The most electric American, heir of all the nervous diseases of all the ages, could not but find peace in this scene of tranquil beauty, and sail on into a great and deepening contentment. Would the voyage could last for an age, with the same sparkling but tranquil sea, and the same environment of hills, near and remote! The hills approached and fell away in lines of undulating grace, draped with a tender color which helped to carry the imagination beyond the earth. At this point the narrative needs to flow into verse, but my comrade did not feel like another attempt at poetry so soon after that on the Gut of Canso. A man cannot always be keyed up to the pitch of production, though his emotions may be highly creditable to him. But poetry-making in these days is a good deal like the use of profane language,—often without the least provocation.
Twelve miles from Baddeck we passed through the Barra Strait, or the Grand Narrows, a picturesque feature in the Bras d’Or, and came into its widest expanse. At the Narrows is a small settlement with a flag-staff and a hotel, and roads leading to farmhouses on the hills. Here is a Catholic chapel; and on shore a fat padre was waiting in his wagon for the inevitable priest we always set ashore at such a place. The missionary we landed was the young father from Arichat, and in appearance the pleasing historical Jesuit. Slender is too corpulent a word to describe his thinness, and his stature was primeval. Enveloped in a black coat, the skirts of which reached his heels, and surmounted by a black hat with an enormous brim, he had the form of an elegant toadstool. The traveler is always grateful for such figures, and is not disposed to quarrel with the faith which preserves so much of the ugly picturesque. A peaceful farming country this, but an unremunerative field, one would say, for the colporteur and the book-agent; and winter must inclose it in a lonesome seclusion.
The only other thing of note the Bras d’Or offered us before we reached West Bay was the finest show of medusm or jelly-fish that could be produced. At first there were dozens of these disk-shaped, transparent creatures, and then hundreds, starring the water like marguerites sprinkled on a meadow, and of sizes from that of a teacup to a dinner-plate. We soon ran into a school of them, a convention, a herd as extensive as the vast buffalo droves on the plains, a collection as thick as clover-blossoms in a field in June, miles of them, apparently; and at length the boat had to push its way through a mass of them which covered the water like the leaves of the pondlily, and filled the deeps far down with their beautiful contracting and expanding forms. I did not suppose there were so many jelly-fishes in all the world. What a repast they would have made for the Atlantic whale we did not see, and what inward comfort it would have given him to have swum through them once or twice with open mouth! Our delight in this wondrous spectacle did not prevent this generous wish for the gratification of the whale. It is probably a natural human desire to see big corporations swallow up little ones.