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A Trip to Manitoba by Mary FitzGibbon

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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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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