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Title: A Trip to Manitoba
Author: FitzGibbon, Mary Agnes
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Trip to Manitoba" ***




"Manitoba, the great province which now forms part of the Canadian

The Rt. Hon. W. E. GLADSTONE, MP at West Calder.



The Canada Pacific Railway, so frequently referred to in the following
pages, is now almost an accomplished fact. It will, after traversing for
over a thousand miles the great prairies of the Swan River and
Saskatchewan territories, thread the Rocky Mountains and, running through
British Columbia to Vancouver's Island, unite the Pacific with the
Atlantic. Of the value of this line to the Dominion and the mother
country there cannot be two opinions. The system of granting plots of
land on each side of the railway to the Company, with power to re-sell or
give them to settlers, has been found most advantageous in, as it were,
feeding the line and creating populations along its route. The cars which
carry to distant markets the crops raised by the settlers, bring back to
them the necessaries of civilized life.

Readers who ask with the post-office authorities, "Where is Manitoba?"
[Footnote: Pages 58, 59] may be answered that Manitoba is a province in
the great north-west territory of the Canadian Dominion, lying within the
same parallels of latitude as London and Paris. It has one of the most
healthy climates in the world--the death-rate being lower than in any
other part of the globe,--and a soil of wondrous fertility, sometimes
yielding several crops in one year. Immense coal-fields exist within the
province; its mountains abound with ore; and its natural wealth is

While the province of Manitoba formed part of the Hudson Bay Company's
territory, its resources were undeveloped. But in 1869 it was transferred
to the Dominion Government, and received a Lieutenant-Governor and the
privilege of sending representatives to the Parliament at Ottawa. Under
the new _régime_ enterprise and industry are amply encouraged.

The original population consisted chiefly of Indians and French
half-breeds; the abolition of the capitation tax on immigrants, however,
has resulted in a large immigration of Europeans, who, with health and
energy, cannot fail to prosper, especially as they are without European
facilities for squandering their money in luxury or intoxication. Of how
universally the Prohibitory Liquor Law prevails in Manitoba, and yet how
difficult it sometimes is to punish its infraction, an amusing instance
in given in Chapter XI. Mr. Alexander Rivington, in a valuable pamphlet
now out of print ("On the Track of our Emigrants"), says that when he
visited Canada it was rare to see such a thing as mendicity--too often
the result of intemperance; "the very climate itself, so fresh and
life-giving, supplies the place of strong drink. Public-houses, the curse
of our own country, have no existence. Pauperism and theft are scarcely
known there--income-tax is not yet dreamt of." Free grants of one hundred
acres of prairie and meadow land are still being made to immigrants, and
the population is rapidly increasing.



The Grand Trunk Railway--Sarnia--"Confusion worse confounded"--A Churlish
Hostess--Fellow-Passengers on the _Manitoba_--"Off at
last!"--Musical Honours--Sunrise on Lake Huron--A Scramble for
Breakfast--An Impromptu Dance--The General Foe.


Saulte Ste. Marie--Indian Embroidery--Lake Superior--Preaching, Singing,
and Card-playing--Silver Islet--Thunder Bay--The Dog River--Flowers at
Fort William--"Forty Miles of Ice"--Icebergs and Warm
Breezes--Duluth--Hotel Belles--Bump of Destructiveness in Porters.


The Mississippi--The Rapids--Aerial Railway Bridges--Breakfast at
Braynor--Lynch Law--Card-sharpers--Crowding in the Cars--Woman's
Rights!--The Prairie--"A Sea of Fire"--Crookstown--Fisher's
Landing--Strange Quarters--"The Express-man's Bed"--Herding like
Sheep--On board the _Minnesota_.


Red Lake River--Grand Forks--The Ferry--Custom-house Officers at
Pembina--Mud and Misery--Winnipeg at last--A Walk through the
Town--A Hospitable Welcome--Macadam wanted--Holy Trinity Church--A
Picturesque Population--Indians shopping--An "All-sorts" Store--St.
Boniface and its Bells--An Evening Scene.


Summer Days--The English Cathedral--Icelandic
Emigrants--_Tableaux_--In chase of our Dinner--The Indian
Summer--Blocked up--Gigantic Vegetables--Fruitfulness of the
Country--Iceland Maidens--Rates of Wages--Society at
Winnipeg--Half-castes--Magic of the Red River Water--A Happy
Hunting-ground--Where is Manitoba?


Winter Amusements--A Winnipeg Ball--Forty Degrees below Zero--New Year's
Day--"Saskatchewan Taylor"--Indian Compliments--A Dog-train--Lost in the
Snow--Amateur Theatricals--Sir Walter Raleigh's Hat--A Race with the
Freshets--The Ice moves!--The First Steamer of the Season--Good-bye to


A Manitoban Travelling-carriage--The Perils of Short Cuts--The Slough of
Despond--Paddy to the Rescue!--"Stick-in-the-Mud" and his
Troubles--McQuade's--An Irish Welcome--Wretched Wanderers.


Faithless Jehu--The "Blarney Stone"--Mennonites in search of
News--"Water, Water everywhere"--A Herd of Buffaloes--A Mud
Village--Pointe du Chêne and Old Nile--At Dawson Route--A Cheerful
Party--_Toujours perdrix_--The "Best Room"--A Government Shanty--Cats
and Dogs--Birch River--Mushroom-picking--The Mosquito Plague--A Corduroy
Road--The Cariboo Muskeg.


The "Nor'-west Angle"--The Company's House--Triumph of
"Stick-in-the-Mud"--On the Lake of the Woods--A Gallant Cook--Buns
_à l'imprevu_--A Man overboard!--Camping out--Clear Water Bay--Our
First Portage--A Noble Savage--How Lake Rice and Lake Deception won
their Names--At our Journey's End.


Making a New Home--Carrière's Kitchen--The Navvies' _Salle-à-Manger_--A
Curious Milking Custom--Insect Plagues--Peterboro' Canoes--Fishing
Trips--Mail-day--Indian dread of drowning--The Indian Mail-carrier and
his Partner--Talking by Telegraph--Prairie Fires.


Irish Wit--Bears?--Death on the Red Pine Lake--A Grave in the Catholic
Cemetery--The First Dog train--A Christmas Fête--Compulsory
Temperance--Contraband Goods--The Prisoner wins the Day--Whisky on the
Island--The Smuggler turned Detective--A Fatal Frolic--"Mr. K----'s Legs".


Birds of Passage--An Independent Swede--By Sleigh to Ostersund--A Son of
the Forest--Burnt out--A Brave Canadian Girl--Roughing it in the
Shanty--The Kitchen-tent--Blasting the Rock--The Perils of
Nitro-glycerine--Bitter Jests.


We lose our Cows--Cahill promoted--Gardening on a New Principle--Onions
in Hot-houses--Cahill is hoaxed--Martin the Builder--How the Navvies
lived--Sunday in Camp--The Cook's Leap--That "Beautiful Skunk!"--Wild


For Ostersund--Lake Lulu--Giant Rocks and Pigmy Mortals--The Island
Garden--Heaven's Artillery--Strange Casualty at the Ravine--My Luggage
nearly blown up--The Driver's Presence of Mind--How to carry a
Canoe--Darlington Bay--An Invisible Lake--Lord and Lady Dufferin--A
Paddle to the Lakes--The Captain's Tug--Monopoly of
Water-carriage--Indian Legends--The Abode of Snakes.


Clear Water Bay transformed--Cahill's Farewell--Ptarmigan Bay--A Night
under Canvas--"No more Collars or Neckties!"--Companions in
Misfortune--Cedar Lake--"Lop-sticks"--An Indian Village--Shashegheesh's
Two Wives--Buying Potatoes--_Seniores Priores_--Excellent
Carrots!--Frank's Flirtations with the Squaws--The Dogs eat Carrière's


Falcon River--An Unlucky Supper--The Fate of our Fried Pork--A Weary
Paddle--A Sundial in the Wilderness--A Gipsy Picnic--"Floating away"--The
Dried Musk-rats--Falcon Lake--How can we land?--Mr. M---- "in
again"--Surprised by Indians--How we dried our Clothes--The Last Night in


Indian Loyalty--A Nap on Falcon Lake--A False Alarm--The Power of
Whisky--"Magnificent Water Stretches"--A Striking Contrast--Picnic
Lake--How we crossed Hawk Lake--Long Pine Lake--Bachelors' Quarters at
Ingolf--We dress for Dinner--Our Last Portage--A Rash Choice--"Grasp
your Nettle"--Mr. F----'s Gallantry--Cross Lake--Denmark's Ranche--A
Tramp through the Mire.


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.


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.


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.


The Grand Trunk Railway--Sarnia--"Confusion worse confounded"--A Churlish
Hostess--Fellow-Passengers on the _Manitoba_--"Off at
last!"--Musical Honours--Sunrise on Lake Huron--A Scramble for
Breakfast--An Impromptu Dance--The General Foe.

After a long day's journey on the Grand Trunk Railway, without even the
eccentricities of fellow-passengers in our Pullman car to amuse us, we
were all glad to reach Sarnia. The monotony of the scenery through which
we passed had been unbroken, except by a prettily situated cemetery, and
the tasteful architecture of a hillside church, surrounded by trees just
putting on their spring foliage.

It was eight o'clock when we got to the wharf, and the steamer
_Manitoba_ only waited for our arrival to cast loose her moorings
and enter the dark blue waters of Lake Huron. "Haste" will not express
the excitement of the scene. Men, rushing hither and thither in search of
friends, traps, and luggage, were goaded to fury by the calmness of the
officials and their determination not to be hurried. Hearing there was no
chance of having tea on board that night, and discovering near the wharf
a signboard announcing that meals could be obtained at all hours (except,
as we were told, that particular one), we with difficulty persuaded the
proprietress to let us have something to eat. Amidst muttered grumblings
that she was "slaved to death," that "her life was not worth a rap," and
so on, every remark being emphasized with a plate or dish, we were at
last supplied with bread, cheese, and beef-steak, for which we were
kindly allowed to pay fifty cents (2s. 6d.) each.

The scene on board the boat beggars description. The other steamers being
still ice-bound on Lake Superior, the _Manitoba_ was obliged to take
as much freight and as many passengers as she could carry, many of the
latter having been waiting in Sarnia upwards of ten days for her
departure. Surveying parties, immigrants of almost every nation on their
way to make homes in the great North West, crowded the decks and
gangways. The confusion of tongues, the shrill cries of the frightened
and tired children, the oaths of excited men, and the trundling and
thumping of the baggage, mingled with the shrieks of adjacent engines
"made night hideous." Porters and cabmen jostled women laden with baskets
of linen, brought on board at the last minute, when the poor tired
stewardess had no time to administer the well-merited reprimand;
passengers rushed about in search of the purser, anxious to secure their
state-rooms before they were usurped by some one else.

It was midnight when the commotion had subsided, and quarters were
assigned to all but a stray man or two wandering about in search of some
Mr. Brown or Mr. Jones, whose room he was to share. Climbing into my
berth, I soon fell asleep; but only for a few moments. The shrill
whistle, the vehement ringing of the captain's bell, the heavy beat of
the paddles, roused me; and as we left the wharf and steamed out from
among the ships and small craft dotting the water on every side, "Off at
last!" was shouted from the crowded decks. Then the opening bars of "God
save the Queen" were sung heartily and not inharmoniously, followed by
three cheers for her Majesty, three for her Imperial Highness, three for
her popular representative Lord Dufferin, and so on, till the enthusiasm
culminated in "He's a jolly good fellow;" the monotony of which sent me
to sleep again.

At four o'clock next morning I scrambled out of my berth at the imminent
risk of broken bones, wondering why the inventive powers of our Yankee
neighbours had not hit upon some arrangement to facilitate the descent;
dressed, and went in search of fresh air. Picking my steps quietly
between sleeping forms--for men in almost every attitude, some with
blankets or great-coats rolled round them, were lying on the floor and
lounges in the saloon--I reached the deck just as the sun rose above the
broad blue waters, brightening every moment the band of gold where sky
and water met. Clouds of ink-black smoke floated from our funnel, tinged
by the rising sun with every shade of yellow, red, and brown. Mirrored in
the calm water below, lay the silent steamer--silent, save for the
ceaseless revolution of her paddles, whose monotonous throb seemed like
the beating of a great heart.

For an hour or more I revelled in the beauty of water and sky, and ceased
to wonder why people born on the coast love the sea so dearly, and pine
for the sight of its waves. When the men came to wash the decks, a
pleasant, brawny fellow told me we were likely to have a good run up the
lakes. The storms of the last few days having broken up the ice, and
driven it into the open, there was hope both of the ice-locked steamers
getting out, and of our getting into Duluth without much trouble--"unless
the wind changes, which is more than possible," he added abruptly; and
walked off, as if fearful of my believing his sanguine predictions too

Later the passengers appeared, grumbling at the cold, and at being
obliged to turn out so early, and wishing breakfast were ready. Of this
wished-for meal the clatter of dishes in the saloon soon gave welcome
warning. Dickens says that when, before taking his first meal on board an
American steamer, "he tore after the rushing crowd to see what was wrong,
dreadful visions of fire, in its most aggravated form, floated through
his mind; but it was only _dinner_ that the hungry public were
rushing to devour." We were nearly as bad on the _Manitoba_, the
friendly steward warning most of us to secure our seats without delay,
the cabin-walls being gradually lined with people on either side, each
behind a chair. One of the "boys" strode ostentatiously down the long
saloon, ringing a great hand-bell, which summoned a mixed multitude
pell-mell to the scene of action, only to retreat in disappointment at
finding the field already occupied.

It was amusing to watch the different expressions on the faces down the
lines while waiting for breakfast. Men, chiefly surveyors, who during
their annual trips to and from work had got used to "that sort of thing,"
took it coolly; judiciously choosing a seat directly opposite their
state-room door, or standing in the background, but near enough to expel
any intruder. New men, looking as uncomfortable as if they had been
caught in petty larceny, twisted their youthful moustaches, put their
hands in their pockets, or leant against the wall, trying to look
perfectly indifferent as to the event; some of their neighbours smiling
satirically at their folly. Old farmer-looking bodies, grumbling at the
crush, mingled with Yankees, toothpick in hand, ready for business;
sturdy Englishmen whom one knew appreciated creature comforts; and dapper
little Frenchmen, hungry yet polite. Here stood a bright-looking
Irishwoman, who vainly tried to restrain the impatience of five or six
children, whose faces still shone from the friction of their morning
ablutions; there, an old woman, well-nigh double with age, who, rather
than be separated from the two stalwart sons by her side, was going to
end her days in a strange land. Here was a group of bright, chatty little
French Canadians, with the usual superabundance of earrings and gay
ribbons decorating their persons; there, a great raw-boned Scotchwoman,
inwardly lamenting the porridge of her native land, frowned upon the

The bell ceased, and--"Presto!" all were seated, and turning over their
plates as if for a wager. Then came a confused jumble of tongues, all
talking at once; the rattle of dishes, the clatter of knives and forks,
and the rushing about of the boy-waiters. It required quick wit to choose
a breakfast dish, from the "White-fish--finanhaddy--beefsteak--cold
white--tea-or-coffee," shouted breathlessly by a youth on one side, while
his comrade screamed the same, in a shrill falsetto, to one's neighbour
on the other; their not starting simultaneously making the confusion
worse confounded. Such was the economical mode of setting forth the bill
of fare on the _Manitoba_. There were three hundred and fifty people
on hoard; more than one-third of whom were cabin, or would-be cabin,
passengers. The accommodation being insufficient, some were camping on
the upper deck, some in the saloon, many on the stairs, and others
wherever elbow-room could be found. Breakfast began at half-past seven,
and at half-past nine the late risers were still at it; and it was not
long before the same thing (only more so!), in the shape of dinner, had
to be gone through.

As Lake Huron was calm and our boat steady, we had more "God save the
Queen" after dinner, besides "Rule, Britannia" and other patriotic songs,
several of the passengers playing the piano very well. Some one also
played a violin, and the men, clearing the saloon of sofas and
superfluous chairs, danced a double set of quadrilles, after having tried
in vain to persuade some of the emigrant girls to become their partners.
They were an amusing group--from the grinning steward, who, cap on head,
figured away through all the steps he could recollect or invent (some of
them marvels of skill and agility in their way), to the solemn young man,
only anxious to do his duty creditably. But alas for the short-lived
joviality of the multitude! After touching at Southampton the boat
altered her course, and the effect of her occasional rolls in the trough
of the waves soon became manifest.

One by one the less courageous of the crowd crept away. Every face soon
blanched with terror at the common enemy. Wretched women feebly tried to
help crying children, though too ill to move themselves; others threw
them down anywhere, to be able to escape in time for the threatened
paroxysm; all were groaning, wan and miserable, railing at the poor,
wearied stewardess, calling her here, there, and everywhere at the same
time, and threatening her as if she were the sole cause of their woe.
About midnight, our course being altered, "Richard was himself again."


Saulte Ste. Marie--Indian Embroidery--Lake Superior--Preaching, Singing,
and Card-playing--Silver Islet--Thunder Bay--The Dog River--Flowers at
Fort William--"Forty Miles of Ice"--Icebergs and Warm
Breezes--Duluth--Hotel Belles--Bump of Destructiveness in Porters.

The scenery just before entering the St. Mary River, which unites Lake
Huron and Lake Superior, is very fine. As the steamer threaded the group
of islands with their high, rocky, picturesquely wooded shores, we were
sometimes near enough to distinguish the many varieties of mosses and
ferns just springing into life; then, steaming across the rippling water,
we reached some point whose distant beauty had made us long to carry away
more than a memory of its outlines; and so, winding in and out amongst
the islands of this North American archipelago, we "fetched" the Saulte
Ste. Marie about sunset. [Footnote: The island-studded northern expanse
of Lake Huron is known as Georgian Bay. As the level of Lake Superior is
between thirty and forty feet higher than that of Lake Huron, there is a
corresponding fall at the head of the St. Mary River. This difference of
level prevents direct navigation between the two lakes; consequently, the
Americans have constructed across the extreme north-eastern point of the
State of Michigan a fine canal, which gives them exclusive possession of
the entrance by water to the great inland sea of Lake Superior. When, in
1870, the Red River Expedition, under Colonel (now General Sir) Garnet
Wolseley, sought to make the passage in several steamboats _en
route_ for Thunder Bay, the State authorities of Michigan issued a
prohibition against it. Fortunately, the Cabinet of Washington overruled
this prohibition, and the Expedition was permitted to pass; not, however,
until valuable time had been lost. Considering the importance of this
canal to the Dominion Government, and that at a crisis the United States'
Cabinet could close Lake Superior to our vessels of war, I think some
steps should be taken by which the Imperial Government would become joint
proprietors of the canal, with an equal share in its management at all
times.] The "Saulte," as it is generally called, is a pretty little
village, situated at the foot of a hill on the north shore of the canal.
Having to remain an hour there, we went ashore, up the long straight
street, to a frame-house, or store, where there was an extensive display
of Indian work. The Lake Superior and Huron Red Indians are particularly
noted for the beauty of their embroidery on skins, silk, birch bark, and
cloth, in beads, porcupine quills, or silk. Their imitative genius is so
great that the squaws can copy anything, and I know people who have had
their crests and coats-of-arms embroidered upon their tobacco-pouches
and belts, from an impression on paper or sealing-wax. Generally they
copy flowers and ferns, invent their own patterns, or, what seems even
more wonderful, make them by chewing a piece of bark into the form they
require--the bark assuming the appearance of a stamped braiding pattern.
As the white people put an exorbitant price on the flour and trinkets
they give in exchange for the Indians' work, the latter ask, when selling
for money, what seems more than its full value; but many who travel that
way, provided with cheap trinkets and gaudy ribbons, get the work cheaply

There is quite a large Roman Catholic church in the village; but we had
to be content with a tiptoe peep through its windows, as after the
"angelus" the door is locked. There are some small trading stores, a few
scattered houses, long, pretty winding roads up the hills, skirted by
cozy little farmhouses and wheat-fields, and one or two dwellings of more
pretension occupied as summer residences by Americans. A little higher
up, on the other side of the canal, lie the low white buildings of the
American fort. That fortification, with its sentries and the national
flag floating over the chief bastion, looked gay enough in the rays of
the fast-setting sun. After remaining several hours to coal, we left the
little village in the darkness, and when day dawned again found ourselves
out in the broad waters of Lake Superior--called by the Indians "the
Great Sea" (_Kichee Kumma_). For hours no land was to be seen on
either side, but we were visited by two little birds, quivering with
cold, weary from their long flight, almost too timid to alight upon our
boat, yet too tired to resist the resting-place. Poor little wanderers!
many a lonely emigrant, who had left all he loved behind to try his
fortune in an unknown land, felt sympathy for them.

Seeing nothing but water and sky to interest us without, we turned our
attention to our fellow-passengers within. At one end of the long saloon
a zealous Cecilite, the centre of a mixed group, was "improving the
occasion," Bible in hand--exhorting his hearers to turn from the error of
their ways, and denouncing the world and its wickedness, as exemplified
in the group of card-players close by. Their "I'll order it up!" "Pass!"
"I'll play it alone!" mingled with the grave accents of the preacher,
whose exhortations were answered by shouts of laughter and ringing glees
from the other end of the boat, where stood the piano and its satellites.
In vain the poor Cecilite tried "to stem the torrent" of what he
considered "Satan's doings;" his obstinacy and want of tact only
increased the mischievous delight of his enemies. At the sides of the
saloon small knots of French Canadians chattered merrily; at the top of
the stairs an emigrant or two were allowed to infringe the rule of "no
deck passengers," because of the crowd on board. Poor things! One did not
wonder that they escaped gladly from the jarring sounds and offensive
smells below.

Early on Saturday morning we passed Silver Islet, that mine of wealth to
our neighbours across the line. It lies in an island-dotted bay, and is
so covered with mining works that it looks like a pile of buildings
rising out of the water. The crushing-mills are on the mainland close by.
Silver Islet first belonged to a Canadian company; but from lack of
enterprise or capital it was sold to an American company for a nominal
sum, and, as is often the case, the sanguine nature of Cousin Jonathan,
acting on the motto, "Nothing venture nothing win," has been successful,
and the company is now (1879) shipping $20,000 worth of silver ore a day.
The islet can be visited only by those who have especial permission to
see the mines and works, or friends among the officials, neither of which
had we.

The adjacent village, at which the _Manitoba_ stopped, did not look
as if times were very prosperous with it. Two smoky little tugs lay idly
at the small wharf, and the few red wooden houses built against the
rocks, their flat roofs piled up with bales of goods and boxes--the
ever-present blue barrels of coal-oil being most conspicuous--seemed
tenantless. Leaving Silver Islet far behind, we rounded Whitefish Point,
with its tall lighthouse, and saw a very distinct mirage--a long stretch
of cold blue water, filled with great blocks of ice. It was rather
amusing to see the eagerness with which glasses were levelled at the
"counterfeit presentment" of a scene, of whose reality we should soon
have even too much.

At the entrance of Thunder Bay, we passed Thunder Cape on our right and
Pie Island on our left; the former a bold promontory, rising 1300 feet
above the sea-level, and wooded with a short stunted growth of bush,
principally poplar. Save for its picturesquely situated lighthouse and
log hut, where the keeper lives, no other sign of habitation was visible.
Thunder Bay and Cape probably take their names from the fierce and
frequent storms that rage there; Pie Island from the peculiar formation
of its northern end. Passing many rocky islands, with tiny waterfalls
zigzaging down their sides, we arrived at "Prince Arthur's Landing" and
walked up the long pier, partly roofed to form a temporary warehouse for
a pile of freight, in the teeth of a blistering hot land-breeze, which
drove the dust in blinding, choking eddies about us. After looking at
some specimens of Lake Superior agate which were on exhibition in a dusty
shop, and buying some lemons at what we thought the exorbitant price of a
dollar and a half per dozen, we were glad to retrace our steps to the
steamer, where we found the captain ready and anxious to start. Half an
hour's steaming brought us to the mouth of the Kaministiquai, or Dog
River, and entering it, we were at once in another country. No more dusty
roads, baked-looking piers, nor begrimed aborigines; but bright, rippling
water, cool green fields, dotted here and there with leafy trees, cattle
grazing or lying lazily in their shade, trim fences, long grass-grown
country roads, and soon the white walls and flowery garden of Fort
William, the Hudson Bay Company's trading post. The rockery in the centre
of the garden would have gladdened the heart of an Ontario gardener. I
believe that wealthy people there have had large fragments of Lake
Superior rock brought down to adorn their lawns and gardens. We found
friends at the fort in the factor and his family, with whom we spent a
pleasant half-hour. Mr. McIntyre is well known, and many will owe him
gratitude for kindness as long as Fort William or the Canada Pacific
Railway remains in their memory.

