Charles Dudley Warner.

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Produced by David Widger





BADDECK AND THAT SORT OF THING

By Charles Dudley Warner




PREFACE

TO JOSEPH H. TWICHELL

It would be unfair to hold you responsible for these light sketches of a
summer trip, which are now gathered into this little volume in response
to the usual demand in such cases; yet you cannot escape altogether. For
it was you who first taught me to say the name Baddeck; it was you who
showed me its position on the map, and a seductive letter from a home
missionary on Cape Breton Island, in relation to the abundance of trout
and salmon in his field of labor. That missionary, you may remember, we
never found, nor did we see his tackle; but I have no reason to believe
that he does not enjoy good fishing in the right season. You understand
the duties of a home missionary much better than I do, and you know
whether he would be likely to let a couple of strangers into the best
part of his preserve.

But I am free to admit that after our expedition was started you
speedily relieved yourself of all responsibility for it, and turned
it over to your comrade with a profound geographical indifference; you
would as readily have gone to Baddeck by Nova Zembla as by Nova Scotia.
The flight over the latter island was, you knew, however, no part of our
original plan, and you were not obliged to take any interest in it.
You know that our design was to slip rapidly down, by the back way of
Northumberland Sound, to the Bras d'Or, and spend a week fishing there;
and that the greater part of this journey here imperfectly described
is not really ours, but was put upon us by fate and by the peculiar
arrangement of provincial travel.

It would have been easy after our return to have made up from libraries
a most engaging description of the Provinces, mixing it with historical,
legendary, botanical, geographical, and ethnological information, and
seasoning it with adventure from your glowing imagination. But it
seemed to me that it would be a more honest contribution if our account
contained only what we saw, in our rapid travel; for I have a theory
that any addition to the great body of print, however insignificant
it may be, has a value in proportion to its originality and
individuality, - however slight either is, - and very little value if it
is a compilation of the observations of others. In this case I know
how slight the value is; and I can only hope that as the trip was very
entertaining to us, the record of it may not be wholly unentertaining to
those of like tastes.

Of one thing, my dear friend, I am certain: if the readers of this
little journey could have during its persual the companionship that the
writer had when it was made, they would think it altogether delightful.
There is no pleasure comparable to that of going about the world, in
pleasant weather, with a good comrade, if the mind is distracted neither
by care, nor ambition, nor the greed of gain. The delight there is
in seeing things, without any hope of pecuniary profit from them! We
certainly enjoyed that inward peace which the philosopher associates
with the absence of desire for money. For, as Plato says in the Phaedo,
"whence come wars and fightings and factions? whence but from the
body and the lusts of the body? For wars are occasioned by the love of
money." So also are the majority of the anxieties of life. We left
these behind when we went into the Provinces with no design of acquiring
anything there. I hope it may be my fortune to travel further with you
in this fair world, under similar circumstances.

NOOK FARM, HARTFORD, April 10, 1874.

C. D. W.




BADDECK AND THAT SORT OF THING




I

"Ay, now I am in Arden: the more fool I; when I was at home,
I was in a better place; but travellers must be content."
- TOUCHSTONE.

Two comrades and travelers, who sought a better country than the United
States in the month of August, found themselves one evening in apparent
possession of the ancient town of Boston.

The shops were closed at early candle-light; the fashionable inhabitants
had retired into the country, or into the second-story-back, of their
princely residences, and even an air of tender gloom settled upon the
Common. The streets were almost empty, and one passed into the burnt
district, where the scarred ruins and the uplifting piles of new brick
and stone spread abroad under the flooding light of a full moon like
another Pompeii, without any increase in his feeling of tranquil
seclusion. Even the news-offices had put up their shutters, and a
confiding stranger could nowhere buy a guide-book to help his wandering
feet about the reposeful city, or to show him how to get out of it.
There was, to be sure, a cheerful tinkle of horse-car bells in the air,
and in the creeping vehicles which created this levity of sound were a
few lonesome passengers on their way to Scollay's Square; but the two
travelers, not having well-regulated minds, had no desire to go there.
What would have become of Boston if the great fire had reached this
sacred point of pilgrimage no merely human mind can imagine. Without
it, I suppose the horse-cars would go continually round and round,
never stopping, until the cars fell away piecemeal on the track, and
the horses collapsed into a mere mass of bones and harness, and the
brown-covered books from the Public Library, in the hands of the fading
virgins who carried them, had accumulated fines to an incalculable
amount.

