February 8th, 1899



Annie O’ the Banks O’Middle River.


One golden August morning in a village bordering Lake Bras D’or, three tourists, father, mother and daughter, appeared early at the door of their hotel prepared for an exploring expedition. They watched with amused interest the final touches bestowed on their turnout. After a few straps were secured, the family clothes-line came into use, their land lord with perfect gravity tying the seats to the body, to the spring, and the whole to the horse. The vehicle creaked and shook unauspiciously as the occupants took their seats. Each in turn, cast a searching glance at the owner, as though to ferret out his private opinion on its road-worthiness.

"O, it’s all right," he affirmed, with many nods; then, swinging a few paces down the hotel lane, he called to a passing farmer, "Hi, there, Mack ! Coom up a bit." Returning to the wagon, he observed as the man so hailed checked his horse, "Maister MacDonald’s going home. He lives on ‘Middle River," you can follow him and get dinner at his place. Dinna be afeerd o’ the rig’ gin summat breaks there’s a good twenty feet of line under the seat. Good day ma’am. Fine luck a’ fishing sir."

The road at first ran through the scattered village and parallel with the lake. The travellers could scarcely enough admire the broad expanse of glistening water, broken in outline by many picturesque and pine promontories. Through channels leading seaward came ocean breakers, dashing and fretting themselves like wild animals entrapped between the relentless walls of some hunter’s snare. Cape Breton captains are cautious when approaching the struggles of these ocean fugitives, lest they, too, perish in a fatal clasp of the "Bras d’Or," ("Arm of Gold.")

Upon leaving the village, the road turned abruptly inland and led through a rolling country thinly settled. In this primitive portion of Nova Scotia, remnants of Indian tribes still exist.

The travellers passed several groups of veritable birch-bark wigwams where Indian children, tumbling on the ground, raised up their shaggy heads and put back their stiff, black locks for a better view, while the inevitable Indian dog snarled at a safe distance from the whip.

In uplands and meadows, strong limbed Scotch lassies, at work in the fields, rested for a moment leaning on rake or hoe, to return the glances of the passers-by, quite unconscious of the pictures they presented to admiring eyes. From the summit of a range of hills, higher than any they had before climbed, the travellers gazed down into a circular valley crossed by a stream. The hitherto taciturn guide, looking back, nodded half genially and pointed ahead. This, then, was "Middle River Valley."

Rattlety, rattlety, rattlety, went both the old waggons down this piney slope, down until sounds of rushing water filled the air. Here, at a turn of the road, Maister MacDonald drew up before a house, built in the usual barn-style of architecture. At the sound of the wheels, two sturdy boys came from a neighboring barn, and a little lass with hair like corn silk, and eyes like corn mowers, followed them closely. All hung back at sight of the strangers.

"Annie, Bessie," yelled the farmer, run in and tell your mother there’s ladies wi’me."

The words were hardly spoken when there appeared in the house door a woman, who stood for a moment shading her eyes with her hands. Only a moment, but in that time the travelers had noted the graceful figure, dark waving hair, and sweet, open face. She came forward quickly, smiling a welcome.

"Here’s friends to dinner, Annie," explained the farmer. "This is Mrs. MacDonald, if ye’ll follow to the house she’ll do her best to gie ye comfort."

The youngest guest laid her hand to an aching forehead, and the violet eyes of the farmer’s wife shone with ready sympathy.

"A headache, dearie? It’s the glare o’ the sun. I’ll bring ye a glass o’ water fresh from the spring. Lie down a bit within, the room’s cool and dark; ye’ll be better soon."

The tired guest gladly obeyed, and resting on the haircloth sofa, looked with interest about the room, which was of a conventional country type, the furniture covering, carpet and paper of characterless, mixed patterns and colors; on the walls were framed prints, photographs of family tombstones and wreath of hair flowers. But a few touches, where the mistress of the house had dared to display her taste, made all the difference between many another country parlor and this one, which was, withal, homelike.

A long ride is a good appetizer, and the headache having disappeared, all the travelers fully enjoyed the dinner Annie set before them; a superstructure of homegrown fruits and vegetables, with raspberry pie fresh from the oven, upon a foundation of bacon and eggs, was a species of culinary architecture which required no commendation.

Dinner over, fishing baskets were unstrapped and rods, reeds and flies having been produced and adjusted, the men strolled away in search of trout. The women of the party, left to themselves, brought out a hammock from beneath the wagon seat, and looked about for some shady retreat, where, amid the fragrant pines, it might be hung.

Annie had followed them from the house, keeping back a little distance, like a shy child, making up to some new playmate. She eyed the hammock with surprise.

"Now, what do you do with that?"

"Have you never seen a hammock, Mrs. MacDonald?"

"No, dearie. O, ye’d likely wonder at the little I’ve seen. Think of livin’ here year in and year out, and my father’s hame was nae much better, only there were brothers and sisters; here there’s nae body a’most, for Willie and the boys are awa’ and about all day, and Bessie’s but a wee thing. I am not complainin’, but I al’ays fancied livin’ among folks."

The listeners whose lives, passed amid the intensity of urban existence, had held so much of companionship, looked with heightened interest at the speaker’s sweet face, scarcely less childlike than the face of her child, and she returned their glances of sympathy with a timid smile, as a forest violet might welcome a sunbeam.

