck the beginning of the Gaelic settlement. From here to Hogamah we should encounter only the Gaelic tongue; the inhabitants are all Catholics. Very civil people, apparently, and living in a kind of niggardly thrift, such as the cold land affords. We saw of this family the old man, who had come from Scotland fifty years ago, his stalwart son, six feet and a half high, maybe, and two buxom daughters, going to the hay-field,--good solid Scotch lassies, who smiled in English, but spoke only Gaelic. The old man could speak a little English, and was disposed to be both communicative and inquisitive. He asked our business, names, and residence. Of the United States he had only a dim conception, but his mind rather rested upon the statement that we lived "near Boston." He complained of the degeneracy of the times. All the young men had gone away from Cape Breton; might get rich if they would stay and work the farms. But no one liked to work nowadays. From life, we diverted the talk to literature. We inquired what books they had.

"Of course you all have the poems of Burns?"

"What's the name o' the mon?"

"Burns, Robert Burns."

"Never heard tell of such a mon. Have heard of Robert Bruce. He was a Scotchman."

This was nothing short of refreshing, to find a Scotchman who had never heard of Robert Burns! It was worth the whole journey to take this honest man by the hand. How far would I not travel to talk with an American who had never heard of George Washington!

The way was more varied during the next stage; we passed through some pleasant valleys and picturesque neighborhoods, and at length, winding around the base of a wooded range, and crossing its point, we came upon a sight that took all the sleep out of us. This was the famous Bras d'Or.

The Bras d'Or is the most beautiful salt-water lake I have ever seen, and more beautiful than we had imagined a body of salt water could be. If the reader will take the map, he will see that two narrow estuaries, the Great and the Little Bras d'Or, enter the island of Cape Breton, on the ragged northeast coast, above the town of Sydney, and flow in, at length widening out and occupying the heart of the island. The water seeks out all the low places, and ramifies the interior, running away into lovely bays and lagoons, leaving slender tongues of land and picturesque islands, and bringing into the recesses of the land, to the remote country farms and settlements, the flavor of salt, and the fish and mollusks of the briny sea. There is very little tide at any time, so that the shores are clean and sightly for the most part, like those of fresh-water lakes. It has all the pleasantness of a fresh-water lake, with all the advantages of a salt one. In the streams which run into it are the speckled trout, the shad, and the salmon; out of its depths are hooked the cod and the mackerel, and in its bays fattens the oyster. This irregular lake is about a hundred miles long, if you measure it skillfully, and in some places ten miles broad; but so indented is it, that I am not sure but one would need, as we were informed, to ride a thousand miles to go round it, following all its incursions into the land. The hills about it are never more than five or six hundred feet high, but they are high enough for reposeful beauty, and offer everywhere pleasing lines.

What we first saw was an inlet of the Bras d'Or, called, by the driver, Hogamah Bay. At its entrance were long, wooded islands, beyond which we saw the backs of graceful hills, like the capes of some poetic sea-coast. The bay narrowed to a mile in width where we came upon it, and ran several miles inland to a swamp, round the head of which we must go. Opposite was the village of Hogamah. I had my suspicions from the beginning about this name, and now asked the driver, who was liberally educated for a driver, how he spelled "Hogamah."

"Why-ko-ko-magh. Hogamah."

Sometimes it is called Wykogamah. Thus the innocent traveler is misled. Along the Whykokomagh Bay we come to a permanent encampment of the Micmac Indians,--a dozen wigwams in the pine woods. Though lumber is plenty, they refuse to live in houses. The wigwams, however, are more picturesque than the square frame houses of the whites. Built up conically of poles, with a hole in the top for the smoke to escape, and often set up a little from the ground on a timber foundation, they are as pleasing to the eye as a Chinese or Turkish dwelling. They may be cold in winter, but blessed be the tenacity of barbarism, which retains this agreeable architecture. The men live by hunting in the season, and the women support the family by making moccasins and baskets. These Indians are most of them good Catholics, and they try to go once a year to mass and a sort of religious festival held at St. Peter's, where their sins are forgiven in a yearly lump.

At Whykokomagh, a neat fishing village of white houses, we stopped for dinner at the Inverness House. The house was very clean, and the tidy landlady gave us as good a dinner as she could of the inevitable green tea, toast, and salt fish. She was Gaelic, but Protestant, as the village is, and showed us with pride her Gaelic Bible and hymn-book. A peaceful place, this Whykokomagh; the lapsing waters of Bras d'Or made a summer music all along the quiet street; the bay lay smiling with its islands in front, and an amphitheater of hills rose behind. But for the line of telegraph poles one might have fancied he could have security and repose here.

We put a fresh pony into the shafts, a beast born with an everlasting uneasiness in his legs, and an amount of "go" in him which suited his reckless driver. We no longer stood upon the order of our going; we went. As we left the village, we passed a rocky hay-field, where the Gaelic farmer was gathering the scanty yield of grass. A comely Indian girl was stowing the hay and treading it down on the wagon. The driver hailed the farmer, and they exchanged Gaelic repartee which set all the hay-makers in a roar, and caused the Indian maid to darkly and sweetly beam upon us. We asked the driver what he had said. He had only inquired what the man would take for the load--as it stood! A joke is a joke down this way.