Boston, notwithstanding its partial destruction by fire, is still a good
place to start from. When one meditates an excursion into an unknown
and perhaps perilous land, where the flag will not protect him and
the greenback will only partially support him, he likes to steady and
tranquilize his mind by a peaceful halt and a serene start. So we - for
the intelligent reader has already identified us with the two travelers
resolved to spend the last night, before beginning our journey, in the
quiet of a Boston hotel. Some people go into the country for quiet: we
knew better. The country is no place for sleep. The general absence of
sound which prevails at night is only a sort of background which brings
out more vividly the special and unexpected disturbances which are
suddenly sprung upon the restless listener. There are a thousand
pokerish noises that no one can account for, which excite the nerves to
acute watchfulness.

It is still early, and one is beginning to be lulled by the frogs and
the crickets, when the faint rattle of a drum is heard, - just a few
preliminary taps. But the soul takes alarm, and well it may, for a roll
follows, and then a rub-a-dub-dub, and the farmer's boy who is handling
the sticks and pounding the distended skin in a neighboring horse-shed
begins to pour out his patriotism in that unending repetition of
rub-a-dub-dub which is supposed to represent love of country in the
young. When the boy is tired out and quits the field, the faithful
watch-dog opens out upon the stilly night. He is the guardian of his
master's slumbers. The howls of the faithful creature are answered
by barks and yelps from all the farmhouses for a mile around, and
exceedingly poor barking it usually is, until all the serenity of the
night is torn to shreds. This is, however, only the opening of the
orchestra. The cocks wake up if there is the faintest moonshine and
begin an antiphonal service between responsive barn-yards. It is not
the clear clarion of chanticleer that is heard in the morn of English
poetry, but a harsh chorus of cracked voices, hoarse and abortive
attempts, squawks of young experimenters, and some indescribable thing
besides, for I believe even the hens crow in these days. Distracting
as all this is, however, happy is the man who does not hear a goat
lamenting in the night. The goat is the most exasperating of the animal
creation. He cries like a deserted baby, but he does it without any
regularity. One can accustom himself to any expression of suffering that
is regular. The annoyance of the goat is in the dreadful waiting for
the uncertain sound of the next wavering bleat. It is the fearful
expectation of that, mingled with the faint hope that the last was the
last, that aggravates the tossing listener until he has murder in his
heart. He longs for daylight, hoping that the voices of the night will
then cease, and that sleep will come with the blessed morning. But he
has forgotten the birds, who at the first streak of gray in the east
have assembled in the trees near his chamber-window, and keep up for an
hour the most rasping dissonance, - an orchestra in which each artist
is tuning his instrument, setting it in a different key and to play
a different tune: each bird recalls a different tune, and none sings
"Annie Laurie," - to pervert Bayard Taylor's song.

Give us the quiet of a city on the night before a journey. As we
mounted skyward in our hotel, and went to bed in a serene altitude, we
congratulated ourselves upon a reposeful night. It began well. But as we
sank into the first doze, we were startled by a sudden crash. Was it an
earthquake, or another fire? Were the neighboring buildings all tumbling
in upon us, or had a bomb fallen into the neighboring crockery-store? It
was the suddenness of the onset that startled us, for we soon perceived
that it began with the clash of cymbals, the pounding of drums, and the
blaring of dreadful brass. It was somebody's idea of music. It opened
without warning. The men composing the band of brass must have stolen
silently into the alley about the sleeping hotel, and burst into the
clamor of a rattling quickstep, on purpose. The horrible sound thus
suddenly let loose had no chance of escape; it bounded back from wall
to wall, like the clapping of boards in a tunnel, rattling windows and
stunning all cars, in a vain attempt to get out over the roofs. But such
music does not go up. What could have been the intention of this assault
we could not conjecture. It was a time of profound peace through the
country; we had ordered no spontaneous serenade, if it was a serenade.
Perhaps the Boston bands have that habit of going into an alley and
disciplining their nerves by letting out a tune too big for the alley,
and taking the shock of its reverberation. It may be well enough for the
band, but many a poor sinner in the hotel that night must have thought
the judgment day had sprung upon him. Perhaps the band had some remorse,
for by and by it leaked out of the alley, in humble, apologetic retreat,
as if somebody had thrown something at it from the sixth-story window,
softly breathing as it retired the notes of "Fair Harvard."

