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  • 1878
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Francis Locks, when justifying their immense cost to the country in order to utilize the water communication, the Honourable Alexander MacKenzie, then leader of the Government, and Minister of Public Works, spoke frequently of the “magnificent water stretches between them and Winnipeg.”] We were determined not to allow it to be nameless any longer, and unanimously decided to call it Otley Lake, after the brown-eyed baby. It is a small lake, and soon crossed. A short portage follows, and on the shores of the next and yet smaller lake we stopped for luncheon. The portage was muddy; we had tucked up our skirts as high as we could to keep them out of harm’s way, and were standing idly about, watching the maid wash, and Frank cook the ducks, when we heard distant shouting. Before we could decide whence it came, Mr. F—-, who had gone out in the canoe to reconnoitre, reappeared; but not alone. Mr. K—- was with him, in a new and spotless suit of Oxford grey, irreproachable collar and cuffs, light-blue necktie, and new hat; looking clean, fresh, and civilized. What a contrast! Mrs. F—- gave her dress a shake, and straightened her hat, while I, in my anxiety to let down the loops in my skirts, made sad havoc amongst the strings; and the maid exclaimed, in a tone of personal injury–

“Law! and we’re such figures!”

I reproached him for making us feel our position so keenly. The scene would have made a good caricature: our travel-tossed party, with draggled skirts, and hats shapeless from much drenching rain; the men coatless, collarless, cuffless, with trousers rolled up and hair guiltless of parting; remnants of provisions, dishes, rugs, shawls, and coats littered over the ground,–all in sharp contrast with the perfect type and finished product of civilization landing from the canoe. The very grace with which he lifted his hat as he greeted us made us feel that contrast more!

However, we soon forgave him, we were so glad to see him; especially as he brought the mail-bag. While the men read their letters, I consoled myself for having none with a can of Californian pears, which were among the many things Mr. K—- brought. Don’t misunderstand me, and think I ate them all; but I confess to a fair share. The ducks, too, fried in pork fat, were not bad, and we enjoyed our picnic very much, even though, not having provided for visitors, one did without a fork and another without a spoon, to make them go round. Before leaving the scene of our meeting, the lake was dubbed Picnic Lake. It was only a hundred yards or so across to Hawk Lake, which looked wild and stormy. But Mr. K—- had crossed it in safety a few hours before, so there was really little danger with good men and canoes. It was impossible to remain where we were without provisions, and there was every prospect of the wind’s increasing instead of diminishing; so there was nothing for it but to venture.

Our canoe, as usual, took the lead, and shooting beyond an island well into the open, was soon joined by the others. Strict orders were given by our commander-in-chief, Mr. F—-, to keep together: Mr. K—- and his two men in one canoe to the left towards the middle of the lake, about half a canoe’s length ahead, and three away from ours; Mr. F—-‘s being about the same distance on the right, and nearest the shore. Thus Mr. K—-‘s canoe broke the first dash of the wave, and ours made it still less strong against Mr. F—-‘s. But before long the delight of dancing over the waves made Mr. M—- and Carrière work to such purpose that we regained the lead, Mr. M—- shouting, “Here comes another, Carrière! Head her up!” as a great wall of white-capped water rushing down upon us seemed to threaten destruction to our tiny boat; then, with a splash, struck it, dashing the spray over us as we rose above it and were ready for another. As the wave passed behind we could hear it strike the next canoe, and then the wash of the water as it went under. It was great fun, and I could have wished it to last longer, but for a glance at Mrs. F—-, who with white face and compressed lips clasped her baby closer in her arms as each wave came. Though of too true metal to make a fuss or give expression to her terror, one could see what she suffered every moment, until, getting to leeward of a large island, the lake became calm and the tension of her nerves relaxed. It took from an hour and a half to two hours to cross Hawk Lake, but to me it seemed only a few minutes.

Turning into a bay to the east, we landed on our last portage before reaching Ingolf. It was a long, wet track, with a narrow ravine in the middle, over which a rude road of loose logs had been made, while down the hills trickled tiny streams and a brawling, moss-bordered brook. There were two trails, and while the Indians and canoe-men took the lower and shorter, we pursued the upper. We were too tired to notice the beauty of the country, and were glad to reach the canoes on Long Pine Lake. We passed parties of men returning from their work, some of whom took charge of our luggage; and all crowding into one canoe, we were soon at Ingolf, the most western station on Contract 15.

Long Pine Lake looked still and pond-like; the weeds and slimy tendrils in the water were too visible, the bank we landed upon was too muddy, and the scattered _débris_ of recent building did not add to its attractions. Although the engineers had but lately moved into the house, and one wing of it was still in the workmen’s hands, everything was as comfortable and well arranged as good taste could make it. Bachelors’ quarters they were–the only house on the contract uninhabited by woman–but the ingenuity and industry with which they had been fitted up more than compensated for her absence.

