“Jerome” of Nova Scotia
A Strange Entry in the Blue Book of that Province.
Found on the Shore 42 Years Ago With Both Legs Amputated—His Nationality still a Mystery.
“Financial Returns,” one of the Blue-books issued by the legislature of Nova Scotia, contains a very brief entry, the story of which is perhaps unique in the annals of public documents. It is simply the one line:
But behind it lies one of the strangest of mysteries—a sea mystery that, after the lapse of more than four decades, is still an impenetrable as it was on the day that gave it birth.
Who is ‘Jerome?” No one knows. Whence he came? None can ever guess. Why should his name appear in a Government Blue-book as receiving an annual amount from the country to which he never rendered a cent’s worth of service? Few can tell. Scarcely any of the members of the legislature know to what the entry refers; it has figured in the “Financial Returns” for many years; it was there before the several provinces of Canada were welded into the present Dominion it was there when Nova Scotia was a separate colony. In themselves these facts may not present anything that is particularly remarkable; but when taken in conjunction with “Jerome’s” strange desertion on the shores of the Land of Evangeline, and the impenetrable mystery that has ever since surrounded his identity, as well as his extraordinary demeanor, the matter may well take rank with any of the obscure cases that history records.
Some forty-two years ago the people living around Digby Neck—the narrow strip of land on the eastern side of the Bay of Fundy—one day sighted a slip in the offing whose movements were unusual; she seemed to be hovering aimlessly around the same spot; and when darkness fell she was still there. Her peculiar tacking was the subject of much comment among the fisherfolk, the only residents along that rugged coast. Next morning, when the turned their eyes seaward, the vessel had disappeared; but upon the beach were a small keg of water and a bag of ship’s biscuits, and by the side of them was a man, or rather what was left of one, for his legs had been cut off, above the knees. The amputation had been recently done and that it was the work of a skilful hand was demonstrated by the careful manner in which the stumps were bandaged.
The stranger was apparently about nineteen years of age, with flaxen hair and blue eyes and from his clothing and delicate white skin it was inferred that he had been well brought up. He was nursed and cared for by the cottagers, and gradually recovered from the severe operation to which had been subjected. But he was morose and silent; and his speech, if speech it could be called, consisted only of guttural sounds that none could understand, though efforts were made to by many seafaring men who had a smattering of foreign tongues to ascertain his nationality. There was not a scrap paper of any kind up on his to vive the faintest clue to his identity; nor were there any marks upon his clothing which was of the best, to throw any light either upon his name or from whence he came. Whether, after his strange arrival on the shores of Nova Scotia, any attempt was made to teach him an intelligible language is not known but certain it is that during the long period he has passed among the humble residents of Digby Neck he has not acquired their tongue, and he has never by speech conveyed as much as a single thought to any one.
The manner of his arrival was mysterious; he has remained a mystery ever since. For forty-two years he has been a man without a name, except that of “Jerome,” which was given him by some of the fishermen who thought that one of the sounds he uttered resembled that word.
It was all very well for the poor people of the district to be hospitable towards the helpless cripple for a while; but it was difficult for them to earn a livelihood for themselves; and when they felt that they could no longer be burdened with his support they applied to the Poor Commissioners to have the weight taken off their shoulders. But the appeal was in vain; the Commissioners did not see why they should take over the responsibility: “Jerome” did not belong to Digby County. The aid of the legislature was then sought, and, pending investigation, it granted an allowance of one hundred and four dollars. That was “Jerome’s” first connection with the Blue-books of the province; and from that time to be present his name has regularly appeared on the pages of “Financial Returns,” for investigation unraveled nothing of the mystery, and the legislature has continued the grant from year to year ever since.
Before the advent of the railway, “Jerome,” was an object of much interest to passengers by coach, who would observe him basking in the summer sun, and would stop to see him and inquire into his case. But eventually they got so accustomed to the sight and to the story that they contented themselves with simply acknowledging him by a wave of the hand as they passed. With the waning of interest and curiosity on the part of the public, together with the construction of the railway—which unlike the old post-road does not run near the shore of that locality—“Jerome” and his strange story are almost forgotten except by those in the immediate neighborhood of Saulnierville, on the shores of the bay where he was landed and where the women still adhere to the simple garb of the old Acadians, and the language spoke is that of the peasants of Normandy and Brittany in the time of Louis Quatorze.
“Jerome” during the hot days of summer, still basks in the sun in front of the house where he lives with a French-Acadian family, and in winter he huddles close beside the stove. He partakes of such food as is placed before him; but he is still the same silent, morose person that he was when first discovered on the beach forty-two years ago. He keeps by himself as much as possible, and simply passes his days much after the manner of the beasts of the field. For more than four decades his early history has been as impenetrable as that of the Man with the Iron Mask; and it is scarcely within the range of probability that the veil will ever be torn aside. “Jerome” is still a mistery (sic), and in all likelihood will go down to his grave without any one being able to even hazard a conjecture as to his identity.—Toronto Truth.