We left Thunder Bay for Duluth at three o'clock. The day had become
cloudy, and showers fell all the evening, but not heavily enough to
prevent every man, woman, and child from rushing out to "speak" the
down-coming boat _Ontario_, and hear her report on the state of the
ice-fields. She had been six days icebound at Duluth and the answer to
our captain's inquiry was--

"Forty miles of ice; only one passage. If you hit that, all right; if
not, you won't get through."

And wishing us luck and good night, with three hearty cheers from either
deck, we parted. Naturally anxious as we were for a speedy journey, the
possibility of failure in hitting the one open passage lent the
additional charm of uncertainty to our voyage; not charming, however, to
the poor emigrants whose stock of provisions was too scanty to admit of a
long stay on board, while the commissariat of the steamer was not
prepared to supply them. Knowing this, the captain--a pleasant, handsome
man--quoting the saying that "Fortune favours the brave," put on steam.

By eight o'clock on Sunday morning we had met great blocks of ice, and
grown accustomed to hearing them bump against the side of the boat; and
before noon we were well into the icefields, with loose blocks of ice on
every side, and a rough surface of piled-up masses as far as the eye
could see. Up a narrow strip of blue water we steamed, the passage
closing in our wake. Then the way became blocked ahead, while the vessel
heeled to one side with a lurch, as a great block went under her keel.
The captain held on steadily but slowly, stopping the machinery until a
large berg was passed, and taking advantage of an opening created by the
waves as they bore the floes upon their crests. As the ice-blocks closed
in behind us the certainty of being unable to return, and the difficulty
of going ahead, gave increased excitement to our adventure.

One of its strangest features was the heat. Though clothed in the
lightest summer dresses, we were uncomfortably warm--and this with miles
of ice around us! The warm land-breeze, and our captain's promptitude and
determination, enabled us to reach Duluth that evening. A change of wind
the same night drove the ice back into the bay, and from the hotel
windows we saw and commiserated four vessels locked fast, their crews and
passengers suffering from cold and short rations for four days. The
change of wind made us glad of our fur jackets.

Duluth, situated on the rocky north, or Minnesota, shore of the extreme
western end of Lake Superior--otherwise St. Louis Bay--was apparently
planned in expectation of its one day becoming the principal centre of
commerce between America and Canada--in short, the great capital of the
lakes. Everything is on a large scale. The streets are broad; the wharves
and warehouses extensive; the hotels immense; the custom-house and other
public buildings massive and capacious enough to accommodate any number
of extra clerks when the rush of business shall come--a rush which is
still in the future. During the day and a half we spent there, the hotel
omnibus and one other team were the only locomotives, and a lame man and
a water-carrier with a patch over his eye the only dwellers in Duluth we
saw; while the people from our boat seemed to be the only visitors who
woke the echoes in the sleepy place. It was like a city in a fairy tale,
over which a spell had been cast; its very cleanliness was depressing,
and so suggestive of disuse, that I think a mass of mud scraped off the
road might have given some appearance of traffic and life to the scene.

There _are_ people in Duluth, however, though it is difficult to say
where they hide themselves; for some of our party went to service in a
little church on a hill, and came back charmed with the eloquence of the
clergyman and the sweetness of the voices in the quartette choir, to say
nothing of several pretty girls they noticed amongst the congregation.
Still, Duluth will always seem to me like a city in a dream. On the
opposite, or Wisconsin shore of the lake, is Superior City, a pretty,
half-built town, rising slowly into commercial importance. Unfortunately
we were unable to cross to it.

I cannot leave Duluth without speaking of the "girls" in the hotel, as
they were called, in order not to wound the sensitive democracy of the
Yankee nature, which abhors the name of servant. There were three in the
great dining-saloon, whose superabundance of empty chairs and tables gave
even greater dreariness to the house than its long, empty corridors.
Pretty fair girls they were, neat in dress, but so tightly laced that it
was painful to look at them. Their slow, stiff, automatic movements were
suggestive of machinery, and in keeping with the sleepy spell cast over
the town. All the lithe, living gracefulness of their figures was
destroyed for the sake of drawing in an inch or two of belt. Watching
them, I attacked my breakfast with greater energy, to prove to myself
that there was something substantial about the premises.

One word respecting the treatment of luggage in that part of the world by
porters and officials, whose organ of destructiveness seems to be
abnormally developed. Boxes were thrown pell-mell into the hold, or
tossed on end out of high baggage-vans, with such unnecessary violence
that nothing less than cases of solid iron or stronger metal could have
stood it. Trunks, "stationary" boxes warranted to stand any ill-usage,
were cracked and broken; and the poor emigrants' boxes, of comparatively
slight construction, soon became a mass of ruins, with their contents
scattered on the ground. It was the same everywhere--at Duluth, at
Glyndon, and at Fisher's Landing, where we took the Red River boat. At
Glyndon half the baggage was piled on an open truck, and the heavy rain
we passed through that night completed the ruin the officials began. A
member of the Hudson Bay Company, who had travelled a great deal over
this continent, said he found it best to carry his baggage in a small
hand-valise, or in a very large trunk so heavy that it required two men
to move it; anything between the two was invariably smashed.


The Mississippi--The Rapids--Aerial Railway Bridges--Breakfast at
Braynor--Lynch Law--Card-sharpers--Crowding in the Cars--Woman's
Rights!--The Prairie--"A Sea of Fire"--Crookstown--Fisher's
Landing--Strange Quarters--"The Express-man's Bed"--Herding like
Sheep--On board the _Minnesota_.

After leaving Duluth at four o'clock on Tuesday morning by rail, the
country through which we passed was very beautiful. Lake succeeded lake,
then came wooded hills and tiny mountain streams, crossed by high
bridges. These bridges were without parapets, and so narrow that, looking
out of the window of the car, one saw a deep gorge sixty or seventy feet
below. One railway bridge across the Mississippi--a narrow enough stream
there, at least to eyes accustomed to the broad St. Lawrence--was more
than seventy feet high, and so unsafe that trains were allowed only to
creep slowly across it. The rapids on the St. Louis River, along the
banks of which the Northern Pacific runs, are magnificent. For some miles
the high banks occasionally almost shut out the view; then, as the train
winds round a sharp curve, a mountain torrent of foaming water bursts
upon the gaze. Rocks tower above it, with great trees bending from their
heights; in the stream are huge boulders round which the water whirls and
hisses, sending its spray high over the rugged banks, in every nook and
crevice of which grow long ferns and graceful wild-flowers. Then follows
a long smooth stretch of water with grassy wooded shores, and through the
trees one catches distant glimpses of yet wider and more beautiful falls
than those just passed.

We breakfasted at Braynor at nine o'clock, and heard with pleasure that
we had forty-five minutes wherein to satisfy exhausted nature. Everything
was delicious, and we should have done the fare even greater justice had
we known that it was the last good meal we should obtain for thirty-six
hours. When we returned to the car we were greatly amused by an
irrepressible fellow-traveller, whose over-politeness and loquacity
savoured of a morning dram or two.

He insisted on pointing out the exact spot--marked by a tall,
rough-looking post with a cross-tree on it, that stood near the
rails--where two Indians had been "lynched" for some crime by the
citizens; which exploit being regarded with _pardonable_ pride by
them, was boasted of to travellers accordingly. Volumes might be written
on Yankee oppression of the poor Red-skins, and yet leave the disgraceful
story but half told.

Our train was crowded, and during the morning two rather well-dressed
black-eyed men came on board. The conductor told us they were the pests
of that part of the road--three card-monté men--and that in spite of
being carefully warned many travellers, especially amongst the well-to-do
farmer class emigrating to Manitoba, were daily fleeced by them, there
being no apparent redress, as they are sharp enough to evade any direct
breach of the law. These men succeeded in drawing two boys of eighteen or
twenty into their toils, and obtained possession of their watches, as
well as all the money they had about them. When the lads protested
vehemently, the sharpers offered to return the former upon receipt of
five dollars, which they knew their victims did not possess. To our great
relief, the men got off at the station where we stopped for dinner.

We changed trains at Glyndon for the branch line, then only recently laid
to Fisher's Landing, but since that time continued to the frontier
station of Pembina. There was only one passenger car to hold all those
who had comfortably filled three on the other line, and it would be
difficult to convey any idea of the crowding and crushing that ensued to
obtain seats, and pack away the numerous travelling-bags and
provision-baskets brought by the emigrants from Ontario. Having gentlemen
with us, we were soon provided for; but just before the train started, a
very dirty, fashionably dressed young woman, carrying an equally dirty
baby, came in. Looking about her, and not finding a vacant seat, she said
in an insolent tone, giving her head a toss--

"No seats? Wall, I guess I ain't agoin' to stand and hold this here heavy
child!" and sat down in my lap. I had, like most people, often been "sat
upon," figuratively, during my life, but never literally, and it was with
some difficulty that I managed to extricate myself. The girl next
proceeded, with the assistance of a dirty pocket-handkerchief and the tin
drinking-mug belonging to the car, to perform her toilet and that of her
infant; her efforts resulting in a streakiness of dirt on both faces,
where the colour had been uniform before.

We were on the Prairie--the great rolling prairie, at last; and I was
disappointed--nothing but grass and sky, desolate and lonely. These,
however, were my first impressions. How fond I grew of the prairie I know
now that I am away from it; perhaps for ever. Towards night, black clouds
gathered in the sky, and distant thunder heralded the coming of one of
those great storms for which the prairie is so famous. The air was so
charged with electricity that the train had to be stopped several times,
and the wheels of the cars drenched with water to prevent their taking
fire. As night closed in, incessant flashes of white sheet lightning
almost blinded us. Each white flash was riven by red forks of flame,
until, with the horizon one constant blaze, the plain seemed a vast sea
of fire. Over our heads, in great zigzag lines, shot the fire fluid, as
the thunder rattled, roared, crashed, and broke around us; then, in a
momentary lull, came torrents of rain, rushing madly across the sward,
and drowning the noise of the fast-flying train, as if some fiend upon a
diabolical errand were borne through the warring elements. It seemed as
though two or three storms had met, to contend for mastery; flashes of
white, yellow, and red lightning outdid each other in brilliancy, and
peals of thunder, near and distant, reverberated in quick succession. No
one who has not encountered a rain-storm on the prairie can form an idea
of its grandeur and force.

During a short lull in the storm, we stopped at a place called Crookstown
for tea, following a touter for the "_Ho_-tel" there--or rather a
railway lantern, as the darkness completely hid the man--through mud and
water up to our ankles; over stumps and sticks; through a dilapidated
gateway, stoup, and wash-house, to a long, low room, where the table was
laid for tea. Seated round it on benches, chairs, three-legged stools--in
fact, on anything they could get hold of--were the engine-driver,
conductor, express-man, and other officials. The meal consisted of bread
and butter, potatoes boiled in their jackets, fried bacon swimming in
fat, and scalding tea in handleless cups. Asking for eggs, we were told
there was not one to be had in the "town." Query, what is a town?
Crookstown could not boast of half a dozen houses besides the station.

Another hour's journey brought us to Fisher's Landing, on Red Lake River,
where we were to remain until next morning. Although the boat was at the
landing, we were not allowed to go on board until all the freight was
shipped. This intelligence was given us by a rakish-looking Yankee, who
added that his "_Ho_-tel" was the best in the place, and if we would
come "right along" he would give us rooms for the night. Gathering up our
traps, and thinking we could not do much worse than remain in the crowded
car all night, we followed, paddling through the mud to the much-boasted
"_Ho_-tel." This was a house built of boards, the entrance room or
office having a high desk or counter across one corner; a recess under
the stairs in the other containing a bench, on which were ranged two or
three pails and a basin, while on the wall hung the general towel,
looking rather the worse for wear. A room opening from the recess had a
table set like the one at Crookstown, apparently for breakfast; the
floors were literally covered with mud. What, we surmised, can the
bedrooms be like in such a place? Our question was only too soon
answered. Presently a shaggy-headed, untidy woman made her appearance,
hastily fastening her clothes. She was very cross, and grumbled that
there were only two rooms, but that she would take one of us in with her
(an offer which was politely declined), and snappishly ordered a man to
show the way upstairs. Clambering up a steep flight of steps after our
conductor and his lantern, we were ushered into a room containing a
bed--which had all the appearance of having been slept in for a week--a
rocking-chair, and a bureau; a smaller room opening out of it also
contained a very-much-slept-in bed. Throwing open the door of the latter
room with a flourish that would have been creditable in a professional
showman, he introduced us.

"This, ladies, you can have. Two can sleep here _nicely_. True, the
bed has not been made, but I can soon settle that!" and putting his
lantern on the floor, he gave the bed a poke or two, and tried to smooth
the frowsy-looking coverlet.

"Oh, that's the express-man's bed!" he said, in answer to our inquiry as
to who was to occupy the outer room. "Must have it, you know; always
stops here. The best room in the town!"

Seeing that we did not appear satisfied, he added--

"You can lock your door" (there was a whole board a foot wide out of the
partition); "and, after all, it's only the express-man; you needn't mind
him. Then in the morning you can sit here, for he is off early, and we
make it the ladies' sitting-room." And drawing the rocking-chair to the
window, he set it going.

But as we still _did_ object to the express-man's proximity, he led
the way to another room, about the same size, but with a door that we
could latch, a bunk bed, a wooden box, and, for toilet apparatus, a
yellow pudding-bowl, and white jug full of water. With some difficulty we
succeeded in getting a lamp, and spreading our rugs over the bed, we lay
down. When the tramping about downstairs ceased, sometime after midnight,
we dozed until morning. I was up first, and, going downstairs in search
of water, could not help laughing at the absurd sight of a row of legs
and dangling braces under the stairway, the heads belonging to them,
being bent over the pails I had noticed there the night before. Seven men
had slept on the floor of the express-man's room that night, for which
accommodation they paid three dollars (15s.). During the day some
twenty women emigrants, who were obliged to leave the car, taking refuge
there from the mud and rain, were charged twenty-five cents (1s. 3d.)
a head; and, as a concession, children were taken at half-price.

Breakfast was a repetition of the supper at Crookstown, and although
blessed with excellent appetites generally, we lost them completely at
Fisher's Landing. About noon, we smuggled ourselves on board the
_Minnesota_, and a few judicious tips enabled us to take up our
quarters there at once. How we did enjoy our dinner! Never did fish,
flesh, or fowl taste so good, and we felt compelled to apologize to the
steward for the emptiness of the dishes he carried away. However, he did
not appear astonished, as the bill of fare at the "_Ho_-tel" was
well known.

It was Thursday morning before all the freight was stowed away and we
could leave the landing--or "Fisher's," as _habitués_ of the road
call it. The _Minnesota_ is a very comfortable boat, and with the
exception of one or two farmers and their families, and an old
Frenchwoman, we had her to ourselves. The captain was a genial,
large-hearted Yankee, the steward and pretty little maid were very
attentive; and, by contrast with the "_Ho_-tel," we thought
ourselves in pleasant quarters.


Red Lake River--Grand Forks--The Ferry--Custom-house Officers at
Pembina--Mud and Misery--Winnipeg at last--A Walk through the
Town--A Hospitable Welcome--Macadam wanted--Holy Trinity Church--A
Picturesque Population--Indians shopping--An "All-sorts" Store--St.
Boniface and its Bells--An Evening Scene.

Red Lake River flows into Red River at Grand Forks, some twelve or
thirteen miles below Fisher's Landing. It is much the narrower stream,
with so many bends that when we were not running headlong into the left
bank we grounded on the right. The boat frequently formed a bridge from
one bend to the other, and heads were ducked down or drawn back suddenly
to avoid having eyes scratched out by the spreading boughs of beech and
hazel which stretched over the stream. It was nothing unusual to find our
course impeded by a large branch becoming so entangled in the wheel at
the stern, that men had to get down and chop it away before the boat
could proceed.

At Grand Forks, where there is a Hudson Bay Company's trading post, a
billiard saloon, hotel, general store, and post-office all in one, and a
few smaller houses, the ferry is a large flat-bottomed sort of platform,
railed on either side and fastened to a long thick rope stretched across
the river. When there is a load to ferry over, this platform is let loose
from the shore, and the current carries it across, the rope keeping it
from going down stream. The shores of Red River are almost bare; a few
miserable poplars here and there, one or two small log-houses and
mud-built huts from which wild, dirty Indians emerged to watch the boat
pass, were all we saw upon them. The banks are for the most part so high
that only from the upper deck could we see inland.

The frontier post, Pembina, is well known as the spot beyond which in
1869 the rebel Louis Riel, the "Little Napoleon" of Red River, would not
allow Mr. McDougall, the "lieutenant-governor of Manitoba," appointed by
the Canadian administration, to pass. Here we had a visit from the
custom-house officers. They were good specimens of their different
countries. The Canadian was a round, fat, jolly, handsome, fair man; the
Yankee was tall, slight, and black-eyed, with a cadaverous look,
increased by his close-fitting mackintosh and cowl. They did not give us
any trouble, and I felt sorry for their lonely life, and the pounds of
mud they had to carry with them everywhere.

Such mud! There is no wharf or planking of any kind, and all freight and
baggage is landed on (or into) the muddy bank. Barrels rolled through it
became unrecognizable, and were doubled in weight before they reached
their warehouse. Men worked on bare feet, with trousers rolled to their
knees, and the slippery, swashy look of everything was horrible. An
Indian (not of the Fenimore Cooper type) leant against an old
cooking-stove stranded on the bank, and an old squaw squatted on a heap
of dirty straw, watching with lack-lustre eyes the disembarkation. A mile
or two above Pembina is the American fort, with its trim barracks,
fortifications, mounted guns, sentries, and some military life about it.
Near it is the house built by Captain Cameron, when out with the
expeditionary force in 1867. The remainder of our journey up the Red
River of the North was uninteresting, and we hailed with delight our
arrival at Winnipeg, on Saturday morning, the 4th of June.

It took some time to disembark from the _Minnesota_. The emigrants
had been up at daylight, and after making haste to get their property
together, found that they had to wait the arrival of the custom-house
officer. At about eight o'clock, a waggon being procured to take our
luggage, we, carrying our travelling-bags and shawls, walked--for there
were no cabs nor omnibuses--into Winnipeg.

The _Minnesota_ had stopped at the old custom-house wharf, the bulk
of her freight being for that end of the town, and we had to traverse the
entire length of Winnipeg to reach Mrs. T----, who had kindly invited us
to remain with her until Mrs. C---- could find a suitable house. Up
narrow, rickety planks, through mud and mire, past two log-houses fast
falling into ruin--which were pointed out as having been the only houses
in Winnipeg, besides the Fort Garry settlement, ten years before, and
within three years used as custom-houses--we made our way to the broad
main street. This is lined on each side by large, handsome shops, one or
two banks, the new post-office in course of erection, and the large
square town-hall, also unfinished. Then follow the new custom-house, land
office, Canada Pacific Railway offices (square white brick buildings),
and the round turret-like bastions of Fort Garry, [Footnote: Fort Garry
stands at the confluence of the Assineboine with the Red River.] with its
massive wooden palisades, and low log buildings at the extreme end of the
street, where it terminates at the mouth of the Assineboine. We had to
cross a few yards of prairie in order to reach Mrs. T----'s house,
formerly the officers' quarters of the mounted police force, now removed
to Battleford and Fort McLeod. We were received very cordially, a welcome
being extended to me, although a total stranger.

The first thing that struck me in Winnipeg was the mud. I had heard that
Red River mud was the worst in the world, and I now for the first time
realized how bad mud could be. Not only was the roadway so soft that
every turn of a wheel loaded it inches deep with the sticky compound, and
made it so heavy that the driver had frequently to stop and clear his
wheels with a stick, but, trodden from the crossings into the side-walks,
it covered them with a slimy mixture very difficult to walk on. From the
windows I could see people slipping and sliding about so much, that any
one ignorant of the cause might, have attributed their unsteadiness to
the strength of their morning libations; the absence of women from the
streets making that solution appear possible, if not probable.

On Sunday we went to Holy Trinity Church, a pretty little frame building
with a full congregation. Part of the church was occupied by the regiment
of artillery quartered in Fort Osborne, a neat little barracks to the
west of the prairie. The choir was passable, and could boast of one
thoroughly good tenor. An energetic clergyman preached an excellent

Towards the end of June, Mr. C---- and his party left for the line; and
we, having taken the house vacated by the T----s the week before, were
busy getting comfortably settled. Numbers of people called; many of them
old friends whom we had lost sight of for years; and every one was so
cordial and friendly, that we anticipated great pleasure during our stay
in Winnipeg.

It is a strange place, peopled with a strange variety from all quarters
of the globe. Tall Indians stand in groups at the street corners, wrapped
in long dirty-white, dark-blue, or scarlet blankets, held well about
their shoulders, and hanging below their knees. They wear beaded or
embroidered cloth leggings, blue, scarlet, or black, tied with gay
ribbons. Their feet are in mocassins, their long black hair is braided
with beads or ribbons, and a black silk handkerchief, in which either
feathers or a bunch of ribbons are fastened, is folded and knotted round
their foreheads. Young squaws with shaggy, flowing hair, short, coloured
merino skirts, and shawls over their heads, sit on the side-walks,
chattering in their guttural tongue, and laughing over some joke; fat,
glossy, half-breed ponies, in gorgeously beaded saddle-cloths, stand at
the edge of the road awaiting their masters--short, lithe, dark men, who
seem to touch the reins, vault into the saddle, and reach the end of the
street in the same instant. The speed and strength of these small horses
is wonderful; their glossy coats and well-kept manes testify to the care
taken of them. An Indian never beats his horse, nor drags at the reins in
the cruel way so common among more "civilized" riders, but sits his horse
as though it were part of himself. A long train of ox-carts is waiting to
be loaded for the distant prairie hamlets. The half-breed driver stands
by in trousers and checked shirt, a loosely knotted handkerchief about
his neck. He sometimes wears a hat, but oftener his short, shaggy black
hair is his only head-covering. His squaw sits in the bottom of the
waggon; his little brown papooses are peeping out from between the bars
at the side. Other children, laced up in queer, birch-bark cradles or
moss bags, leaving only their arms free, and the upper part of their
bodies visible, lean against shop-doors or scattered bales of goods.

I watched some Indians shopping, and was astonished to see how invariably
they waived aside inferior goods and chose such materials as merinos at a
dollar and a half to two dollars (7s. 6d. to 10s.) a yard. One of the
merchants told me it was useless to offer them anything but the best. An
Indian who could not speak English or French, and wanted five things,
divided his money according to his idea of their relative cost in little
piles on the counter, and going through a pantomime descriptive of his
wants, was handed first some silk handkerchiefs. Taking one up, he felt it,
held it up to the light, and throwing it aside, shook his head vigorously,
uttering an "Ugh!" of disgust. When shown a better one he was doubtful, but
upon a much superior article being produced he took it, and willingly
handed over one pile for it. This, however, was too much, and when given
the change, he put it on one of the other piles, and proceeded in the same
way to make the rest of his purchases.

"How easily they could be cheated!" I said to the clerk after the Indian
had left.

"No," he replied, "not so easily as would appear. They generally come in
from their camps in great numbers about once a year to sell their furs
and make purchases. They go to different shops, and on their return
compare notes as to the quality and cost of their goods. Then, if one has
paid more than another, or has been cheated in quality, he will never
enter the shop again, and the firm that gives the greatest bargains is
most patronized on their return."

A few minutes afterwards another Indian came to buy a blanket, and was
told to go upstairs where they were kept. Slowly and doubtfully he
ascended, feeling his way step by step, and holding closely to the
banisters till he reached the top; then he turned to look back and
express his astonishment in the "Ugh!" which, in different accents, means
so many different things.