The walls of the sitting, smoking, and general lounging room were hung with trophies of the chase–Indian work, pictures and photographs of lovely faces from the artist world; while books, papers, and easy chairs tempted one to linger. The dining-room and kitchen were still unfinished. So, when we had shaken ourselves straight, and resumed our despised collars and neckties, Mr. K—- took us over in the canoe to the contractor’s shanty to dinner. The pretty woman who waited upon us could not complain of the fare not being appreciated. We did full justice to it; lingering until long after dark, telling our adventures and sharpening our wits against each other. The doctor also joined our party. But a six-o’clock breakfast and early departure being decided upon, we had to break up at a reasonable hour.

In the morning we found we must keep to the canoe route, instead of going by waggon to Cross Lake as we had intended. Rain had fallen all night, but it was then bright and clear. Long Pine Lake looked better in the sunlight, and the portage to Hawk Lake, to which we had to return in order to reach Cross Lake, unnoticed the night before, was fully enjoyed now. The ground was carpeted ankle-deep with moss of endless variety, and ferns sparkling with raindrops. Hawk Lake was calm, only a light ripple glittering in the sun where had been white-capped waves before. Crossing the north-west end, we struck a short portage to a tiny lake, across which a few minutes’ paddle carried us. It was now comparatively easy work for the men, all the heavy camping baggage having been left at Ingolf, and the remainder, except our hand-satchels, sent on by packers going through to Cross Lake. As Mr. K—- and his men accompanied us, no double trips were necessary.

Our last portage showed many signs of active life; there were several boats left by packers–glycerine cans, large racks on which whitefish-nets were drying, a shanty with a rugged garden round it, besides the well-worn paths which tell of frequent traffic. The men went briskly up the hill with our canoe, and were soon out of sight; but thinking that the lower path was likely to be the coolest and most sheltered, we followed that. It was so pretty and dry for the first half-mile that we congratulated ourselves upon our choice, and pitied the poor men toiling up the rocks in the heat. But our self-satisfaction was short-lived. A few yards further the path began to descend, getting wetter and more swampy at every step. Mr. K—-, who carried his paddles, threw them across the mud as bridges, and by taking advantage of all the fallen trees and stumps, we got on pretty well for a time. But the task became more and more difficult every minute. Once, while scrambling along a half-submerged log, I grasped some tall weeds to save myself from falling; they tinned out to be stinging nettles, and I do not feel called upon to recommend them as a means of support. Presently Mr. F—-, who was in front, called out–

“Hallo! here’s a jolly puddle!” and plunged in up to his knees. It was too wide to bridge, the paddles were too narrow to afford us foothold; and before we guessed his intention, Mr. F—- deposited the satchels he carried on the other side, came back and took his wife on his back, saying I was to wait till he returned. The extra weight made him sink deeper in the swamp; and as Mrs. F—-‘s dress floated on the slimy surface, Mr. K—- followed, and raising it tenderly on the blade of the paddle, the procession moved on; while I, the sole spectator, stood, like a stork, on a stump barely wide enough to support one foot at a time, awaiting my turn.

When we arrived at the lake, a few minutes afterwards, we found the maid, who had gone on with Mr. M—- and the baby, while we were loitering at the last landing, busy removing the mud which encased her clothes. _She_ had found no friendly back on which to rise above the swamp, and had accordingly fared badly. While waiting for the canoes, we spread our shawls on the grassy shore under some trees and sat down. Presently some one regretted the absence of the provision-bag, and the maid regretted that she had not asked how to make the buns we had for breakfast. (She amused us much by her anxiety to collect receipts.) To soothe these mourners, Mr. M—-, with some little trouble, produced from one of his pockets a can of salmon.

“Hungry! Oh yes, we were hungry enough to eat anything.” But when the tin was opened, we found that canned salmon, without bread or vinegar, went a long way. Even our hunger could not tempt us to take more than one taste, after which we unanimously resolved not to spoil our appetites for dinner.

Cross Lake is long, narrow, and uninteresting, and the surrounding country flat, though rocky. When we crossed it was quite calm, but Carrière said that it was one of the roughest of the lakes in a storm, the west wind having a clear sweep over it. After paddling for about an hour and a half, when we reached the spot where the railway line crossed a narrow part of the lake, and the embankment was partly filled in, we turned to our left into a narrow, winding creek, very like Falcon River, and in five minutes were at Denmark’s Ranche.

Then we climbed up a very muddy bank, and along a still muddier dump, or railroad embankment, to the shanty, a large log-hut with several additions, one of a single room ten feet square. The cook, his wife–a delicate-looking woman–and two children lived here. They welcomed us kindly, and with many apologies for the want of space. Their room was neat and clean, and the inmates seemed contented with everything except the mud, which was so deep all round the shanty that it was impossible to go out with any comfort, and the absence of exercise was very much felt. The ranche was always full of people coming and going, so there was no lack of society or news. The room we dined in was large, about twenty feet by sixteen. The table was covered with brown oil-cloth, and had benches along it at one end. The other was filled with temporary bunks like the berths in a steamer, one above the other. The _menu_ contained, among other things, a wild goose, roasted and stuffed with a mixture of breadcrumbs and raisins, more like an imitation plum pudding than anything else, flat pies filled with dried apples, and the inevitable plates of fresh, sliced cheese, which is the chief peculiarity of Ontario farmhouse tables.

