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Across the Canadian Prairies

In order to reach Victoria, tho capital of British Columbia, from Vancouver, it is necessary to undertake a short sea voyage of about 84 miles, the run generally occupying about five hours. Although the route is practically land-locked—and it may be mentioned by the way that the scenery is very beautiful—the passage can be a fairly rough one, as many of the passengers on the little top-heavy boat which made a voyage in October last (1894) experienced. The vessel at times rolled and pitched in rather an alarming way, and there were not many passengers who felt inclined to enjoy the motion on one or other of the decks. However, Victoria was at last reached, and a very English-like place it is. Its streets and shops are full of life, and the suburbs are very pretty, and if it is not as solid looking as Vancouver, it has other charms of its own, which the mainland city cannot emulate. Victoria has a population of about 20,000, and dates its growth from the gold craze which was rife in British Columbia between 30 and 40 years ago. It has the advantage of being near Esquimault, the headquarters of the Pacific Squadron of Her Majesty’s Navy, and bluejackets are consequently frequently seen in the streets. There is also a considerable Chinese quarter, which is both interesting and instructive, and very dirty, but it is a place to which all visitors go out of curiosity. Chinese and Japanese curios, and textiles of all descriptions, are on sale, but probably better stocks can be seen in Regent Street, and at prices rather lower than the Heathen Chinee is apt to ask, although he is by no means accustomed to get what he demands at a first interview.

The fortifications at Esquimault are being much strengthened, and in the near future it will be a very strong place. The Canadian Government is providing the money necessary for the earthworks, while the Imperial Government provides the armaments. Considerable secrecy is being observed as to the works that are in progress, and no one is permitted on the ground without a special order from the officer in command.

It is stated that a Russian Prince, who recently arrived in the country, strolled out very early one morning with a Russian officer, ostensibly for a walk. Perhaps it was not altogether by chance that he found himself in the neighbourhood of Esquimault, but, in any case, he had not gone very far before he was pulled up by a sentry, and was prevented from inspecting the fortifications—which was probably the object of his peregrinations.

Considerable jealousy exists between Victoria and Vancouver. You must never expect a Victorian to say anything good of Vancouver, or vice versa; but surely there is room enough for two cities like Vancouver and Victoria in British Columbia. Vancouver Island is as large as Great Britain; it has extensive coal measures, abundance of timber, as well as much mineral wealth. A good deal of the land, when cleared, will be available for agriculture, and will grow anything that a temperate climate will produce. It is probable, therefore, that in tho future Victoria will greatly develop. It will never, perhaps, be as important as Vancouver, in view of the fact that the latter is the terminus of the railway, a great shipping port, and tho possible landing place of the Pacific cable, and bearing in mind also the development of the mineral resources of the mainland which must take place in the near future, and for which Vancouver is the natural source of supply.

There are many walks and drives in the neighbourhood of Victoria, and wherever you go charming views of the Sound, and of the islands which are scattered over it, are to be seen, while the magnificent snowy peak of Mount Baker is always visible. Both Victoria and Vancouver have good public parks. The former is known as Beacon Hill Park, and is very prettily arranged, but of course it cannot compare with the Stanley Park of Vancouver, which is practically a piece of the primeval forest. The principal drive is round the park on the seashore, and is nine miles long. The trees are very large, and the foliage of the undergrowth most brilliant. On a fine day the drive is something to be remembered.

While we were in British Columbia agricultural shows were very frequent, and it gave us an opportunity of forming an idea of what the country could produce. We visited shows at Victoria, as well as at New Westminster, and there were also some smaller gatherings in the interior. An agricultural show in Canada is not confined to agriculture—in fact, it is a general exhibition, and includes everything. The object is, of course, to give a holiday to the people of the neighbourhood, and the attendance is always pretty numerous, especially when horse racing forms a part of the proceedings, which is generally the case. From an agricultural point of view, the exhibits were excellent, especially so far as regards fruit and vegetables. Apples, pears, plums, grapes, and all the other fruits, were of largo size and most excellent in appearance, and the same remarks apply also to the vegetables. Fine specimens 'A hops were also on show, and the other exhibits, while not perhaps directly connected with agriculture, gave an excellent idea of the energy and industry of the exhibitors.

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