The Mennonites and Icelanders interested me very much. The former, who
are all thrifty and energetic, make excellent settlers. They have a large
settlement some twenty miles south-east of Winnipeg. The dress of the
women is quaint, yet neat. They wear short, full skirts, just showing
their small feet; jackets, and becoming white caps, from under which
their round black eyes, small straight features, and intelligent
expression, greet one pleasantly. The men are taller, with a quiet,
unconscious air of superiority which is refreshing. The dress of the
Icelanders is somewhat similar, but they are more lethargic-looking. They
have bright "milk and roses" complexions, great opaque blue eyes, and a
heavy gait that gives them an appearance of stupidity, which is not a
true index of their character; they learn English rapidly, and are
teachable servants, neat, clean, and careful, but have not constitutional
strength to endure hard work, and when separated from their friends
become lonely and dispirited. There is a large settlement of them at
Gimli, about sixty miles from Winnipeg, on Lake Winnipeg. Some of the
authorities in Winnipeg told me that, as an emigration speculation, they
were not a success. The grasshopper plague which visited Manitoba during
two consecutive seasons destroyed their crops, and the ravages of
smallpox during the fall of '76 and spring of '77 told upon them so
severely that they have so far only been an expense to the Canadian

The Hudson Bay Company's store had a great attraction for me. It was a
long, low building within the precincts of Fort Garry, stocked with
everything either useful or ornamental, from a ship's anchor to a lace
pocket-handkerchief; a sort of curiosity shop of all the necessaries and
luxuries of life; an outfitting establishment where one could not only
clothe oneself from head to foot, but furnish one's house from attic to
cellar, at very reasonable prices. Whatever the charges may be at the
outlying posts, competition keeps them within bounds in Winnipeg. As a
rule the goods are excellent in quality, and to judge by the number of
carts, carriages, and saddle-horses always grouped about the door of the
store, a thriving business is done there.

The Red River at Winnipeg is much wider than at any other point, yet so
high are the banks, that until quite close to it one cannot see the
water. On the opposite or western shore is St. Boniface, the terminus of
the branch line from Selkirk, and the site of the Roman Catholic
cathedral, convents, and schools. The cathedral, a large square building,
has a musical chime of bells, and the ringing of the "angelus," whose
sound floated over the prairie unmarred by steam whistles, factory bells,
or any other of the multitudinous sounds of a large city, was always
welcome. Nowhere is evening more beautiful than in Manitoba. One instance
in particular I noticed. The sun was setting low down in the heavens as
in a sea of gold, one long flame-coloured line alone marking the horizon.
In the south-west rose cloud upon cloud of crimson and gold, crossed by
rapid flashes of pale yellow and white lightning, which momentarily
obliterated their rich colours. To the south was a great bank of black
thunder-cloud crested with crimson, reft to its deepest darkness by
successive flashes of forked lightning. Immediately overhead a narrow
curtain of leaden clouds was driven hither and thither by uncertain
winds; while below, the prairie and all its varied life lay bathed in the
warmth and light of the departing sun, throwing into bold relief the
Indian wigwam, with its ragged sides and cross-poles.

Squaws were seated round the camp fires, or dipping water from a pool
hard by; Indians were standing idly about; droves of cattle were being
driven in for milking; groups of horses, their fore feet tied loosely
together, were hobbling awkwardly as they grazed; tired oxen were
tethered near, feeding after their day's work, while their driver lay
under his cart and smoked. Above the low squat tent of the half-breed,
there rose the brown-roofed barracks, its lazy flag clinging to the
staff. Through the surrounding bushes, water gleamed here and there. In
the distance could be seen long trains of ox-carts, coming from remote
settlements, the low monotonous moan of their ungreased wheels making a
weird accompaniment to the muttering thunder; or a black-robed procession
of nuns, on their way to the small chapel on the prairie, whose tinkling
bell was calling them to prayers. An Indian on his fiery little steed,
his beaded saddle-cloth glistening in the sun, was galloping in mad haste
over the grass, away to the low hills to the north, which deserved their
name of Silver Heights as they received the sun's good-night kiss.

Then the clouds, losing their borrowed tints, closed in like a pall; the
low wail of the wind grew louder as it approached and swept them away to
the south, leaving night to settle down upon the dwellers of the prairie
city, starlit and calm, while the distant glow of the prairie fires rose
luridly against the eastern sky. But all night long the creaking moan of
the ox-carts went on, giving the prairie a yet closer resemblance to "an
inland sea."


Summer Days--The English Cathedral--Icelandic
Emigrants--_Tableaux_--In chase of our Dinner--The Indian
Summer--Blocked up--Gigantic Vegetables--Fruitfulness of the
Country--Iceland Maidens--Rates of Wages--Society at
Winnipeg--Half-castes--Magic of the Red River Water--A Happy
Hunting-ground--Where is Manitoba?

The summer passed uneventfully. Day after day we watched for the
white-covered mail-waggon, pails dangling underneath it, dogs trotting
behind, rousing as they passed countless wild brethren from every quarter
of the prairie. At sight of the waggon, we put on our hats and went to the
post-office for letters from home; then drove across the prairie to Silver
Heights, or down to the English cathedral, which stood on the fairest
bend of the river, and in a pretty, wooded dell--but, alas, it was
encircled by a tangled, uncared-for churchyard, overgrown with weeds and
thistles, the tombstones broken and prostrate, the fences so dilapidated
that stray cattle leaped over them and grazed amongst the unrecognized
graves. I was told that arrangements had been made for a city cemetery on
the prairie, but the ground was merely staked off. A man who asked his
way there was directed to go straight across the prairie to the east,
until he came to where grass and sky met. Forgetting that as he advanced
the horizon receded, he thanked his informant, and went on his fruitless
search; but after wandering many hours, like the boy after the pot of
gold at the end of the rainbow, he returned weary and unsuccessful.

At the cathedral we heard the chorister boys chant the evening psalms;
then went on to the little village of Kildonan, standing among green
fields and thriving farms; or turned in another direction across the
Assineboine, up a lovely road leading for miles through the woods. One
morning we went to the emigrant sheds to see several hundred Icelanders
embark in their flat-bottomed boats, with their quaint wooden chests, on
their way to Gimli. On another occasion we helped to organize a
Sunday-school festival, and after giving the children an unlimited supply
of cake, strawberries, and lemonade, we amused them with some
_tableaux_. Taking possession of a disused old church, we made an
_impromptu_ stage; by laying boards across the chancel railings; and
the effect was so good, that some play-loving people enlarged on our idea
by putting up rough side-scenes, and giving a series of entertainments
there during the following winter, with the average amount of amateur

One very hot Sunday, when we were without a servant, I rashly left our
joint of roast beef on the kitchen table, while we discussed the pudding.
Suddenly an ominous noise was heard. "Oh, Miss F----!" exclaimed my
hostess, starting up, "Do stop that dog! The wretch has stolen the
beef--_all_ to-morrow's dinner!"

To rush out of the house and over the prairie after the brute was the
work of an instant; not so to catch him. On I ran, urged to redoubled
exertions by Mrs. C----, who pursued me, excitedly flourishing her table
napkin, while her little girl scrambled after her, screaming at being
left behind. Every now and then the dog would stop to take breath,
sitting still with aggravating coolness till I almost touched him, when
off he would start again, at redoubled speed. At last, after wildly
throwing two or three handfuls of stones at him and all the sticks I
could pick up as I passed, I aimed furiously at the barracks and hit the
dog on the head, when he dropped the beef, and I returned, hot and
breathless, but triumphant.

The days were sultry, but the nights cool enough to make a blanket
necessary, except just before the frequent thunderstorms. Well might the
Indians call the province "Manitoba" (God speaking), in their awe of the
Great Spirit whose voice alone is so terrible. October is the most
beautiful month in that region, bright, clear, and balmy--the true Indian
summer, with cool, dewy nights, when the aurora sent its long streaks of
white and red light from the horizon to the zenith, to fall again in a
shower of sparks, each night more beautiful than the last. Till, early in
November, a storm of rain, succeeded by snow and frost, ended our Indian
summer, and in forty-eight hours we had winter. Not weeks of slushy snow,
changeable temperature, chilling rains, and foggy skies, as in Ontario,
but cold, frosty, bracing winter at once. By the end of November the
river was blocked, the boats had stopped running, and our only
communication with the outside world was by means of the daily stage. But
the wretchedness of a journey over the prairie to the nearest railway
station was only encountered by those whose business made it unavoidable.

Before navigation had quite ceased, a provincial exhibition of the
agricultural and other products of the country was held in the town-hall.
Many of the vegetables were so large, that a description of them was
treated with incredulity until some specimens were sent to Ottawa, to
be modelled for the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. One Swedish
turnip weighed over thirty-six pounds; some potatoes (early roses and
white) measured nine inches long and seven in circumference; radishes
were a foot and a half long and four inches 'round; kail branched out to
the size of a currant bush; cabbages, hard, white, and good, grew to a
foot and a half in diameter, and there were cauliflowers as large.
Neither Indian corn, melons, nor tomatos were exhibited, chiefly because
most of the farmers in Manitoba have cultivated wheat-growing rather than
market-gardening, as the former brings in the largest returns for the
least labour.

Corn is grown in Manitoba larger and far taller than any I saw in
Ontario. Tomatos will grow in profusion in a dry spot, especially where,
as in Kuwatin, a hundred miles from Winnipeg, a southern exposure on
sandy soil can be found; the same may he said of melons. Fruit trees are
most difficult to cultivate, the frosts being so severe. Yet with care
that obstacle may be overcome, and a few apples, grown and ripened in Mr.
Bannatyne's garden, in Winnipeg, were exhibited. Every other kind of
garden and farm produce was shown in abundance. The prairie soil is so
rich that it yields a hundredfold, and the absence of the great
preliminary labour of "clearing," which the early settlers in Ontario had
to contend with, renders it a most advantageous country for emigrants.
The chief difficulty is the scarcity of labour. All men not going out to
take up land for themselves are employed on the railway; and women either
are married and obliged to work on the farms with their husbands, or get
married before they have been long in Manitoba. Many were the complaints
I heard from people who had taken out female servants, paying their
expenses and giving them high wages, only to lose them before they had
been a month in the province. Their sole resource then was to employ
Icelanders, who often could not speak a word of English, so that all
directions had to be given by pantomime. Any one seeing the strange
gesticulations and frantic efforts of some of the more energetic
mistresses might be excused for thinking himself let loose in a city of

Mrs. C---- had one of these Icelanders as nursemaid, and she did very
well, picking up enough English in a few weeks to understand all we
wanted. But I noticed that, however quickly she walked about the rest of
the house, the stairs were as carefully traversed as though she had been
an Indian. One day, hearing her in great distress on the kitchen stairs,
I went to see what was the matter. The staircase was a narrow one between
two walls, but without banisters; on the third or fourth step from the
top sat one of the children, aged four years, and a few steps below stood
the maid clinging to the smooth wall, her face white with terror as,
whenever she attempted to advance, the child made a feint to oppose her
passage and push her back. Afraid either to turn round or retreat
backwards, she stood trembling and calling for help, and it was
impossible to avoid feeling amused at the absurdity of that big girl
being intimidated by such a mite--who, with the original depravity of
human nature, was enjoying the fun.

A friend of mine went through some odd experiences with these Iceland
maids. Upon the arrival of a fresh domestic she was ordered to wash down
the hall and door-steps. Next day, at the same hour, while a party of
visitors were in the drawing-room, the door burst open, and Christian,
scrubbing-pail and brush in hand, plumped down on her knees in the middle
of the floor, and went through a vigorous pantomime of scrubbing. Her
mistress was too astonished to speak for a moment or two, until the girl,
surprised at her silence, looked up, uttering an indescribable "Eh?" of
anxious inquiry, which was well-nigh too much for the gravity of her

Often, after ten minutes' patient endeavour to explain something, one was
rewarded by a long drawn out "Ma'arum?" infinitely trying to one's
patience. Yet, in time, they often make excellent servants, and many
people prefer them to Ontario or English emigrants. And certainly in
point of economy they are infinitely superior to both; for not only will
an Iceland maid waste nothing, but she is content with five or six
dollars a month in wages (£1 5s. or £1 10s.), while girls from Ontario or
England expect nine or ten dollars. Servants taken out on the line of
railway demand and receive from fifteen to thirty dollars (£3 15s. to £7
10s.) a month. These exorbitant wages are, however, lessening as
immigration increases.

Society at Winnipeg is very pleasant; composed chiefly of the old
families who formed the Hudson Bay Company and their descendants, many of
whom have Indian blood in their veins. Their education, carefully begun
by their parents, is often completed in Scotland, and they are well-read,
intelligent people, as proud of their Indian as of their European
descent. Many of them are handsome and _distingué_-looking. Their
elegant appearance sometimes leads to awkward mistakes. One of these
ladies, meeting a young Englishman fresh from the old country, and full
of its prejudices, was entertained by him with reflections on race, and
condolences at having to associate with half-castes. At last he inquired
how long she had been in the country? Making him a stately curtsy, she

"All my life! _I_ am one of these despised half-breeds," and
instantly left him. She said afterwards she was sorry for the poor
fellow's discomfiture; but he brought it upon himself by disregarding all
her efforts to change the conversation.

When younger sons of good families are sent to seek their fortunes in the
New World, their social standing is not fixed by their occupation, and a
man who has served behind a counter all day is as well received in a
drawing-room as one who has sat on the bench or pleaded a case in court.
Of course in such a state of society impostors often effect an entrance,
and their detection makes their entertainers chary of strangers
afterwards. But so long as a man behaves himself like a gentleman he is
treated as one. Many officials, sent by the Canadian Government
temporarily to fill responsible posts, and officers whose regiments have
been disbanded, remain in Winnipeg, preferring it to any other part of
Canada, and illustrating the adage, "He who once drinks of the Red River
water cannot live without it." It is a very muddy stream, however, and
not at all inviting as a beverage.

A great many visitors, chiefly Englishmen, go to Manitoba for the
shooting and fishing, which are excellent. A friend of mine last year
bagged four hundred ducks, several geese, great numbers of partridges,
loons, and as many hares as he would waste shot on in a fortnight's
holiday. No doubt, when Manitoba and its capabilities become better
understood, and the line of railway is completed, the number of tourists
in search of sport will much increase.

How little the new province has been known hitherto the following fact
will show. A letter for me, mailed in a county town in England, in
September, and merely addressed to Winnipeg, Manitoba, omitting Canada,
travelled to France, where it received sundry postmarks, and such
sensible hints by the post-office officials as, "Try Calcutta." At last,
some one better acquainted with the geography of this side of the globe
added, "Nouvelle Amerique," and my letter reached me, _viâ_ New
York, in Christmas week, richly ornamented with postmarks, and protests
from officials that it "came to them in that condition," tied together
with two varieties of string, and frankly exhibiting its contents--a pair
of lace sleeves, which, but for the honesty of the mail service, might
easily have been abstracted.


Winter Amusements--A Winnipeg Ball--Forty Degrees below Zero--New Year's
Day--Saskatchewan Taylor--Indian Compliments--A Dog train--Lost in the
Snow--Amateur Theatricals--Sir Walter Raleigh's Hat--A Race with the
Freshets--The Ice moves--The First Steamer of the Season--Good-bye to

Snow lay several inches thick on the ground at Christmas, and we had
sleigh drives over the smooth white prairie, one great advantage of
Manitoban winters being that when once the ground is covered with snow,
if only to the depth of five or six inches, it remains, and there is good
sleighing until the frost breaks up in March or April. Sleighing parties
are varied by skating at the rink and assemblies in the town-hall, where
we meet a medley of ball goers and givers, each indulging his or her
favourite style of dancing--from the old fashioned "three-step" waltz
preferred by the elders, to the breathless "German," the simple _deux
temps_, and the graceful "Boston" dance, peculiar as yet to Americans
and Canadians. The band was composed of trained musicians who had
belonged to various regiments, and, on receiving their discharge,
remained in Canada. The hall was well lighted, the floor in good
condition, and we enjoyed taking a turn upon it, as well as watching the
Scotch reels, country dances, and Red River jigs performed by the others.

It was a gay and amusing scene, but the heavy winter dresses--many of
them short walking costumes--worn by the Manitoban belles, looked less
pretty than the light materials, bright colours, and floating trains of
an ordinary ball-room. The absence of carriages and cabs, and the
intensity of the cold, compelled ladies to adopt this sombre attire. The
mercury averaged from ten to twenty degrees below zero, frequently going
as low as thirty-three, and occasionally into the forties; yet the air is
so dry and still, that I felt the cold less when it was thirty-three
degrees below zero in Winnipeg than when only five degrees below in
Ottawa, and did not require any additional wraps.

On New Year's Day the now old-fashioned custom of gentlemen calling was
kept up, and we had many visitors, among them the American Consul, Mr.
Taylor, known in the Consulate as "Saskatchewan Taylor," from his
interest in the North-West and anxiety upon all occasions to bring its
capabilities before the public. He came in the evening, and, following
the American style, remained more than an hour, so that we were able to
get beyond the conventional topics of health and weather, and found him
very pleasant and entertaining.

During the afternoon the maid came in, looking rather flurried, and said
that visitors in the kitchen wished to see us. Going there, we were
greeted by seven Indians and their squaws, come to pay a New Year's
visit. As I looked at their brown faces and long, loose hair, memories of
stories told by cousins in the Hudson Bay Company's service, of having to
kiss all the squaws on New Year's Day, sent the blood with a rush back to
my heart; but, happily, this ceremony was dispensed with. Only one of the
party could speak English--a handsome, clear-skinned, straight-featured
Indian, in blue blanket coat, red sash, leggings, and gaily-decorated
hat. He stepped forward and made a little speech, wishing us "A long life
of many moons, sunshine, health, and rich possessions, and the smile of
the Good Spirit upon the blue-eyed papoose;" finishing by shaking hands
all round. The others, with an "Ugh!" of acquiescence, and smiling faces,
followed his example. Our hostess was unable to give them wine or whisky,
because of the stringent prohibitory laws, but she regaled them on great
slices of cake, with which they were much pleased. When Mr. C---- came in
from the line with his dog-train--four strong beasts drawing a light
cariole or covered tobogan, more like a great shoe than anything
else--the blue and red coat of his Indian runner, Tommy Harper, was much
admired by our visitors; and he told us afterwards of their admiration
for everything they saw in the house. This Tommy was a good-tempered old
fellow, but, when not running, was invariably asleep or smoking over the
kitchen fire.

About the middle of January (1877) we had a terrible snow-storm, the
worst that had been known in Manitoba for years. At five o'clock in the
evening the wind rose suddenly, and in half an hour was blowing a gale,
sending the snow whirling through the air in such blinding volume, that
it was impossible to distinguish anything twenty yards off. As night
closed in, which it does early at that season, the storm increased in
violence, and although there was then little snow falling, the wind drove
in all directions the dry snow lying upon the ground.

Many people lost their way. A shop-boy running home to tea, only round
the corner of the block, missed the turning into the gateway, and
wandered till daylight on the prairie, knowing it was certain death to
lie down. A family crossing the prairie, and seeing the storm
approaching, hastened to reach a wayside inn four or five hundred yards
distant, but before they could do so lost sight of it. After driving
several hours they were obliged to stop; and digging a hole in the snow
with their hands, covered themselves with robes and sleigh-rugs, and
drawing the sleigh over them as a little protection from the wind, they
waited until daylight--to find themselves within a hundred yards of the
inn! All next day stories were continually reaching us of narrow escapes,
of frozen feet and hands, of lost horses, frozen oxen, and travellers'
miseries in general. But this certainly was an exceptional storm, or
"blizzard," as the natives say.

Towards the end of winter it was proposed that some _tableaux_
should be exhibited in the town-hall for the benefit of a local charity.
The suggestion was hailed with delight, and every one likely to be useful
was invited to "talk it over" with Mrs. C----. And talk they did, at such
length and with such vivacity, that I wondered how the two stage-managers,
Captain H---- and Miss P----, could ever evolve order from such a chaos.
The great clatter of tongues in that small room reminded me of an old
Scotch nurse of ours, who, being summoned to keep house for a minister
cousin, was anxious first to learn how to play the lady and entertain her
guests. The cook advised her to listen at the drawing-room door when we
had a party: but she quitted her post in disgust, having heard nothing but
"a muckle clackit."

At last it was settled that the _tableaux_ were to represent the
story of "Beauty and the Beast," "Elizabeth knighting Raleigh," scenes
from "Hamlet" and "The Bohemian Girl," an emblematic group of the
nations included in the British Empire, surrounded by representatives of
the army and navy, and some well-known statues. Assuredly there was
variety enough in our programme to suit all tastes!

Our dress rehearsal, held in the old church before mentioned, was more
amusing--to the actors, at all events--than the performance itself. The
"sides," which looked well enough to those without, proved a delusion and
a snare to those within. They were used as dressing-rooms, but their
partition from the stage being only partial, and their flooring stopping
far short of the front, a great gap was left--a pitfall down which
everything tumbled. Their appointments were primitive, consisting of a
small looking-glass, a pincushion, and a piece of comb in each room. The
"properties" on the ladies' side were an old straw bonnet wreathed with
artificial flowers, and a gaudy overskirt; and on that of the gentlemen,
two hats, and a pistol and tin mug--which had probably done duty for the
"dagger and the bowl," in the last scene of a dreadful tragedy. Some of
our amateurs were fortunate enough to get complete costumes made, but
others appeared in a fragmentary condition, with a bodice of the time of
Elizabeth, and a petticoat of that of Victoria. Sir Walter Raleigh wore
the old felt hat belonging to his dressing-room, and pathetically
appealed to the spectators to imagine it adorned with a white feather and
jewelled clasp.

The girls who appeared in more than one scene had to change their
dresses, and it is impossible to describe the confusion of belongings
then thrown in a vast heap on the floor, or the despair of one young
performer whose polonaise had disappeared in the gulf. As all were in
different stages of _déshabille_, no gentleman could be called to
the rescue; so I lay down on my face and groped about with my hands till
I fished it up. But before I succeeded, two or three people were standing
on my skirts, and a pile of gipsy costumes was deposited on my legs. My
rising sent dismay to the owners' hearts, and they wailed that they would
"never be able to find their things again!"

When the great night arrived we, by means of jewellery constructed of
gold paper and glass buttons, and other ingenious devices, made a
brilliant show, and the general effect was pronounced excellent. We had
crowded houses for _two_ consecutive nights, and the only drawback
to the pleasure of our _tableaux_ was the sad and sudden death of
one of Captain H----'s children, which took place on the first night, and
aroused general sympathy.

Soon after our theatrical entertainments the snow almost entirely
disappeared, cricket was played on the prairie, and people began to look
forward to the reopening of navigation, and to bet actively on the day
and hour when the first steamboat would arrive; though the ice was still
so solid that horse-races were held on the river.

The 20th of April was a warm day, succeeding heavy rains, and it was
hoped that the ice would move next day. In the evening we were at our
assembly in the town-hall, which is built on the side of a broad, shallow
_coolé_, or gully. About ten o'clock, seeing several people look
anxiously from the windows, we went to inquire the cause, and found the
"water was out." Freshets from the prairies were rushing down the
_coolé_ beneath, carrying everything before them--dog-kennels, logs,
broken furniture, boxes, and all the usual _débris_ found scattered
about the houses on the prairie. The freshets increased so rapidly, that
it was feared if we did not leave at once we should never get home, the
water being level with the bridge, which was in imminent danger of being
carried away. The lower story of the hall was also flooded, and
considered scarcely safe. So there was cloaking in hot haste, and the
gentlemen who lived near brought all the top-boots and goloshes they
could collect for the benefit of those who had to cross the partially
submerged roads.

The ice did move next day, and on the 27th, at the sound of the steamboat
whistle, I ran to the window. As if by one impulse, every door on the
main street opened, and the inmates poured forth, men putting on their
coats, women their bonnets, while holding the kicking, struggling
bare-headed babies they had snatched up in their haste to reach the
landing as soon as the boat; boys of all sizes, ages, and descriptions,
gentle and simple, rich and poor, mustered as though by magic. In five
minutes the streets and banks of the river were black with people rushing
to meet the steamer, and the shout that greeted her at the wharf was loud
and genuine. It was the last time her arrival caused such excitement, as
before another season the railway was running to St. Boniface, and
freight and passengers could get to Winnipeg all through the winter.

The spring of 1877 was wet and backward, and we looked forward to our
journey out to the contract, where a house was nearly ready for us, with
anything but unmixed pleasure. In the hope that the state of the roads
might improve, we delayed our departure until the first week in June. For
my own part, I rejoiced over every additional delay, as I was loth to
leave Winnipeg, and the many kind friends I had made there.


A Manitoban Travelling-carriage--The Perils of Short Cuts--The Slough of
Despond--Paddy to the Rescue!--"Stick-in-the-Mud" and his
Troubles--McQuade's--An Irish Welcome--Wretched Wanderers.

After many days of packing, general confusion, and disturbing dust,
culminating in breakfast in the kitchen, dinner on a packing-case in the
parlour, high tea at a neighbour's in our travelling-gear, and a night at
the hotel, we rose at five o'clock on the morning of the 5th of June to
be ready for our journey to Clear Water Bay. All the teams, with the
household goods and chattels, had started the day before, except two for
personal baggage, and the one we were to occupy.

Of course we were ready too soon, and hours were spent in standing idly
about, and going to the gate to see if the trams were coming. When they
were at last packed and off, it was decided to be altogether too late for
us to follow until after luncheon which with only an uncertain prospect
of a heavier meal later, we turned into dinner. Then some one remembered
half a dozen forgotten things which it was impossible to do without, and
it was nearly four o clock when our waggon arrived--a springless vehicle
with three narrow seats, and drawn by two broken winded steeds.

