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CHAPTER 1
The enterprising Voyageurs.—A Parliament—Where shall we go next?—The Islands of the Sea.—Captain Corbet’s Confession.—Once more, upon the Waters.—The lonely Isle.—The strange Schooner.—Ashore.—A new Acquaintance.—A Disciple of Progress.—Railroads and Telegraphs for the Magdalen Islands.

THE Antelope had traversed all the waters of the Baie de Chaleur, and the enterprising voyageurs on board had met with many adventures by sea and land; and at length all these were exhausted, and, as the time drew near for their departure, the question arose where next to go, which question was discussed in full council assembled upon the deck; present Bruce, Arthur, Bart, Tom, Phil, Pat, Captain Corbet, Wade, and Solomon, Bruce being in the chair—that is to say, on the taffrail. “All you that are in favor of going home, say ‘Ay’,” said Bruce.

There was a dead silence. Not one spoke.

“That’s not the way to go about it,” said Bart. “It isn’t parliamentary. Let’s do business regularly. Come. I rise, Mr. President, to make a motion. I move that the B. O. W. C. continue their wanderings as long as the holidays last.”

“I second that motion,” cried Phil.

“Gentlemen,” said Bruce, “it has been moved and seconded that the B. O. W. C. continue their wanderings as long as the holidays last. All that are in favor of this motion will please manifest it by saying, ‘Ay.’”

At this there was a universal chorus of “Ay.”

“Contrary minds, ‘No.’”

Silence followed.

“It’s a vote,” said Bruce; “and now all that remains to do is to decide upon the direction to be taken.”

Upon this Captain Corbet smiled benignly, and a glance of approval beamed from his venerable eye. Old Solomon grinned violently, but checked himself in a moment; his grin was drowned in a low chuckle, and he exclaimed, “De sakes now, chil’en alive, how you do go on! Mos’ make dis ole nigga bust hisself to see dese yer mynouvrins.”.

“Look here, boys,” cried Bart, suddenly dropping altogether the “parliamentary” style in which he had last spoken; “what do you say to a cruise around the gulf? Let’s visit the islands; there are ever so many; some of them are uninhabited, too. It’ll be glorious!”

“Glorious—will it?” cried Tom. “Wait, my boy, till you know as much about uninhabited islands as I do. You don’t catch me putting my foot ashore on anything of that sort.”

“O, well, we needn’t be particular about the inhabitants,” said Arthur. “I go in for islands, head over heels.”

“So do I,” said Phil.

“Be the powers,” said Pat, “but it’s meself that howlds up both hands to that same.”

“Suppose we go to the Magdalen Islands,” said Bruce. “They’re right in the middle of the gulf, and it’s a very queer place, they say.”

“No, no,” said Bart; “if we go anywhere, let’s go to Anticosti. For my part, I’ve always been wild to go to Anticosti. I don’t believe there’s another island in all the world that’s equal to it. It’s cold, bleak, gloomy, uninhabited, and full of ghosts.”

“Full of fiddlesticks!” exclaimed Arthur. “What do you want of ghosts?”

“Well,” said Bart, placidly, “for my part, I think there is something uncommonly interesting in a haunted island.”

“A haunted island!” repeated Arthur. “Well, my boy, all I’ve got to say is, that if you want anything of that sort, you’ll find the best specimen on Sable Island; so I propose that we go there at once.”

“Sable Island? Why, man alive, that’s ever so far away!” said Tom. “We’d better wait till we’re on our way home, and leave that for the last; though, for my part, I think we’d better give it a wide berth. I go in for some of the gulf islands—St. Paul, for instance, or St. Peter.”

“Well, boys,” said Phil, “since you’re all so crazy about islands, why can’t we go to the Bay of Islands at once? We can have our fill of them there, I should think. For my part I’m indifferent. I’m like Tom; I’ve had my turn at a desert island, and have found out the vanity of Robinson Crusoe.”

