Return from Exile

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Return from Exile
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RETURN FROM EXILE Considerably over a century has come and gone since the fertile fields and meadow-lands of Grand Pré witnessed the cruel and unnecessary expulsion of a whole people from the soil which they and their fathers had tilled and made fertile by hard and unremitting labor. Cast abroad, so to speak, to the four winds of heaven, the vessels which bore the bleeding hearts and anxious minds of a nation's manhood —aye, and woomanhood, too—left those same rugged patriots to seek a living upon many a distant and inhospitable shore What wonder, then, if there streaming eyes and woe-begone features were ever turned toward Acadie—the land of their souvenir, the home of their Sires! Children were born to them, in many cases among strangers, but the first accents that were lisped by these young ones were the harmonious cadences of the language of Sunny France. The first love which filled their young hearts, after the love of God and their parents, was the love of distant but ever-present Acadie. So the years rolled on, and this vague longing to see once more the scenes of happier years, as well as of sorrowful recollections, crystallized into form and shape; so that from the inhospitable shores of New England (where bigotry and race-hatred had politically, socially and religiously ostracised them) as well as from the smiling fields and friendly homes of Southern climes, the bark of many an Acadian voyageur was steered for Evangeline’s Land, where its owner hoped once again to enjoy a well-merited repose in the evening of his days. Exposed to dangers by sea and land, still ever they made their tedious way, cheered and sustained by the thought of seeing once more before death the land where peace and plenty had been of yore their share. But alas! “Another race, with other traditions and language,” now occupied the site of their former dwelling-place. The smoke curled up from a chimney-top as of old, but around the hearth were gathered Saxon and Scottish children, speaking a rough and unfamiliar tongue. The spires of their beloved church no longer pointed heavenward, telling of a faith founded on the Living God, but cold, empty, barn-like buildings had replaced the temples in which they had sat of yore, entranced by the splendor of the gorgeous Rite, while their whole beings had throbbed in response to the living, moving Religion whose Ministers they saw officiate before them. Sorrowfully and sadly did they turn away, and, following the rugged shores of the “mournful and misty Atlantic,” they settled down at last by the side of the mighty Ocean, looking to receive from Nature what hard-hearted man had denied them. And now commenced years of long and exhausting labor and toil. In many cases a hard and ungrateful soil had to be worked, and the patient husbandman had but poor return for weary and painful years of slavery. Still, the sea was at his door, and to that mighty element he turned for aid in his want. Then commenced for the Acadian the dangerous and precarious existence which a life spent far out on the troubled waters afforded. By night, as well as by day, his frail bark could be seen bounding over the billows, guided by a hand that knew no fear—that ruled the troubled element with a confidence born of long and varied experience. But not alone as a “travailleur de mer” has the exile made his mark upon history’s pages. In the nobler domain of Art and Law, as well as in the sister branch of Medicine, the names of French-Acadians grace the Roll of Honor. As poverty (the reward of the first struggling years of the exile’s return) has gradually been surmounted or overcome, nobler aims and a higher ambition has entered into the hearts and minds of the Acadian youth, spurring him on to exertion, and discovering to his delighted gaze the wide possibilites which lie before the educated man. Home, then, have they come again, those sturdy descendants of sturdy forefathers, not with sentiments of revenge or hatred, carefully nursed through the bitter years of their exile, but eager to work alongside their English brothers in making of this “Canada of Ours” one of the greatest nations of the earth; in helping along every good and noble work, and thus finally cementing the friendship between two great peoples, whom Haliburton and Longfellow worked for and sung. ALPHA.