After packing all our _impedimenta_ in the waggon there was
literally no room for us. What was to be done? Between our efforts to
make the driver, a stupid, tipsy French half-breed, understand English by
screaming it as loud as we could, the variety of our baggage, and the
curiosity of the passers by, we soon had a small crowd of interested
listeners and apparently sympathizing friends. Finally the livery stable
keeper made his appearance, and after some discussion agreed to exchange
that waggon for a larger one. Jumping into it, he lashed the horses, who
went at a furious pace down the street, proving their powers, but, alas,
scattering the half packed contents of the waggon--rugs, cushions,
blankets, tin kettles, and pails--at irregular intervals over the road.
In half an hour a larger vehicle was brought, and we hastily repacked,
receiving contributions of our property from every one who passed while
the operation was going on, so that it was late in the afternoon before
we left Winnipeg. When we arrived at the river, of course the ferry-boat
was on the opposite side, and we had to wait for its return, which seemed
the climax to the day's worries. We growled audibly, feeling that we were
entitled to do so, having had enough provocation to ruffle the most
angelic tempers. With scarcely room to sit, and nowhere, to speak of, to
put our feet, bodily discomfort helped to put us out of humour.

Can you imagine a three-seated waggon, containing a load of valises,
travelling-bags, a tin box of edibles for a week's journey, tents,
blankets, pans, kettles, pails, a box of earth filled with bedding
plants, a bundle of currant bush slips, a box of cats--being _the_
cat and five kittens--a box of family silver, engineers' instruments,
wraps of every description, provender for the horses, a bag of bread, the
driver's own provisions (it was part of the bargain that he was to "find"
himself), loose articles of all kinds, thrown in at the last moment, five
adults, two children, one small dog and an unhappy-looking canary? This
motley assemblage was stowed away as well as possible, the kettles and
pails being hung at the back and sides, after the fashion of the
travelling tinkers' carts. There certainly was a very emigrant-like
appearance about the whole thing, in spite of the tasteful trimming of
our shade hats.

The ferry-boat came for us at last, and as we drove over the prairie at a
moderate rate, delays having become things of the past, we were for the
next hour almost merry. This transient joy was soon dispelled by our
driver, who, without any warning, turned off the road through some swampy
ground. Pulling up suddenly before an apparently unbroken line of trees,
he craned his neck first one way and then the other in search of an
opening, unheeding the expostulations in French and English with which he
was assailed, until, finding what he sought, and nicking his whip over
the horses' ears, he condescended to reply, "_Je fais le detour!_
Bad, _voila!_" Then, urging his horses on, he charged into the
bushes, and drove along what had been once a cart trail (one could hardly
call it a road), overgrown with underbrush. Long branches met overhead,
and we were kept busy, alternately warding them, off our faces and
holding on to our seats--for the track was a succession of uneven hills,
hollows, and short turns, with which our driver seemed as unacquainted as

About six o'clock we came to the high-road, which crossed the end of our
track--the highroad that has cost our country over thirteen million
dollars--the far-famed and much-talked-of Dawson road. It was some two
feet higher than our rough track, and separated from it by a large mud
puddle, in which, after a lurch to one side and a violent jerk from the
horses, the waggon-wheels sank on the other. A volley of oaths was
discharged by our half-breed, followed by a crack of his long whip, and a
sharp struggle, and then the near horse fell back on his haunches and we
stuck fast. Down rolled the best valise, out sprang Jehu, carrying with
him into the mud our biggest blanket. Mr. C----, in slippers, sat on the
top of the waggon demanding his boots, which where _somewhere_ at
the bottom; somebody else was searching wildly for a rope and axe, which
proved to be _nowhere_; everybody was giving a different opinion on
the best means of extricating ourselves, only uniting in one thing,
namely, abuse of the driver, who stood knee-deep in mud, hitching up his
trousers and muttering something about _le détour_. We women,
meantime, tried to quiet the screaming children, and prevent the
"unconsidered trifles" which filled the corners of the waggon from
falling out--a duty not unattended with danger, as pussy, on guard over
her nursery, and excited by the general _bouleversement_, gave a
spiteful claw to any foot or hand which approached too near her box.

No rope, axe, nor chain, could be found; there was nothing but mud on
every side to unload in, and not a house for miles to shelter us for the
night. Fortunately, before very long a waggon passed on the high-road,
whose occupants were a kindly Irishman, his wife, and child.

"Faith, is it help ye want, yer honour? It's meself never refused help to
any man," said Paddy; and jumping down, he produced a chain. Fastening
the tongue of the waggon to one end, and the horses to the other, he
drove them up to the high-road, where, having firmer foothold, a few
pulls drew us out of the mud-hole. We thanked the old man for his help,
but saw him and his chain depart with regret. Having better horses and a
lighter load, he soon left us far behind.

On we jogged, sometimes on the road, but more often off it, driving
through every clump of trees that grew in our way, as the roots gave some
firmness to the swampy ground. Now and then, when returning to the road,
the waggon would almost stick, but, after a lunge, pull, and struggle,
attended by a volley of French from our Jehu and a screech from the
women, it righted itself again. A little later we passed the teams that
had left Winnipeg so long before us in the morning; one of them was stuck
deep in the mud, and the drivers were just parting company--the first, a
French Canadian, declining to help the second, an Irish Canadian boy,
whose good-natured face was a picture of dismay, as he stood
contemplating the scene of disaster. The Frenchman declared that he had
stuck three times, and had to unload both teams twice, and he wasn't
going to do it again; so he whipped up his horse and left poor young
"Stick-in-the-Mud," as we dubbed him, to his fate. Promising to send a
yoke of oxen from McQuade's, five miles further on, where we intended
putting up for the night, we also left him, but not without regret. I
could not help feeling sorry for the poor boy out there alone on the
prairie, perhaps for the whole night, as it was by no means certain that
the hoped-for yoke of oxen would be forthcoming. But the lad was so
civil, and evidently so determined to make the best of things, that
fortune favoured him. A mile further on we met a long train of carts, and
Mr. C---- shouted to the driver of the first to go and help
"Stick-in-the-Mud," promising to pay him for his services. By this time
it was getting dark, the mosquitoes were troublesome, and the children
were hungry and cross, and we joyfully hailed the first glimmer of the
lights at McQuade's. But though in sight of the haven where we would be,
our troubles were not yet over. Crossing a broken culvert not half a mile
from the house, one of the horses fell in, and we all had to get out and
walk, an annoyance which we felt to be the "last straw" on our
much-enduring backs.

McQuade's is merely a farmhouse on the main road. But in the usual
condition of those roads it is the first stopping-place from Winnipeg,
and McQuade's, or "Little Pointe du Chêne," as it is sometimes called, is
familiar to all the engineers on the staff of that part of the Canada
Pacific Railway. The yard was full of the teams which had left Winnipeg
the day before, and the kitchen, or general living room, was crowded with
teamsters, who, however, when we appeared, withdrew to a dark little
cook-house a few yards from the door.

The room vacated for us was low-roofed, with unplastered ceiling, whose
rafters were hung with bunches of garden herbs. Two narrow windows were
set sideways in the wall, their deep window-seats serving as bookcase and
sideboard: holding the Bible and almanac, the old lady's best bonnet, a
pot or two of preserves, a nosegay of spring flowers, and a tea-caddy. An
old-fashioned four-post bedstead stood in one corner, covered with a
patchwork quilt; in another was an impromptu bed, spread on the floor,
and occupied by a woman and two children, apparently asleep. A table,
covered with oil-cloth, with some cups and saucers on it, stood between
the bed and a dresser cupboard, containing rows of shining milk-pans,
piled one on the top of the other and separated by a board. Behind the
house door a flight of narrow steps led "up ter chamber," as the old
woman in the rocking-chair informed us; and underneath these stairs was a
primitive washing apparatus, consisting of a bench holding a basin and
two wooden pails, with a long towel hanging from a stick.

The farmer bustled in and out, greeting some of us as old friends,
summoning Alice, the maid-of-all-work--a down-trodden, stupid-looking
girl of fourteen--to make up the fire and get the kettle boiling, and
putting his head into the doorway, "just to tell the missus," as he
ushered us in. "The missus," a kindly-looking old Irishwoman in a white
cap and kerchief, wriggled over in her chair to greet us, for she was
"set fast by the rheumatism," and could not rise. But from long
confinement to her chair she had learnt to get about in it very well; her
natural energy expending itself on shuffling all over the room, screaming
to Alice to know "why that there kettle didn't boil?" and generally
making us welcome in her way.

"There's lots of milk--plenty; you're welcome to it; and there'll be
boilin' water presently. If I could only get a holt of that Alice, I'd
make things lively for her! I'm wore out with her entirely. If you've
brought your own provisions all right; but there have been so many
travellers by lately, there isn't a bite in the house, till me eldest
darter comes and bakes for me to-morrow." Yes, she had seven darters, all
well married round about, blessed be God! and they came turn and turn
about to look after the old people, do the work, and see after things,
while she just kept the bit thing Alice to do the chores and wait on her;
but she warn't much good.

Thus our hostess ran on, until the horse was extricated, and we got
possession of our rugs and provisions. The boiling water appearing at the
same time, we soon sat down to tea; and, as it was too late to pitch our
tent that night, we spread our rugs and blankets on the two bedsteads "up
ter chamber"--a mere unfurnished garret--and were soon in bed.

Not long afterwards, hearing a great deal of laughter downstairs, I
listened, and gathered that "Stick-in-the-Mud" had arrived, and the men
were chaffing him for having paid the half-breed two dollars for lending
him two oxen for five minutes to extricate his train.

Tired as I was, the mosquitoes were so attentive that I found it
impossible to sleep. About midnight "that wretched Alice" crept up the
stairs, and lay down in a corner, partitioned off from the rest of the
garret by a grey blanket nailed to the rafters. I am sure she did not
undress much, nor could she have slept long, as she was downstairs again
before three o'clock, and I heard the old woman rating her from her bed.

When we descended at about six, the men and teams were all gone, and the
tenants of the floor bed had taken advantage of an offered ride to help
them on their way. Poor woman! she was journeying from Detroit, to the
work on "15," to join her brother. She had been a month on the road, and
had still another week or ten days of walking before her.


Faithless Jehu--The "Blarney Stone"--Mennonites in search of
News--"Water, Water everywhere"--A Herd of Buffaloes--A Mud
Village--Pointe du Chêne and Old Nile--At Dawson Route--A Cheerful
Party--_Toujours perdrix_--The "Best Room"--A Government Shanty--Cats
and Dogs--Birch River--Mushroom-picking--The Mosquito Plague--A Corduroy
Road--The Cariboo Muskeg.

When we resumed our journey, the weather was hazy and seemed to threaten
a thunderstorm. Accordingly, we made great haste, in the hope of reaching
"Pointe du Chêne" proper before the storm broke. But when all else was
ready, neither our Jehu nor his steeds could be found; he had taken them
about a mile further on, to spend the night at a friend's, and did not
make his appearance until eight o'clock. As I bade our old hostess
good-bye, she seized hold of my ulster, and feeling its texture, said--

"Are ye warm enough, child, in that thing? Ye'll feel the cold drivin'.
Ye'd better have a shawl."

Thanking her for her inquiries, I assured her that I was quite warm.

"Ah, well," she said, patting me on the arm, "take care of yourself. Good
people are scarce."

Poor old creature! her good nature made me glad she was my countrywoman.
A kind thought expressed in the familiar accents of "Ould Oireland" is
welcome to the wayfarer in strange lands, even though it may often be
"only blarney" after all.

Reaching a bend in the little river Seine at noon, we halted for dinner,
and lighted a fire. But not daring to waste much time in unpacking, we
took what we could eat in our fingers, and fed the children. Before we
had finished, we were joined by a party of Mennonites, in a comfortable
covered waggon drawn by two powerful horses. The family consisted of an
elderly man; his wife, a pretty, quaint-looking little woman; a daughter,
apparently sixteen; a boy of twelve; and two little girls of about six,
looking like twins. They were well dressed, in the quaint costume of
their country. The man, who alone could speak English, told us they were
going to Winnipeg to hear the war news, and gave a look of utter
astonishment at our ignorance of the latest telegrams. It made me feel
quite ashamed of not having taken more interest in the progress of
current events, to meet a party of emigrants driving miles through these
solitudes to hear what I had passed heedlessly by when close under my
hand. The Mennonite elder was very polite; but, judging from the shrugs
indulged in by the family after a remark uttered in their own language,
they did not think highly of our intelligence.

Before we were packed into the waggon again the rain came down in
earnest, and the whole afternoon was spent in vain endeavours to keep
ourselves dry. Waterproofs, blankets, umbrellas, all were soaked, as hour
after hour we were dragged slowly through the muskeg, or marsh, following
no apparent track, and with the water often up to the "hubs" of the
wheels. No sooner were our umbrellas placed in a suitable position to
keep off the rain, than Jehu would make one of his _détours_, and
the wind and rain meeting us on the other side, away flew our wraps, and
all the umbrellas had to be rearranged. The difficulty of doing this, and
yet keeping them from dripping down some one's neck, was almost
insuperable. Mosquitoes, too, flying about in swarms, added their quota
to our discomfort. The poor canary had a hard time of it, for in spite of
all our care the cage repeatedly filled with water, which I had to empty
over the side of the waggon. Luckily, the cats kept quiet, and no one was
anxious to know whose feet were in the box of plants!

About three miles from Pointe du Chêne, a herd of buffalo feeding in the
distance made us forget our misery for a moment. They had not been met
with so near a civilized neighbourhood for years; the wet and stormy
weather was the cause of their approach. I was disappointed in their
appearance; they looked to me very like a herd of farm cattle, but seemed
to feed closer together. I had, however, not much chance to study their
peculiarities; another _détour_ speedily requiring my attention. On
looking for the buffaloes when again at leisure, they were nowhere to be

Pointe du Chêne is, without exception, the muddiest village I ever was
in. We drove through streams of mud; fences were built in mud, mud
extended on every side for acres. The houses were so surrounded with mud,
ankle-deep, nay, knee-deep, that one wondered how the inmates ever got
out. Yet they told us that in a few weeks all would be quite dry; that
what were now some of the largest mud-lakes would then be the finest
wheat-fields; and it is possible that mud here may have the same
fertilizing properties as it has on the banks of the Nile, and that
agriculture may be carried on upon the same principles in this part of
Canada as in Egypt.

At the Dawson route way-house we were received by a white-haired old man
_en route_ to take a situation as cook in one of the houses on the
line--though certainly no one ever looked less like a cook. He ushered us
into the kitchen, the only room boasting a fire, and we were there met by
the proprietor, a depressed and apologetic sort of person. After several
whispered consultations with a hopeless wife, who moved in melancholy
protest, or sat with her head leaning against the wall, applying the
corner of her apron to her eyes so constantly, that that particular
corner would not lie flat when allowed to drop, he put up a stove in the
front room, which was soon festooned in every direction with our drenched

Two rooms upstairs, clean-looking, but almost devoid of furniture, were
allotted to us, and finding that we should be unable to continue our
journey for at least thirty-six hours, we tried to make the best of them.
Fearing that we might encounter further delays where it would be
impossible to get food, we decided to husband what we had, especially as
we discovered that our Jehu, whenever he got into the waggon from the wet
muskeg, had sat on the bag of bread, which still further reduced our
supplies. Accordingly we determined to content ourselves with whatever
might be set before us, which proved to be pork, bread, and tea for
breakfast; bread, tea, and pork for dinner; and tea, pork, and bread for
supper. As we ventured to make a mild remark upon the monotony of the
bill of fare, a bottle of pickles was produced next morning, our dejected
hostess informing us, in a sepulchral tone, that it cost "one dollar,
Hudson Bay Company store prices."

Towards nightfall the French teamster arrived, with his load rather
mixed. He had been compelled to unload and reload so often, that
everything was where it should not be. Stove-pipes, down which the rain
poured in rusty streams, were lying on the top of the best mattresses;
and, generally speaking, all the light things were underneath, and all
the heavy ones on the top. Soon after the Frenchman, "Stick-in-the-Mud"
arrived alone, drenched and miserable. _His_ load was again "stuck
in the muskeg, a matter of two mile off, he guessed." If left there all
night, it would sink so deep in that quicksand-like marsh that there
would be little hope of ever extracting it. The poor lad said his team
was too done up to be of any use, and he was so "dead tired, he hadn't a
leg to stand on." Still, he didn't object to go back if men and teams
were sent with him. And after a great deal of tramping through the muddy
village, our people succeeded in getting a yoke of oxen to send to the
rescue of our Saratogas.

Meantime the best room of the inn had been "tidied up"--I suppose in our
honour, for next day our meals were served there instead of in the
kitchen as at first. It resembled the "best room" of most Canadian
farmhouses. A four-post bedstead stood in one corner, covered with a
patchwork quilt, generally the work of the wife when a girl; a bureau was
decorated with the few books possessed by the family--usually a Bible,
almanac, and photograph album--the best cups and saucers, a looking-glass
and a pin-cushion; an old-fashioned roomy sofa filled another corner. The
dining-table in the centre had extension leaves, very far from level; the
wall was decorated with a big clock, a couple of bright-coloured prints,
a portrait or two and a sampler; and the floor was covered in patches
with rag mats.

If we flattered ourselves that promotion into the "best room" would
ensure privacy, we were doomed to disappointment. The whole family, from
the doleful mamma to the youngest olive-branch, favoured us with their
presence, sat on the sofa, and, looking through the album, were kind
enough to discuss their relations and friends _pro bono publico_.
The youngest child, aged five, having an occasional inclination to lay
violent hands upon portions of our dinner, was pounced upon by one or
other of her family, roughly shaken or thumped, and banged down upon a
hard wooden chair; while from some other loving relative came the remark,
made between set teeth, "I'd slap her, I would!" Poor little thing! she
did not seem "a' there," as the Scotch say; the frequent boxing and
banging her poor head underwent probably increasing, if it did not
occasion, her stupidity.

Early on Friday morning we set out again, under more favourable auspices,
though the day was cold and cloudy. One of the division superintendents,
or "walking bosses" as they are called, employed by the contractors, had
arrived at our resting-place the day before, _en route_ for the
"Angle," and he offered to exchange teams with us, if we would allow him
to accompany his good horses. This proposal was gladly accepted, and with
the utmost satisfaction we saw our French-Indian Jehu depart with his
ill-conditioned brutes.

After leaving Pointe du Chêne, the road for some distance lies up a long
rocky hill, and then passes through a comparatively well-wooded country.
But we thought little of surrounding scenery. The wind was so cold, and
the frequent snow-storms during the day were so disagreeable, that we had
quite enough to do to keep ourselves and the children warm.

We had our dinner near a dismantled log-house on the bank of a narrow
creek, and reaching Whitemouth River about seven, put up at a shanty
built by Government to shelter travellers on the Dawson road. It is kept
by a Norwegian named Nord and his wife, and can only boast of three small
rooms and a kitchen. It was too cold to camp out, so, spreading our rugs
and blankets on the floor, we lay down and slept, too tired to heed the
hardness of the boards.

On Saturday the air was warmer, and the road comparatively good, and we
were sufficiently at ease to look out for and admire the wild-flowers
that grew on every side (Mr. R---- good-naturedly stopping to gather some
for us), and watch for the young rabbits started by the dogs, who yelped
loudly when in full chase after them. We had two dogs when we left
Winnipeg, but now our pack numbered eight, some joining us at every
halting-place. But in the same proportion that the dogs increased, the
cats decreased, a kitten being begged at every house, as they were
overrun with mice; and our cats were received with almost as much delight
as Dick Whittington's historical speculation. Unfortunately, however, the
recipients were too poor to make our fortunes in return. At noon we
passed our teamsters, and Mr. R----'s gang of navvies, rather
picturesquely grouped round their camp fire, where tea was boiling and
pork frying. The untethered horses were feeding by the roadside, and
"Stick-in-the-Mud," for once superior to his name, was alone plodding
steadily on. This was our easiest day's journey, and it was scarcely four
o'clock when we reached Birch river, a dry sandy hill round which a tiny
creek wound. We were glad of a few hours' respite to run about and
stretch our weary limbs. One of our party discovering that the banking of
the shanty was full of mushrooms, we gathered a great many, and took them
to the kitchen to be cooked.

This way-house is kept by two brothers, who have literally nothing to do
but cook, eat, and sleep, bare shelter being all that the Government
supplies to travellers. One of the brothers was making dough-nuts and
boiling them in a pot of fat, and although they did not look tempting I
had the greatest curiosity to taste them. However, as he did not give me
any encouragement to ask for one, my curiosity remained unsatisfied, and
I had to content myself with the mushrooms, which had full justice done
to them. As night came on, the mosquitoes were terrible; smoke was of no
avail to keep them away. The cook told me that the season for them was
only just beginning, and that they were nothing to what they would be in
a month. The previous summer their cow had literally been tortured to
death, between the mosquitoes and deer-flies. Mr. C---- had a mosquito
netting tent which was put up in the room we slept in, so that we had
comparative exemption from their torments; but it was too hot to sleep,
and all night long I heard the men outside fighting with and swearing at
their winged enemies.

We set out early on Sunday, as we had a long day's drive before us, and
were to have our first experience of a corduroy road. The one in question
was a very bad specimen, a succession of deep mud-holes, round some of
which we skirted cautiously, wondering how "Stick-in-the-Mud" would get
through, and plunging into some swamps, which seemed to tax all the
strength our team could exert to lug us out again. We soon arrived at the
great Cariboo muskeg, on the smooth squared-timber road. This muskeg
must, at some earlier stage of the world's existence, have been a great
lake full of islands; now it is a grassy swamp, the water clear as spring
water, studded with groups of high rocks of varied size and shape,
overgrown by tall pines, birch, scrubby underbrush, ferns, and moss. We
had been getting on with such comparative ease that we began to think our
fears of the "corduroy road" had been groundless; but before night we
experienced the wisdom of the warning not to "halloo before we were out
of the bush." We took our lunch on some flat rocks, near a place known on
the road as "six-mile shanty;" not without difficulty, as the dogs, like
ourselves, were hungry, and, while we were in chase of a refractory
umbrella carried away by the wind, one dog demolished the butter and
another ran off with our roast beef; and when we reflected that it was
the last fresh meat we were likely to taste for months, we saw it depart
with regret, even though the ham had been left us.

If the roads were bad in the morning, they were ten times worse in the
afternoon; and nothing, I think, will ever make me forget the last five
miles of real corduroy road we traversed before reaching the "Angle." It
consisted of round logs, loosely bound together, and thrown down upon a
marsh, no two consecutive logs being of the same size. There had
originally been some foundation, and there were still deep drains dug on
each side; but the logs had given way at different ends in some parts,
and altogether in others. It was bump, bump, bang, and swash; swash,
bang, and bump; now up, now down, now all on one side, now all on the
other. Cushions, rugs, everything that could slide, slid off the seats;
the children were frightened and fretting; the bird fluttered itself
almost to death in vain attempts to escape; the kittens were restless;
and all our hair-pins, slipping down our backs, added a cold shiver to
our other miseries.

One longed to cry out and beg to be allowed to stop, if only for a
moment. But of what use would that have been? We had to endure it, so it
was best to get it over quickly. In many places the old road was
completely gone, and we had to drive through such dreadful holes that we
wondered the waggon, came out entire. [Footnote: Much of this part of the
road is now under water and well-nigh impassable, the prospect of soon
having the Canada Pacific Railway in working order making it seem waste
of time and money to repair it.] Never was smooth road greeted with
greater pleasure than we hailed the last mile from the "Angle;" and never
did more stiff and weary travellers arrive at any bourn than our party
when alighting at the "Angle" that night.


The "Nor'-west Angle"--The Company's House--Triumph of
"Stick-in-the-Mud"--On the Lake of the Woods--A Gallant Cook--Buns
_à l'imprèvu_--A Man overboard!--Camping out--Clear Water Bay--Our
First Portage--A Noble Savage--How Lake Rice and Lake Deception won
their Names--At our Journey's End.

The "Nor'-west Angle" is a little village at the north-west corner of
the Lake of the Woods, and at the mouth of a nameless river, or narrow
arm of the lake. The banks on one side are high and wooded, on the other
high also, but completely bare of shrubs or trees; while between them the
river wanders hither and thither through marshy ground, looking somewhat
as one fancies the fens at home must do.

