There was the usual bustle and confusion in the huge
Customs house or shed, and on the landing stage. The meeting of friends
and relations, the many farewells, the hundreds of passengers, the piles
of luggage, the railway officials checking the baggage for the different
railways, and the custom house officials wanted by everybody at the same
I was in no hurry, as I was remaining in Montreal and had
not to catch a train. Everything seemed very strange, but I found some
distraction in three girls travelling alone and each in a different
direction, who were getting very hurried, and I was glad to be able to
busy myself in helping them. I found that around the large covered shed
were posts with a letter of the alphabet on each of them, and that the
baggage of anyone with a corresponding initial was placed at its
particular post. It was now ten p.m., and, in the confusion, it was a
little difficult to find out what was to be done; however, we soon
discovered what was necessary, and I at last, with difficulty, got a
Customs officer to pass one lot of luggage, whilst its owner went in
search of a Canadian Pacific Railway official to "check” it. This was
rather difficult, for it was so hot, that these men had their hats
pushed back off their foreheads, and one could not tell which was a
"Grand Trunk.” "Canadian Northern," or "Canadian Pacific’’ man, the peak
of the caps hiding the badges of the different companies, I went to see
if I could get the other iuggage passed, but it took a long time and I
feared that my girls would really miss their several trains.
One of these girls had six big cases, stoutly nailed
down, and one of these cases was to be opened, but when I explained to
the officer that she was going out with all her belongings, to be
married and settled in Canada, and that she had nothing but her own
personal luggage, he proved to be a very human soul, for a Customs man,
and was good enough to pass the larger packages and examine her
travelling bag only.
At this point I, fortunately, came across our fellow
voyager, the ex-mayor of Chatham, who knew the ropes well, and I was
very glad when he kindly offered to help these girls, and introduced
them to a young clergyman who took them in his charge and piloted them
safely through their difficulties.
As regards this, I was told I need not feel under any
obligation whatever, as this clergyman was at the docks for the purpose
of helping any young girls who were alone. This was a relief to me, as
the hour was late and everything was strange to them.
I had only just left these girls in the clergyman’s care,
when a lady superintendent of the Girls’ Friendly Society asked me about
them. She told me that there was great need for keeping a protecting eye
upon girls when landing, for Montreal was not a desirable place for a
strange woman to be in alone, and great care was necessary.
At last I thought it was time that I should see to my own
luggage, which, fortunately, consisted of one cabin trunk only, my other
baggage having been left on board for the return journey, or to be sent
on should I require it. Going to the post bearing my initial letter, no
trunk was to be found, but after some hunting round, as most of the
baggage had been taken off to the different railways, I soon found it It
had been mis-sorted and placed, by mistake, under the wrong letter.
I was beginning to feel somewhat lonely, for, by this
time, most of the people had left, and I had rather a dread of going off
to an hotel by myself. However, happily for me, I was hailed by one of
my state-room companions, who told me that as her friends had not met
her, she had decided not to go beyond Montreal that night, and would
very much like to go with me to my hotel.
We were both mutually relieved to find that neither of
us, after all, was utterly alone; somehow I felt more strange than I had
ever done before on a first visit to any country I had visited in
Europe. On our way in the omnibus I found myself sitting beside another
fellow passenger, who had been most kind to us on the boat. In the
course of conversation I learned that he was leaving Montreal for
Toronto in the morning en route to Chicago. This would take him very
near Niagara, and as he had not seen the Falls, and I was alone, he was
kind enough to suggest that he should break his journey and see the
Falls, and offered me his escort, expressing the pleasure it would
afford him if he could help me in any way. Needless to say I very
thankfully accepted this proposition, and I was particularly glad to
think that I had now two friends at hand when I had expected none.
The hotel at which I had been advised to stay, in St
James's Street, was not at all calculated to inspire one with
confidence, but I was far too tired and it was too late for me to seek
another. There was such a free and easy air about it, and it was so
unlike any hotel I had ever stayed in before, that, had I been alone, I
should have felt positively uncomfortable, for, so far as I could judge,
Canadian hotels seemed decidedly rough.
