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Romantic Canada
Chapter VII Newfoundland

HAVING stepped aboard the Newfoundland mail-and-passenger boat at North Sydney, a little before ten p.m., the hour of sailing, one awakes next morning at Port aux Basques, in Newfoundland, hardly aware that one is out of Canada, until the courteous Customs Official with "Newfoundland" written on his cap, comes to examine one's baggage.

One hundred and twenty miles is the brief length of Cabot Strait which separates Newfoundland from Canada, but when one has crossed this Arm of the Atlantic, it is to find one's self in a new world, a world complete in itself. For Newfoundland embodies all that rugged, independent spirit, which, in part, belongs to all islands—notably to the British Islands—and, in addition, it has all the distinction which is a natural attribute of its position as Great Britain's Oldest Colony. National sense is very keenly developed in the Newfoundlander. "Love of the Empire and their Island" stirs strongly in the blood of every man from Port aux Basques to Saint John, and from Cape Race to the Straits of Belle Isle.

A casual glance at a map of Newfoundland reveals its striking resemblance to the map of England. And ties of blood and association, that intimately bind this oldest Daughter to the Mother-country, trail down the centuries from the day that Cabot first sighted Bonavista, until now. If you wish to step right into the atmosphere of a fine English society that is still "the Island's Own product", take the train to Saint John's, the oldest colonial capital in the British Empire.

But the Island of Newfoundland has yet another claim to distinction in its scenery. There is nothing quite like, or perhaps quite equal to, the scenery of Newfoundland, in all America. It so strongly resembles the scenery of Norway that the island is frequently spoken of as "The Norway of the New World"; and its deep inlets and bays are just as frequently referred to as "fiords".But, in reality, Newfoundland scenery gains nothing by these comparisons. The time will come shortly when the scenery of Newfoundland will need no such extraneous supports. It will be sufficient for the voyager to say "I have just returned from Newfoundland" for his coterie of friends to know he has voyaged among scenes of superlative beauty.

Cruising around the Newfoundland coast, taking one or more of its deep bays in a summer, reveals innumberable little outports tucked away in hollows around every headland, and all held shelteringly in the hand of the larger bay. Of these larger bays, White Bay, Notre Dame Bay, Bonavista, Trinity and Conception lie to the North, while Saint Mary's, Placentia, and Fortune upturn to navigation on the South.

Newfoundland is, of course, the heart of the Cod-fishing industry of the Western Atlantic. The Grand Banks, the playground of the fishing-fleets of France, of the United States, of Nova Scotia, are, when all is said, "The Grand Banks of Newfoundland." Figuratively and literally speaking "The Banks" are the island "Bread-Box." And the banking schooners—Newfoundland-owned, Newfoundland-skippered and sailed—are justly
the pride of Newfoundland. Seamanship is so natural in a born Newfoundlander that it comes to him like a "sixth sense" or, as some of them say, "natural as sleeping and waking".

Modern "Vikings of the North", they are as much at home afloat, as ashore. It was thus the Newfoundlander stepped with such consummate ease from the thwart of the fish-dory, the deck of "The Banker", to that larger deck in the British Navy, during the War, where they covered themselves with glory and added fresh honours to the record already achieved through the centuries, by their Island-home in its Four Centuries of Sea-going!

By far the greater part of the population of Newfoundland is domiciled on the coast. To reach the fishing is, therefore, a mere step, and the adventure of it practically sits on every door-step.

Travelling inland on the continent of North America, one is often enough struck by the sameness of the houses, towns and settlements etched by Agriculture. One often hears that they "all look alike". But such could never be the complaint of these Newfoundland villages, products of the Sea and its Harvest. They are as variable as the sea's own moods. So, in cruising among the Newfoundland bays, every little headland turned reveals a different grouping, as well as different setting, of the tiny church, the little homes, the chief store; and a different arrangement of the wooden stages in wharf-like lines along the irregular water-front.

As the island is one large unit, so in turn each of these tiny settlements is a unit, going its own sea-gait in its own craft; and commanding its own mail-service, and commisariat-service, from Saint John or Placentia.

So little are these sea-coast folk inland travellers, that there is often no road from one village to another, entrance and exit always being accomplished over the sea; by boat or steamer.