"Gin you want larger trees there’s mony by the river bank yonder. I’ll help; and you’ll let me bide wi’ you, it’s so rare a treat to me."

Made to feel herself welcome, she eagerly assisted in swinging the hammock, tried it gleefully, but could not be prevailed to stay in. "Nae, let me see you in it," she said. Seating herself on the grass near by, she looked up contentedly and observed, "There are nice people in the world, ain’t there? I’d like to see where you live. Why do you come to Cape Breton? The scenes? Aye, but I’d rather have people."

Near at hand, the river gleamed and made sweet music, striking rippling notes on rocky keys. Around rose uplands, merging into steep, dark foliaged hills, dimpled with cloud-shadows, and the deeper gray of hollows where lie the hidden sources of the mountain brooks. Above all, the placid sky, flecked with indolent clouds.

To Annie, there was but one interest, one sight, and this she devoured with hungry eyes. Her earnest gaze drew the travelers’ attention to herself. They consulted together in al low tone, and suddenly the strains of "Annie O’ the Banks O’ Dee: broke the stillness.

The songs of bonny Scotland are dear to her children, wherever they may roam. A sweet surprise, as expression of sudden waking flashed into Annie’s eyes, followed by blinding tears.

Simply as the ballad was sung, never had primadonna known more sincere admiration. When it ended, "Thank ye? Thank ye?" she said; then timidly; "I used to sing once. Do you know Annie Laurie! Yes? O, I’m too happy!" Clasping her hands about her knees, with closed eyes and upturned face, she joined in the song with a voice untrained but sweet, trembling with happiness.

Sweetly o’er the silent valley floated the strains of each successive song. Led by a mysterious inspiration, someone softly chanted the opening strains of "Shall we gather at the River." Insensibly the strains grew more distinct as voice after voice joined in the song, and the rushing waters swelled the chorus:

Yes; we’ll gather at the river,

The beautiful, the beautiful river.

Voices of the men returned from fishing, and the rattling and stamping in the barn, where the boys were "hitching up," proclaimed the approach of the time for parting., Reluctantly, Annie-rose, and with the others, hastened to the house. In her heart there was a struggle for the old time patience, standing face to face with loneliness once more.

Wistfully she sought to offer some last act of kindness. "Does your hair need smoothing, dearie? O, let me do it." And the girl felt the caressing touch to be a "laying on of hands in blessing." "There, it’s a’ right now." Then suddenly she bent and pressed her lips lightly to the other’s forehead "I had to kiss you, forgive me," she said.

A moment later, she stood in the driveway watching the travelers out of the gate. Looking back they saw her face outlined against the halo of a golden twilight. Soon it was gone. And so they parted.



Wednesday, February 8th, 1899 (page 2)

The Late J. A. Woodworth

The Windsor Tribune appeared on Friday last in full mourning dress. The leading editorial, devoted to the memory of the late editor is as follows: -

"For the first time in ten years this column will go to press lacking an article from the pen of John A. Woodworth. Death in appalling suddenness came on Sunday morning at five o’clock, and the genial spirit that we had learned to admire so much has gone home to the "God of the things as they are."

"The funeral took place on Tuesday morning at 8 o’clock from his home, the old "Sam Slick" house, to the station. Rev. Mr. Dickie officiated both at the house and at the graveside in the Covenanter’s Church burying ground, Grand Pre. Rev. Mr. Shaw, of Windsor, assisted in the first service and Rev. Mr. Langille, of Horton, in the second.

"The long line of businessmen who followed the remains to the depot told of the esteem in which he had been held. A number went to Grand Pre from here, and there joined with the friends of his earlier life in performing the last sad rites.

"So ended the life on earth of the late editor of this paper, but the influence of his uprightness and honorable character will long remain. The news of his death has called froth expressions of sympathy and regret from all parts of the province. Through the Tribune Mr. Woodworth was widely known and was admired and esteemed by many with whom he was personally unacquainted. To a wide circle of personal friends the news of his death comes with a shock, and few, indeed, of those who knew him but feel that they have sustained a personal loss. Those who have been associated with him in business matters entertain the highest respect for his memory, and feel the loss of a friend.

"But to the members of his own family the loss is irreparable. A faithful and loving husband, a father wise in his counsels and discreet and kind in reproofs, the companion and confidant of his children, his memory will ever be cherished by the members of that little circle. Time may heal the wound now so severely felt, but time will also bring a fuller appreciation of the extent of the loss sustained, and an increasing regret for that loss.

"Those of us who have had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Woodworth intimately will miss him keenly; the pleasant word, the quick judgment, the apropos story, the sharp denunciation of wrong cannot be forgotten. An ardent lover of books, he had read widely and knew closely all the foremost writers of our century. Blessed with a good memory, he knew by heart much of Tennyson and other poets. Of late years Kipling has fascinated him, and many times has the writer heard him quote from the "Song of the Banjo." "McAndrew’s Hymn," "The Last Chantey," and "L’Euvoi," from which the two lines forming his editorial motto at the head of this column are taken.

"As a rule, the relations between employer and employees are apt to be uncomfortable, but in the Tribune office the best of feeling has always prevailed, and the mourning among the hands is as genuine as if they had lost a brother instead of a master.

"The members of Mr. Woodworth’s family surviving are his widow, one daughter, Frances, and two sons, James and Kenneth.