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Across the Canadian Prairies

Next morning early our four-horse team was ready, and we started off on our drive from Wetaskiwin to Edmonton. The country is very much of the same character as that we passed through the day before, but not so well settled. Still, we were never out of sight of houses, and we mot several immigrants, with their waggons and outfit, prospecting for land. There are many rivers and lakes on the way, and any amount of sport can be obtained by those who wish for it, and almost everybody does, as ducks, chickens, and rabbits are agreeable varieties in the way of food to bacon and pork and canned incats. We stopped at midday to rest our horses, and to have lunch, but the place had better, perhaps, not be named, for reasons which will be understood after an interview which we had with a settler is recounted. While the horses were having a rest we wandered off along the shore of a neighbouring lake to see if we could get a few ducks. In the course of our wanderings through the bush (the land in the neighbourhood of the place is well timbered) we met a settler on his way to a well for water. He appeared to be a gentlemanly young fellow, and stated subsequently that his case was like a number of others. He was of good family, but, when his father died, the money left was not sufficient to keep the family going, and they all had to turn out and do for themselves. This young man had made his way to the North-West; and we went to look over his domain. The house he had put up himself. It was small, and fairly clean for bachelor quarters, but he told us he was beginning to feel tho loneliness of his life. His farm gave one the impression that he thought rather more of his loneliness than of work, for only a few acres were under cultivation. We had to part, however, at last, and, after having said good-bye two or three times, which rather gave one the impression that he had not said all that he wanted to say, as we were strolling leisurely down the hill he burst out with something of this kind:I say, when you get back to England, I wish you would do me a good turn. If you hear of any lady who is tired of single blessedness, and would like to come out here, I wish you would put me in communication with her. I am not particular about age or about looks, and more important than either would be the possession of a little money.

Early in the afternoon we arrived at South Edmonton, so named because it is on the south side of the river Saskatchewan. This is comparatively a new place, and must not be confounded with the old Edmonton, which is on the north side of the river. The Saskatchewan at this place is about 250 feet below the level of the road, and the cliffs are rather precipitous. Consequently, the descent in a four-in-hand, especially after the weather has been at all wet, is quite a performance in its way, only equalled by the ascent on the other side, after having ferried across the rapid stream. However, we managed the trip in safety; but several times in the course of our long drives we felt that the places through which we went in a four-horse team would have startled many members of the Four-in-hand or Coaching Clubs. Edmonton was formerly a Hudson Bay Post, but for many years has been an important settlement, notwithstanding its distance from the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In the last few years, especially since it has had railway communication, it has developed immensely, and bids fair to become an important place. There is considerable rivalry between it and South Edmonton, and no doubt the difficulty of crossing the river may prove an advantage to the latter place. It is not surprising, therefore, that Edmonton is moving heaven and earth to get a bridge across the river, and possibly this may be arranged in time, although there are engineering difficulties in the way.

The Edmonton district is admirably adapted for general agriculture and dairying, with good soil, a fine climate, and a prospect of fair markets, especially in British Columbia. It has the advantage also of plenty of coal, which crops out on the river banks quite near the town, is easily mined, and is sold at a very low price. Then gold is found on the bars or benches on the river bottom, and the industry is followed by a good many men, yielding from $2 to $5 per day or more. The town is really a lively sort of place, considering everything. The shops or stores are good of their kind and numerous, and they seem to do a fair business. The streets are wide, and tho roads are all right in fine weather. Most of the buildings are of wood, but they look fairly substantial, and there are many very pretty residences in tho neighbourhood. We were fortunate in meeting Inspector Snyder, of the North-West Mounted Police. We learnt a great deal about the neighbouring country from him, and were enabled through his courtesy and assistance to see very much more of it than would otherwise have been possible. In fact, we spent three or four days very pleasantly in driving north, east, and west of the town, interviewing farmers, and seeing the country and its possibilities. But a description of these days may be left for a further letter.

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