I hear that the Canadian Pacific Railway hotels, such as
the "Frontenac” at Quebec, or the "Windsor” at Montreal, are very good,
but I did not then know of the latter, so I can only speak at present of
this, the first hotel at which I stayed in Canada.
In the comer of the entrance hall was a sort of counter,
behind which was a man in his shirt sleeves. I took a room which, with
breakfast, was to cost two and a half dollars. He then called a
slovenly-looking lad, also in his shirt sleeves, to take our luggage up
to our room, for my friend begged that she might share my room.
We went down almost immediately and asked for some food.
”You can’t have anything to eat tonight!” said the man
behind the counter; I don’t know if he was hall porter, manager, or
proprietor, but he was the only person about. I told him we were very
hungry and must have some food.
“We never serve anything after dinner,” he replied.
“But,” said I, "surely you can give us some cold meat and
a cup of tea?”
"No!” he answered, “you can’t have anything here. There's
a restaurant a few doors up, across the street; I dare say you can get
“Do you mean that you would send guests, who are
strangers in the town, out at eleven o’clock at night to search for
food? Couldn't you give us a glass of milk and a biscuit?” "Well,” said
he, “you can go into that room and ask, but we don’t serve meals at all
hours like this.”
We turned in disgust and went into what appeared to be a
dining room; here I humbly begged a man to get us a glass of milk and a
biscuit. He said he’d see.” After awhile he brought us a glass of milk
and asked if we would like a sandwich. I was so brightened up by the
prospect that I felt I could have embraced that young man.
He brought two sandwiches, one each; judge of our dismay,
when, on tasting it, we found between two thick pieces of bread, a slice
of very nasty cheese; such fare might be expected on the prairie, but in
an old and big city like Montreal we were surprised, to say the least of
We were very tired, hot, hungry and thirsty, and we went
supperless to a very indifferent bed, in a not too cleanly room.
Breakfast was a contrast to our overnight’s fighting for
food, for it was really a very excellent meal.
On my way out I had heard many bitter complaints of the
"tip” system as practised in England and on the Continent, and the way
in which strangers were “fleeced" by it at every turn. People of small
means, who had experienced only the limited amount of tipping in vogue
in Canada, were loud in their condemnation of this custom. This led me
to inquire as to what I should be expected to do in this respect after
landing, and I was assured that, at hotels, if I wanted special services
performed for me, I would, of course, be expected to pay for them, but
that tipping, as known in England, was not to be thought of. "Ask the
tariff, pay your bill, and walk out; you won’t find half a dozen or more
people buzzing round you as you leave, anxious to open the door, bow you
out, or carry your umbrella to the carriage”; and, so far, I have found
this to be the case.
When disembarking, amongst the porters carrying small
baggage ashore, railway men, officials upon whom one necessarily has to
depend for help, not one seemed to wait, or expect, to be tipped; on the
contrary, they acted as paid men whose duty it was to do this, their
allotted work. Of course, on the boat, it is customary to give a
substantial tip to the stewards and stewardess, as payment for services
rendered, but, beyond that, as yet, I have not been expected to open my
purse for the purpose of a tip. Fancy a porter at the docks, at eleven
o’clock in the evening, after most of the passengers had left, carrying
my things out of the dock shed, finding a conveyance and packing me into
it, saying, "Good evening,” and walking away, without giving me a chance
to tip him! How much more manly and independent than the everlasting and
degrading system existing in England, of asking for a tip, or standing
expectant, waiting for it!
I found, too, that in the morning, we walked out of the
hotel, without any attendants looking after us, only wishing the man in
the office, "Good day,” and paying the lad for taking our things to the
railway station close by.
The heat in Montreal, the day after our arrival, was
registered as 98: in the shade; it was almost too hot to go out and see
the city, and worse still to travel by day, so we stayed the day to see
the city, and travelled on to Toronto and Niagara by the night train.
