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A Holiday Trip to Canada
Chapter VI

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 time

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 something there.”

“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 it.

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 hat.

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 outside.

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 underground.

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.

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