“Sure, thin,” said Pat, “and whin we’re about it, we’d betther take the biggist island we can find about here, and that same is Newfoundland. Wouldn’t it be betther to begin with that, thin?”

“The fact is, boys,” said Bruce, with the air of a judge or an umpire, “we’ll have to make up our minds to visit all these islands. Each one has his preference, and each one shall be gratified. You, Bart, may see Anticosti; you, Arthur, may see Sable Island; you, Tom, may visit St. Paul and St. Peter; you, Phil, may visit the Bay of Islands; and at the same time you, Pat, may see Newfoundland. Of course, then, I hope to go to the Magdalen Islands. Now, as we are going to visit all these places, and the Magdalen Islands happen to be nearest, we will take them first, while we may visit in turn Anticosti and the others, winding up with Sable Island, which may be postponed to the last, since it is the farthest off. We may make up our minds, boys, to no end of adventures. We’re all in first-rate training; we are hardened by adventures on sea and on shore; we can live on next to nothing; and I’m only sorry that we’re not a little nearer to the North Pole, so that we might set out now as we are to settle the question forever about the open Polar Sea.”

The extravagant notion with which Bruce closed his address was received with shouts of laughter and applause. Then followed a confused conversation. At length they all gathered around Captain Corbet, who had thus far been a listener, and began to question him about the various places which they proposed to visit. The answer of the venerable navigator was not very satisfactory.

“Wal, boys,” said he, “you put me down in any part of old Fundy, an I’m to hum; anywhar’s between the head of old Fundy an Bosting, I know it all be heart; an I engage to feel my way in fog or in darkness, or in snow-storms, backard an forard, year on an year on; but jest about here I’m all agog. In these here parts I’m a pilgerrim an a stranger, an ain’t particularly to be trusted. But I can navigate the Antelope all the same, an fool round in these waters as long as you like. I ain’t got any chart, terrew; but I’ve got an old map of Canady, an kin scrape along with that, especially this season of the year. I kin git a ginral leadin idee of the position of places, an work along the old Antelope wharever you want to go. I’m an old man myself, an don’t mind this kerrewsing a bit; in fact, it’s rayther agree’ble. The best of it is, we’re allus sure to fetch up some-whar.”

This frank announcement of Captain Corbet’s ignorance of these seas might have excited disquietude in the bosoms of less enterprising lads; but the cruisers of the Antelope had seen and known, and felt and suffered, too much to be easily disturbed. Of Captain Corbet’s confession they thought nothing whatever, nor indeed did it really matter very much to them whether he was acquainted with these waters or not. After all, they were not particular about any destination; any mistakes which he might make would not create any inconvenience to them; and even if, in seeking to reach Newfoundland, he should land them at Cape Cod, they would not much care. Under these circumstances they listened to his words with indifference, and if they felt any disappointment, it was because they were unable to gain from him any information whatever about the places which they proposed to visit.

Since they could gain no information, they did not waste much more time in conversation, but concluded to set out without delay. And so in a little while the Antelope spread her white wings, and began to walk the waters in her usual style, like a thing of life, and all that. In process of time she reached the entrance of the bay, and then passed out into the gulf.

It was a glorious day. The wind was fair. The Antelope did her best. The sun went down that evening behind the high hills, and before them lay a wide expanse of water. On the following morning they saw land ahead. The land was an island, or a cluster of islands, and all the boys felt certain that it was the Magdalen Islands.

In spite of Captain Corbet’s ignorance of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, he had chosen his course very accurately, for this was indeed their destination. As the schooner drew nearer and nearer, the boys looked with curious eyes upon this remote and isolated spot, situated in the midst of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and shut out during all the winter months from the rest of the world of man by ice, and storms, and solitude.