While at dinner a heavy shower fell, and we were told that we could form no idea of the state of the road in consequence of so much rain. No vehicle could traverse it, and we must walk the remaining six miles to the end of the track. Mr. M—- went immediately to detain the train until we could reach it, and after saying good bye to Mr. K—-, who returned to Ingolf, we followed, Mr. D—- coming with us to “carry the baby,” he said. And so he did, the whole distance, and his own bairns, miles away, had many a hug that day by proxy, I fancy.

Poor Carrière, too, though very lame, rather than let the baggage be left behind and Mr. K—- inconvenienced, also came. For the first mile it _was_ muddy, but, thinking it better than our expectations, we slipped and plodded along very contentedly, stopping every now and then to scrape our boots, but this made our progress slow, and we had no time to waste. Soon the path, or what had once been one, terminated, and we had to jump the drain to the embankment, and climb that. In five minutes our feet weighed pounds, and we understood the navvies’ saying that they “took up land wherever they worked.” Goloshes were useless, and we soon discarded them, and, but for fear of hurting my feet with hidden stones or sticks, I would have discarded my shoes too. Still on we plodded, sinking to our ankles at almost every step; it was warm work. At the end of the second mile, near a group of shanties, the road was a little dryer, and a pile of ties gave us a resting-place for a few minutes. After this the road got worse and worse, and trying to walk on the greasy, slippery railway ties scattered about was even more difficult than plodding through the mud. The maid, who entered a protest against the country at every opportunity, was sliding and slipping over these ties in front; glancing down the embankment, three or four feet in depth, she uttered a heartfelt “Thank God! a path at last,” and, giving one jump, she sank nearly to her knees in the marsh. The doleful expression of her face, and the hopeless disappointment with which she scrambled up the muddy bank back to the slippery ties, was too much for my gravity. I am afraid my laughter offended the poor girl, and it was scarcely fair, either, as she had borne all the disagreeables far better than people in her class generally do.


Tilford–Pedestrians under Difficulties–The Railway at last–Not exactly a First-class Carriage–The Jules Muskeg–Whitemouth and Broken-Head Rivers–Vagaries of the Engine-driver–The Hotel at St. Boniface–Red River Ferry–Winnipeg–“A Vagabond Heroine”–The Terrier at fault.

We reached Tilford about six. How we pitied the pretty, sad-looking woman, wife of the engineer, for having to live in a house stranded upon a bank of mud, just high enough to keep the water out, and with mud and marsh on all sides for miles, making it impossible to go out! They had no society, and only the bare necessaries of life about them; the mail carrier and the telegraph were their only means of communication with the outside world.

Excusing our travel-stained appearance, they persuaded us to stay to dinner. My hands were so muddy that I tried to keep them under the table as much as possible; but, finding this awkward, I looked to see if it was noticed, and was relieved by finding I had companions in misery.

We left Tilford at seven, and for some little distance the road seemed better. Fortunately, it was a moonlight night, or we should have had difficulty in keeping the trail. For some distance it ran along the muddy dump, then came a great open culvert, with a gang of men sitting round a fire at the bottom. One of them called out as we appeared, “Ye’s can’t git down here; ye’s’ll have to go round.” Retracing our steps a hundred feet, we found a track down the side to a submerged bridge, which we traversed as quickly as possible, but not without getting wet to our knees in ice-cold water. Next we climbed up a narrow path, so close to the edge that a false step would have precipitated us ten or twelve feet to the rock below. A steep, uneven fragment of path had to be traversed, and we were in the middle of the cutting. Just beyond was another culvert in a more advanced stage; and we walked carefully across a narrow single board, whose ends lay loosely over one another in the careless way in which men generally run up scaffolding, so that one nail is the only thing that keeps them in this world. The planks were slippery, and in the uncertain moonlight we scarcely breathed while crossing them. On, on, through more mud and water, until, about half-past eight, we saw the whitewashed walls of the telegraph office at the end of the track, and Mr. M—- came springing down the bank to meet us.

“I have just been asking if you were still at Tilford,” he said. “I never thought you could get through but would give in and stay there all night. The engine-driver was getting impatient to be off, so I came to find out.”

When we reached the train a load of ties blocked the way, so we had to climb up on a truck, jump down again, and go round a cattle-van to the open truck or freight-car, where our luggage was already piled, and on which we were to make our trip to Winnipeg. Spreading the robes on the floor, Mr. M—- piled the bags and valises in the centre for us to lean against, and covered us with blankets and shawls. Before settling down, however, I took friendly advice, and trusting to the covering of the semi-darkness, changed my shoes, throwing the mud-laden ones overboard. Then, when well under the blankets, I was comparatively warm. Carrière and Frank came to say good-bye before the train started. They, poor fellows, had to trudge back to the ranche that night, and I, being perhaps the only one of the party who was never likely to see them again, parted from the kindly, good-natured men with regret. Mr. D—- also left us, with many good wishes and good-byes.

