Cape Breton's Magazine

> Issue 54 > Page 58 - Gobineau: Cape Breton's People, 1859

Page 58 - Gobineau: Cape Breton's People, 1859

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1990/6/1 (163 reads)

lies. As for herds and chattel, everything was seized. Most of these unfortunate died in poverty without having been able to rejoin their families. The village of Grandpr6 was utteriy destroyed. This sad event has lost, in the Nova Scotian tradition, any national significance; it has become instead a religious account. The anger is not directed at the English because they are English, rather it is be? cause the English are heretics and persecutors of the faith. The ac? count belongs just as much to the Irish as to the Acadians. A third of the population of the colony maintains the tale, repeats it, comments it with fen/our, and all the details that are now added to it are not al? ways historically correct because it already has the quality of a myth. For instance, among other things it is said that when the British sol? diers, after having forced the entire population aboard the ships, tried to enter the houses to pillage them, they found on the doorsteps dogs crazed by anger, their fur bristling, barring their entrance. They were only able to get in these empty houses after having massacred their last faithful defenders. These accounts, dear to catholics without distinction of origins, have been spread by them throughout North America. The sufferings of the martyrs of Grandpr6 have become the shared glory of all the faithful, and it is from their own mouths that Longfellow gleaned the details on which he based the poem Evangeline, far superior by sub? ject matter and slightly less inferior by its art to Goethe's Hermann and Dorothea, f Longfellow's sources for his celebrated ooem were not the Acadians themselves but a French philosopher, the abbe Guillaume-Thomas Ravnal. 1711-1798. who published, in 1770. a hugely successful four-volume Histoire Dhilosophiaue des 'tablisse- ments...europeens dans les deux Indes. Thomas Haiiburton. who was very sympathetic to the Acadians. was also a prime source of in? formation for the American poet who never came to Nova Scotia, al? though it is said that he might have been a shareholder in one of the Caoe Breton coal mining operations.' The preparations for our return (to France), after having brought us to St.-Pierre, also brought us back to Sydney. There we spent a few days looking at a scenery that Fall was beginning to colour in red tints of every imaginable hue. The Indians had come down from the interior in greater numbers than we had ever seen, and their wigwams stretched into the nearby woods. Groups of these good people circulated in the streets, selling their baskets and begging a little, whk:h gave us the opportunity to meet an important person named Gougou who was nothing less than the last representative of the ancient royal house of the Micmacs. It is said that his compatriots hold him in very high esteem. He knows what deference is due to the btood from which he is issued; however, he is currently tomiented by a critically difficult financial situation. Our intro? duction was facilitated by a few cents, which were offered him to buy tobacco, and which he accepted with alacrity. Later, he was moved to accept several loads of gunpowder and lead which he used to bring us partridges. Of his entire band, this prince was unquestionably the most slovenly in his dress. In tmth, he constantly wore an extremely thread? bare black frock coat, torn in more than one spot and to which there was one solitary button. His pants were in the nnost total disarray; his hat was t)Ottomless. Gougou, a widower now for several years, wanted to remarry but he admitted that it was difficult to find a suitable party since all he owned consisted in his hat, his pants and his black frock coat. It was aimoured that the prestige of his birth was not enough to allow him to make a rich marriage within his tribe and that, therefore, it is feared that the Micmac royal family will die with him. We spent a few more very agreeable days in the good and hospitable Sydney. Mr. B(ourinot) wished to emulate the example of the Gassen- flH a few months prevtously, and surmount the difficulties associated in giving a ball. Despite the difficulties, he tried valiantly and succeeded beyond the wildest dreams. His orchestra, and that was the central difficulty, was far superior to the one we had managed to contrive on board. It was composed of two very sleepy fiddlers. When one quadrille was finished, someone shook them forcefully by the arm, then they stopped playing. A second shake and an indication of what was need? ed, and they started again. Howev? er, they only woke up for dinner and went back to sleep immediately af- tenwards when, once again, their in- stmments were placed in their hands. Since this ball was the last social occasion for the general staff of the | Gassendi it was prolonged as late as could be. It was far into the night | when embari
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