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History of Inverness County, Nova Scotia
Chapter XLIII - The Last Page

We have attempted in the foregoing pages to give some idea of our Inverness ancestry. Our task was forced upon us twenty years too late. The real inner story of our older people was buried with themselves, and as a general thing we have no marble, moat or manuscript, to help us tell it now.

In our search for necessary information through the county we missed many, oh so many, "good gray heads" whom we were wont to meet and enjoy in younger years. Never did we appreciate their worth so keenly as when we felt the need of their help and found "they were not there". The younger and smarter folk did not, we regret to say, evince any special interest in a history of their forefathers. We could only do our best in a position that was all but impossible: and, unlike the great William Pitt, we were not able to "trample on impossibilities." We do hope our readers will grant us some indulgence, knowing the dark and lonely road we had to travel.

Some may think that we were representing our ancestors as much too good. We honestly tried our best not to. We confess at once our tender personal feeling for the friends that are gone, and we have no apology to offer for any manifestation of that feeling that may appear in this work. These hardy early settlers can not be judged by the standards and conditions of our day. They lived in lowly circumstances and were in the main, quite illiterate; yet, they possessed and practised, and impressed upon their offspring, many of the finest qualities of humanity.

"Let not ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, or destiny obscure;
Nor grandeur hear, with a disdainful smile,
The short and simple annals of the poor."

It is not our purpose either to praise the dead or dispraise the living, but we feel justified in saying this: to the extent that we, of today disregard, despise or repudiate, the christian qualities of our pioneer fathers, precisely to that extent we degenerate, physically, mentally and morally.

However, lest it be supposed that we are parading the best and concealing the worst of these old people let us make a brief reference to their more prominent faults and failings. And first of all their drinking habits.

All men know from experience that excess of anything is hurtful. Our early settlers drank to excess at times. The habit of drinking to excess is pernicious beyond expression, for it may involve much more, and much worse, than a mere breach of temperance. Some of our forefathers were in the habit of drinking to excess. Such a habit is not to be defended but we think our early settlers are entitled to an explanation concerning it.

That habit did not originate with our forefathers in this country. It came to them without much rebuke from deep down the centuries. All the aged civilized nations of the earth were soaked in it. There was no organized public opinion against it. There were no state laws forbidding it. In the olden times it was not considered degrading to indulge in alcoholic beverages. Men of all ranks did it. The King and his Jester got drunk together. In former centuries liquor was believed to be a necessary stimulant; it was good and cheap then, and as free and plentiful as air or water. Industrialism and commerce had not then reached the stage at which the unauthorized use of strong drink was a perilous source of inefficiency and loss.

We offer these comments as an explanation of this habit of the old people. The explanation is not open to us of today; nor is it an excuse for over-drinking at any time, in any place, under any circumstances.

Another habit of the olden times was to submit all the sharpest personal differences to the ruthless arbitrament of the naked fists.

Frankly that was a tribunal we could never respect: perhaps, because we feared it. We always regarded it as the essence and instinct of raw-boned savagery. But even as to that repugnant custom the men of old have a right to a hearing.

All those men came from lands of perpetual warfare, either international or internecine. Many immigrants came here smeared with the boiling blood of battle. Physical force was the determining test and logic of an old civilization. He who was too proud to fight was a poltroon: he who fought well was lionized. In the days of the pioneer settlers of Inverness there were no other tribunals to settle urgent issues. Physical force became an arbiter of honor, a racial distinction, and a necessary law of the wilderness. The habit is not now so general, but "it lingers superfluous on the stage." It is a vicious thorn of barbarism.

The habit of dancing and holding frequent frolics was another fault imputed to our ancestors. In connection therewith we think they are entitled to a special explanation. They were strangers in a strange land. They lived in the forest thousands of miles from the homes of their first impressions. Their labors were arduous and im perative. They had nothing to read, and even if they had libraries only few could use them. They had no clubs, societies, or moving pictures. It was essential that they should preserve their fitness for the task to which their hands were set. How could they preserve that fitness without those light amusements and recreations which their lot imposed and the Lord permitted?

Their "frolics" were informal social gatherings at which the chief functions were music, dancing and story-telling. Their songs and music were but the harmonies of a past history, as dear to them as life itself: their dancing was a beautiful work of art as compared with the spavined and repulsive performances of modern times: and their legends were the nepenthe of an old and turbulent national life. Were these simple recreations things of evil? Honi soit qui mal y pense.

We owe an immensity to our departed fathers. Common prudence as well as natural affection would bid us cherish their memory and good qualities for all time. One quality which our fathers showed notoriously was a wonderful resignation to adversities. We should make it a study to imitate this noble quality. Too often we develop a spirit of selfishness, unrest, impatience and discontentment, Cui bono? Other prominent qualities of our pioneers were their strong and simple faith, their invariable respect for their superiors and all constituted authority. And what of their eager and steadfast devotion to home and family? Verily, it were a wholesome and useful practice for us to recall frequently the lives and sacrifices of our worthy old men.

And now, after many days, we must take leave of our kind and patient readers, very likely for the last time. We have lived among them long: we shall wish them well for ever. Nothing would give us more joy in future than to know that they are prosperous and happy. At the same time, in this act of leave-taking, the last thing we should wish to do were to leave them under any delusion. This world is sternly exacting taskmaster. It abounds in pains and partings, sick-ness and sorrows, trials and disappointments. These probationary penalties can only be met and mastered by a supernatural fortitude of soul.

Wherefore, in this act of parting with our friends, our sentiments are well reflected in the following counsel of a standard, living, authority:

"I would not bid you not to weep,
For tears of grief shall fill your eyes,
I would not bid you not to care
When you shall lose the thing you prize;
For hurt and pain are hard to bear,
And sorrow cuts into the soul;
But hold you fast, and serve the Truth,
And you shall come unto your goal.

There shall be days when hope is dim,
And days when joys seem far from you;
There shall be rugged hills to climb,
And dreary tasks for you to do:
It is no easy path you fare,
No light or simple game you're in;
Life shall beset and try your strength,
But meet its tests, and you shall win!"

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