Everything in and about the city had some touch of
novelty and was interesting to me. Tram drivers and men driving motor
cars were dressed as they would have been here if spending a hot day on
the Thames, in a shirt falling loosely over the waist, with sleeves
turned above the elbow, and, if driving under a shelter, they wore no
Girls in the restaurants wore, generally, thin white
muslin frocks, without neckbands, and with very short sleeves, whilst
electric fans were in evidence everywhere.
In the restaurants, iced water is given you at once, even
before your order is given. No wonder that when such great heat is
experienced every summer, iced drinks are so popular, and ice-cream soda
in special demand.
All houses and shops, especially restaurants, have fly
doors and windows, as well as storm windows. The fly and mosquito doors,
made of gauze put into window or door frames, are kept carefully closed,
and, judging from the myriads of winged insects of all kinds one sees in
clouds around every street lamp, this precaution is very necessary.
Storm window’s in houses and trains speak for themselves. It would be
impossible to keep a railway car warm, with half an inch of frost on the
inside of the window; the air between the two windows, in winter,
prevents this dampness arising, and consequently the frost is kept
In Montreal, I believe that two-thirds of the inhabitants
are French, the remaining third being a conglomeration of almost every
nationality under the sun.
Everything is free and easy, as one would expect to find
only in the United States. There are many handsome buildings in the
city, but the roads are bad and pavements ill-kept. Many streets have a
very untidy appearance, arising from the network of wires that run along
and over them in all directions, so much so as to obscure the houses
entirely, if you look down a street from the end, when little but wires
and their unsightly supports are visible.
A Montreal man will tell you that, as yet, there has not
been time to do as they would do; bye and bye, all the wires will be put
The telegraph or telephone posts, I am not sure which,
are simply trunks of trees, the lower part of which would be from three
to four feet in circumference; on these are nailed the post boxes for
the collecting of letters: in addition to these there are the posts for
carrying the overhead wires for the tram service. Even after seeing the
maze of wires under a London street pavement, one is curious to know
what need there can be for so many wires as are seen in a principal
street of an old town like Montreal.
The impression of my first excursion round the city was a
very mixed one. I could not imagine myself in Canada, a daughter country
of old England; there is so very little of what is English there; on the
other hand, it certainly does not give one the idea of being American,
it would strike one more as being French, and yet it is entirely unlike
any city I have visited in France.
The railway stations are perhaps more French than any
other part of the city. Here they are very handsome buildings; the
platforms are like those on the Continent, not elevated; in fact, as
platforms, they don’t exist; one has to clamber up into the carriages,
and is directed co No. I or 2 track, not to No. 1 or 2 platform.
You register your luggage as is done on the Continent, or
rather, you "check your baggage,” and you go “aboard your train,” The
railway official "on board” the train is a very useful and helpful
individual, he looks after the passengers splendidly and seems to
consider them as his especial charge.
On long-journey trains, coloured men fill these posts. I
cannot speak too well of the way in which the conductor of our train
studied the comfort of his passengers. He positively begged us to go by
a later train because it would be a far more comfortable one and better
equipped than his own, but, as this tram would allow of our getting to
Niagara more than an hour earlier than the special, we decided to go on
by it, for we could not have too long a time in which to see and admire
the wonders of Niagara.
The trains are heavier, much larger, and altogether
different from our English trains. There are doors only at each end, as
in our Pulman carriages. At one end there is fitted up a box like room
for smokers; on entering, you go round this room through a narrow
passage at the side into the carriage proper. Here the seats are
arranged much as the seats are in English restaurant cars, with a
passage down the centre, the seats on either side holding two persons;
the upholstered backs can be turned, so that you can fa re either way.
If the seat in front of you happens to be empty, you can push the back
forward, and so have it either to put your feet upon at night, if you
are not having a sleeper, or for your travelling bags and rugs. At the
opposite end from the smoke room is always a tap with iced water which,
in this very hot weather, is a great boon.