The band had scarcely departed for some other haunt of slumber and
weariness, when the notes of singing floated up that prolific alley,
like the sweet tenor voice of one bewailing the prohibitory movement;
and for an hour or more a succession of young bacchanals, who were
evidently wandering about in search of the Maine Law, lifted up their
voices in song. Boston seems to be full of good singers; but they will
ruin their voices by this night exercise, and so the city will cease
to be attractive to travelers who would like to sleep there. But this
entertainment did not last the night out.

It stopped just before the hotel porter began to come around to rouse
the travelers who had said the night before that they wanted to be
awakened. In all well-regulated hotels this process begins at two
o'clock and keeps up till seven. If the porter is at all faithful, he
wakes up everybody in the house; if he is a shirk, he only rouses the
wrong people. We treated the pounding of the porter on our door with
silent contempt. At the next door he had better luck. Pound, pound. An
angry voice, "What do you want?"

"Time to take the train, sir."

"Not going to take any train."

"Ain't your name Smith?"

"Yes."

"Well, Smith" -

"I left no order to be called." (Indistinct grumbling from Smith's
room.)

Porter is heard shuffling slowly off down the passage. In a little while
he returns to Smith's door, evidently not satisfied in his mind. Rap,
rap, rap!

"Well, what now?"

"What's your initials? A. T.; clear out!"

And the porter shambles away again in his slippers, grumbling something
about a mistake. The idea of waking a man up in the middle of the night
to ask him his "initials" was ridiculous enough to banish sleep for
another hour. A person named Smith, when he travels, should leave his
initials outside the door with his boots.

Refreshed by this reposeful night, and eager to exchange the stagnation
of the shore for the tumult of the ocean, we departed next morning for
Baddeck by the most direct route. This we found, by diligent study
of fascinating prospectuses of travel, to be by the boats of the
International Steamship Company; and when, at eight o'clock in the
morning, we stepped aboard one of them from Commercial Wharf, we
felt that half our journey and the most perplexing part of it was
accomplished. We had put ourselves upon a great line of travel, and
had only to resign ourselves to its flow in order to reach the desired
haven. The agent at the wharf assured us that it was not necessary to
buy through tickets to Baddeck, - he spoke of it as if it were as easy a
place to find as Swampscott, - it was a conspicuous name on the cards of
the company, we should go right on from St. John without difficulty.
The easy familiarity of this official with Baddeck, in short, made
us ashamed to exhibit any anxiety about its situation or the means of
approach to it. Subsequent experience led us to believe that the only
man in the world, out of Baddeck, who knew anything about it lives in
Boston, and sells tickets to it, or rather towards it.

There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning
of it, when the traveler is settled simply as to his destination,
and commits himself to his unknown fate and all the anticipations of
adventure before him. We experienced this pleasure as we ascended to the
deck of the steamboat and snuffed the fresh air of Boston Harbor. What
a beautiful harbor it is, everybody says, with its irregularly indented
shores and its islands. Being strangers, we want to know the names of
the islands, and to have Fort Warren, which has a national reputation,
pointed out. As usual on a steamboat, no one is certain about the
names, and the little geographical knowledge we have is soon hopelessly
confused. We make out South Boston very plainly: a tourist is looking
at its warehouses through his opera-glass, and telling his boy about a
recent fire there. We find out afterwards that it was East Boston. We
pass to the stern of the boat for a last look at Boston itself; and
while there we have the pleasure of showing inquirers the Monument and
the State House. We do this with easy familiarity; but where there
are so many tall factory chimneys, it is not so easy to point out the
Monument as one may think.

