AS I have a sort of religion in literature, believing that no author can justly intrude upon the public without feeling that his writings may be of some benefit to mankind, I beg leave to apologize for this little book. I know, no critic can tell me better than I know myself, how much it falls short of what might have been done by an abler pen. Yet it is something — an index, I should say, to something better. The French in America may sometime find a champion. For my own part, I would that the gentler principles which governed them, and the English under William Penn, and the Dutch under the enlightened rule of the States General, had obtained here, instead of the narrower, the more penurious, and most proscriptive policy of their neighbors.
I am indebted to Judge Halliburton’s “History of Nova Scotia” for the main body of historical facts in this volume. Let me acknowledge my obligations. His researches and impartiality are most creditable, and worthy of respect and attention. I have also drawn liberally as time and space would permit iv from chronicles contemporary with the events of those early days, as well as from a curious collection of items relating to the subject, cut from the London newspapers a hundred years ago, and kindly furnished me by Geo. P. Putnam, Esq. These are always the surest guides. To Mrs. Kate Williams, of Providence, R. I., I am indebted also. Her story of the “Neutral French,” no doubt, inspired the author of the most beautiful pastoral in the language. The “Evangeline” of Longfellow, and the “Pauline” of this lady’s legend, are pictures of the same individual, only drawn by different hands.
A word in regard to the two Acadian portraits. These are literal ambrotypes, to which Sarony has added a few touches of his artistic crayon. It may interest the reader to know that these are the first, the only likenesses of the real Evangelines of Acadia. The women of Chezzetcook appear at daybreak in the city of Halifax, and as soon as the sun is up vanish like the dew. They have usually a basket of fresh eggs, a brace or two of worsted socks, a bottle of fir-balsam to sell. These comprise their simple commerce. When the market-bell rings you find them not. To catch such fleeting phantoms and to transfer them to the frontispiece of a book published here, is like painting the burnished wings of a humming-bird. A friend, however, undertook the task. He rose before the sun, he bought eggs, worsted socks, and fir-balsam of the Acadians. By constant attentions he became acquainted with a v pair of Acadian women, niece and aunt. Then he proposed the matter to them:
“I want you to go with me to the daguerreotype gallery.”
“To have your portraits taken.”
“To send to a friend in New York.”
“To be put in a book.”
“Never mind ’what for,’ will you go?”
Aunt and niece — both together in a breath — “No.”
So my friend, who was a wise man, wrote to the priest of the settlement of Chezzetcook, to explain the “what for,” and the consequence was — these portraits! But these women had a terrible time at the head of the first flight of stairs. Not an inch would these shy creatures budge beyond. At last, the wife of the operator induced them to rise to the high flight that led to the Halifax skylight, and there they were painted by the sun, as we see them now.
Nothing more! Ring the bell, prompter, and draw the curtain.