The wind died away after sunrise, and hours passed before they came near enough to think of landing. At length the anchor was dropped, and the boat was made ready to go ashore. From this point they could see this new land to the best advantage. They saw before them an island rising high out of the water, with its green slopes covered with grass, and crowned with trees, and dotted with white houses. Before them there were a cove and a sandy beach, upon which boats were drawn up. The other islands of the group were shut out from view by this one. Not far away—in fact, not farther than a stone’s throw—there lay another schooner at anchor. Very different was this other schooner from the Antelope. The Antelope, in spite of its many admirable and amiable qualities, was not particularly distinguished either for size, or strength, or speed, or beauty. In every one of these particulars the other schooner was the exact opposite. It was large; it was evidently new; its lines were sharp and delicate, indicating great speed; its spread of canvas was immense; it was a model of naval architecture; while the freshness of its paint, and the extreme neatness which appeared in every part, indicated a far greater care on the part of its master than any which the good and gracious Corbet was ever disposed to exhibit towards his beloved Antelope. On high floated the Stars and Stripes, exhibiting the nationality of the stranger. On her stern the boys could read her name and nation. They saw there, in white letters underneath a gold eagle, the words,—
FAWN-GLOUCESTER.

“On land,” said Bruce, gravely, as he looked at the strange craft, “the Antelope and the Fawn are somewhat alike; but on the sea it strikes me that there is a slight difference.”

The other boys said nothing, but there arose involuntarily in the mind of each a feeling not exactly of envy, but at least a fervent wish that the resemblance which Bruce spoke of should exist on the water as well as on the land.

“I suppose it’s a yacht,” said Bart.

“Or a cruiser,” said Arthur.

“Nothin of the kind,” said Captain Corbet. “That thar craft ain’t anythin more than a Gloucester fishing schewner.”

“A fishing schooner?”

“Course; an why not? Why, them Gloucester skippers make themselves comfortable; they know how to do it, tew, an this chap is jest like the rest. He makes himself comfortable, keeps his schewner like a palace or a parlor, an don’t let even so much as the scale of a red herrin be seen about.”

The boys went ashore in the boat. Bruce then returned for Captain Corbet, who was touched by this small attention. As Bart and the rest waited on the beach, they noticed a small, neat, freshly-painted boat drawn up not far away, which needed not the name of Fawn on the stern to assure them that it could belong to nothing else than the smart schooner. While they were looking at it and admiring it, a man advanced towards them, who regarded them with a puzzled and curious expression.

He was a man of middle age and medium stature, with clean-shaven face, close-cut hair, and keen gray eye. He wore a dark-blue frock coat and wide-awake hat, and did not seem at all like a seaman; yet somehow the boys could not help feeling that this very neatly-dressed man must have something to do with the Fawn. He came up to them, and looked at them with a smile.

“Who in thunder are you, anyhow?” he exclaimed, at length. “I can’t make you out at all. You belong to that queer-looking tub out there, I see; but who you are and what you are after is beyond me.”

This style of address struck the boys as being rather uncivil; but the good-natured expression of the stranger’s face showed that no incivility was meant, and won their hearts at once.

“O, well,” said Bart, with a laugh, “you must never judge by appearances, you know. We’re not a fishing vessel. In fact, we’re a sort of chartered yacht, though we’re a very unpretending sort of yacht, and we don’t go in for show. We’re a schooner, cruising about in a plain, off-hand, homely manner for pleasure, and all that sort of thing.”

At this the stranger burst into a shout of laughter, which was so cheery, and so hearty, and so good-natured, that the boys found it impossible to resist its contagion, and at length they all joined in also, though why they were laughing, or what they were laughing at, they had not the smallest idea in the world.

“Look here, boys,” exclaimed the stranger, at length, as soon as he had recovered from his laughter; “excuse me, but I can’t help it. I’ll knock under. I cave in. I don’t understand it at all. Have you a looking-glass aboard your tub out there? Has any one of you any idea what he looks like? Or have you ever examined one another?”