The track was not ballasted for the first forty-five miles, and the car rocked frightfully. The wind was bitterly cold, and we crouched down closer under the blankets, but were unable to keep warm until after ten o’clock, when Mr. F—- stopped the train at Whitemouth and borrowed a roll of blankets from the engineer there. With this additional covering, we succeeded in warming our wet clothes. The dear little baby slept all the time in its mother’s arms, as cozy and comfortable as possible. Her only dread was that it might be smothered, and many an anxious peep was taken under its many coverings to make sure of its existence. We talked in snatches; and until after eleven amused ourselves with learning some railway technicalities, in order that we might be able to talk of “when we were out on the line.” But as the moonlight faded, we grew very quiet and drowsy. Once, when I was just dropping into a little nap, Mrs. F—-‘s caution, “Don’t go to sleep, or you will roll off!” roused me to the consciousness of not having a sofa or even _terra firma_ to repose upon.

On that part of the line the country is flat and uninteresting, entirely muskeg or marsh, with the exception of one small rock cutting, where the necessary drainage formed the principal item in the cost of construction. On each side we could see the long “take offs” glittering in the moonlight, like silver ribbons thrown at random on the grass. The Jules muskeg, about two miles across, was at first only passable when frozen in winter, except for pedestrians, and we heard of several gangs of men who were sent there to work, digging all day and being unable next morning to find any trace of their labours. The only breaks in this monotonous marsh are Whitemouth and Broken-Head Rivers, flowing between wooded shores. The former is about forty miles from Ingolf, and the latter nearly seventy. Both are small streams flowing into the most southerly end of Lake Winnipeg. At the junction near Selkirk are a small store and bar-room, apparently well patronized, if one may judge from the mental and physical wanderings of a man who asked the way to Winnipeg, and the wild notes of a fiddle issuing from the open doorway. While the train waited for the switch signal, we were too tired to take much note of our surroundings, the appearance of a rail fence between the track and the outlying country being more suggestive of approaching civilization to our Ontario eyes than anything else.

Receiving the signal, the train backed down the Pembina branch. There the wind was less trying, the road smoother, and we were getting accustomed to our cramped position. Gradually the train slackened, until it was almost at a footpace. Scarcely had we begun to wonder what was wrong, when the speed suddenly increased, and after rushing madly along for a few minutes slackened again, without any apparent cause. The man who had held a lantern at the back of our truck from the junction now began to grumble. “What can the driver mean by going at such a rate?” he exclaimed. Then, when the train slackened, he growled, “Hang the fellow, he’s gone to sleep!” At last Mr. F—- said he would go in the engine-car and keep the man awake. When we stopped to take in water a few minutes afterwards he left us, and we reached the station at St. Boniface, the terminus of the railway, at three o’clock, without any further anxiety. There were only a couple of sleepy porters at the station, so we left the blankets, etc., lying on the platform until one porter found the man who had the key of the storehouse. Picking up our satchels, and shivering as the cold morning air came in contact with our wet clothes, we went over the prairie a hundred yards or so to a hotel, hastily put up for the accommodation of benighted travellers, there being no means of crossing the Red River for Winnipeg before seven.

The house was crowded to excess, the bar-room was full of noisy revellers, the landlord was in bed, and there were no rooms to be had. We waited at the head of the narrow flight of stairs, while a sleepy porter roused five men from their slumbers in the sitting-room, and heard a very grumbling discussion going on behind a half-open door near us, a woman in an injured tone protesting that, “It weren’t no good wakin’ her! She couldn’t help the house not bein’ big enough, nor more people coming nor it would hold;” while the man said, “It weren’t his’n, neither; but places must be found to put ‘um in.”

Presently the sitting-room door opened, and a young man, looking as if he had slept in his hat and used his coat for a pillow, emerged, staring at us as if taking an inventory of our wardrobe, and disappeared downstairs. With a great yawn, and a muttered remark about something being “a d—-d shame,” a man who looked like a cattle-dealer followed. Then his partner appeared, an energetic, scrubby-looking little man, who informed us that we might enter: which we did, glad to get a place to sit down in; but hastily retreated, on discovering another man just getting up from the floor, and one busy lacing his boots. When the latter raised his head we recognized our clergyman from the Contract. He had come in over the Dawson route with the poor man who had lost his eyesight and arm by striking the rock where nitro-glycerine had been spilt. His fellow workmen had among themselves collected eleven hundred dollars towards supporting him, or getting him into some asylum, and he was now returning by the line.

Mr. M—- went back to the station to fetch a robe and some blankets, which we spread on the floor, and lay down, to wait for morning. The room was small–eight by ten feet–the furniture, a short uncomfortable sofa, two chairs, a table, and a couple of pictures, of Pope Leo IX. and St. Joseph. Daylight seemed a long time coming.

