Acadia, or, A month with blue noses
“As I said before, to make the festivities complete, in the afternoon there was a procession to lay the corner-stone of a Lunatic Asylum. But oh! how the jolly old rain poured down upon the luckless pilgrimage! There were the “Virgins” of Masonic Lodge No. -, the Army Masons, in scarlet; the African Masons, in ivory and black; the Scotch-piper Mason, with his legs in enormous plaid trowsers, defiant of Shakspeare’s theory about the sensitiveness of some men, when the bag-pipe sings i’ the nose; the Clerical Mason in shovel hat; the municipal artillery; the Sons of Temperance, and the band. Away they marched, with drum and banner, key and compasses, BIBLE and sword, to Dartmouth, in great feather, for the eyes of Halifax were upon them.”
“Is this fairy land ? No, it is only poor, old, barren Nova Scotia, and yet I think Felix, Prince of Salerno, if he were here, might say, and say truly too, “In all my life I never beheld a more enchanting place ;” but Felix, Prince of Salerno, must remember this is the month of June, and summer is not perpetual in the latitude of forty-five.
“Mrs. Deer,” said I, “how long have you lived here?”
“Oh, sah, a good many yoare ; I cum here afore I had Bill dar.” “Where did you reside before you came to Nova Scotia?” “Sah?” “Where did you live?” “Oh, sah! I is from Maryland.” (William at it again.) “Did you run away?” “Yes, sah; I left when I was young. Bill, what you laughing at? I was young once.” “Were you married then-when you run away?” “Oh yes, sah!” (a glance at Bill, who was off again).”
And left your husband behind in Maryland?” “Yes, sah; but he didn’t stay long dar after I left. He was after me putty sharp, soon as I travelled;” (here Mrs. Deer and William interchanged glances, and indulged freely in mirth). “And which place do you like the best-this or Maryland?” “Why, I never had no such work to do at home as I have to do here, grubbin’ up old stumps and stones; dem isn’t women’s work. When I was home, I had only to wait on misses, and work was light and easy.” (William quiet.)
“But which place do you like the best-Nova Scotia or Maryland?” “Oh! de work here is awful, grubbin’ up old stones and stumps; ’tain’t fit for women.” (William much impressed with the cogency of this repetition.) “But which place do you like the best?” ” And de winter here, oh! it’s wonderful tryin.” (William utters an affirmative flash.)” But which place do you like the best?” “And den dere’s de rheumatiz.”
“But which place do you like the best, Mrs. Deer?” “‘Well,” said Mrs. Deer, glancing at Bill, “I like Nova Scotia best.” (Whatever visions of Maryland were gleaming in William’s mind, seemed to be entirely quenched by this remark.) “But why,” said I, “do you prefer Nova Scotia to Maryland? Here you have to work so much harder, to suffer so much from the cold and the rheumatism, and get so little for it;” for I could not help looking over the green patch of stony grass that has been rescued by the labor of a quarter century.
“Oh!” replied Mrs. Deer, “de difference is, dat when I work here, I work for myself, and when I was working at home, I was working for other people.” (At this, William broke forth again in such a series of platoon flashes, that we all joined in with infinite merriment.) “Mrs. Deer,” said I, recovering my gravity, “I want to ask you one more question.” “Well, sah,” said the lady Deer, cocking her head on one side, expressive of being able to answer any number of questions in a twinkling. “‘ You have, no doubt, still many relatives left in Maryland?” “Oh! yes,” replied Mrs. Deer, “all of dem are dar.”
“And suppose you had a chance to advise them in regard to this matter, would you tell them to run away, and take their part with you in Nova Scotia, or would you advise them to stay where they are?” Mrs. Deer, at this, looked a long time at William, and William looked earnestly at his parent. Then she cocked her head on the other side, to take a new view of the question. Then she gathered up mouth and eyebrows, in a puzzle, and again broadened out upon Bill in an odd kind of smile; at last she doubled up one fist, put it against her cheek, glanced at Bill, and out came the answer: “Well, sah, I’d let’em take dere own heads for dat!”
I must confess the philosophy of this remark awakened in me a train of very grave reflections; but my companion burst into a most obstreperous laugh. As for Mrs. Deer, she shook her old hips as long as she could stand, and then sat down and continued, until she wiped the tears out of her eyes with the corner of her apron. William cast himself down upon a strawberry bank, and gave way to the most flagrant mirth, kicking up his old shoes in the air, and fairly wallowing in laughter and blossoms. I endeavored to change the subject.
“Bill, did you catch any trout?” It was some time before William could control himself enough to say, “Not a single one, sah;” and then he rolled over on his back, put his black paws up to his eyes, and twitched and jingled to his heart’s content. I did not ask Mrs. Deer any more questions; but there is a moral in the story, enough for a day.
As we rattled over the road, after our brief dinner at Deer’s Castle, I could not avoid a pervading feeling of gloom and disappointment, in spite of the balmy air and pretty landscape. The old ragged abodes of wretchedness seemed to be too clearly defined-to stand out too intrusively against the bright blue sky. But why should I feel so much for Cuffee? Has he not enlisted in his behalf every philanthropist in England? Is he not within ten miles of either the British flag or Acadia? Does not the Duchess of Sutherland entertain the authoress of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and the Black Swan? Why should I sorrow for Cuffee, when he is in the midst of his best friends?
Why should I pretend to say that this appears to be the raggedest, the meanest, the worst condition of humanity, when the papers are constantly lauding British philanthropy, and holding it up as a great example, which we must “bow down and worship?”
For my own part, although the pleasant fiction of seeing Cuffee clothed, educated, and Christianized, seemed to be somewhat obscured in this glimpse of his real condition, yet I hope he will do well under his new owners; at the very least, I trust his berry crop will be good, and that a benevolent British blanket or two may enable him to shiver out the winter safely, if not comfortably.
Poor William Deer, Sen’r, of Deer’s Castle, was suffering with rheumatism in the next apartment, while we were at his eggs and bacon in the banquet hall; but Deer of Deer’s Castle is a prince to his neighbors. I shall not easily forget the brightening eye, the swift glance of intelligence in the face of another old [Black man], an hostler, in Nova Scotia.
He was from Virginia, and adopting the sweet, mellifluous language of his, own home, I asked him whether he liked best to stay where he was, or go back to “Old Virginny i” “0 massa!” said he, with such a look. “you must know dat I has de warmest side for my own country!” We rattled soberly into Dartmouth, and took the ferry-boat across the bay to the city.”
Cozzens, Frederick Swartwout. “Acadia, or, A month with blue noses.” New York: Derby & Jackson, 1859. http://name.umdl.umich.edu/AGD6191.0001.001, https://archive.org/details/acadiaoramonthw01cozzgoog