The company's house is a long, low white building, with narrow windows
and doors, neat fences and grass plots in front, and a very fair kitchen
garden, showing signs of care and attention. The houses near are all
one-storied, log-built, and plastered with mud inside and out. There are
also several birch-bark wigwams, full of smoke and swarthy children; the
owners squatting at their low doors, or, with their dirty blankets
wrapped more tightly round them, leaning on the fence to stare at the

The "Angle" was quite lively that afternoon. All our own teams were
there, "Stick-in-the-Mud" having arrived first after all, with his load
in a better condition than the others. Such a genuine smile of
satisfaction beamed on his good-natured face, that I could not forbear
congratulating him on his triumph over difficulties. Several other teams
had brought supplies for the contractor; and fifty or sixty navvies going
out in search of work on the contract were camped about everywhere; some
in tents, some under waggons, while some sat up all night round the
fires, smoking and recounting their experience of the road. Many of the
men were very lame and stiff, after their hundred-mile tramp. Numbers of
Indians had come in to trade, and the ceaseless "tom-tom" from the wigwam
on the opposite bank told how they were gambling away their earnings.
They kept up this dissipation until daylight, when they went away in
canoes. The way-house being full when we arrived, the Hudson Bay
Company's officer very kindly vacated his quarters for us, and paid us
every attention in his power, even robbing his tiny garden of half its
early lettuce for our benefit. We had a comfortable night's sleep, much
enjoyed after our toils and troubles, and on a misty summer morning we
packed ourselves and our luggage into a large rowing-boat. The big
steamer, _Lady of the Lake_, being, as usual, stuck on a rock, about
forty miles out, we were towed behind a barge by a shaky-looking little
tug. Glad were we to have room to move about a little, and after the
crowded and cramping waggon the boat seemed a paradise.

Floating almost due north over the smooth waters of the bay, we were soon
on the Lake of the Woods. The scenery is very lovely; island follows
island. Some seem but a pile of moss-covered stone, every crevice filled
with ferns, blueberries, and wild juniper bushes; others are great masses
of rock, their perpendicular sides covered with curling black cariboo
moss and crowned with great pines; others, again, have shelving sandy
shores, covered with tangled vines and bright-hued wild-flowers. As we
passed along, each long stretch of the lake appeared more beautiful than
the last. Then the sun went down, turning to gold and crimson the fleecy
clouds mirrored in the lake, glinting on the distant white pines,
throwing into bold relief their darker brothers and the jagged walls of
moss-covered rock, in varied tints--black, red, green, and white. The
shadows slowly deepened, the long grey clouds hung like a curtain in the
sky, where the stars began to gleam softly. The varied foliage turned to
a deep, rich blue, shading into green like a peacock's tail. Silence was
around us, broken only by the weird cry of the loon diving in the distant
bay, and the ceaseless, monotonous puff-puff of the little tug as she
pursued her way over the peaceful waters.

About three or four o'clock--how little note we took of time!--we reached
the rock on which the big steamer was still fast, stopping to give her
another anchor and cable, and wishing her good luck and a speedy release.

We had been amusing ourselves during the afternoon by watching the cook
on the barge dive up and down through the narrow doorway of a sort of box
to a small rusty sheet-iron cooking-stove, with an equally rusty
stove-pipe. First seizing an axe, he chopped up some wood from a pile in
the corner, and filled the stove; then he dragged down a bag of flour into
his den; then up again he started, as suddenly as a Jack-in-the-box, for
a round tin; then for some flat pans. Next we heard him shouting from
below, "Is that fire burning good, boys? Cram her full; pile in more
wood, and don't heed the smoke!" and he suddenly appeared with the pans
full of buns, which were quickly baked. Then, leaning over the railing of
the barge, he cried--

"If you would have your tea now, ladies, while the buns are hot, and
would pass along your tea-kettle, I have some tea ready for you."

Accepting his invitation with thanks, a tin can of buns was soon in our
boat, and never did the lightest tea-buns, served in the daintiest of
snowy napkins, taste more delicious. The number we demolished proved our
appreciation of his cookery.

About sundown we altered our course. After passing a pretty green hill,
from which a group of squaws, children, and dogs watched us, we turned to
the west and entered Clear Water Bay. The night was getting dark, damp,
and chilly, the children were sleepy, and we were tired and silent. The
men on the tug had become quiet and drowsy; nothing seemed to stir but
the flying sparks from the funnel of the tug, which dropped all around
us, and not even a cry from a loon broke through the stillness.

Suddenly--"Here we are!" rang out from a dozen voices, followed by a
heavy splash and a cry of "A man overboard!" While we peered out into the
darkness, dreading we knew not what, a laugh came from the barge. It was
only the short stove-pipe, which some one had knocked overboard in the
darkness. In our relief at finding that the accident was nothing worse,
we quite forgot the future misery of our poor friend the bun-maker, whose
cookery would have to be carried on amidst redoubled volumes of smoke. A
moment later the light of a camp fire appeared, and leaving the tug the
barge was poled up to it. One of the engineers belonging to Mr. C----'s
staff came to meet us. He had been ordered into town, and had waited at
Clear Water two days for the tug or steamer to take him to the "Angle,"
intending, if they did not arrive before morning, to cross next day in a

We were soon comfortably settled in Mr. K----'s tent, while he directed a
party of Indians, who seemed to spring up in every direction, to put up
another. Some of the men on the barge had tents too; others made great
fires, piled with broken branches until the blaze shot up to the
tree-tops. The swift, silent movements of the Indians stepping hither
and thither, now in the glare of the fire, then lost in the surrounding
darkness; the chatter of the men; the barking of the dogs; and the sharp
crackle of the blazing logs helped to compose a strange and lively scene.
Gradually all grew quiet, and settled down for the night; the Indians,
rolling themselves in their blankets, lay down with their feet to the
fire, and we felt that this was indeed a fitting ending to our day upon
the Lake of the Woods.

I think one always wakes earlier when camping out than when sleeping in a
house. Our first night under canvas in the "Nor'-west" was no exception
to the rule. We were up and out before five o'clock; yet, early as it
was, we found our camping-ground almost deserted. The Indians, who were
nearly all "packers," employed by the contractors to carry stuff over the
portages, had shouldered their packs and gone, and only a few of the men
still lingered. One poor fellow had caught several fish, and on being
asked what he would take for them, replied that he would gladly exchange
a couple for a piece of fat and the loan of a frying-pan to cook his own
meal in. This offer was at once accepted, and before long we had some
nicely cleaned fish added to our repast. The fire being stirred up, and
the kettle set on, I heard groans of despair over the condition of the
larder. The tin box which contained all that was left of our supplies
became more difficult to pack the more empty it grew, and, being unloaded
the night before by hands ignorant of the necessity of keeping it right
side up, the salt was spilt into the tea, and the preserves were smeared
over all the spoons. There was no bread left, and at last we had to
content ourselves with a rather light meal of fish and salted tea,
consoled by the reflection that we were near the end of our journey.

The camping-ground did not look at all romantic in the morning. Furniture
was scattered everywhere, boxes of all sizes and descriptions were strewn
about amidst dead fires and charred branches, and a general air of
untidiness and discomfort pervaded everything. Mr. K---- left us soon
after breakfast, and we set out to walk over our first portage.
[Footnote: A "portage" is the shore of a cataract, rapid, or chute, along
which the Indians carry their canoes and luggage. The Winnipeg River, in
its course of 160 miles from the Lake of the Woods to Lake Winnipeg,
makes a descent of 360 feet, occasioning falls, rapids, chutes, and
cataracts, which make its navigation difficult. The portaging, or
carrying power of the Indians, says Major Butler, is remarkable; one man
often carrying two hundred-weight for several miles. The skill with which
they avoid whirlpools, land below the fall and re-launch their canoes
above it beyond the power of the current, is unerring, and indispensable
to travellers.] This led us up a narrow pathway, all hills and hollows;
then over a smooth rock with the trail scarcely visible. A narrow gully
succeeded, still wet from the spring rain; then we passed through a belt
of low-growing trees leading to a bare rock, its crevices filled with
moss white as the rock itself. On reaching the highest point we stopped
to rest and look back. Clearwater Bay lay far below us, glistening in the
sunlight, and beyond, over the point that forms the bay, the lake and its
numberless islands extended for miles. As we descended, we met the
packers returning for another load, coming at a light, easy run, one
after the other, in Indian file, their straps hanging loosely over one
arm. Mr. C----'s own man, a handsome, lithe, graceful Indian of the Brant
tribe, stepped out of the line to shake hands with us and bid us welcome
to the contract, with a natural politeness and grace which would have
adorned the drawing-rooms of civilization.

This Indian, rejoicing in the name of Youal Carrière, was tall and
slight, lithe as a tiger, and quick as lightning; never at a loss,
naturally intelligent, and an adept in almost everything he attempted.
Having had a fair commercial education when in Brantford among his own
people, he was as good a clerk in an office as guide in the bush or cook
in camp. He was a keen politician, and ready to discuss almost any
question, yet always respectful and attentive. Although never officious,
he managed to make himself indispensable. He was fonder of life in the
bush than in town, yet as ready to amuse himself when there as any of his
friends; rather inclined to brag of his doings and sayings, and able to
tell the best story in camp, whoever might be his comrades.

We soon found ourselves on the shore of a small lake, which obtained its
name oddly enough. The first party of surveyors who crossed it upset two
bags of rice in its waters, and thenceforward it was known as Rice Lake.
On reaching the opposite shore, we found a man waiting to cross. He had
come down the night before, but all the boats were on the other side.

The second portage was much shorter and more level than the first, and
consisted of a pretty woodland track of less than half a mile to Lake
Deception, so called from the many times and many ways in which the first
surveying party were misled when running the line along its shores. One
night, after a hard day's work, they had settled down round their camp
fires, and, while dozing over their pipes, were roused by a shrill halloo
from down the trail. Not having had a mail for weeks, and expecting one
hourly, they all turned out to meet the carrier, shouting loudly to guide
him to the camp; but they were answered only by the shrill scream of the
screech-owl, whose hooting had led them on their bootless chase. Lake
Deception is very beautiful, with deep shady bays, high rocky shores, and
fair green islands. At the head of one of the bays Mr. C---- had built
his house.

As we neared the wharf, where stood a small shanty called by the men "The
Fort," with a piece of red cotton doing duty as a flag flying from its
roof, a canoe came out to meet us, and a warm welcome from the doctor, an
old friend, followed. The Fort contained three rooms, each having a
narrow window, and the largest provided with a mud chimney and open
fireplace. The furniture comprised a couple of bunk-beds, a few shelves,
one table, several stools and benches, washstands built into the corners,
and a comfortable sofa, seeming very much out of place in what, to our
eyes, looked anything but a comfortable abode. Yet we were told it was
one of the most luxurious shanties on the line.

Our luggage could not be brought over until late in the afternoon, so
there was nothing to be done but to exercise our patience and wait,
enduring the discomfort of feeling as well as looking as if we had
travelled for a week, with all the dust of the Dawson road, as well as
all the mud of the muskegs, upon our persons.


Making a New Home--Carrière's Kitchen--The Navvies' _Salle-à-Manger_--A
Curious Milking Custom--Insect Plagues--Peterboro' Canoes--Fishing
Trips--Mail-day--Indian dread of drowning--The Indian Mail-carrier and
his Partner--Talking by Telegraph--Prairie Fires.

A detailed account of how we spent the next few weeks would be of little
interest, so I will only give it in outline. We slept in the house and
took our meals at the fort, Carrière doing the cooking under a low tent
close by, which, as a kitchen, was decidedly a curiosity. It occupied a
small space not ten feet square, in only five feet of which we could
stand upright, and contained cases of tinned fruits, vegetables, sauces,
and meats, barrels of flour and meal, caddies of tea and coffee, a small
sheet-iron cooking-stove, all the pots, pans, pasteboards, and all other
culinary necessaries. There was also a rickety table, at which the men,
often five and six at a time, had their meals, sitting on the nearest
case, bag, or barrel. It was so crowded that one wondered how Carrière
managed to get up such excellent dinners with such limited accommodation.
He also made delicious bread, baking it in a hole in the side of the
hill, heated by building a fire round it.

By degrees we moved into the house, as the carpenters moved out, taking
their bed of shavings with them; and we found daily amusement in the
novelty of our surroundings. The house stood on a slight elevation in the
valley above the lake, about a hundred and fifty feet off. To the west
was a perpendicular wall of rock, rising to a height of forty or fifty
feet, covered with tall pines, moss, and ferns. To the east lay a plot of
grass, divided by a deep narrow creek from half a dozen dirty tents
occupied by the navvies.

The largest of these had a fire burning before it, over which hung a
perpetual kettle of pea-soup. Hard by stood a long table of rough boards,
laid on rudely fashioned trestles; another board, narrower, and several
inches lower, serving as a seat. This table was set almost as often as
the pea-soup was stirred. Its appointments were simple, but satisfactory
to the guests. There were tin plates and cups, heavy knives and forks, a
pepper pot, a mug of mustard, another of salt, a bottle of pickles, and
one of sauce. When dinner was ready, the cook, a little fat man, with an
apron tied round his waist, a long red _toque_ on his head, and his
shirt-sleeves rolled above his elbows, put his hands to his mouth, and
gave a loud halloo. Then from every part of the works poured the men
belonging to his mess, going first to the creek to wash their hands. As
soon as they were seated, the little fellow filled their plates first
with soup and next with pork and beans, out of another steaming pot. Ten
minutes of rapid feeding satisfied their appetites, and they adjourned to
the fallen trees and scattered logs to enjoy their pipes at leisure.

Vigorously wiping down the table, the cook set it anew for the
"officers"--that is, the contractors, engineers, and their assistants;
the doctor, paymaster, and any one of similar status, who happened to be
_en route_ to another part of the line. Their dinner call was a
shrill whistle, and their bill of fare differed from the navvies' only in
the addition of pies made of dried apples, and an unlimited allowance of
pickles and sugar. Their dinner hour, too, was a "movable feast," as in
rainy weather they took it between the showers; the navvies did not mind
a wetting.

Behind Mr. C----'s house the ground rose more rapidly to the line of
railway, and at the north end of the west rock was a fish-pond, which
never had any fish in it, although a good deal of attention was paid to
stocking it. About four hundred feet to the east is another rock almost
as high as the one on the west, beyond which the lake narrows, and the
future railway crossing is projected. Of course it took much longer to
arrange and make up the necessary useful and ornamental "fixings," as the
Yankees call them, for our new house when we were thrown entirely upon
our own resources than it would have done in town, where stores and
assistants are always to be had; and the saying that "necessity is the
mother of invention," was repeatedly verified in our case. Time,
therefore, never hung heavily upon our hands, and everything about us
having the charm of novelty, gave zest to what to many people would have
been but a dull life.

The climate is delightful. A cool fresh breeze always blowing from the
lake, tempers the heat, and to a great extent keeps off those foes to
comfort in the bush--mosquitoes, black flies, sand flies, and deer flies,
or bull-dogs, as they call them there.

Manitoban mosquitoes are larger than those of any other part of Canada,
and nothing but smoke will drive them away. Many people who live on the
prairies, instead of going for their cattle at milking time, build a
smudge (a fire of chips mulched with wet hay or green twigs when well
started, to create smoke) near the milk house, and the cattle will come
to the fire to obtain relief from the mosquitoes. The black flies are
smaller, and the first intimation one has of their attack is a small
stream of blood trickling down one's neck from behind the ear. They bite
and die, but there are myriads to take their place. The black flies are
most troublesome during the day, the mosquitoes at night. Sand flies, as
their name implies, resemble a grain of sand, and their bites are like a
thousand red-hot needles piercing the skin at once, they are attracted by
a light, and no netting will keep them out. Last, but by no means least,
are the deer-flies, great big brutes, larger than the largest blue bottle
fly. They generally devote their attentions to cattle, and I have seen
the poor cows rushing madly down the clearing, the bells round their
necks jangling wildly, lashing their tails and tossing their heads, never
stopping until safe from their tormentors in the shelter of the dark
stable. The dogs, too, are often so covered with these wretched pests,
that nothing but dragging themselves through the thick underbrush will
set them free. Their bite is very venomous. One of the engineers showed
me the back of his hand where one had bitten him a few hours before; it
was blue and angry-looking, swollen to twice its usual size, and very
painful. Fortunately the deer-fly does not bite often.

We were able to explore the lake, as Mr. C---- had two Rice Lake or
Peterboro' canoes. These boats are built by a firm in Peterboro',
Ontario, and are steadier than birch-bark canoes, though not so light.
They are much used in all parts of Canada, although the Indians prefer
the birch-bark. We went out almost every evening, named all the bays,
points, and islands, caught lots of excellent pike with a trolling line,
which relieved the monotony of bacon and ham for breakfast, or went to
the net spread at the mouth of a little river or creek emptying into Lake
Deception, and brought home great jack-fish weighing from two to six
pounds. From a little stream to the north-west of the house we had
delicious brook trout, and occasionally large lake trout from some of the
other lakes, presented by the fishermen in their neighbourhood. I weighed
one which was over nineteen pounds. Sometimes we took short walks up the
line, and through wood-paths made by the men on their way to work. We
picked blueberries whenever our hands were not employed in driving off
the flies.

But our chief excitement during the week was the arrival of the mail. Our
first thought every Thursday morning was, "This is mail-day," and Joe's
white canoe was eagerly watched for--often in vain, as storms on the Lake
of the Woods, when the canoes could not venture out, delayed its coming
until Friday.

Strange as it seems, very few Indians can swim, probably from their fear
that they shall drown while learning. They believe that, if drowned,
their spirits wander for ever in a vain search for the happy
hunting-grounds, and no Indian will marry the daughter of one who has met
his death in that way, lest the curse should descend to him. Yet they have
such faith in their canoes and their own skill in their management of
them, that they will go out fearlessly in storms that a white man would
never face.

On mail-day our field-glasses were in constant requisition, and whoever
was lucky enough to announce the appearance of Joe felt the hero of the
hour. There were other canoes as white as Joe's, so after several
disappointments I studied the trimming on his hat, and never made a
mistake afterwards. Joe was such an important person that I must describe
him. He was a short, slight, though broad-shouldered Indian, wearing a
grey flannel shirt, striped cloth trousers, alpaca coat, prunella boots,
and black felt hat, with several folds of pink and white net twisted
round it. He always had a broad grin on his face, and a hearty "Bon jour,
nitchee," for every one. The dress of his companion or partner differed
from Joe's only in the absence of boots and hat, and wearing the hair
braided in two long tails, instead of being cut short.

How we appreciated our letters no one who has not been in the woods, with
a mail only once a week, can understand. I remember one day after our
mail had arrived, a lad coming in from the shanty to ask if there was
anything for him. His sad face, as he turned away on being told that our
mail-carrier was no longer allowed to bring mails for the contractors'
men, haunted me for days. Poor home-sick boy! he had not heard from his
people for months. I often thought of him afterwards, when, the
contractor having made arrangements for a mail-carrier independent of
the Government, I saw the huge bag brought in every week, and watched the
eager crowd of faces waiting for its contents to be distributed.

We had another source of entertainment in the telegraphic communication
between Winnipeg and all the houses on the line, one of the staff in the
office good-naturedly keeping us posted in current events. Talking to
others along the wire always had a strange significance to me, like
having an invisible guest talking to us, who could only hear what we
chose to repeat. When anything amusing was said, one involuntarily
listened for the invisible laughter. This telegraphic conversation was a
nuisance in one way, for often in the middle of dinner Mr. C---- would
exclaim, "There's D---- calling!" and away he would go, and probably not
come back till dinner was cold, the cook cross, and the confusion

We were not without visitors, for the doctor, contractors, and engineers
were coming and going continually. About the middle of July, 1878, the
contractors' head-quarters at Darlington Bay being finished, and more
work going on at that end of the line, his officials moved there, and we
were left with only a gang of forty men in a shanty near. Our fat cook
also went to Bear Lake, about a mile west of the house, which by that
time had received the name of Inver Lodge.

One day towards the end of August a rumour reached us that the woods were
on fire on the other side of the west hill, and that the flames were
travelling towards us. I put on my hat and went up to see if the report
were true, and found flames curling along over the moss and underbrush
near a sand embankment where two or three men were working. The fire did
not look very formidable to me, and on asking the men if there was any
danger of its reaching the house, one put down his barrow, and while he
slowly wetted the palms of his hands, and rubbed them together, said, "Na
fear, me leddie; a barrowfu' o' sand noo an' then wul keep it fra'
gangin' any further." So I went back reassured. But as night came on, the
blaze increased so much that it became alarming. Mr. C---- and the men
were away at Kuwatin, some fifteen miles from us, and could not be back
before daylight. A kindly old Irishman, Michael Cahill, who for a drink
of butter-milk came in the evenings to work in the garden, offered his
services to sit up and watch the fire.

"Not that he thought there was a ha'porth of danger, but, Lord bless
them! the misthress and the childre 'ud be frightened." Poor old man! he
had a true Irish heart, with an air of better days long vanished, and a
deep loyalty to "thim of the ould stock;" and his boasts of grandeur and
valiant deeds were mingled with childlike credulity.

The fire was at its height about midnight, and had reached a large tree
in a line with our house, when the wind from the lake caught and drove it
back. The underbrush soon burnt out, but the trees were like pillars of
flame, crackling and roaring in the silent night, till they fell with a
crash to the ground. Half roused by the noise, old Cahill would mutter
something about keeping watch until the master came home. The old fellow
had wrapped himself in his great-coat, and was sitting on a chair in the
yard sound asleep. Fearing that he might catch cold, I woke him. But he
treated the insinuation that he had slept a wink with such indignant
contempt that I had to leave him to take his chance. The fire burnt
itself out before daylight, and we felt as if we had made more fuss than
was necessary, when Mr. C---- and the men arrived after four hours' hard
paddling. About Ingolf the fires raged so fiercely that the engineers
there moved all their valuable instruments and papers into the canoes,
and left the shanty to its fate; a change in the wind, however, saved it,
driving the flames back when the walls were scorching.


Irish Wit--Bears?--Death on the Red Pine Lake--A Grave in the Catholic
Cemetery--The First Dog-train--A Christmas Fête--Compulsory
Temperance--Contraband Goods--The Prisoner wins the Day--Whisky on the
Island--The Smuggler turned Detective--A Fatal Frolic--"Mr. K----'s Legs".

The chimneys in Mr. C----'s house were built of mud, and one of them,
which smoked whenever a fire was lighted, had to be pulled down and
rebuilt. The workmen, who were of various nationalities--Carrière an
Indian, old Cahill an Irishman, a Scotchman, and a Mennonite, who thumped
the mud mortar with a dogged perseverance that was quite amusing--were
all engaged on this chimney. One day I heard Carrière contradict an
assertion of Cahill's with regard to the work, calling it "a d----d lie!"
Stepping back from the foot of the ladder on which Carrière stood, the
old Irishman lifted his straw hat with the air of a courtier, and
replied politely, "Carrière, ye're a gintleman! an' _that's_

Before the chimney was quite finished, Mr. and Mrs. C---- went down to
Kuwatin to spend a few days, leaving me with the maid and old Cahill to
superintend the house-cleaning; and many a half-hour's amusement had I,
listening to the old man's reminiscences of Ireland. When he found that I
knew and took an interest in many of the people in his own country his
delight was unbounded. The height of his ambition seemed to be to have
"tin min undher him," and his greatest trial was "huntin' thim tarmints
of cows." He was the butt of all the jokes and tricks in the camps round,
yet he took everything good-naturedly; "the boys must have their laugh
sometimes," being his only comment. He said he was only thirty-seven,
but, according to his own account, he had been "kept at school till he
was sixteen, lived tin years on the Knight o' Glynne's estate, and gone
fishin' with him in the Shannon, been twinty-five years with Colonel
Kitchener in Limerick, siven years undher Mr. Usborne of Aruprior Canady
West, and knew the Ottawa as well as any man, two years with his brother
in Michigan and two years in Kuwatin, and all the fault of the editor of
the _Ottawa Times_ newspaper, for praisin' up the country and
tellin' lies about the wages."

Cahill always dressed in his best on Sunday. How he managed to get up his
white shirts was a mystery. To be sure, one was made to last several
Sundays, for when one side got dirty he turned the other out. The navvies
called him the forest ranger, because he always took the gun with him
when he went for the cows, and each day as he passed the shanties on his
way back empty-handed, they chaffed him about his want of sport. One
evening he returned as usual, apparently empty-handed, but coming into
the kitchen for the milk-pails, he produced from his pockets five
partridges and four pigeons. When I asked him why he did not carry them
to show the men that he did shoot something sometimes, he gave me a
knowing look and said, "Shure, I wouldn't give thim that satisfaction."

