BARRELS

No 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.”

[Illustration:

HER DAILY PORTION]

[Illustration:

“HOW’S FISH?”]

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 Pré 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 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.

[Illustration:

INTERIOR OF AN APPLE-BARREL COOPERAGE
IN THE VALLEY OF THE GASPEREAU.]

[Illustration:

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 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

[Illustration:

TARRING THE BOAT.]

[Illustration:

A NONOGENARIAN GRANDFATHER PLACIDLY
CATCHING UP THE MESHES OF AN OLD NET.]

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.

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. Mailcart 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’!

The 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 home-made–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.

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

[Illustration:

WITHIN SIGHT OF HOME.
SAMBRO, NOVA SCOTIA.]

[Illustration:

DOOR-WAY OF THE LIGHTHOUSE-KEEPER’S
HOME AT CAPE SHARP, NOVA SCOTIA.]

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 sea-coast 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 eighteen 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.

Of 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.

[Illustration:

IN THE RAQUETTE.
DIGBY, NOVA SCOTIA.]

[Illustration:

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.