Mr. M—- looked more like a ghost than anything else. The poor man had walked up and down the station platform all the time. Neither storekeeper nor key being found, he had feared to leave our luggage lying about unguarded. Crossing the river in the clear bright morning among tidy-looking women going to market, and natty men in clean white shirts and well-brushed clothes, made us feel more disreputable than ever. And we _were_ disreputable! Our skirts, draggled and muddy half-way to our waists, clinging and wet still; our hair un-brushed, our faces bespattered with mud, and blackened with smoke and dust from the engine and our night’s travel–the railway hotel not having afforded us sufficient water to wash them; while the fatigue and wakeful night gave us a haggard, wobegone, been-out-on-a-spree appearance quite indescribable.

It is a long walk from the Red River ferry to the Canada Pacific Hotel, but our anxiety to arrive there before Winnipeg was abroad, made us get over it as quickly as possible. Haverty, the manager, received us, regretting that until after breakfast he could only let us have one room. Fortunately, I had some friends whom I did not mind disturbing at that early hour, so leaving my satchel to be sent after me, and taking the back streets as much as possible, I went in search of them. The maid who answered my knock was a stranger to me, and, putting on a very forbidding expression of decided refusal, was not, until I told my name, inclined to let me in. My friend was not up, but a few minutes afterwards I was warmly welcomed and given a bath and clean clothes before any one but her husband saw me.

We were detained in Winnipeg nearly a week, waiting for our luggage. Fortunately for me, the friend with whom I took refuge was about my own height, and very kindly lent me what I needed until I could procure garments of my own. This was, however, a great cause of trouble to a little English terrier, of which she made a pet. Recognizing her mistress’s slippers and dress, she rubbed her head against my feet and was very affectionate, but glancing up at my face and discovering that of a stranger, she jumped back growling. Shortly afterwards, tempted by the familiar clothes, she again made friendly advances, only to snarl out her disapproval upon hearing my voice, evidently feeling so puzzled and imposed upon, that, until I had my own clothes, she declined to make friends with me at all. Every one was so kind that the days in Winnipeg were all too short, but the luggage arriving on Wednesday, October the 10th, left us no further excuse to remain, and with many regrets at parting, I said good-bye.


The _Minnesota_ again–Souvenirs of Lord and Lady Dufferin–From Winnipeg by Red River–_Compagnons du Voyage_–A Model Farm–“Bees”–Manitoba a good Field for Emigrants–Changes at Fisher’s Landing–A Mild Excitement for Sundays–Racing with Prairie Fires–Glyndon–Humours of a Pullman Sleeping Car–Lichfield.

We came up the Red River in the _Minnesota_, the vessel in which I had gone down two years and a half before; the same, too, used by Lord and Lady Dufferin, with their party. Some Americans who were with us good-temperedly vied with each other in their efforts to get the state-rooms occupied by the vice-regal party, and the steward was asked many questions as to their sayings and doings. All the Americans took great interest in everything about them; carrying their admiration to the extent of making birch-bark-covered needle-books of the coarse red flannel spread upon the ground for Lord Dufferin to walk upon–intending them as valuable souvenirs for their friends.

We left Winnipeg about noon, for three days’ monotonous trip on the river. Novel or work in hand, we went into the saloon to read or work, furtively study our fellow-travellers, and by-and-by make acquaintance with them. We were a motley group. Round one table gathered a knot of chatty Americans, evidently travelling together, and quite as much at home on board the boat as in their own drawing-room. Besides this party of friends, there were plenty of solitary units, of more or less amusing characteristics: a pretty, merry woman of about thirty, mother of three children; a handsome old lady, hard at work on an embroidered table-cloth–a present, she told us, for a friend, to whose wedding she was going; a young clergyman, whose walk, expression, and general appearance betrayed his ritualistic tendencies, and who strolled up and down, now and then stopping to join in the ladies’ conversation. A sad-looking woman lay on the sofa, trying to hide her tear-stained face behind a newspaper which was never turned, the columns to her containing only regrets for dear friends left behind. A fussy old lady in a fashionable cap and cannon curls, after informing us that she was Mrs. B—-, of —-, drew her chair near every _tête-a-tête_ couple, and, politely requesting to be allowed to take part in the conversation, gradually usurped it all, till, before she had apparently quite satisfied herself upon every one’s private affairs, she was left at liberty to join another group. A tall, delicate, sad-looking man, the defeated candidate for —-, was returning to Ontario, where he was soon after elected for another constituency. A sleepy-looking young Frenchman and his more lively friend, an energetic speculator, who had gone to Manitoba prospecting for land, was returning disgusted, having seen, “dem’ it, nothing but mud.” A poor old lady was kept in subjection by a tall daughter, with a face so closely veiled, that our curiosity was aroused. Not until the third day did I come upon her–suddenly–while her face was uncovered, and then no longer wondered that she tried to conceal the dreadful squint nature had given her. There were, also, a would-be-fast-if-she-could young lady of eighteen, who had apparently read in novels of flirtations on board steamers, until she hoped to make the same experiences her own, and had not woman’s wit enough to hide her disappointment; and a nice-looking girl going home to get her wedding garments ready, who moaned over the long journey to be taken again in six weeks, hoping to be asked “why the necessity?” Finally, a professor and his pretty, lady-like wife, and one or two other nice people, made up our _compagnons du voyage._