Settling down in any of these villages is to be constantly entertained by the variety of scenes afforded by the life. Early in the morning "the fish-boats" are under weigh with their tanned sails and homemade oars creaking against the pin. Later, the women go about their household duties, studying "the signs of the weather" from door or window. The old 'longshoremen open the fish-house doors and potter about with old ropes and picturesque "killicks" or homemade anchors, heavy, smooth stones held together in skeleton-frames of old bits of wood and a lashing of odd pieces of wire-rigging salvaged from some old wreck. But all the time, the men, like the women, have their weather-eye centred on the "signs of the morning." For the day's work, is — the fish.

The first peep of sunlight through the gray clouds or the fog, sees men, women and children, on the "fish stages", as the platforms are called, fish in hand. In the afternoon, the scene is reversed, with each "hand" driving hard to get the fish in again before night.

A cloud, during the day, sees the ever-watchful women coming on the run from all quarters to get the fish in before it rains. Codfish must not get wet.

The Newfoundlanders are especially happy in the place-names they have given to their towns, villages and "outports". Sea-folk are always, more or less, noted for romantic place-names. So, in summer, adventuring in Newfoundland, such names as Push-through, Thoroughfare, Come-by-Chance, Seldom-Come-By, Step-Aside, Happy Adventure, Heart's Delight, Heart's Content, Path End, write themselves indelibly in your memory map. Especially appropriate are the names given to the mountains. To realize the full beauty of some of these peak-names, one must fancy Newfoundland as a "ship", the surface as the deck. Then one has the viewpoint of the men who sponsored these in baptism. Then, the single peaks, springing up tall against the sky, have a beautiful psychology of their own. Here is "The Gaff Topsail", "The Main Topsail", "The Mizzen Topsail", "The Fore-Topsail". Collectively they are referred to, picturesquely enough, as, "The Tops'ls". Other individual peaks are "Blow-me-Down", a sort of challenge to the elements and, "The Butter-Pot", a maritime concession to the menu of maritime cabin-tables.

The surface of Newfoundland, its rocks and hills, is at its best in the fall of the year when the brush of Autumn paints all the foliage and fruit of the Bake-Apple, Partridge-Berries, wild red and black currants, Rowan berries, etc., gorgeous yellows, reds and browns. After the frost, the "marshes and barrens" afford miles of colour.

Among the treasures of the Newfoundland wildflowers are Gentians and Orchids.

It is at this time, when the berries are ripe, that the villagers turn out in family groups to pick bake-apples and Fox-berries to make jam. Bake-apples are a fruit peculiar to Newfoundland and Labrador. And Bake-apple jam is a dish of almost national magnitude. To express interest in the bake-apples and their picking is an open sesame to outport hearts. And no end of invitations and jaunts are assured you, if you become an ardent berry-picker. At this time human figures are everywhere to be seen. Children with a motley collection of pails are everywhere on the nearby hills. The best blueberries of all grow in the cracks and scarpings of the cliffs where one would not suppose a thimbleful of earth could cling. At Saint John, Cabot Head, gray and bluff, is a happy hunting-ground of the berry-picker. Many a morning have we spent there, hunting blueberries behind the lighthouse of this grim old Cape. Many a morning, too, have they been the goal of a scramble over the cliffs of Big Wild Cove and Little Wild Cove. And what is more romantic than tea with the lighthouse-keeper's little family at Twillingate, where one sits at a spotless table and is served with a heaping dish of delectable homemade Partridge-berry jam smothered in thick Island cream?

In the Newfoundland Outports, two days' work is crowded into one, of a Saturday. For the Newfoundlanders are very strict in the observation of the Sabbath Day, to do no work therein. Neither dories nor "Bankers" fish on Sundays. And Saturday night sees all the schooners which can possibly get there, in port; the drying fishnet hanging in festoons from the masthead being about the only concession to business.

Ashore, the women will not even draw water from the well on Sunday, unless under the stress of some dire necessity. On Saturday, therefore, a double supply of water must be drawn, and laid in for use over Sunday. The Outport well is usually situated at one end of the village and sometimes at a distance from it. And so, on Saturday afternoons, a stream of women, each carrying two buckets of water, flows along the undulating, rocky highway that is the village main street. A large hoop, in the midst of which the water-carrier steps, helps to relieve the weight and keep the water from spilling as the woman steps briskly along. This method of carrying water seems to be the Newfoundlander's own invention. The Water-Hoop is here one of the furnishings of every household.

