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Produced by David Edwards, Chuck Greif and the Online
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AUTHOR OF âTHE KING OF SCHNORRERSâ âCHILDREN OF THE GHETTOâ ETC.
NEW YORK AND LONDON
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
Copyright, 1895, by Harper & Brothers.
All rights reserved.
|II.||THE DEAD MAN MAKES HIS FIRST AND LAST APPEARANCE||23|
|III.||THE THOUGHTS OF YOUTH||33|
|V.||PEGGY THE WATER-DRINKER||58|
|IX.||ARTIST AND PURITAN||113|
|III.||THE ELDER BRANCH||161|
|VII.||TOWARDS THE DEEPS||229|
|VIII.||âGOLD MEDAL NIGHTâ||245|
|X.||MATT RECEIVES SUNDRY HOSPITALITIES||273|
|XI.||A HOSTAGE TO FORTUNE||290|
|I.||CONQUEROR OR CONQUERED?||308|
|V.||A CELEBRITY AT HOME||384|
|VI.||A DEVONSHIRE IDYL||408|
|VII.||THE IDYL CONCLUDES||438|
Despite its long stretch of winter, in which May might wed December in no incompatible union, âtwas a happy soil, this Acadia, a country of good air and great spaces; two-thirds of the size of Scotland, with a population that could be packed away in a corner of Glasgow; a land of green forests and rosy cheeks; a land of milk and molasses; a land of little hills and great harbors, of rich valleys and lovely lakes, of overflowing rivers and oversurging tides that, with all their menace, did but fertilize the meadows with red silt and alluvial mud; a land over which France and England might well bicker when first they met oversea; a land which, if it never reached the restless energy of the States, never retained the Old World atmosphere that long lingered over New England villages; save here and there in some rare Acadian settlement that dreamed out its life in peace and prayer among its willow-trees and in the shadows of its orchards.
At Minudie, at Clare in Annapolis County, where the goodly apples grew, lay such fragments of old France, simple communities shutting out the world and time, marrying their own, tilling their good dyke land, and picking up the shad that the retreating tide left on the exposed flats; listening to the Angelus, and baring their heads as some Church procession passed through the drowsy streets. They had escaped the Great Expulsion, nor had joined in the exodus of âEvangeline,â and, sprinkled about the country, were compatriots of theirs who had drifted back when the times grew more sedate; but for the most part it was the Saxon that profited by the labors of the pioneer Gaul, repairing the tumble-down farms and the dilapidated dykes, possessing himself of embanked marsh lands, and replanting the plum-trees and the quinces his predecessor had naturalized. For the revolt of the States against Britain sent thousands of American loyalists flocking into this âNew Scotland,â which thus became a colony of âNew England.â Scots themselves flowed in from auld Scotland, and the German came to sink himself in the Briton, and a band of Irish adventurers, under the swashbuckling Colonel McNutt, arrived with a grant of a million acres that they were not destined to occupy. The Acadian repose had fled forever. The sparse Indian hastened to make himself scarcer, conscious there was no place for him in the new order, and disappearing deliciously in hogsheads of rum. The virgin greenwood rang with axes, startling the bear and the moose. Crash! Down went pine and beech, hemlock and maple, their stumps alone left to rot and enrich the fields. Crash!—thud! The weasel grew warier, the astonished musquash vanished in eddying circles. Bridges began to span the rivers where the beaver built its dams in happy unconsciousness of the tall cylinder that was about to crown civilization. The caribou and the silver fox pressed inland to save their skins. The snare was set in the wild-wood, and the crack of the musket followed the ring of the axe. The mackerel and the herring sought destruction in shoals, and the seines brimmed over with salmon and alewives and gaspereux. The wild land that had bloomed with golden-rod and violets was tamed with crops, and plump sheep and fat oxen pastured where the wild strawberry vine had trailed or the bull-frog had croaked under the alders. A sturdy, ingenious race the fathers of the new settlement, loving work almost as much as they feared God; turning their hand to anything, and opening it wide to the stranger. They raised their own houses, and fashioned their own tools, and shod their own horses, and later built their own vessels, and even sailed them to the great markets laden with the produce of their own fields and the timber from their own saw-mills. There were women in this workaday paradise—shapely, gentle creatures, whose hands alone were rough with field and house-work; women who span and sang when the winter night-winds whistled round the settlement. The dramas of love and grief began to play themselves out where the raccoon and the chickadee had fleeted the golden hours in careless living. Children came to make the rafters habitable, and Death to sanctify them with memories. The air grew human with the smoke of hearths, the forest with legends and histories. And as houses grew into homes and villages into townships, Church and State arose where only Faith and Freedom had been.
The sons and heirs of the fathers did not always cling to the tradition of piety and perseverance. The âBluenoseâ grew apathetic, content with the fatness of the day; or, if he exerted himself, it was too often to best a neighbor. The great magnets of New York and Boston drew off or drew back all that was iron in the race.
And amid these homely emotions of yeomen, amid the crude pieties or impieties of homespun souls, amid this sane hearty intercourse with realities or this torpor of sluggish spirits, was born ever and anon a gleam of fantasy, of imagination: bizarre, transfiguring, touching things with the glamour of dream. Blind instincts—blinder still in their loneliness—yearned towards light; beautiful emotions stirred in dumb souls, emotions that mayhap turned to morbid passion in the silence and solitude of the woods, where character may grow crabbed and gnarled, as well as sound and straight. For whereas to most of these human creatures, begirt by the glory of sea and forest, the miracles of sunrise and sunset were only the familiar indications of a celestial timepiece, and the starry heaven was but a leaky ceiling in their earthly habitation, there was here and there an eye keen to note the play of light and shade and color, the glint of wave and the sparkle of hoar-frost and the spume of tossing seas; the gracious fairness of cloud and bird and blossom, the magic of sunlit sails in the offing, the witchery of white winters, and all the changing wonder of the woods; a soul with scanty self-consciousness at best, yet haply absorbing Nature, to give it back one day as Art.
Ah, but to see the world with other eyes than oneâs fellows, yet express the vision of oneâs race, its subconscious sense of beauty, is not all a covetable dower.
The islands of Acadia are riddled with pits, where men have burrowed for Captain Kiddâs Treasure and found nothing but holes. The deeper they delved the deeper holes they found. Whoso with blood and tears would dig Art out of his soul may lavish his golden prime in pursuit of emptiness, or, striking treasure, find only fairy gold, so that when his eye is purged of the spell of morning, he sees his hand is full of withered leaves.
âMatt, Matt, whatâs thet thar noise?â
Matt opened his eyes vaguely, shaking off his younger brotherâs frantic clutch.
âItâs onây the frost,â he murmured, closing his eyes again. âGo to sleep, Billy.â