I have already mentioned Red River and its many windings, which it is needless to allude to here. We passed Grand Forks at midnight on Saturday, and, leaving an order for stages to be sent on in the morning to overtake us, got off the steamer at ten o’clock on Sunday, saving more than a day on the river by driving to Fisher’s Landing. The farm, where we went ashore, is owned by an Ontario emigrant. The house is situated in the midst of a beautiful grove of oak and birch, among which grassy avenues, with huge branches meeting overhead, formed roads to the neat farmyards and granaries. A big bell hung on cross poles at the entrance to one of the avenues leading to what was once the rolling prairie, now fields of grain–six hundred acres, without a fence, stump, or ditch to mar the effect. The clear line of the horizon was broken only by another farmhouse, owned by a brother-in-law, whose farm lay beyond. The man told us he had emigrated six years before to Manitoba, and had gone as far as Emerson, where the mud frightened him; and, turning back, he had taken up this land, paying a dollar and a quarter an acre for it, and had succeeded so well, that at the end of the second year it had paid all expenses. Since then he had built a good house and barns, and bought extra stock, and he was putting money in the bank. The only trouble he had was the difficulty of getting men at harvest-time, the farms being too scattered to be able to follow the Ontario plan of “Bees;” [Footnote: “Bees” are gatherings from all the neighbouring farmhouses to assist at any special work, such as a “threshing bee,” a “raising” or “building bee.” When ready to build, the farmer apprises all his neighbours of the date fixed, and they come to his assistance with all their teams and men, expecting the same help from him when they require it. They have “bees” for everything, the men for outdoor work, and the women for indoor; each as quilting or paring apples for drying, when they often pare, cut, and string several barrels in one afternoon. When the young men join them, they finish the evening with high tea, games, and a dance.] and he often had to work eighteen or twenty hours running, the late and early daylight, as well as the bright, clear moonlight, helping him.

The Yankee emigration agents have a powerful assistant in the Pembina mud, in persuading Canadian emigrants to remain in Dakota or Minnesota. But if these emigrants were less impatient, or less easily persuaded, they would find quite as good, if not better land, in Manitoba than on the American side of the line, besides being under our own Queen and laws.

The stage was so long in coming, that some of our party took advantage of the farmer’s offer to drive them to Fisher’s Landing for seventy five cents a head. We were not long in following them, and after jolting for an hour and a half over a rough road, most of it through farms, we reached Fisher’s. How changed the place was since we stopped there on our way up! We found a uniform row of painted wooden houses, shops, offices, ware rooms, and boarding houses, besides several saloons and billiard rooms. Up the slight hill to the south, where had been rude board shanties, mud, and chaos, one or two pretty cottages had been built, having green blinds, and neatly arranged gardens and lawns. A medium sized wharf and gravelled banks had arisen where was only a dismal swamp, while away over the prairie lay the iron rails of the St. Vincent and St. Paul extension line, soon to be running in connexion with the Pembina branch of the Canada Pacific at the boundary, when the tedious trip upon Red River can be avoided. The side tracks were full of loaded freight, and cars waiting to tranship at the wharf, the steamer which left Winnipeg two days before we did having only just arrived.

In spite of the external improvement in the Landing, it had not improved in morals, and is quoted in all the country round as the refuge of all the thieves, gamblers, drunkards, and cut-throats from both Canada and the United States. Certainly the men we saw lounging about looked anything but prepossessing. Hearing some shots fired during the afternoon, I was told with a shrug–

“There’s some one got a bullet in him! There’s always something of that sort happening on Sunday. They can’t work, so need some excitement. It does not matter much, as there is no law in the place, and they manage to bring their scores out pretty even in the end, without any fuss about it.”

Probably, however, the town is not quite so black as it is painted, and though not a desirable place of residence, it might be worse.

All the afternoon we heard at intervals the whistle of the boat we had left–so near that we began to regret the two dollars’ additional expense of the stage. But we were told that, although scarcely a mile off as the crow flies, it was, such are the windings of the river, at least twelve or fourteen hours’ journey from the Landing. We left at a little after four, and until dark, when rain fell, we raced with numbers of prairie fires; some great walls of smoke and flame, others mere narrow strips of fire, all travelling in straight lines, and not interfering with each other. A tiny spark from the engine would ignite a fresh spot, and before our car had passed it had begun its race with the others. The driver, who was a new hand, and ignorant of the road, dashed over it at a breakneck pace, the cars swaying from side to side like a ship in a storm. At Glyndon we took on a Pullman sleeping car, when there was a scramble for berths; a section containing two, an upper and lower, costing four dollars for one night. Mrs. F—- and the baby taking the lower one, I prepared to climb into the upper. Divesting myself of my hat, dress, and boots in the dressing room at the end of the car, I put on an ulster, and mounting the steps, held by the shining darkey attendant, went aloft. The space between the bed and the roof was so small that it was impossible to sit upright, but the difficulties of getting comfortable were compensated for by the amusement afforded me by my neighbours, separated only by a thin slide, or the heavy curtains hung on poles in front.