At this the boys could not help looking at one another, and at themselves, and at this survey they began to perceive what they had not at all suspected—that they were one and all a most disreputable-looking crowd. Their clothes were torn and stained with mud, and gave signs in every seam and fibre of long scrambles through wood and water, and long struggles with the elements. But, in fact, no one of them had thought of this until this moment, when they found themselves confronted and laughed at by this well-dressed stranger.

“It ain’t the shabbiness,” cried the stranger, “that upsets me, but it’s the contrast—such faces looking at me out of such clothes! Do your mothers know you are out? or, in other words, boys, do your parents know the particular way in which you are moving about the world?”

“O, well,” said Bart, “we’re not a vain vessel, you know. We’re only a plain, simple, matter-of-fact potato schooner, out for a holiday, and on the lookout for a little fun. We’re not proud, and so, perhaps, being a potato schooner, it’s just as well not to be too particular about clothes. We’ve always been told not to think too much about dress; and besides, this sort of thing is ever so much more convenient for roughing it, you know.”

“Well, boys,” said the stranger, “I dare say you looked very well when you started; and after all, clothes are not the most important thing. At any rate, I’m glad to meet you! How d’ye do, all? I’m glad to see you! How d’ye do? I’d like to know you. My name’s Ferguson, Tobias Ferguson, and I’m skipper of that there craft, the Fawn.”

Saying this, he shook hands with every one of the boys in succession, asked their names, their ages, their place of abode, the names, occupations, and ages of their parents, and then proceeded to inquire about their adventures thus far, and their intentions in the future. By this time Bruce had returned from the vessel with Captain Corbet, to whom Ferguson at once made himself known; and thus in a short time he had come to be on intimate terms with all the party.

“I just dropped in here to Magdalen,” said he, frankly, “to fix up the Fawn a bit. ’Tain’t much of a place, any ways. The people air a lot of beggarly, frog-eating Frenchmen, that follow fashions as old as Adam. When Adam delved and Eve span, as the old verse says, they had a plough and a spindle, and that thar identical plough and spindle air still in use here among these here French. You can’t make em use anythin else. Why, I’ve been here dozens of times, and I’ve tried, to get em to give up their old-fashioned ways, and be up to the age. I’ve showed em our way of doin things. No go. Not a mite of use. Might as well talk to a stone wall. They’ll never get out of the old rut. And see what they’re doin here! Why, only look around you! Magdalen Islands! Why, this locality is one of the most favored on this green earth. In the middle of this gulf, right in the track of ships, it is in a position to enter upon a career of progress that might make this place one of the most flourishing in the world. They might control the whole fish trade; they might originate new modes of fishing. Why, look at me! I’ve tried to get em to start factories, build railroads, steamboats, common schools, hotels, newspapers, electric telegraphs, and other concomitants of our nineteenth century civilization. And what’s the result? Why, nothing. I might as well talk to the wind. Railroads! electric telegraphs! Why, you might as well ask them to build a bridge to the moon! Well, all I can say is, that these here Magdalen Islands won’t ever be anythin till they fall in with the sperrit of the age. Them’s my sentiments.”

“Railroads!” cried Bart. “Why, what could they do with a railroad?”

“Do?” exclaimed Ferguson. “Why, develop their resources, promote trade, facilitate intercourse, and keep themselves abreast with the age.”

“But there are not more than a couple of thousand people on the islands,” said Bart.

“Well, what’s the odds? So much the more reason for them to be up and doin,” retorted Ferguson, with some warmth. “They’re all as poor as rats; and a railroad is the only thing that can save them from eventooly dyin out.”

The boys looked at the stranger in some perplexity, for they did not know whether he’ could really be in earnest or not. But from Ferguson’s face and manner they could gather nothing whatever. He seemed perfectly serious, and altogether in earnest.

“Yes, sir,” he repeated, emphatically, “these here Magdalen Islands’ll never be wuth anythin till they get a railroad. Them’s my sentiments.”



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