We were glad of the game, as a change from the continual salt meat and
fish, being unable to get fresh meat until November, and then only
Montana beef. The second year the contractor bought only Canadian cattle.
The difference in the meat is very great, the one being hard and full of
thread-like sinews, the other juicy and tender.

The evening before the September mail went out, I was sitting up late
writing letters, when Mrs. C---- in a frightened tone called me to
"_listen to that queer noise_"--a crunching, rustling sound from the
rocks west of the house, just as if some heavy animal was making its way
through the underbrush and dry moss. Rumours of the vicinity of bears had
reached us that day, and we jumped at once to the conclusion that Bruin
was upon us. What was to be done? We were quite certain the poor calf,
tethered to a stump on the grass plot, would fall an easy victim. Then
all the windows were wide open downstairs, and we did not think it
probable Bruin would respect the mosquito-netting sufficiently for us to
depend upon it as a defence. Mr. C---- and the men were away down the line,
and the doctor, who had come in that day, was enjoying a slumber, from
which it seemed cruel to disturb him after his hard day's tramp. However,
as the noise increased, and seemed nearer every moment, it had to be
done. Did you ever try to wake a very sound sleeper, making apparently
noise enough to awaken the dead, and when about to give it up in despair
have him answer, after your last effort, in a mild, good-naturedly
aggravating tone, which impresses you with the belief that he has only
closed his eyes for a moment's meditation? Just so did our excellent
Esculapius. Imploring him to get up, and telling him that the bears were
upon us, I rushed to obey Mrs. C----, who screamed to me to shut all the
windows. While I was scrambling on to the kitchen table to reach the
last, the doctor appeared, very much _en déshabille_, with his hair
rumpled and a general air of incompleteness about him, demanding the
whereabouts of the bear; and at the same moment Mrs. C----, in her
night-dress, leant over the banisters above, listening with all her ears
for the answer. The absurdity of the whole scene so struck me that I could
scarcely refrain from laughing outright. Sallying forth, armed with a big
stick, the valiant doctor drove out from behind the wood-pile on the
rock--a large, half-starved dog, who was trying to worry a meal off the
dried hide of a defunct cow!

The night was brilliant; bright moonlight lay like a long string of
diamonds on the bosom of the lake; a blue, cloudless sky spread over our
heads; but far away to the south a great bank of murky clouds, lined with
silver, was momentarily rent by fierce flashes of forked lightning,
followed by the muttering of distant thunder.

In November a very sad accident occurred, by which Mr. C---- lost one of
his staff. The weather was cold and disagreeable, just the few transition
days between the beautiful Indian summer and clear Canadian winter. Until
then the thermometer had registered 70 degrees in the shade at noon, but
the change had come suddenly, as it always does in Manitoba, and in a
few days the smaller lakes had frozen over wholly, but the larger ones only
partially. The mail had been delayed in consequence of there being no
means of passage either by land or water. On the 10th Mr. W---- and Mr.
K---- dined at Inver, and the former resisted all persuasions to remain
until the morning, being anxious to reach his station, Ingolf, next day
in time to intercept the expected mail-carrier, and feeling sure he could
reach the intermediate station, Kalmar, before dark. He left about three
o'clock. What seeming trifles sometimes make all the difference between
life and death! That day dinner was half an hour late, an unusual thing
in our punctual house, and if he had only had that half-hour more of
daylight, his fate would have been changed. He crossed the three first
lakes in safety upon the ice, and naturally thought that he should find
the fourth equally firm, forgetting that the sun had been, shining on the
north side with a heat doubled by the high, rocky shore. He attempted to
cross, but, alas, never reached the other side.

The next evening (Saturday), not hearing him work the telegraph, Mr. K----,
who had been detained at Inver, asked Kalmar when Mr. W---- left, and
the answer that he had not seen him told us the sad news at once. Next
morning at daybreak a party went in search of the unfortunate man, and
found his body not thirty feet from the shore. His hat, profile (or map),
and the long pole carried by all who have to cross unsound ice, were
floating near. His large boots, which were so strapped round his waist
that it was impossible to get them off, had kept him down. The lake (Red
Pine) is small but deep, and he had died alone in the forest, with only
the giant rocks around him to echo back his dying cries. While I write,
memory recalls his laughing air, when telling me that morning how he had
tried to cross the narrows of our lake, but had desisted, fearing a
ducking on such a cold day; and I, pointing to his immense boots, said
they were scarcely fit to wear when running such risks. How little I
dreamt what harm they were doomed to do! His great brown eyes, with the
sad, far-away look in them, as if, unknown to himself, they saw into the
future; his graceful, manly figure, as he sprang up the hill behind the
house, and his cheery "Good-bye, till I see you again," can never be

When the winter roads became passable, they took him into Winnipeg, and
laid him in the Roman Catholic cemetery there--alone, away from all he
loved, without a kindly hand to tend his last resting-place. His death
cast a gloom over all our party. Though grieving for him and missing him
continually, we could never realize that he was really dead. And the
knowledge that it was so even to us made our hearts fill with sympathy
for one far away, to whom the sad tidings would have more than the
bitterness of death.

Our great excitement after winter had set in in earnest was the arrival
of the first dog-train. Hearing the shrill "Marsh-sha" (Marcha) of the
driver, we all rushed to the window to see the pretty beasts, in their
gaily-worked saddle-cloths and merry bells, come down the hill; then,
when a halt was called, to watch them sit down on their haunches and look
proudly about them, as if quite aware of the interest they excited. The
taboggans they drew were not heavily laden, and as far as I can judge
from my limited experience, the dogs are invariably kindly treated by
their drivers; all looked well fed and in good condition. During the
summer, and sometimes in the winter, when the poor Indians themselves are
more than half-starved, it is little wonder that the dogs fare as badly
as their masters, and look lean and miserable.

The winter of 1878 was mild and open, more so than had been known in the
North-west for thirty years. The snow had vanished almost completely from
the portages, and water covered the ice on many of the lakes. When, at
Christmas, the staff accepted Mrs. C----'s invitation to spend the day at
Inver, the question was whether they would come with dogs or canoes?
Neither, however, were practicable, and they had to walk--some of them
eighteen miles.

We amused ourselves icing the cake, inventing devices, with the aid of
scraps of telegraph wire, as supports for the upper decorations,
decorating the house with cedar and balsam wreaths, and providing as good
a dinner as it was possible to obtain in the woods. With the exception of
having nothing for our guests to drink, we succeeded tolerably well.
Being within the limits of prohibitory laws, it was necessary to ask the
Lieutenant-governor of Manitoba for an especial "permit" to have wine
sent out; and we were answered that, "if the men had to do without
whisky, the gentlemen might do without wine." So we had to content
ourselves with half a glass of sherry each, the remains of some smuggled
out with our luggage in the spring.

We soon had proof that the men rebelled against the prohibitory law. The
presence of whisky being suspected in a neighbouring camp, a constable
who had been but recently appointed, and was anxious to show his zeal,
never rested until he had discovered the smuggler and brought him to
justice; the clause that the informer was entitled to half the fine of
fifty dollars not diminishing his ardour.

To a lawyer the proceedings would have been amusing, for all parties
concerned were novices in their respective _rôles_. The justice of
the peace, with a great idea of his own importance, the majesty of the
law, and the necessity for carrying it out to the letter, had obtained
several manuals for the guidance of county justices of the peace and
stipendiary magistrates, over the technicalities of which he spent many a
sleepless hour. No sooner had he mastered the drift of one act, than the
next repealed so many of its clauses that the poor man became hopelessly
bewildered. Handcuffs there were none, neither was there a lock-up, and
the constable spent his time in keeping guard over the prisoner, being
paid two dollars a day for the service. The latter was fed and housed,
and, not having been overburdened with work or wages for some time, did
not object to the incarceration.

Ultimately he was tried, found guilty, and fined fifty dollars or a month
in jail. Many arguments arose between magistrate and constable, as the
latter, having served in the United States, and there learned a
smattering of Yankee law, was resolved to make his voice heard in the
case. The inability of the prisoner to pay the fine of course made it
necessary to fall back upon the alternative--thirty days in jail, which
jail was a hundred and odd miles off. There was no conveyance to take him
thither; and no roads even if there had been; and the man refused to

"If I had the money I'd pay the fifty and have done with it," he said;
"but, not having it, I can't do it. If I am to go to jail, all
right--take me; but whoever heard of a man walking there of his own
accord?" and he whittled away at the stick in his hand feeling that he
was master of the situation. Being remanded until the next day, to keep
up some semblance of proper procedure, he went away quite contentedly,
only to return the next day and the next to repeat the same farce. At last
both magistrate and constable began to look rather tired, while the
prisoner, on the contrary, was quite at his ease. The wire was down between
us and Winnipeg, and no advice could be obtained. So at last the constable,
agreeing to forfeit his share of the fine, and the magistrate to take a
time-bill on the contractor for the next section of the railway for the
remaining twenty-five dollars, they let the man go, neither of them, I am
sure, seeing him depart with regret.

The next whisky seizure that occurred in the neighbourhood was a small
two-gallon keg, found in the middle of a barrel of sugar. The load was
owned by one man and driven by another, whose consternation at finding he
was a holder of contraband goods was so genuine that the authorities
thought emptying the whisky on the snow was sufficient punishment,
and--possibly dreading a repetition of the last trial--let the man go.

Soon afterwards several kegs of whisky were found on an island in the
Lake of the Woods. The owner gave himself up, and entered the service of
the contractor as especial whisky detective, and such was his vigilance,
that no whisky ever passed him. He was quite impartial, not letting even
our mail bags go unquestioned, and so was not disliked. During his term
the line was quiet and orderly; but, unfortunately, he went into Winnipeg
on leave, shot a youth belonging to one of the river steamers in a
drunken frolic, and was convicted of the murder.

One day, hearing a very peremptory-sounding knock at the door--a knock at
any time being an event--I opened it in haste, to see a short,
jaunty-looking man, red-haired and red-faced, clad in long stockings drawn
well over his trousers and mocassins, a short skin coat tied round his
waist with a red sash, and on his head a long red _toque_.

"Good mornin', miss," said this odd apparition. "I'm come for Mr. K----'s
legs." Seeing that I had not the faintest idea of what he meant, he
touched his forehead again. "Please, 'm, Mr. K---- sent me for his legs.
He said I'd find them in the office;" and the little fellow, who seemed
all on springs, craned his neck round to see into the room. Fairly
puzzled, I stood aside to let him pass; so in he went, returning
instantly with a tripod on his shoulder.

"Here they are, miss," he said cheerfully. "Much obliged. Fine day,
miss;" and was off to the lake before I had recovered my surprise at his
amazing request and his general absurdity.


Birds of Passage--An Independent Swede--By Sleigh to Ostersund--A Son of
the Forest--Burnt out--A Brave Canadian Girl--Roughing it in the
Shanty--The Kitchen-tent--Blasting the Rock--The Perils of
Nitro-glycerine--Bitter Jests.

We had plenty of strange visitors; almost every day men passing along
the line came in, either to inquire the distance to the next shanty, or
to ask for a meal or drink of milk. Some showed a friendly disposition,
and would entertain us with their full family history. Others, with many
professions of gratitude for our kindness, would eat enough to last them
a week, one would suppose, and go on their way. Others, more taciturn and
independent, took their refreshment in silence, and offered to pay for
what they received. One in particular, a tall, slight man, rather
advanced in years, came in one morning, and made us understand by signs
that he was hungry. When a meal was put before him, he sat down, took his
hat off--this was something unusual--and upon every offer of more edibles
bowed his thanks with much dignity. He could speak neither English nor
French, and looked like a Swede. When his repast was finished, he offered
by signs to mend shoes as payment. Thinking that he was begging for
shoes, we screamed, as every one so oddly does to foreigners--as if it
made our language any more intelligible to them--that we had none for
him. Seeing we did not understand him, he sat down and went through the
pantomime of mending shoes. Still shaking our heads, as we had no shoes
to be mended, he, after fumbling in his pockets, produced a quarter,
which he pressed us all in turn to take. In vain we tried to make him
understand that his breakfast was a gift; going away a step or two, he
came back again and again, still offering the quarter. At last, out of
all patience, Mr. C---- ordered him off the premises. The stranger went
up the hill, but lingered until the coast was clear, to put the quarter
on the ice at the door. Then, thinking perhaps that it might not be seen
there by the right people, he stuck it into a crevice between two logs in
the shed, and went away whistling merrily, his pride relieved of his
obligation, as well as his pocket of his money.

Towards the end of the winter, the sleighing being a little better on the
portages, we drove to Ostersund, the nearest house east of us. It was
Sunday, the 3rd of March, and a bright, clear, cold day. Our conveyance
was a sort of combination arrangement of a long, low platform, with one
seat, on two bob-sleighs, which platform turned on a pivot independent of
the sleighs. This was supposed to be an invention that lessened the bumps
and swings experienced by the traveller, who was jolted over the hills
and hollows of the rough roads. Rough, indeed, they were--up and down
steep hills, among and over huge boulders thrown out by the blasts in
adjacent cuttings, along the edge of narrow rocks, where Carrière had to
hold on to the sleigh on one side, to keep it from swinging round, and
down the face of the jagged cliff, into such deep gullies, that it was a
wonder we were not tipped over on the horse's back, or left behind, when
he went up the ascent. The problem that chiefly occupied me during this
wild huntsman-like ride was: If the combination sleigh were indeed a
success, what would my sensations have been without it?

On the lakes the road was smooth and delightful, and our old broken-down
steed supplied by the Government, derisively dubbed "Pegasus" by Mrs.
C----, achieved something approaching a trot. Poor thing! its hide had
become so hardened by former cruel treatment, that there was no spot on
which the whip had the least effect. We were accompanied by the usual
number of dogs, who ran yelping after the rabbits in all directions. On
one of the portages we passed an old Indian, clad in a long blue blanket
coat, with a red sash round his waist, and beaded leggings, and
mocassins; his long hair was tied back, and a red silk handkerchief was
loosely knotted round his brow. He leant upon his old brown gun, and the
tall trees, through whose leafless branches the sunshine fell in long
streaks on the snow and moss, formed a fitting background for his gaunt
figure. Unheeding the hoarse barking of the dogs, he replied to
Carrière's "Bon jour" with a guttural "Bon jour, nitchee;" but until we
were out of sight remained in the same attitude.

On the 26th of March, an event happened which startled us all out of the
even tenor of our lives. Between ten and eleven in the morning, the roof
of our house caught fire from the kitchen chimney, and having no engine
or fire-extinguisher about the premises, we were houseless, with scarcely
anything to call our own, in half an hour. The moment we discovered the
fire, we ran to the nearest cutting, where there were twenty men, to ask
their assistance. After vainly attempting to get at the fire by chopping
away the roof, they could do nothing but save as much property as
possible. Mrs. C---- was at Kalmar, and being too excited to remain
inactive, I deposited the children in the contractor's shanty, persuading
them to stay there until I returned, and went back to the house to save
what I could. I had plenty of assistance. Never did men work better. I
have seen many a fire in crowded cities, where engines and hundreds of
people were at hand, without half the proportionate amount of goods being
saved; and what was rescued from the flames was not destroyed by rough

The house was built of logs, the crevices being stuffed with moss, and
lined with thick brown paper, the seams of the latter covered with a
narrow beading of pine. The roof was lined with tar-paper, which made a
dense and blinding smoke. It had been built a year, and was so dry that
it burnt like a tinder-box.

The cook, a bright, pretty Canadian girl, in her anxiety to save her
kitchen utensils, was caught by the flames, getting her eyebrows and hair
singed while making a final dash for the boiler; and in the long weeks
that followed before it could be replaced she never ceased to lament her
failure. She was worth ten men, and saved many things which we did not
think of at the time, but should have found it difficult to do without

We were a motley group, sitting and standing on the hill above the creek
to watch our house burn to the ground. Navvies of every nation; tall,
brawny Scotchmen; jolly-looking Irishmen, their faces a mixture of pity
for our misfortune and enjoyment of the "fun;" stumpy little French
Canadians; solemn, stupid-looking Icelanders and Mennonites. Carrière was
there on his crutches. Poor fellow! standing knee-deep in the lake to cut
ice out had brought on such a severe attack of rheumatism, that it was
with difficulty he moved about at all. We were surrounded by a
heterogeneous mass of household goods: here a pile of bedding, surmounted
by a looking-glass, there a basket of crockery, glass, and china; here a
dismantled stove, with the fire yet burning in it, there a clothes-horse,
still covered with clean clothes ironed that morning. A heap of wearing
apparel, taken out of some cupboard, lay close beside one of the
stove-pipes. All round the house were trophies of household furniture,
just as they had been carried out--the baby's cradle full of books from
the drawing-room table, china vases underneath a heap of dinner plates,
and rolls of plans from the office, blown into every corner of the fences.
And all the time the house blazed on. Then the fire spread, and ran up
the hill at the back, burning the old ice-house and a large tree, which
fell to the ground with a crash the moment after the roof fell in. At the
same moment a stock of cartridges exploded, and a volley of musketry
formed the fitting finale to our fire.

The poor children, who had hitherto been wonderfully good and patient,
now became so nervous and frightened that we could scarcely pacify them.
Our old friend, the contractor's superintendent, coming back to his
shanty shortly after the disaster, with his usual unselfish kindness
insisted on giving it up to us, and going himself into a wretched lean-to
behind the store, until the house could be rebuilt. It would be difficult
to describe the discomfort of the next few days.

Mrs. C---- came home immediately, and we were all busy sorting out the
salvage, retaining what was necessary to furnish the shanty, and storing
the remainder in a log-house used as a workshop. How we raked amongst the
still hot embers in the hope of picking up a relic, or with regretful
interest traced the shape of some favourite object in the ashes! As my
room was the first burned, I saved nothing but a few clothes, most of
which were comparatively useless, silk dresses and a log shanty not being
harmonious combinations. All my books, pictures, jewellery, and those
odds and ends which, though of little money value, had grown priceless to
me from association, were destroyed; and my desk also, containing my
notes of dates and places, so that in these pages I have had to trust
entirely to memory.

In dry weather the shanty we now occupied was a very tolerable one, built
of rough logs, their crevices filled with mud both inside and out; the
roof was of logs also, but cut in halves, scooped out, and ingeniously
interlaced--thus, [Illustration], to allow the water to run off. During
the cold weather these logs had been filled with moss, and when the
spring rains began the water settled in places, rotted them, and came

The shanty was divided into three by a partition reaching half-way to the
roof. In the first room stood one bunk bed filled with straw, in the
second were two narrow ones, so close together that two people could not
get out of bed at the same time. One small window, halfway between each
room, gave light to both. There was no door into the outer room, only a
vacant space in the partition. In the centre was an iron stove set in a
box of sand. There were two narrow windows on each side, and the only
door led into the outer world. When we had made it as comfortable as we
could, the outer room had to be telegraph office (the instrument keeping
up such a continual ticking that we blessed an odd day when the wire was
down) as well as dining-room. The big table filled up half the width of
the room, and the sideboard a quarter, leaving the remainder for the
sofa, small tables--under which were stored boxes and trunks of various
sizes--safe, and chairs. We covered the walls with pictures, nails
whereon to hang everything that would hang, and small shelves. The
matting saved from the hall covered what was otherwise unoccupied of the
shanty floor. In fine weather it was not at all unpleasant, as the
children and I almost lived out of doors, and even when in the shanty
kept our hats on, ready to go out again the moment our office was called
on the line; as it was impossible to impress children, aged two and five
years respectively, with the fact that their merry chatter and a
telegraphic message in course of transition were incompatible.

In wet weather, cooped up as we were, with the roof dripping in a dozen
places, their number increasing after every storm; with all our tin pans
called into requisition to catch the falling drops, and the children
feeling it a duty they owed to society to empty their contents on the
floor the moment our backs were turned; with the instrument at work, and
the current bad, I was often made desperate by the utter impossibility of
keeping the children quiet. Rolling them in a shawl, I would rush out to
a tent pitched about ten feet from the shanty door, and used as a
kitchen, rather than endure any longer the strain upon my nerves in the
shanty. This kitchen-tent had a few rough, heavy planks for floor, and a
stove at one end, with the pipe up through the canvas, and the ridge pole
and uprights studded with nails, whereon hung cups, jugs, pans, and tins.
Two tables stood under the slanting roof, with rows of nails beneath to
hold irons and everything else with a handle. There was a small cupboard
in one corner, and the others were filled with boxes, barrels, and the
maid's trunk. The tent had been used as a cook-house so often that it was
perforated by small holes made by flying sparks, and to touch the canvas
with one's head was to invoke a shower-bath. Soaking in wet weather and
broiling in fine, it was anything but a paradise of cooks, yet it was
wonderful how well the maid managed in it, and how neat and tidy she kept

We were always intensely interested in the blasting of the cutting about
three hundred feet from us. At the sound of the horn we were on the watch
to see the men ran off behind the rock. Then the smoke curled up, and the
report followed, sending the flying stones well into the air, and in a
second we could hear them rattle down all round us, on the roof of the
shanty and far out into the lake. Hearing the horn one day when quite
five hundred feet from the cutting, I turned to watch, believing myself
at a safe distance; and as I saw the stones falling, and thought it a
heavier charge than usual, I heard the hiss of one fast approaching.
Before I could decide whether to run or not it whizzed past--so close to
my ear that I could feel the wind it made--and buried itself in the sand
not two feet behind me; while another fell within a few inches of my feet
in front. Snatching the child who was with me up in my arms, I took care
to get some distance further up the hill before the next charge exploded.

One of the engineers told me he had seen stones thrown thirteen hundred
feet from a cutting. They use nitro-glycerine, and have had several
serious accidents while handling it. One poor lad who was carrying a can
weighing fifty pounds up the dump, tripped, and was blown to atoms; part
of one foot, stuck in the fork of a tree about a hundred feet off, being
all that was found of him. A man lost his sight and one arm from merely
striking a rock where some of the horrid stuff had been spilt. Often have
I watched the long train of packers coming down the hill, each with a can
of glycerine on his back, and wondered how they dared carry it over the
rough roads, knowing that one false step would cost them their lives.
Once when I was out with the children, the dogs barked furiously at one
of these poor men. Calling them off, I seized the opportunity to make
some remark about his load. "Ay, miss!" he said, sadly and bitterly;
"'tis a main mean load fur any man to ha' to carry." Yet, in spite of the
danger and the many accidents, I have heard these packers chaffing each
other when passing. "It's a warm day," says one. "That's so; but maybe
ye'll be warmer 'fore ye're to camp tonight," is the reply. "That's so.
D'ye want any word taken to the divil?" Then again, "Where are ye bound
for, Jack?" "To h---, I guess." "Take the other train, and keep a berth
for me, man!" "Is it ye're coffin ye're carryin', Pat?" asks another.
"Faith, ye're right, an a coroner's inquest into the bargain, Jim!" Yet
the wretched expression of these very men proved that they felt the
bitterness of death to be in their jests.


We lose our Cows--Cahill promoted--Gardening on a New Principle--Onions
in Hot-houses--Cahill is hoaxed--Martin the Builder--How the Navvies
lived--Sunday in Camp--The Cook's Leap--That "Beautiful Skunk!"--Wild

A few weeks after the fire, the C----s had another loss, in the sudden
death of two cows. No cause could be assigned for it; unless there might
have been poison in the wild hay which they ate, put there by the Indians
to kill the foxes. The difficulty of supplying their place on the line in
the spring made the loss considerable, especially with children in the
house, and no fresh meat attainable.

Carrière had been so completely laid up with rheumatism that he had
resigned his post, giving place for our old friend Cahill, who
immediately undertook the charge of the garden, which he said he
understood thoroughly. Looking one day into the hot-beds, which he seemed
to have taken much pride in, I found he had filled more than half the
space with different varieties of onions, and another part with carraway
seeds! When I asked why he put them in there, he said--

"Shure, ye couldn't have anything betther nor inions. Many's the thousand
I've raised in Ireland, when I was with Kurnel Kitchener in Limerick."

After the cress had gone to seed, Mrs. C---- told him, to take it out,
and sow other things in its place. A little while afterwards, I saw the
old fellow transplanting something very carefully, which proved upon
investigation to be the cress. When I told him it was not worth the
trouble, he looked up and said, in a very indignant tone--

"Throw it away, is it? Shure, if I'd known that was all the good it was,
it's meself wouldn't have filled me hot-beds wid it! The thrash!"