From one side came the expostulations of an elderly man with a young Frenchman upon his demand for a berth, it being more proper that ladies should be provided for first, all his eloquence being answered only by a fretful, “But I wants my sleep, I have vera much fatigue!” On the other side a choleric old man growled anathemas at his boots and the absence of a boot jack, which gradually changed into fierce snorts and rumblings as of approaching earth quakes, terminating in startling explosions.

Opposite me, some one, after turning and twisting about for a while, at last thrust a dishevelled head between the curtains, and in shrill accents requested the porter to open the ventilator–“she was just melting!” Scarcely was her request complied with, than a night-capped, grizzled head appeared from the other side, and in stentorian tones demanded, “Where the deuce the wind was coming from? Shut that confounded thing, or I’ll break your bones;” to which, however, the porter paid no heed, and the grizzled head grumbled itself to sleep again, muttering threats of reporting him in the morning.

It was very hot, and I found it impossible to sleep. The strangeness of my surroundings, and the occasional thinking aloud of my neighbours, kept me wakeful. We stopped at seven, at Lichfield, to breakfast, where, for the moderate charge of seventy-five cents each, a cup of bad coffee, a roll, and some fat bacon were served.


Lakes Smith and Howard–Lovely Lake Scenery–Long Lake–The Little American–“Wait till you see our Minnetaunka!”–Minneanopolis–Villa Hotels–A Holiday Town–The Great Flour-mills–St. Paul’s–Our American Cousins–The French Canadian’s Story–Kind-hearted Fellow-passengers–A New Way of Travelling together–The Mississippi–Milwaukee, the Prettiest Town in Michigan–School-houses–A Peep at Chicago–Market Prices–Pigs!–The Fairy Tales of Progress–Scotch Incredulity–Detroit Ferry–Hamilton–Good-bye to my Readers.

On leaving Lichfield our road lay through some beautiful, slightly undulating country. Between lofty bluffs, the train emerged along the shores of a lovely lake, and before its beauties had disappeared, another and another followed in rapid succession. The first two, Smith and Howard, are very much alike. Then we passed through two or three pretty little villages, their streets avenues of trees, the roads as well kept as the drive of an English park, the houses and gardens marvels of neatness, and glorious with flowers, and the orchards laden with ripe fruit. As we passed Long Lake, a narrow sheet of water that called forth expressions of admiration from us all, a bright little American child, with whom we had made friends, said shyly–

“You think that pretty. Wait till you see our lake–our Minnetaunka: they call it Wayzata now!” she added sadly.

We did see it about noon, and its beauties justified the preference. Minnetaunka–let us keep the old name which the child seemed to love so well–about twenty-five miles long, is full of islands kept in perfect order. Their natural beauties are developed with the taste and skill that characterize the American nation, by the inhabitants of the beautiful villas scattered along its shores. Tiny yachts and skiffs lay at anchor, or, with all sails set, skimmed the glistening water, bearing, no doubt, pleasure-parties from the pretty villa hotels, which could only be distinguished from private houses by the numerous chairs and newspaper-readers on their verandahs. A little steam-yacht lay at the wharf, while a merry party of young people, laden with picnic baskets, embarked. When the train sped on, and we had strained our eyes for the last peep, the child, watching our faces, asked–

“It _is_ beautiful, isn’t it?”

We had no words to tell her how lovely we thought it. Cedar Lake, which we passed before reaching Minneanopolis, could not bear the comparison. An old man, pointing out some large flour-mills near the road, told us of a terrible explosion there in 1877, when many lives were lost. The machinery and mills were shattered to pieces, and thousands of pounds’ worth of damage was done; yet in 1878 they were again in full working order, and as celebrated as ever for the fineness of their flour.

At St. Paul’s we changed trains, and said good-bye to the charming Americans who had been the pleasantest of travelling companions.

On the Chicago and Milwaukee line which we now took, we saw more of the American element, and felt Uncle Sam’s land a greater reality. Every man was a colonel or general; every woman was neat and pretty, but painfully slight. All were perfectly at home; no matter how long the journey, they did not get so tossed and travel-stained as we Canadians.

Before the train left St. Paul’s we heard the story of a poor little French Canadian woman. She was returning to Quebec from Fort McLeod, eleven hundred miles from Winnipeg, in the North-west territories. She had gone there to settle, but a terrible home-sickness for her own people had impelled her to spend nearly her last shilling in the payment of her passage back. Now she came in great distress to tell of the loss of her pocket-book, containing her tickets, and all she had to buy food and lodging on the way. A generous compatriot said he would see that she was provided for; and the railway officials offering to give her a through ticket for less than half-price, the money was soon collected from amongst the passengers, the Yankees being the most liberal. The poor thing, drying her eyes, acknowledged her gratitude with all the expressive gesticulation of her race.