I am not about to describe this drive at length, in order that the reader may skip it; for I know the reader, being of like passion and fashion with him. From the time we first struck the Bras d'Or for thirty miles we rode in constant sight of its magnificent water. Now we were two hundred feet above the water, on the hillside, skirting a point or following an indentation; and now we were diving into a narrow valley, crossing a stream, or turning a sharp corner, but always with the Bras d'Or in view, the afternoon sun shining on it, softening the outlines of its embracing hills, casting a shadow from its wooded islands. Sometimes we opened on a broad water plain bounded by the Watchabaktchkt hills, and again we looked over hill after hill receding into the soft and hazy blue of the land beyond the great mass of the Bras d'Or. The reader can compare the view and the ride to the Bay of Naples and the Cornice Road; we did nothing of the sort; we held on to the seat, prayed that the harness of the pony might not break, and gave constant expression to our wonder and delight. For a week we had schooled ourselves to expect nothing more from this wicked world, but here was an enchanting vision.

The only phenomenon worthy the attention of any inquiring mind, in this whole record, I will now describe. As we drove along the side of a hill, and at least two hundred feet above the water, the road suddenly diverged and took a circuit higher up. The driver said that was to avoid a sink-hole in the old road,--a great curiosity, which it was worth while to examine. Beside the old road was a circular hole, which nipped out a part of the road-bed, some twenty-five feet in diameter, filled with water almost to the brim, but not running over. The water was dark in color, and I fancied had a brackish taste. The driver said that a few weeks before, when he came this way, it was solid ground where this well now opened, and that a large beech-tree stood there. When he returned next day, he found this hole full of water, as we saw it, and the large tree had sunk in it. The size of the hole seemed to be determined by the reach of the roots of the tree. The tree had so entirely disappeared, that he could not with a long pole touch its top. Since then the water had neither subsided nor overflowed. The ground about was compact gravel. We tried sounding the hole with poles, but could make nothing of it. The water seemed to have no outlet nor inlet; at least, it did not rise or fall. Why should the solid hill give way at this place, and swallow up a tree? and if the water had any connection with the lake, two hundred feet below and at some distance away, why didn't the water run out? Why should the unscientific traveler have a thing of this kind thrown in his way? The driver did not know.

This phenomenon made us a little suspicious of the foundations of this island which is already invaded by the jealous ocean, and is anchored to the continent only by the cable.

The drive became more charming as the sun went down, and we saw the hills grow purple beyond the Bras d'Or. The road wound around lovely coves and across low promontories, giving us new beauties at every turn. Before dark we had crossed the Middle River and the Big Baddeck, on long wooden bridges, which straggled over sluggish waters and long reaches of marsh, upon which Mary might have been sent to call the cattle home. These bridges were shaky and wanted a plank at intervals, but they are in keeping with the enterprise of the country. As dusk came on, we crossed the last hill, and were bowling along by the still gleaming water. Lights began to appear in infrequent farmhouses, and under cover of the gathering night the houses seemed to be stately mansions; and we fancied we were on a noble highway, lined with elegant suburban seaside residences, and about to drive into a town of wealth and a port of great commerce. We were, nevertheless, anxious about Baddeck. What sort of haven were we to reach after our heroic (with the reader's permission) week of travel? Would the hotel be like that at Plaster Cove? Were our thirty-six hours of sleepless staging to terminate in a night of misery and a Sunday of discomfort?

We came into a straggling village; that we could see by the starlight. But we stopped at the door of a very unhotel-like appearing hotel. It had in front a flower-garden; it was blazing with welcome lights; it opened hospitable doors, and we were received by a family who expected us. The house was a large one, for two guests; and we enjoyed the luxury of spacious rooms, an abundant supper, and a friendly welcome; and, in short, found ourselves at home. The proprietor of the Telegraph House is the superintendent of the land lines of Cape Breton, a Scotchman, of course; but his wife is a Newfoundland lady. We cannot violate the sanctity of what seemed like private hospitality by speaking freely of this lady and the lovely girls, her daughters, whose education has been so admirably advanced in the excellent school at Baddeck; but we can confidently advise any American who is going to Newfoundland, to get a wife there, if he wants one at all. It is the only new article he can bring from the Provinces that he will not have to pay duty on. And here is a suggestion to our tariff-mongers for the "protection" of New England women.

The reader probably cannot appreciate the delicious sense of rest and of achievement which we enjoyed in this tidy inn, nor share the anticipations of undisturbed, luxurious sleep, in which we indulged as we sat upon the upper balcony after supper, and saw the moon rise over the glistening Bras d'Or and flood with light the islands and headlands of the beautiful bay. Anchored at some distance from the shore was a slender coasting vessel. The big red moon happened to come up just behind it, and the masts and spars and ropes of the vessel came out, distinctly traced on the golden background, making such a night picture as I once saw painted of a ship in a fiord of Norway. The scene was enchanting. And we respected then the heretofore seemingly insane impulse that had driven us on to Baddeck.

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Baddeck And That Sort Of Thing - Chapter 4
CHAPTER IV"He had no ill-will to the Scotch; for, if he had been conscious of that, he never would have thrown himself into the bosom of their country, and trusted to the protection of its remote inhabitants with a fearless confidence." --BOSWELL'S JOHNSON. Although it was an open and flagrant violation of the Sabbath day as it is kept in Scotch Baddeck, our kind hosts let us sleep late on Sunday morning, with no reminder that we were not sleeping the sleep of the just.
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CHAPTER IIDuring the pilgrimage everything does not suit the tastes of the pilgrim.--TURKISH PROVERB.One seeking Baddeck, as a possession, would not like to be detained a prisoner even in Eden,--much less in St. John, which is unlike Eden in several important respects. The tree of knowledge does not grow there, for one thing; at least St. John's ignorance of Baddeck amounts to a feature. This encountered us everywhere. So dense was this ignorance, that we, whose only knowledge of the desired place was obtained from the prospectus of travel, came to regard ourselves as missionaries of geographical information in this dark
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