The day is simply delicious, when we get away from the unozoned air of
the land. The sky is cloudless, and the water sparkles like the top of
a glass of champagne. We intend by and by to sit down and look at it
for half a day, basking in the sunshine and pleasing ourselves with the
shifting and dancing of the waves. Now we are busy running about from
side to side to see the islands, Governor's, Castle, Long, Deer, and the
others. When, at length, we find Fort Warren, it is not nearly so grim
and gloomy as we had expected, and is rather a pleasure-place than a
prison in appearance. We are conscious, however, of a patriotic emotion
as we pass its green turf and peeping guns. Leaving on our right
Lovell's Island and the Great and Outer Brewster, we stand away north
along the jagged Massachusetts shore. These outer islands look cold and
wind-swept even in summer, and have a hardness of outline which is very
far from the aspect of summer isles in summer seas. They are too low and
bare for beauty, and all the coast is of the most retiring and humble
description. Nature makes some compensation for this lowness by an
eccentricity of indentation which looks very picturesque on the map,
and sometimes striking, as where Lynn stretches out a slender arm with
knobby Nahant at the end, like a New Zealand war club. We sit and watch
this shore as we glide by with a placid delight. Its curves and low
promontories are getting to be speckled with villages and dwellings,
like the shores of the Bay of Naples; we see the white spires, the
summer cottages of wealth, the brown farmhouses with an occasional
orchard, the gleam of a white beach, and now and then the flag of some
many-piazzaed hotel. The sunlight is the glory of it all; it must have
quite another attraction - that of melancholy - under a gray sky and with
a lead-colored water foreground.

There was not much on the steamboat to distract our attention from the
study of physical geography. All the fashionable travelers had gone on
the previous boat or were waiting for the next one. The passengers
were mostly people who belonged in the Provinces and had the listless
provincial air, with a Boston commercial traveler or two, and a few
gentlemen from the republic of Ireland, dressed in their uncomfortable
Sunday clothes. If any accident should happen to the boat, it was
doubtful if there were persons on board who could draw up and pass the
proper resolutions of thanks to the officers. I heard one of these Irish
gentlemen, whose satin vest was insufficient to repress the mountainous
protuberance of his shirt-bosom, enlightening an admiring friend as to
his idiosyncrasies. It appeared that he was that sort of a man that, if
a man wanted anything of him, he had only to speak for it "wunst;" and
that one of his peculiarities was an instant response of the deltoid
muscle to the brain, though he did not express it in that language. He
went on to explain to his auditor that he was so constituted physically
that whenever he saw a fight, no matter whose property it was, he lost
all control of himself. This sort of confidence poured out to a single
friend, in a retired place on the guard of the boat, in an unexcited
tone, was evidence of the man's simplicity and sincerity. The very act
of traveling, I have noticed, seems to open a man's heart, so that he
will impart to a chance acquaintance his losses, his diseases, his table
preferences, his disappointments in love or in politics, and his most
secret hopes. One sees everywhere this beautiful human trait, this
craving for sympathy. There was the old lady, in the antique bonnet and
plain cotton gloves, who got aboard the express train at a way-station
on the Connecticut River Road. She wanted to go, let us say, to Peak's
Four Corners. It seemed that the train did not usually stop there, but
it appeared afterwards that the obliging conductor had told her to get
aboard and he would let her off at Peak's. When she stepped into the
car, in a flustered condition, carrying her large bandbox, she began to
ask all the passengers, in turn, if this was the right train, and if
it stopped at Peak's. The information she received was various, but the
weight of it was discouraging, and some of the passengers urged her to
get off without delay, before the train should start. The poor woman
got off, and pretty soon came back again, sent by the conductor; but her
mind was not settled, for she repeated her questions to every person
who passed her seat, and their answers still more discomposed her. "Sit
perfectly still," said the conductor, when he came by. "You must get
out and wait for a way train," said the passengers, who knew. In this
confusion, the train moved off, just as the old lady had about made
up her mind to quit the car, when her distraction was completed by the
discovery that her hair trunk was not on board. She saw it standing on
the open platform, as we passed, and after one look of terror, and a
dash at the window, she subsided into her seat, grasping her bandbox,
with a vacant look of utter despair. Fate now seemed to have done its
worst, and she was resigned to it. I am sure it was no mere curiosity,
but a desire to be of service, that led me to approach her and say,
"Madam, where are you going?"

