Grand Pre of Today

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Grand Pre of Today
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GRAND PRE OF TODAY. VISIT TO THE COUNTRY MADE FAMOUS BY LONGFELLOW’S “EVANGELINE.” “Dear Mr. Longfellow” — as I have heard him called here — was not quite right when he said: “Naught but tradition remains of the beautiful village of Grand Pre.” There is not much left, but there is enough to give life and atmosphere to that tradition in which Acadia is wrapped, says a writer in the New York Evening Post. When the train has moved off and left you standing on the station platform, your first thought is there has been a mistake. You are in a wilderness of green — green at first, but while you look across the two level miles of dikeland, that green resolves itself into a multitude of colors — the many purples of the clover, the yellow buttercups, the white daisies, and reds, browns and grays without number, contributed by more kinds of grasses than you ever thought grew anywhere. In front of the station, a few hundred yards away, stands a row of survivors of the old French days. Living, and likely to live for years to come, these Normandy willows speak to you with a voice you cannot resist, and you stand and look and look at them, almost against your will. They are simply a row OF TWISTED AND SCARRED OLD TREES, but the sight of them strikes the chord of human sympathy, and it matters not how humble the agent which does that, the result is always the same. But where is Grand Pre? You turn from the dikeland, and there on the hillside, in the very midst oi apple orchards, which almost hide them, you can see the church and a dozen or so houses of the present village. When you have found some accommodating person (who will be the first one you meet, for they are all accommodating), he will show you first the old French well. It has been cleaned out recently, and quantities of what the villagers call “relics” have been removed, but the same stones line it that were put in place nigh two centuries ago. The “relics” are a miscellaneous collection of scrap iron of early date, and just how they came to lie at the bottom of a well seems not to be quite clear. Possibly the Acadians took their iron in that way. Near the well the foundation of the chapel of St. Charles may be easily traced, and also, though less clearly, that of a house near by, presumably the priest’s. The first owner of the farm at which I am stopping told his daughter — my hostess — that he found, while ploughing, 30 CELLARS ON HIS OWN LAND, and in none of them were there any remains of charred wood, which fact rather discredits the idea that Grand Pre was wiped out by fire. I talked with an old lady the other evening whose grandfather came here only six years after the deportation of the French farmers. He told her when she was a very little girl that he and his companions found the wagons which had been used to carry the Acadians’ household goods to the ships standing as they were abandoned, near the mouth of the Gaspereau river. Can anyone imagine a more pitiful sight? This old lady also recalls another early settler who was a great storyteller. He was 90 years old when she knew him, more than 60 years ago, but he still loved to gather the children around – or rather before him, for he made them kneel in a row facing him – and entertain them by the hour. He always talked leaning forward, with his hands resting on the top of his cane, and when the time for laughter arrived, he announced the fact by raising the cane and pounding furiously on the floor. His old surviving listener still wonders why the old man would never trust the children to know when to laugh. Aside from its historical interest, Grand Pre is a really beautiful spot, in a placid restful way, and an ideal farming country. Over on Evangeline Beach, three miles away, you may see those sensational tides that carry surprising behavior to the utmost limit, and recede in a few hours some two miles from the high water mark! When the tide is out, the Grand Pre fisherman takes his horse and sand-boat, and drives out to the nets where the receding water has left quantities of fish. All the fisherman has to do is to pick up his fish and drive home again! His catch may be less remarkable than that of Mr. Rice’s famous “Lone Fisherman,” but his methods are quite as amusing.