Comedy and tragedy jostle each other in life. At St. Paul’s, also, our sleepy Frenchman and a friend, who had left Winnipeg together to be travelling companions to Ottawa, discovered that their tickets were for different routes, and they had to separate. They met again at Chicago, only to say good-bye once more, their routes still not agreeing. At Toronto they again encountered, to separate at Brockville. One went by the “Canada Central,” and the other the “St. Lawrence and Ottawa” at Prescott; so each entered Ottawa at opposite ends. And, as one of them said, “The best of the fun is, my baggage goes with T—-, and I travel _sans_ everything.”

From St. Paul’s our road lay along the banks of the most beautiful part of the Mississippi river, which, shallow though it is, is also broad, bright, and clear. The surrounding country was in the height of its summer beauty. Charming villages nestled under the high banks; houses were built on projecting shelves of rock, with so little space between them, that it seemed as if a slight shove would precipitate them over the edge. Every foot of ground was utilised, and there was none of the _débris_ that hangs about the back yards and odd corners of Canadian villages. At every wharf were numbers of small craft and river steamers, seemingly plying a thriving trade.

We passed Milwaukee–the prettiest town in the State of Michigan–at night, and could only see, through the misty darkness, its many light and tidy streets. A noticeable feature in all the villages, however small, was the size of the substantial buildings devoted to education. Many of them were very handsome, with grounds prettily laid out and well kept, while the surrounding hamlets are merely groups of neat little wooden cottages.

We had only an hour in Chicago, and saw no more of the Western metropolis than could be gleaned in a drive through to the station, or Great Western depot. Here the remainder of our Winnipeg friends left us. Anxious to telegraph to friends in Toronto, I with some questioning found my way through a large luggage office, crowded with packages and porters, up a rickety outside staircase to a small room in a blackened row of buildings. My telegrams despatched, I wandered through some of the neighbouring streets in search of a restaurant, whereat to replenish our luncheon-basket. Out of mere curiosity I asked the price of the different edibles displayed on the counter. A cold roast fowl, weighing, possibly, a fraction over a pound, was three shillings (sixty cents), delicious fresh rolls, sixpence (ten cents) a dozen, buttermilk on draught, threepence (five cents) a glass; English ale, half a dollar (fifty cents) a pint bottle; black pudding, a penny a pound; and as much cold roast pork and beans, or boiled ham, as I liked for a shilling. The man smiled at my ignorance in asking the price of pork in Chicago–the great pork-packing centre of the West.

As our train left, we passed car-loads of fat hogs, lying two or three deep, waiting to be unloaded at some one or other of the great establishments, where, in but a few minutes, the pig is killed, dressed, cut up, and packed ready for shipment again as pork. The public gardens in the suburbs, surrounded with handsome private residences, are pretty, but until we reached Detroit there was little to interest us in the country. Inside we had the usual mixture of travelling companions. An animated discussion arose between two old farmers, one returning to Ontario from a short visit to a son in California, the other going to Canada after an absence of over thirty years. The former called forth the latter’s expressions of wonder by recounting all the changes and improvements he would find. More and more incredible they sounded. A city where he had left a swamp; thriving farms and villages where he remembered dense woods, traversed alone by wolves and bears; mills in the midst of impassable rapids; bridges over falls no man dare cross in his day; and when at last he was told that, instead of getting out and entering boats at Detroit, the train, engine, and all ran on board the iron ferry-boat, and was taken across intact, then carrying us through to Hamilton, he bustled out of his seat in great indignation, exclaiming–

“Hoot, mon, I’ll na believe ony mair o’ yure lies; I’m na sic an ould fule as ye tak’ me for. The hale train on a boat, indeed!” and he indignantly placed himself at the other end of the car, his informant only rubbing his hands together in great glee at the fun.

The little black porter on the Pullman was very attentive, getting coffee for us at the different stations, seeing our baggage through the custom-house at Detroit, and when the train was on the boat, and it was fairly under weigh, taking me down into the engine-rooms, where I could look and wonder at the power propelling the boat, laden with two trains, across the river. On deck, the lights from the numerous ships and buildings enabled me to see an outline of the city and river; but I wished it had been daylight, or even moonlight, for then I could have seen everything to greater advantage. Returning to the car, I passed the incredulous Scotchman standing open-mouthed near the machinery, and watched him as he walked to the gangway muttering, “Ay, it is a boat, after a’. Weel, weel, wonders wull never cease.” On Canadian soil again, and speeding on to the end of our journey, we stopped nowhere until we reached Hamilton, at three o’clock in the morning of Wednesday, October 16th. There my brother met us, and after spending the remainder of the night, or rather morning, at the Royal Hotel, we went on to Toronto by the nine o’clock train, reaching that place before noon. There, too, I will leave my readers, asking their indulgence for this simple account of my trip to Manitoba.