One day he received a very long, narrow parcel and note through the mail.
Early next morning, I saw the old fellow sitting on a stump in the
garden, carefully spelling over the letter, which did not seem a long
one. When Harry ran up to him, Cahill brought the child back to me, and
looking all about to see that no one else was near, said, in a mysterious

"See here, Miss F----. I got a parcel be the mail-man yesterday, an'
here's the spicification that came wid it. Would you read it, miss, and
till me who ye think would send it? I think meself it's a trick, an' I'll
be even wid thim yit." And he handed me a crumpled piece of paper about
four inches square, on which I read--

  "To Michael Cahill, Esq,
  Office of the Civil Engineer,
  Lake Diception


  "Hearin' ye were lately appointed Governmint gardner, we sind
  a sample of our goods. Eny orders ye can sind will receive
  prompt attintion.

  "Green and Brown, manufacturing company,

  "County of Limerick,


"Of course it's a joke, Cahill," I said. "But where's the sample?"

"Shure, I buried it behind the shanty; it's a wooden hoe, cut out o' the
root of a three, I think I know who sint it," he went on, drawing near,
with another cautious look round.

"It was wrapped up wid some copies of the _Ottawa Citizen_
newspaper, an' there are only two min on the line that take it at all. So
ye see I can spot them!" Fumbling in his pockets, he produced a scrap of
the paper, and, turning it this way and that, discovered some writing
which, upon close inspection, proved to be my own name. His tormentors
had wrapped it in one of the papers I had lent him.

To describe the old man's wrath and astonishment, mingled with keen sense
of fun (for an Irishman _can_ see a joke, even against himself), is
impossible. I had little trouble in persuading him that to take no notice
of either parcel or "spicification" would be the best way to disappoint
his foes. Long afterwards, whenever I met him, he gave me a knowing side
glance of mutual understanding that was irresistible.

In the mean time, the house was fast being rebuilt on the old site, but
on a much improved plan. The former had been a two-story building of
squared logs, and, to my eyes, an insult to the landscape. The new one, a
low cottage of rough logs, seemed to fit into the valley without marring
the view from any point. The beautiful wooded hall to the north, which
had been completely shut out by the old house, now formed a lovely
background to the cottage and garden.

The little Frenchman Martin, the master builder, was another character in
his way; a lively, energetic little fellow, whose eyes were everywhere.
Not the driving in of a single nail escaped him. Yet, with all his
watchfulness, he did more work than any three of his men. The habitual
use of salt pork and beans, added to the total absence of vegetable diet
during the long winter and summer, had caused scurvy to break out among
the men, and poor Martin was suffering very much from it. To keep him in
better health until the house was finished, Mrs. C---- supplied him with
potatoes, which he ate raw, sliced and soaked in vinegar; and I believe,
from a conversation I overheard between him and one of his men, that
these raw potatoes, bread, and tea constituted the man's entire food for
the last six weeks of his work on the line. Many others had not even the
potatoes, yet they daily passed the garden, where lettuces and other
vegetables, a cure for their sufferings, grew in profusion, and did not
take a leaf. I know, had I been in like case, early training would have
gone to the winds, and the eighth Commandment have become a dead letter.

We had unusual opportunities of seeing the real life of a navvy while we
lived in the shanty. Our men came from nearly all parts of the
world--Russia, Sweden, Germany, Holland, Iceland, Ireland, Great Britain,
and the Dominion. There were also many Scotch and French half-breeds, as
well as full-blooded Indians, among them, the contractors finding that
associating the various nationalities in camp was more conducive to peace
and obedience than when a large number of fellow-countrymen formed a
gang. Next to us, in reality under the same roof, was the store,
containing everything a navvy could want--from hats and boots to pickles
and tobacco.

Sunday, the only day off work, was the general shopping day, and as it
was also mail day the place was crowded, and the week's news discussed. A
little below the store was another large shanty, where about a hundred
and twenty men lived, the kitchen ruled over by a tall and rather
good-looking Frenchman, who had lived amongst the Indians at Fort Francis
so long that he spoke their language as well as they did. "Black Joe," as
he was generally called, was an authority amongst the men, and was very
fond of a little black poodle, which he cared for as a child, spending
all his leisure, moments in fondling it and teaching it tricks. He had
an assistant named Ironsides, who was not only "cookee," but could sew up
and dress a cut as well as the doctor, and his services were very often
called into requisition.

Sunday was washing day in camp, too; every tub was in use, and every low
branch or rude fence hung with the men's clothes. In one place you would
see a man sitting on a stump to have his hair cut; another repairing the
week's wear and tear of his garments. A group of interested listeners lie
or sit round the happy possessor of the latest paper, who is reading it
aloud. Others, of livelier tastes, gather round an accordion-player, who
gives the "Marseillaise" with the fire and feeling of a true artist. Some
hard workers, whose idea of pleasure is perfect rest, lie on their backs
in the sun, with their hats tilted over their faces, sound asleep,
heedless of the roars of laughter from a cluster of men, to whom old
Cahill is relating one of his most wonderful stories; others stand before
a small looking-glass, hung against a tree, performing their toilets
with immense satisfaction; while more active spirits are on their way to
the lake, with their fishing tackle, for a long day's sport.

Card-playing was forbidden in camp. Of course there were a few who
gambled in defiance of orders, but when detected they were at once
dismissed by the superintendent, who declared that they ought not to
profane the Sabbath. Mr. K---- was strict, and apparently severe with the
men, yet he was a general favourite. He avowed one day that he could
manage any number of men, but the "weemin were beyond him." The
contractor had tried employing women cooks, believing that they would be
more economical than the men; but those he engaged were such a trouble to
look after, that he declared "either he or thim weemin would have to
leave the line." One woman cook was called by the men "7-10," from her
great size, and her camp being at 7-10 station. On her way across the
Lake of the Woods after her dismissal, the big steamer, as usual, ran on
a rock, and the passengers had to be transferred to a row-boat large
enough to hold thirty people. "7-10" refusing assistance, and attempting
to jump into the boat, jumped completely _over_ it, and was dragged
out of the water by the laughing crew, who dubbed the rock "7-10's Leap."

Mr. C---- had all the stores of provisions which were saved from the fire
put into a small root-house under the north hill. The ice in the lakes
having broken up unusually early the bad state of the roads during the
winter made it necessary for all supplies brought out on the contract to
be "packed"--that is, carried on men's backs. Each man being paid two
dollars a day, and not averaging more than sixteen miles, made this a
very expensive process; consequently our supplies became valuable, only
what was absolutely indispensable being sent for till the Dawson road was
passable and the steamer running. One morning I saw Cahill peering into
the root-house, and evidently watching something with great interest.
Then he ran to the shanty for his gun, and my curiosity being aroused, I
inquired what was the matter. Touching the brim of his old straw hat, he
replied, "Shure, it's fine prey I've got to shoot this mornin', Miss F----.
As beautiful a skunk as ever ye see!" and levelling the gun, he was
about to shoot, when memories of former odours made me implore him to
desist. "But he'll ate all the pork!" the old fellow remonstrated, much
aggrieved at being deprived of so fine an opportunity of displaying his
prowess. I assured him that, if let alone, the "beautiful skunk" would go
quietly away when he had enjoyed a good meal; but, if disturbed, he would
use his natural weapon of defence, and destroy everything in the
root-house. But--

  "A man convinced against his will
  Is of the same opinion still,"

and old Cahill, though he shouldered his weapon and walked away, grumbled
as he went. We paid frequent visits to the root-house that morning to see
if the intruder had gone, but he did not leave until the middle of the
second day. Skunks, or polecats, are not numerous in that part of the
country. The dogs sometimes came in from a hunt very strongly scented by
them, but, with the exception of our visitor, we never saw one about the
premises. They abound in prairies and swampy grounds, and when attacked
the odour they emit is overpowering and indescribable; without exception
the worst that ever assailed our nostrils.

As the spring wore on we spent the brightening days in gathering
wild-flowers, going fishing, and repeating the weekly routine of a quiet
life in the woods. The weather grew hotter, the flies more plentiful, and
our highest gratification seemed to be to make a good smudge in the
evening, sit round it, and talk. How gladly we welcomed the first
strawberries and blue-berries which pretty Mrs. Bucketee, as we called
her, brought to us! She got the name from always being hungry
(_bucketee_), when she came, and she laughed merrily one day when
called so inadvertently. We ourselves went out and gathered several
pailsful from the rocks on the first portage. Blue-berries, or
knuckle-berries as they are called in Ontario, grow much larger in the
North-west than I ever saw them elsewhere, being sometimes as large as
small Delaware grapes. The little bushes grow thickly in the crevices of
the rocks, and are so completely covered with fruit that their tiny
leaves are scarcely visible. They have a beautiful bloom upon them when
fresh, and are cool and delicious to the taste.

Summer swiftly passed, and the time drew near when I was to leave Lake
Deception, and, after staying a day or two at each of the other houses on
the line, turn my steps eastward, back to what my friends called
civilized life. It was not without many a heartache that I bade good-bye
to the wee bairns whom I loved so dearly, knowing that, though my regrets
might be lifelong, in their childish hearts the pain of parting would be
but the grief of an hour.


For Ostersund--Lake Lulu--Giant Rocks and Pigmy Mortals--The Island
Garden--Heaven's Artillery--Strange Casualty at the Ravine--My Luggage
nearly blown up--The Driver's Presence of Mind--How to carry a
Canoe--Darlington Bay--An Invisible Lake--Lord and Lady Dufferin--A
Paddle to the Lakes--The Captain's Tug--Monopoly of
Water-carriage--Indian Legends--The Abode of Snakes.

The 27th of August dawned sultry and oppressive, but having decided to
leave Inver for a long-promised visit to Ostersund on that day, and
feeling that if I did not get the parting with the children over at once
I should never succeed in going away at all, I determined to carry out my
intention, although by doing so I was obliged to forego the pleasure of
visiting Kalmar, which I regretted very much.

Mr. K---- and Mr. F---- came for me about two o'clock, and sending the
man on with my travelling-bag, I prepared to enjoy the first long walk I
had taken since I left Ontario. From the top of the east rock I took my
last look at the spot where I had spent nearly sixteen months, on which I
shall always look back with kindly memories. Clinging to the rough
railing, and walking quickly over the floating logs, we were soon across
the boom in Lake Deception, and over the first short portage to Lake
Beau-Beau--or "Champagne Charlie" Lake--a beautiful sheet of water, with
several pretty islands, along whose southern shore the Canada Pacific
Railway line runs.

Catching sight of a boat, which probably belonged to a gang of men who
were at work with pulleys, removing great fragments of rock from a
cutting near, Mr. F---- took possession of it, and we rowed across,
ignoring the fatigue of the poor navvies, who, after a hard day's work,
would have to walk round the lake to recover their property.

On the opposite shore part of the trail lay through a long, narrow
valley, where it became such a mere path that two could not walk abreast;
then it passed over such lofty hills, and into such sudden dips of valley
land, that one could not help speculating as to the immense cost of
filling up and levelling to bring the line to the proper grade. We
skirted the shores of Lake Lulu, whose blue waters glistened in the
afternoon sun, as we caught a momentary glimpse through the trees of the
tiny hill, where a clear fresh spring tempted us to sit on the gnarled
trunk of a fallen tree and refresh ourselves. How small we felt by
involuntary comparison with the gigantic rock towering above our heads,
or even with the huge fragments thrown out and scattered at its base! I
wonder if future ages will look upon these blocks of stone as we do upon
Stonehenge, and conjecture with what powerful weapons we ancients could
have moved them, or what convulsion of nature had dislodged them from
their bed, and thrown them headlong into the lovely dell.

I should like to linger over the delightful three weeks I spent at
Ostersund, and describe in detail the tranquil pleasures of every day.
How we sat working with the children, through long, quiet mornings, on
the small space cleared in front of the house, or wandered through the
woods in search of mosses and ferns; how we went for long paddles on Lake
Lulu, either in the bright afternoon, when we took the children with us
over to the island garden, returning with supplies of ripe red tomatoes,
or in the clear, silent evenings, when we pushed out the canoe in any
direction--for all were charming--watching the glowing sunset die beyond
the hills, and the Indian camp fires wake to life along the shores.

One of the strangest thunderstorms I ever saw raged while I was at
Ostersund. The whole day had been warm, and as night fell the air became
sultry, and the sky assumed a leaden hue. Directly west of us, the only
bit of horizon we could see was across the line of railway; on either
side of this, high wooded rocks, some few hundred feet from the line,
dropped to a much lower level than that on which the house stood, and
beyond the brow of this declivity the sky had the appearance of a huge
fire, whose bright-red flames shot up into great clouds of rolling,
whirling smoke, their inky hue gradually expanding until the whole sky
became covered. Still the flames raged on in a weird stillness broken
only by the sound of rushing wind, the crackling and swaying of branches,
or a low, distant moan that warned us the storm was on its way. For more
than half an hour we watched the horizon, scarcely believing that its
strange hue was not really the reflection of a fire in the woods, till,
with a report as of a thousand cannon crashing on all sides, and the
fierce blast of a tornado, the storm was upon us. It spent itself,
however, in that one blast; the red light gradually paled and died, stars
peeped through the riven clouds, and the muttering thunder rolled away to
the south.

A culvert was being built close to the house, and we took the greatest
interest in the proceedings of all concerned--from the oxen, with their
tinkling bells, labouring up the steep with the heavy timbers in tow, to
the sad-faced contractor and his jovial, good-looking partner. As I
stood one morning watching the latter go up with a springing step to the
top, to superintend the placing of a beam, I saw the chain below snap,
and at the same instant the huge beam swung round, striking the
contractor, who, with a groan, fell headlong to the bottom of the
ravine--a distance of twenty feet. Instantly half a dozen men sprang down
and pulled him up, while another ran for Mr. K----, who telegraphed for
the doctor. Most fortunately, a cross stick against which the poor man
struck had broken his fall, and except for a few bruises and the shock he
was unhurt, and back at work again in a few days.

I lingered on at Ostersund until I heard that my heavy luggage had
arrived at Kuwatin, _via_ Clear Water Bay and the Lake of the Woods,
having had a narrow escape on its way over the portage. The horse ran
away, and dragged the cart over a number of nitro-glycerine cans. The
driver fled in terror, but returned some time afterward, and was
astonished to find an atom of either horse, cart, or luggage remaining.
The driver was not wanting in bravery either, for a few days before, the
left wheel of his cart had come in contact with a stump and turned over,
the whole weight of the horse's body falling upon the man. Knowing that
the load in the cart was too heavy for the horse to raise unassisted, and
that if he struggled he would be pounded to death, he had the presence of
mind to seize the brute by the ear and hold his head to the ground until
assistance came--an hour and a half afterwards--when the poor fellow was
too exhausted and numbed to get up.

As it was necessary that I should repack my luggage before sending it to
Winnipeg, I was obliged to tear myself away from Ostersund, hoping to see
my friends again before I left the contract altogether. This hope,
however, was not fulfilled, and it was a last farewell I took of them as
they stood on the rustic wharf, while Mr. K---- pushed off the birch-bark
canoe on which I was lounging. Paddling along the east shore, rather
close in, as the lake was rough, we soon reached the portage to Middle
Lake. Lifting the canoe well out of the water, and turning it over, Mr.
K---- raised it above his head; then, slipping the paddles on his
shoulders, and across the bars of the canoe, he carried it with ease up
the steep bank and down the hill to the other lake. In this way Indians
will carry, or, as they call it, "portage," their canoes for long
distances. Middle Lake is long, narrow, and swampy-looking, less pretty
than any we crossed on our way out. Leaving the canoe at the next portage
well drawn in under the trees, and the paddles carefully hidden in the
underbrush, lest any stray traveller should take advantage of it, we
walked the remaining two miles to Darlington Bay.

The heavy rains of the week before had made parts of the track very wet,
but by jumping from one log to another, and utilizing stones scattered
from the cuttings, we managed to cross very well. One of the most
beautiful spots is where the line crosses War Eagle Rock Lake. Until on
the very brow of the rocky, perpendicular shore, one does not suspect the
existence of a lake, and when nearly there I laughed as Mr. K---- asked
how wide a lake I thought there was between us and the trail leading
through some trees apparently close by. A moment later I paused in
astonishment. At our feet, full sixty feet below, lying between two walls
of rock, which looked as though an earthquake had rent it apart to leave
space for the sparkling water, was the lake of the romantic name. Below
the boom, which is eighty feet across, the breach widened, leaving space
for a tiny rocky island with only sufficient foliage upon it to make it
picturesque--a natural fortress to guard the opening into the broad,
beautiful sheet of water which lay beyond.

A blacksmith's forge hidden amid the trees, with the brawny smith singing
over his work, was the only object of interest we passed before reaching
Darlington, the contractor's head-quarters, where Mr. K---- was to leave

The bay is an arm of the waters of the Winnipeg River, about three miles
from its outlet--a low, swampy-looking place. There is a cluster of
shanties for the men, and another serving as offices, with a remnant of
civilization in one narrow window, in the shape of a doctor's sign; which
hangs crooked, however, as if ashamed of the bad company it has got into.
Further on are two log-houses with rather more pretension to comfort
about them, where the contractor and his chief engineer lived. I remained
two days with Mrs. W----, the contractor's wife, whose kind hospitality
will never be forgotten by me, and went on to Kuwatin on Saturday
evening. Mr. F----'s house there is built on the top of the high, rocky
land which commands a view of the Lake of the Woods and the Winnipeg
River, and is close to the portage path over which Lord and Lady Dufferin
and their party crossed when on their trip through Manitoba the previous
summer, camping at night on the shores of the river.

After spending Sunday morning in packing baggage to be sent by the Dawson
route, we went for a paddle up to the rapids. When the canoe had taken us
as far as possible, we got out and clambered over the rocks into the
foam. The mouth of the Winnipeg is divided into two channels by a large
island; the lower, on which we were, is a succession of rapids each more
beautiful than the last. Skirting the shore through a pretty, wooded
path, we reached a bare hill above the highest rapid. At our feet the
water ran smooth and clear round a bend on the river below. A little
further it dashed against great rocks, sending the spray whirling in
clouds over their heads where jagged edges fretted it as it passed, or
forming clear, deep, dark pools between their smooth and solid sides.
Then it swirled round a tiny island, beyond which a long ridge of
piled-up rocks stretched its bare sides almost across the stream, as
though to stay its impetuous course. The varied expanse of water, framed
in overhanging trees, and rocks which rose black against the glowing sky,
while the setting sun tinted every jet of spray with crimson and gold,
formed a picture I would have liked to carry away with me in more than
memory. Over many of the deep pools there were long poles with baited
lines, and there, too, the Indians catch large fish with both spear and

Half a mile above the rapids, we reached the partially bored tunnel
through the island which divides the river, the rocks blasted out being
used to fill up the embankment at the crossing. A few days before, this
spot had been the scene of a narrow escape from drowning. Two gentlemen,
who attempted to cross in a birch-bark canoe too near the rapids, were
caught by the eddy round the point; the canoe was capsized, and went to
pieces over the first rapid, while the canoeists, with great difficulty,
swam to the further shore, striking it only a few feet above the
rapid--barely enough to save their lives.

Returning from the tunnel, we went into a low-roofed shanty, lately
occupied by a family of nine. Its accommodation consisted of bunks built
into the wall for beds, with some dirty hay in them, a smoky mud chimney,
a hole dug in the middle of the mud floor to let off the water that
dripped through the roof, and the door hanging loose on its dried skin
hinges. There was no window, and but for the many gaps between the logs
of the walls, the inmates must have had very little air.

On Sunday, the 29th of September, soon after seven o'clock in the
morning, loaded with wraps, satchel-bags, and baskets, our travelling
party was on the way down a muddy hill to the little tug awaiting it. Our
old friend, Captain W----, greeting us enthusiastically, and busied
himself in improvising seats for us with our bags and bale of blankets.
The little tug had been built by the captain's own hands, and he
naturally thought a great deal of it, but in our eyes it seemed the
shakiest-looking craft we had ever been afloat in. Blackened with smoke,
exposure, and hard usage, it was yet thoroughly seaworthy, and although
it rolled about until well under weigh, was not uncomfortable. The stern
was roofed, but the rain drove in at the open sides, until we stretched
some waterproofs across from one upright to another. The engine fires
underneath, where the energetic one-eyed stoker was not sparing of fuel,
made it very warm, and before long I found my way round the tiny
wheel-house to the bow, and settling myself as comfortably as I could
upon a saw-horse, enjoyed my trip over the lake in spite of the drizzling

As we passed the Hudson Bay Company's post at that portage, the man at
the wheel pointed out the channel he would take when carrying supplies
for the work on the next portion of the Canada Pacific Railway, which
would "likely be worked next year;" and the confident tone of monopoly of
the traffic on the lake with which the man spoke raised vague
speculations as to the mine of wealth this little creaky boat must be to
the four men who built and worked it, their expenditure being literally
confined to their own provisions, the oil burnt in their lanterns, and
the cost of cutting the wood for fires.

A long canoe, paddled by two grinning young squaws, shot out from the
company's post, and for a time kept alongside us. About nine we entered
the Narrows, a passage only just wide enough to allow the tug to pass,
and were quickly in the Lake of the Woods. I tried before to recall the
impression made by the beauties of this exquisite lake, when crossing it
for the first time. Its islands and shores were then clad in all the
young verdure of the spring; now they wore all the glory of the autumn,
in hues of crimson, yellow, red, and gold--dark pines blending with and
forming backgrounds to the loveliest scenes that painter ever traced or
pen described. As I sat on the old saw-horse, vainly endeavouring to
grasp all the beauty around, the man at the wheel told me the legends of
each point and island, gathered from the Ojibbeways during his life among
them. If any unwary traveller ran his canoe on yonder great dark island,
closely wooded to the shore, braving the wrath of the _Mutaha Manito_
(Bad Spirit), who claimed it as his own, storms would be sent over the
lake by the offended deity, wrecks and misery alone appeasing him. A
Pale-face once, scorning the warning of the Redskin, had landed there,
and even dared to build a fire on its shores; but before the sun
again set he found an unknown grave in the great lake. Never in the
memory of the Indians had such a terrific storm raged as after the
perpetration of the impious act.

Further on we saw, in a broad expanse of water, a long, narrow, lonely
island, its trees low and stunted, its underbrush so matted that it would
seem impenetrable, where the _Kichee Manito_ (Great Spirit),
grieving that the likeness of the _Mutaha Manito_, the
_Kennebeck_ (serpent), should trouble his children when upon the
chase, or in their homes in the good land he had given them, and yet too
merciful to destroy, sent his messengers in the silent night to gather
all the serpents together. He gave them this island to live in, bidding
his children leave them unmolested. And the poor Indian, in his
gratitude, has never disobeyed the behest. Another beautiful island is
the resting-place of the Great Spirit when he pays his rare visits to
earth, and the Indian leaves upon its shores his choicest fish of the
first catch of the season, and the first-fruits of the chase as his
oblation. Another green hilly island is the grave of the braves, where
they are laid until the spirits come to lead them to the happy hunting


Clear Water Bay transformed--Cahill's Farewell--Ptarmigan Bay--A Night
under Canvas--"No more Collars or Neckties!"--Companions in
Misfortune--Cedar Lake--"Lop-sticks"--An Indian Village--Shashegheesh's
Two Wives--Buying Potatoes--_Seniores Priores_--Excellent
Carrots!--Frank's Flirtations with the Squaws--The Dogs eat Carrière's

Towards noon we turned westward into Clear Water Bay, and were soon at
the landing. How changed from the night when we landed here nearly a year
and a half before! Then it was only a forest traversed by a narrow path;
now the scene is crowded with a log storehouse and well-used roads,
several shanties, piles of glycerine cans, a barge waiting the arrival of
the tug, swarms of boats and canoes, and groups of navvies standing round
the storehouse, whence we hear the twang of a rudely played, but not
unmusical, violin: Indians and squaws, beside their wigwams, complete the
picture. Here we met our old friend Cahill, who came on board to say
good-bye. He had been away haymaking when I left Lake Deception, and I
regretted not seeing him. He had made up his mind to leave the country
and return to Ontario. In despair because he had not his two trunks with
him, so that he could accompany us, he implored us to wait until he went
and fetched them, and when we tried to explain that we should have no
means of conveying his trunks he drew himself up and informed us with
dignity that he could afford to pay his way like any other honest man.
But at last, understanding that our mode of travelling would preclude any
such weighty baggage as trunks, he bade us farewell and a hearty
God-speed, muttering as he walked away that he would not be long after us
in "this God-forsaken counthry, that all the gintlefolks were lavin'."
I have never heard if he carried out his threat, but wherever he may end
his days, I am sure his kind Irish heart will be unchanged.

