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Romantic Canada
Chapter IV Sea-Coast Homes of the Maritime Provinces

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 jutting 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 liltle 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 savaged from wrecks, or which have otherwise "washed in with the tide". It is fitting that as the house is homemade—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 Catalan. 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 himself. Catalans 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 converts may be opened to view. Some of these converts may be old, the work of Madame's or Misieur's mother. Oh, many are the stories woven into the converts of the Magdalen Islands and the Gulf of St. Lawrence shores from Quebec to Cheticanro—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 Gallic woman warms to you at once if you notice her "Highland laddie" in kilties or the wee "lambie", or the faithful sheep-dog that stares upon the shelf. These all have a story too. Some of these China-pieces are. very rich and handsome both in the quality of the china and in colour, to say nothing of design—"Mary and her wee 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 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 ;t.

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 on 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 al1 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 Eiang 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 steamers 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, and impossible, 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 post office. Those letters reached their destination.

The Magdaleners are fisher-folk in the main, though course in Havre Aubert and Grindstone there are a number of busies, and a sprinkling of professional men. The homes here in these remote inlands, being French, have the French touch 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 at 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 ether 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.

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