Saturday is the day of the week for getting wood. And wood-getting in the outports involves a longer or shorter trip to the cliffs and hills where the low spruce-scrub affords many a scraggly bough for fuel. Along the footpaths, worn by centuries of wood-gatherers, and by the road into the village, one happens on many a figure carrying bundles of boughs on their backs and making pictures no less distinctive from a genre viewpoint than the water-carriers, with their picturesque hoops. Other figures of the road are the women and children carrying hay over their shoulders, tied-up in a piece of old net or the family pieced bed-quilt.

Owing to the rocky nature of the cliffs, hay is a scarce article. Some of the best is undoubtedly afforded by the little churchyard cemeteries, on the principle that "never blooms so red the rose, as where some buried Caesar lies".

Goats with curious wooden yokes around their necks, and the family cow, are well-known characters of these cliff, by-shore, village-highways.

Against the incursions of these roaming pirates-of-green, are set up the curious rodded-fences of the irregular-shaped little potato and turnip gardens. In summer the gipsying cow can forage for herself, but in winter there is nothing for her to do but fall back upon the little wisps of hay her owner garnered in the quilt against just such days as these. But the cow is grateful. Never anywhere does cow produce richer cream to go with the raspberries, the Bake-apple and Fox-berry jam, than these same seacoast cows of Newfoundland.

Considering the wholesome out-of-door life called for by the industries of the Newfoundland outports, it is not surprising that hand-weaving in the homes is rare. Another reason may be the scarcity of pasturage for sheep in the sea-going villages and their vicinity. Inland Newfoundland affords fine opportunities for agriculture, and sheep of a fine type yield splendid fleeces in the Codroy Valley, around Doucets and Little River.

Although the loom is rare, the spinning-wheel is not infrequently happened upon, yielding hand-laid yarn to supply the needs of the home-knitter. And her needs are many, for no one seems to wear out socks like a fisherman.

The knitter is therefore a figure by the window when the cool days denote the approach of winter.

* * * *

The guide-books have a way of declaring Newfoundland to be "The Sportsman's Paradise", and, if you have ever taken your gun under arm and sallied forth after Caribou, or had a thirty-pound salmon rise to your fly in either the Big or the Little Codroy rivers, you can personally testify that the writers of those same guide-books do not exaggerate.

It is little to be wondered at, therefore, that the "Sportsman" from the New England States, from Canada and from Old England, is a figure often chanced upon in the glens, and "beating the streams" of the Codroy Mountains, in the West. Nothing is quite so romantic as sitting by a deep pool, the one selected by your guide as "the very best" and watching for the supreme moment when "the big one" springs to life at the end of your line.

But the tramp to get to the pool has its romance, too. For the scenery of inland Newfoundland, its fields of daisies, its sheep in the lanes, the fog lifting and swirling like wraith-figures of light dancers about the brows of the mountains, all combine to create an atmosphere of enchantment, the more enchanting perhaps, that the numbers of its discoverers are not yet so many as to wear away the edge of exclusiveness.

* * * *

Pursuit of the Romantic in Newfoundland sooner or later lands one in Saint John's on the south side of the harbour, among the old, wooden square-riggers that compose that unique fleet peculiar to Terra Nova—the Sealers.

If you have ever seen a whaler of the old-type, belonging to the days of whale-boats and hand-harpoons, then you know something of the appearance of these old Sealers. Broad of beam, thick-planked, staunch-timbered, both steam-and-sail propelled, they go out of Saint John's in March, blasting a channel for themselves through the ice with gunpowder. They carry a crew of several hundred, all of them seasoned sealers. The man of expert knowledge in picking up "Seals" hies him aloft to the barrel crow's-nest.

And then begins that roaming quest of the seal that may stand these old Ramblers of the ice and the ocean, away to the northeast, or up toward "Belle Isle", or even far into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, anywhere that they can "pick up" the herd of drifting amphibians, which are to yield the invaluable sealskin.

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