Taking the barge in tow and our Indians--Carrière, who was to act as
guide, and a merry Iroquois named Frank Saddler--coming on board, we
steamed out of Clear Water Bay, and in the fast-falling rain reached our
landing-place, a large rock on a sandy, wooded shore, whence we were to
make our first portage into Ptarmigan Bay. The captain let the tug run
close up to this rock, and with little difficulty we disembarked on a
spot that seemed to lead nowhere. Bidding us a cordial good-bye, good
luck, and speedy return all round, the jolly old skipper left us, and we
watched the little tug with the barge hugged close alongside to keep it
off the sunken rocks, disappear in the rain.

We decided that it was too wet and late to make any further progress that
night, so Carrière and Frank went in search of a camping-ground; and soon
the merry ring of their axes, the crash of falling timber, and the
crackling of fires, which sent ruddy gleams through the trees, raised our
drooping spirits and dried our damp clothes, and no merrier party ever
clustered round the welcome blaze. We enjoyed our pan of fried pork and
cold roast beef, accompanied by tin pannikins of tea, more thoroughly
than the most _recherché_ repast served in the most perfectly
appointed dining-room. Spreading the waterproof sheets and robes on the
ground in the tent, Mr. F---- made the bed over its entire width, then
rolled the ends up, leaving us space to dress. We had a huge fire across
the doorway of our tent, and about ten or twelve feet off blazed another
fire, behind which rose the tent of the gentlemen.

"Now we're in camp, away with the frivolities of civilized life," cried
Mr. F----, as he took off his collar and necktie and tossed them into his
wife's lap. "I'm not going to put those on again until I get to Winnipeg,
and fashion demands the sacrifice; nor coat either--unless," he
prudently added, "I'm caught in the rain;" and he looked up at the still
weeping clouds.

No ribbons, no bows, no extra adornments, were to be allowed, and next
morning, when I appeared with some, I was voted a rebel by the assembled
travellers, and in mock politeness offered a stump to sit on, and a
knife, fork, and spoon all to myself. Rising at seven, we made our
toilets on the shore of the small bay where we had landed the night
before, and it required some little practice to wash our faces, standing
or kneeling on the slippery stones, without getting our skirts wet or
letting the water run up our sleeves. After breakfast we packed up, and
the men having taken over the canoes, we all followed, each carrying what
we could, through a narrow belt of woods; then the path rounded a grassy
swamp to a long, rocky point. Mr. M---- was some distance in front, with
the frying-pan in one hand, and a basket containing the knives, forks,
etc., in the other, while my load was the lantern, whisky-keg, and a
small tin pail of pork. Just as I reached the rock, Mr. M----, who was
feeling his way along the top, and warning me to be careful, slipped,
turned, and, vainly trying to grasp the rock, went down on all fours with
a run and splash into the lake. Away went Frank after him, shouting with
a laugh, "I'll save the frying-pan!"

"What's that?" cried Mrs. F----, who was behind me with a load of shawls.

"Only Mr. M---- in the lake," said I; and adding conceitedly, "Wait a
minute, Mr. M----, and I'll come and pull you out"--I stepped upon what
was apparently firm ground, and sank to my knees in soft, slimy mud, from
which I was with difficulty extricated. When the canoe loads were
divided, it was voted unanimously that Mr. M---- and I should be put in
the same boat, to sink or swim together.

The day cleared, and we reached our next portage after a three-hours'
paddle, from Ptarmigan Bay to a nameless lake, one of the most beautiful
I ever saw. The portage is about half a mile long, up a narrow path over
a hill, and the men loaded and travelled so well, that in two trips they
had carried everything over, while we, though more lightly laden, only
accomplished one. Somebody here called attention to the wisdom with which
I had chosen my load, as it got lighter at every trip, especially the
whisky, which, by the way, was contraband. Of course we gave the lake a
name--in fact, it had half a dozen before we left it, one being in honour
of the dear little baby, who, through all the discomforts of our trip,
enjoyed and bore it best among us. But the name it retained was Cedar
Lake, from a lovely passage, three or four hundred feet long, between the
mainland and an island, each high, rocky bank being covered with large
cedars, which almost met overhead.

Passing out from among the cedars, Carrière paused a moment; then,
steering the canoe in another direction, said--"This is the way, Mr. M----.
I doubted a moment, for I was only over this part of the trail once,
nearly four years ago. Four years this Christmas."

"Why, how can you tell which way to take? All the points and islands look
alike to me."

"By some landmarks. I paid an Indian a dollar to show me this road, and I
never forget. I know the dry wood yonder, and I know the portage by a big
stone I cooked my dinner on. There's an old tree fallen in the water by
the landing, which will be troublesome," he added. Ten minutes afterwards
we reached the spot, and had a great deal of difficulty in getting the
said tree out of the way, and ourselves ashore.

This portage is longer than the first, and over quite a steep hill,
where, in spite of its diminishing character, I found my load almost more
than I could carry, and gladly gave the pork to Frank. It was noon when
we reached the mouth of a creek in Shoal Lake. Sitting down comfortably
upon a quantity of mown hay on the shore, we had our lunch, the first man
over the portage having made a fire, and rested for an hour. The
unfortunate Mr. M----, reaching from a log for water, and stumbling in
again, afforded us some entertainment, but this time I did not propose to
rescue him.

Shoal Lake is about twelve miles long and five wide, and is at times the
roughest lake in the chain. Canoes are often wind-bound for days upon its
shores, and we congratulated ourselves on our good fortune in having such
a fine day to cross in. It was a long twelve miles' paddle. As we crossed
the northern end, Carrière pointed out the winter trail to the "Nor'-west
Angle," six miles from its southern shores, which could be followed for
over nine miles by the lop-sticks in view. The Indians formerly made
these lop-sticks only to commemorate some great event, but now they will
make one in return for a bag of flour or a feast. Choosing one of the
tallest trees, they cut off all the branches, except the very topmost,
and their bare stems make them distinguishable from the rest of the
forest a long way off.

There is a Hudson Bay Company's post on one of the islands on Shoal Lake,
and we could hear the trained dogs there howling dreadfully. About six
o'clock we reached Indian Bay, on the northern shore of Shoal Lake. Its
entrance is guarded by an island, and round its western point lie the low
meadow lands at the mouth of Falcon River. The Indian village on the
shore of the bay comprises but a few scattered log-houses and
untidy-looking wigwams of birch bark, most of them empty. The ground about
the lodges was planted with potatoes, and upright poles with cross sticks
stood near, to dry fish and skins upon. The Indians, with the exception
of a few half-grown boys, were all away at the Hudson Bay trading-post to
get their treaty-money, which varied in amount according to their rank in
the tribe, the chief getting the immense sum of twenty-five dollars a
year. A group of squaws turned out to greet the approach of our canoes,
which excited far more interest than ourselves. We went up a long path to
the chief's house, where an old squaw with five children, aged from
sixteen to three years, lived. Another house close by was inhabited by
Shashegheesh's youngest wife, a tall, slight, rather good-looking squaw,
wearing a merino skirt and loose cotton jacket. Mr. F---- had commissioned
Carrière to buy some potatoes of her; but before the bargain was completed,
her old rival, a puffy-cheeked, but still handsome woman, came forward,
asserting her prior right, assuring us that her potatoes were the best.
On this, the younger squaw, without a word of remonstrance, dropped the
half-apronful she had gathered; and the old one, sending for a birch-bark
tray, sold the potatoes off her rival's domains, and pocketed the
twenty-five cents (1s. 3d.). Carrière tried hard to induce her to throw
in one or two miserable-looking carrots for the same money; but, laughing
derisively, she declined unless he would pay more. Anxious, however, to
sell them, she followed us down to the shore, carrots in hand.

We peeped into the house; it was bare of all furniture, a roll of skins
and some matting which they make themselves being the only things we
could see. Yet Shashegheesh is one of the richest chiefs in that part of
the country, and has two wives, because he can afford to build and keep
two houses. Several other houses, well built and with good mud chimneys,
were empty, but, Carrière said, only during the summer.

A tattered birch-bark wigwam near the landing was inhabited by a squaw
and half a dozen children. A papoose, laced in his birch-bark cradle, his
face covered with blood, was roaring lustily. The squaw said his face was
sore, and he had scratched it. His screams increasing at our appearance,
she seized hold of the strap the cradle is carried by, and gave it a
violent shake, making a queer guttural remark that silenced him at once.
The inside of this wigwam was more comfortable than Shashegheesh's house.
The floor was strewn with clean cedar boughs, leaving a round space in
the centre, where there were still remains of a fire. The squaw and the
girls here, too, were better dressed than the chief's family. One child
about ten had a bright pink merino dress, profusely trimmed with narrow
black velvet and small white china buttons; her hair was braided with
coloured ribbons and beads, strings of beads also encircling her wrists,
neck, and ankles. She came out and danced for our entertainment, twisting
and whirling about, snapping her fingers over her head, and tossing her
long braids about. Her friends all regarded her performance with evident

While we looked on, a canoe, laden with cedar boughs, and paddled by two
pretty young squaws, came gliding in along the shore. Frank, who could
not understand a word of their language, sat on a log near, and soon
peals of merry laughter betrayed a lively flirtation. Close together, the
girls sidled up to him; and he, casting insinuating glances at them,
poked them in the ribs, when they ran laughing away, hiding behind the
low bushes that skirted the shore. Presently they peeped out, to find an
expression of utter indifference on Frank's face, as he idly kicked the
pebbles at his feet. When they gradually returned to the charge, Frank,
with a laughing look at us, said something in his own tongue, to which
they listened with finger on lip, looking at each other, as though

"What does it mean? Shall we remain or fly?"

Before they could decide, Frank made a feint to spring after them, at
which they turned, and fled like frightened fawns. Not being followed,
they ventured to return, coming closer and closer, until Frank, watching
his opportunity, really sprang after them, grasped the prettiest by the
elbows, and bent her lithe body back until he could look close into the
brown eyes. Then, as she struggled violently, with a laugh he let her
free. It was time to embark, and kissing his hand to the girls, he leaped
into the canoe and pushed off, we following more slowly, taking a last
look of the group on shore--the Indian wigwam, the pretty squaws, leaning
sadly against each other as they watched Frank's canoe round the point;
the stout matron, still flourishing the emaciated-looking carrots, and
shrilly vociferating their perfections to Carrière; and the dancing-girl
waving a farewell with a huge cedar bough.

Carrière told us that during the previous winter the village was full,
and when he stopped a night there, _en route_ from Winnipeg, some of
the Indians took his dog-train over to an opposite point for a fiddler
who lived there, and all spent the night in a grand "spree" of dancing
and drinking. But in the morning only the shattered remains of his
toboggan and dogs were to be found, the half-starved native animals
having devoured provisions and robes, and gnawed the toboggan to pieces,
so that he had to make the best of his way home on foot--a sadder, if not
a wiser, man.


Falcon River--An Unlucky Supper--The Fate of our Fried Pork--A Weary
Paddle--A Sundial in the Wilderness--A Gipsy Picnic--"Floating away"--The
Dried Musk-rats--Falcon Lake--How can we land?--Mr. M---- "in
again"--Surprised by Indians--How we dried our Clothes--The Last Night in

Half an hour after leaving the Indian village we reached Falcon River, a
narrow winding stream running in a swamp between hills. About half a mile
down we struck our camp for the night, at a spot where a rude wharf or
landing of logs had been built by the contractors' haymakers. Inside a
rude "corelle," or paddock, where they had kept their cattle, we pitched
our tent and made a fire. The night set in so dark and cloudy that,
unless within the immediate blaze, it was impossible to see what we were
doing. We were hungry, and the added luxury of potatoes made us anxious
to have dinner as soon as possible. Carrière brought in wood for the
night, Mr. F---- made up our tent, and Mr. M---- superintended the
stowage of the canoes, while Frank put our precious potatoes in a tin
kettle over the fire, and, in mistaken zeal, the frying-pan of pork at
the same time. The latter, of course, was cooked long before the former,
so, taking it off the fire, he set it on the ground hard by. Mr. M----
coming up a moment after, and yielding to the universal desire to "poke
the fire," stepped into the pan of pork. While we were laughing over his
propensity for tumbling into things, Carrière, who, poor fellow, was
still suffering terribly from rheumatism, limped up with a log on his
shoulder, and also fell foul of the pork. At the same moment a lantern
appeared in the distance, carried by Mr. F----, on his return from the
canoe. Jumping over the fence, he exclaimed, "By Jove! that blaze is
good. I'll get warm before I do anything else," and stepped back splash
into the ill-fated pan of pork, making what was left of the contents fly
in every direction.

"That's a bad place for it!" said Carrière, coolly picking up the pieces,
and putting it on the other side of the fire.

"Are those potatoes boiled yet?" Frank shouted from the darkness, and,
being answered in the affirmative, made his appearance with the bag
containing our dinner service of tin and other table necessaries. Tea
made, drawn, and the potatoes boiled to a turn, Frank prepared to serve
up the dinner, but looked in vain for the pork. "I say, Carrière, what
have you done with the frying-pan? I left it just here!" he cried,
seizing a brand from the fire for a torch. Scarcely had he uttered the
words when a stumble and "O Lord!" told us that the pork was really done
for this time.

Rain fell heavily all night, but held off in the morning long enough for
us to get breakfast and start, which we lost no time in doing as there
was a long paddle before us to our next camping-ground. Oh, the windings
of that Falcon River! In some parts not more than a canoe's length wide,
and in none more than two, it wound in and out, up and down, this way and
that. For a hundred feet we were dead against the wind, then a sharp turn
sent us spinning along before it, when, standing up, I held the
waterproof in my outstretched arms as a sail. Each bend of the shore was
so abrupt that the impetus of turning drove the canoe half a length into
the long grass, and it was with some difficulty backed out. We were cut
off from our companions' canoe, but could see their heads apparently only
a few feet from us, as the crow flies; but so numerous were the turns of
the river between us, that they were really half a mile behind.

At noon we stopped at another haymaker's deserted camping-ground, and
took shelter from the now pouring rain under a lean-to of poles covered
with bark. A low shanty near having a rude crank for holding a kettle
over the fire, we had a comfortable lunch. Out in the open, where there
were remnants of rough cultivation, was a sundial made of a jagged-edged
flat piece of tin, the figures scratched with a knife. Carrière said that
it was the best camping-ground on the river, and while a gang of men were
there was very comfortable. Had any one from the more civilized world
seen us idly lolling about on the logs or ground in our travelling
costumes, the Indians leaning against the uprights, the baby as happy as
a queen on an outspread buffalo robe, the tin plates and mugs, knives,
forks, and kettles, to say nothing of the whisky-keg, and general
_debris_ of a finished feast, and at the same time heard the steady,
drenching rain descending round us, he might have wondered at the
laughter, fun, and chaff in which we all indulged.

But we could not stay there all day, and the rain showing no signs of
abating, we set out again. Not far from the camping-ground we passed an
Indian standing on the bank near two birch-bark canoes, while up on the
hill a wretched wigwam sent forth the usual number of squaws, children,
and dogs to greet our approach. The Indian had no potatoes, no ducks, no
fish, no anything to sell; so, with a "Bon jour, nitchee," we sped on.
About this time I noticed that my hat, a brown straw with green leaves
somewhere amongst the trimming, was weeping blue tears all down my
ulster. Taking the drenched and now almost colourless leaves out, I sent
them afloat on the river, mentally resolving that if I ever undertook a
journey of the kind again, I would have a casing of waterproof, and leave
voluminous skirts and useless adornments at home.

At one of the landing spots was an upright pole, from the top of which
hung half a dozen musk-rats, tied together with a red string; and such is
the honesty of the Indians, that they might hang there until they rotted
off, before any but the rightful owner would touch them.

Carrière said the swamp was full of traps, and pointed out many spots
where he knew they were placed to catch the musk-rats, but which to our
eyes were undistinguishable from the rest of the swamp.

On, on, down the interminable river. The rain was still falling, and we
were all gradually getting numbed and quiet; running into the shore, or
spinning before the wind, no longer affording any excitement. We got so
far ahead of the other canoe that we could not hear even Mr. K----'s
"Whoop it up!" as he called a wild halloo he indulged in whenever he
thought our spirits needed raising. Pulling up under the shelter of some
bulrushes, for the wind was becoming keener every moment, we waited with
chattering teeth until our comrades joined us, when we kept together
better for the remainder of the way. During the afternoon we several
times crossed the south or first line surveyed for the Canada Pacific,
which has been proved by recent inquiries the most inexpensive route. But
I could not help pitying the "party" that had to work through such a
wretched country.

As we neared the mouth of the river we felt the wind very much, and vague
fears of what the weather would be like outside, and what chance there
was of landing, began to assail us. However, there was nothing for it but
to persevere. When nearly dusk, the wash of the waves on the shore warned
us that we were on the Falcon Lake. Subdued by atmospheric woes, we heard
the sound without comment, but it revived the drooping energies of our
canoe-men, and, putting on a spurt, we were soon across the bay. Beyond
the point great white capped waves tossed and raged before the fury of
the wind. If we could only round the point, a good camping-ground awaited
us, but it was a question whether the canoes could live through the turn.
However, the alternative of landing in a swamp made it worth the attempt.
Asking me if I was afraid to venture, and being answered, "Not if
_you_ are not!" Mr. M---- headed the canoe towards the lake, and in
a moment we were abreast of the point, when Carrière said--"Better not
try it, sir; it is too dark to cross the lake, and on this shore the
canoe would be dashed to pieces before we could unload her."

So we turned, and a few vigorous strokes drove the canoe well up into the
long grass, where we sat a moment waiting for the next scene of the
tragi-comedy. It was Mr. M---- "in again"--but purposely this time.
Rolling up their trousers as high as they could, the men jumped into the
swamp, and though sinking nearly to their waists, they with a
"Heave-ahoy!" pulled the loaded canoe well up to the bank. Then bidding
us stay quiet until they got the tents pitched and the fire alight, they
left us in the fast-gathering darkness to do that hardest work of all,
which generally falls to woman's lot--to wait. As we sat silently there,
the baby asleep, the maid telling her woes over the side of the canoe in
the most heart-rending manner, we were nearly startled out of our wits by
the sudden appearance of a birch-bark canoe propelled by two shaggy-haired
Indians, which glided into the swamp alongside of us. Listening to the
ring of axes and voices on shore, then pointing to us, they asked some
question in their own tongue, which we answered by pointing to the land
and nodding. With an "Ugh!" they left their canoe and went on shore,
where they were immediately pressed into the service to unload and gather
hay for our beds. They had a "tom-tom"--an instrument something between a
drum and a tambourine, which they play at all their feasts and gambling
bouts--a scarlet top knotted cock of the woods, a small fish, a little
birch bark basket with the lid tightly sewed down, and an old worn-out
blanket in their canoe.

It was quite dark by the time we landed, cramped and cold from our long
day on the river. I, however, was the best off, as I had the width of the
canoe to myself, and was not afraid to move about a little, while Mrs.
F---- had to share her seat with the maid and the baby. We floundered
helplessly up the wet path, sinking over our ankles in many places, but a
glorious fire on the top of the height greeted us, and a mug of hot
whisky and water--taken medicinally, of course--made us quite ready to
eat a hearty dinner and dry our wet clothes. The tent was prepared, and,
drying under its folds, we divested ourselves of one garment, and after
drying it dived under again, to put it on while we dried the next.
Hammering sticks into the ground round the fire, we soon surmounted them
with an array of different-sized boots and various-coloured stockings. We
held more voluminous articles to the fire ourselves, avoiding the sparks
as best we might, and closing our eyes to let the smoke-drawn tears roll
slowly down our cheeks, to be opened suddenly by an outcry from the other
side of the fire of--

"Look out there, Miss F----; your flannel skirt is burning!"

And as I grasp the precious article, and quench the sparks with my hands,
I see through the flames some of his own garments floating into the fire.
The wind blows the sticks down and prostrates an impromptu clothes-line
with all its load, while the maid's lugubrious countenance, as she dries
petticoat after petticoat and skirt after skirt, set me speculating how
much there would be left of her if she took them _all_ off. Our
Indian visitors sit hugging their knees and holding their bare feet to
the fire, gazing at all the trouble we take over our absurd superfluities
of clothing with stolid indifference. Frank is lying on the hay near,
threatening them with the dire vengeance he will wreak on their backs if
they get up in the night and burn the dry wood be has had such difficulty
in collecting, and which is to be kept for cooking breakfast; and of how
little value their life will be to them if they so much as lay a finger
on the tent he is going to leave standing there ready to occupy on his
way back. The wilder his threats become, the more expressionless are
their faces; not a gleam of intelligence crosses them when he says he
knows well enough they can talk English as well as he can.

"Wasn't he taken in once? But never will Redskin impose on him again."
And he laughs scornfully at the idea.

We sat up late that night, as the rain had ceased, and we had been so
dull all day that we felt bound to make up for it now, especially as this
was to be our last night in camp. Frank and Carrière vied with each other
in relating their narrow escapes from accidents and scarcity of
provisions, when Hudson Bay fare of "one pound of flour, half a pound of
tea, and one pound of fat pork, or one jack-fish six mile long," would
have been appreciated. These stories were varied by anecdotes of people
they had travelled with; some trick of speaking or peculiarity of
expression or action, cleverly mimicked by the Indians, pointing their
story and giving pungency to their wit.


Indian Loyalty--A Nap on Falcon Lake--A False Alarm--The Power of
Whisky--Magnificent Water Stretches--A Striking Contrast--Picnic
Lake--How we crossed Hawk Lake--Long Pine Lake--Bachelors' Quarters at
Ingolf--We dress for Dinner--Our Last Portage--A Rash Choice--Grasp
your Nettle--Mr. F----'s Gallantry--Cross Lake--Denmark's Ranche--A
Tramp through the Mire.

Next morning the sun rose bright and clear, but as there was still a
good deal of wind, which was likely to increase as the day advanced, we
started early; not, however, before Mr. F---- had sent the strange
Indians to shoot some ducks we had heard on the lake. They returned with
one old and five young birds, for which they got five cents apiece, and
the remnants of our breakfast. We all set to work to pick them at once.
Carrière, at my instigation, tried every inducement in his power,
offering the Indians three times its value in money, to purchase the
little basket of wild rice they had in their canoe, but without success.
"It belonged to another Indian, and they had not leave to sell it," they
said, in answer to all his persuasions. We embarked on the Falcoln Lake
side of the point; the water was still so rough that the canoes had to be
held off the rocks to prevent their bumping. Mr. F---- and Frank struck
directly across the lake and hugged the western shore, but Mr. M---- and
Carrière, trusting to my being a good sailor, kept in the middle of the
lake in a direct course to the portage.

The waves were just high enough to give the canoe a cradle-like motion.
Settling myself comfortably, and being covered with a warm rug, I slept
soundly until we reached the portage--an hour's paddle--so that I knew
very little of the beauties of the lake. Looking back at it as we sat on
the shore waiting for the other canoe, its shores seemed hilly, and
devoid of bays or foliage. When the others came in, they expressed
astonishment that I could sleep when the water was so rough; they could
not see us at all times, and feared we were lost, and the reappearance of
the canoe, apparently without me in it, had puzzled them not a little.
Before we were ready to cross the portage our Indian visitors overtook us
and carried some of our baggage. When asked to take a canoe, they looked
at it, lifted it shook their heads, laughed and told Carrière it was 'too
heavy, they were not beasts.' Mr. F---- offered them a dollar to take it
over to the next lake--less than half a mile. 'No'--they lifted it again
carefully, taking everything out of it--"no, they wouldn't do it for five

Then Mr. M---- and Frank, putting their folded coats on their shoulders
to rest the edge on, took up the canoe, one end on Mr. M----'s left
shoulder, and the other on Frank's right, and went off at an easy run,
the Indians watching them open mouthed. Then they again tried the weight
of the other, anxious to get the money, but too lazy to earn it. At last
Mr. F---- had a "happy thought". Showing the Indians the whisky keg, and
holding the open bunghole to their noses, he made them understand that if
they carried the canoe over they should have some of "the cratur" when
they returned. This worked like a charm, in two minutes the canoe was
hoisted on their shoulders, and they were off at double the pace of the
others. Before they returned, Mr. F---- emptied out most of the whisky
and replaced it with water, shaking the keg well to give it a flavour. It
is against the law to give Indians spirits, but he knew that this mild
draught could not hurt them. They were apparently quite satisfied, and
left us, promising to bring us some potatoes to the end of the next
portage. But either they detected the fraud, and did as Indians generally
do when cheated--said nothing at the time, but would rather starve than
give one a chance to cheat them again--or they were unable to procure the
potatoes; at all events, we saw no more of them.

The next lake at which we arrived was very picturesque. I asked Carrière
its name, but he laughed and replied, "It has no name, Miss F----. It is
only one of those 'magnificent water stretches' we hear MacKenzie talking
so much about." [Footnote: During the debate on the building of the Fort
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.


*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Trip to Manitoba" ***

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