"The Lord only knows," was the utterly candid response; but then,
forgetting everything in her last misfortune and impelled to a burst of
confidence, she began to tell me her troubles. She informed me that
her youngest daughter was about to be married, and that all her
wedding-clothes and all her summer clothes were in that trunk; and as
she said this she gave a glance out of the window as if she hoped it
might be following her. What would become of them all now, all brand
new, she did n't know, nor what would become of her or her daughter. And
then she told me, article by article and piece by piece, all that that
trunk contained, the very names of which had an unfamiliar sound in a
railway-car, and how many sets and pairs there were of each. It seemed
to be a relief to the old lady to make public this catalogue which
filled all her mind; and there was a pathos in the revelation that
I cannot convey in words. And though I am compelled, by way of
illustration, to give this incident, no bribery or torture shall ever
extract from me a statement of the contents of that hair trunk.

We were now passing Nahant, and we should have seen Longfellow's cottage
and the waves beating on the rocks before it, if we had been near
enough. As it was, we could only faintly distinguish the headland and
note the white beach of Lynn. The fact is, that in travel one is almost
as much dependent upon imagination and memory as he is at home. Somehow,
we seldom get near enough to anything. The interest of all this coast
which we had come to inspect was mainly literary and historical. And no
country is of much interest until legends and poetry have draped it
in hues that mere nature cannot produce. We looked at Nahant for
Longfellow's sake; we strained our eyes to make out Marblehead on
account of Whittier's ballad; we scrutinized the entrance to Salem
Harbor because a genius once sat in its decaying custom-house and made
of it a throne of the imagination. Upon this low shore line, which lies
blinking in the midday sun, the waves of history have beaten for two
centuries and a half, and romance has had time to grow there. Out of
any of these coves might have sailed Sir Patrick Spens "to Noroway, to
Noroway,"

"They hadna sailed upon the sea
A day but barely three,

Till loud and boisterous grew the wind,
And gurly grew the sea."

The sea was anything but gurly now; it lay idle and shining in an August
holiday. It seemed as if we could sit all day and watch the suggestive
shore and dream about it. But we could not. No man, and few women, can
sit all day on those little round penitential stools that the company
provide for the discomfort of their passengers. There is no scenery in
the world that can be enjoyed from one of those stools. And when the
traveler is at sea, with the land failing away in his horizon, and has
to create his own scenery by an effort of the imagination, these stools
are no assistance to him. The imagination, when one is sitting, will
not work unless the back is supported. Besides, it began to be cold;
notwithstanding the shiny, specious appearance of things, it was cold,
except in a sheltered nook or two where the sun beat. This was nothing
to be complained of by persons who had left the parching land in
order to get cool. They knew that there would be a wind and a draught
everywhere, and that they would be occupied nearly all the time in
moving the little stools about to get out of the wind, or out of the
sun, or out of something that is inherent in a steamboat. Most people
enjoy riding on a steamboat, shaking and trembling and chow-chowing
along in pleasant weather out of sight of land; and they do not feel any
ennui, as may be inferred from the intense excitement which seizes them
when a poor porpoise leaps from the water half a mile away. "Did you see
the porpoise?" makes conversation for an hour. On our steamboat there
was a man who said he saw a whale, saw him just as plain, off to the
east, come up to blow; appeared to be a young one. I wonder where all
these men come from who always see a whale. I never was on a sea-steamer
yet that there was not one of these men.

We sailed from Boston Harbor straight for Cape Ann, and passed close by
the twin lighthouses of Thacher, so near that we could see the lanterns
and the stone gardens, and the young barbarians of Thacher all at play;
and then we bore away, straight over the trackless Atlantic, across that


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