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A Holiday Trip to Canada
Chapter VIII

I had planned to take the trip through the Thousand Islands in the St Lawrence River, and my plans were almost brought to naught by my inexperience in a trifling matter. When ready to depart, I thought a cab could be hailed from the street, but this you cannot do in Toronto; you must telephone to the depot for one.

A quarter of an hour elapsed before one came, and I gave up my train as lost; however, I managed to get to the “Union” Station in time.

The Union Station is so called because it is the junction of all the railways in that district.

I was once more struck by the care which is taken by the railway officials to save the public from going astray; before a train leaves the Union Station an official walks through calling, “Only Grand Trunk available on this train" or, "Only those having C.P.R. tickets allowed on this train.” Under the guidance of one of these courteous officials I was soon comfortably seated and travelling towards Kingston Junction, at which place I found myself deposited at some unearthly hour in the morning, with a few other sleepy passengers. Here we sat on high office stools round an open bar on the platform, eating sandwiches and sipping coffee.

I did not hurry, but finding the other passengers had ail left, I asked a conductor standing near, at what time the train left for the Pier; he answered,  We’re waiting for you now,” and took my bag, which I followed, to another platform, and scarcely had I got “on board ” before we started for the Pier Station, where we were to wait until the boat came in at five o'clock a.m.

The boat had come down the Lake Ontario from Toronto, through a not particularly interesting country, during the night I had elected to come by train thus far, as it gave me an extra day in Toronto. Anyone making the whole journey from Toronto to Montreal by boat, would find good sleeping accommodation and good food on board.

Are there words in our language which will adequately convey a notion of the magnificence of the St Lawrence? I had expected to see something beautiful in going through the Thousand Islands, but my expectations fell far short of the reality, which is a fairy archipelago.

It was a glorious day, and the water was still, and shone like a mirror. Islands were everywhere, but, reflected as they were in the stream, which resembled a lake rather than a stream, they seemed innumerable, and I felt thankful to have been permitted to see the lovely sight.

Some few of them are only a rock, but generally they are wooded to the water's edge; nearly all are small, and only bear a pretty cottage and garden sheltered in the trees; some larger ones are occupied by the handsome mansions of millionaires; whilst one or two have magnificent hotels perched upon them, with beautifully laid out gardens and lawns sloping down to the river’s brink. These are the summer homes of moneyed men, and the holiday haunts of the less wealthy, but probably happier, mortals.

The broad bosom of the great sleepy river is the cradle of a fleet of canoes and dainty boats, which flit here and there, and give that touch of life, without which, even Nature in its most lovely form seems lacking in an essential.

I quote the following from a book which I read on the journey down, and which appealed to me very strongly:

"Region Grand and beautiful,
Where the red man once roamed free,
Would that we knew thy history old;
All that is known of thee.

Would that thy Islands had a voice
To tell of romance wild;
To tell of deeds that happened there,
Where dreamy Nature smiled.”

We left the Islands behind us, and steamed into a part of the river where we could see its banks on either side; the right bank, of course, being New York State and the left, Canada.

On the way down we passed a monument of great interest, in an old landmark, where the so-called "Patriots” rallied in 1837 to assist the Canadians in throwing off the yoke of English rule; to their great surprise they were soon convinced that the Canadians loved the yoke; anyhow, they made short work of their would-be benefactors.

The close association of Canada with Britain is in evidence, even on the river, where, on flagstaff? belonging to the little bungalows and camps, you will see two flags flying, side by side, the flag of Canada and the Union Jack.

At this stage of our journey we had to change from our steamer into a much smaller one, as very few, and certainly not large boats, can be navigated down the St Lawrence to Montreal, because of the rapids.

There was great excitement as we neared the first rapid, the river is running as placidly and still as possible, but when the boat draws nearer the fall, her engines are stopped, then, when almost close, they are reversed, a curious grating sound is heard, as though the bottom of the boat were scraping on rocks; then, suddenly, we shoot down, passing rocks within about a yard of the boat; the water is dashing, swirling and foaming to such an extent that one wonders how the little steamer can possibly keep her course, and looking back, one sees a sharp line across the river, almost as though a wall had been built underneath the surface; over this the waters rush and tumble, making the river for some distance down, a seething whirlpool.

Great rafts of lumber are floating down the river to the pulp mills. The economy of transport by this method is, I suppose, beyond estimation. Lately, much of the pulp wood has gone to the States, only to be taken back to Canada as manufactured paper; I do hope that Canadians will wake up to the seriousness of permitting the States to share in an industry which should be all her own.

This river journey is most delightful; the soft cool air after the terrible heat of the towns is quite invigorating, but I must confess to feeling a little sad, when I realize that I am on my return journey. We are fast approaching the second rapid, and before long we shall be in Montreal, and my experience of Canada will be drawing to its end.

One can scarcely imagine that, barely one hundred years ago, these were wild regions, uninhabited except by the Red Indian, and that they alone were at home in and about these rapids, in their canoes. They have been driven farther and farther back, by the advance of civilization, into the interior of the country and are, I hear, a fast dying race.

The Government now reserves tracts of land for them; land which may not be sold, so that they may live unmolested. Some grow com in small quantities, and if they can fish or obtain a little game, just sufficient to live on, they are content.

They are a brave, but lazy, people; a few here and there live quite civilized lives, but it does not suit them, they do not retain the robust health and vim they had in the old days when they lived in the wilds, and I suppose they will degenerate and decay until they are no more.

I am back again in Montreal, where I receive my first batch of letters from home. The charm of arriving here again was the meeting of several friends who came out upon the “Royal Edward” with me. They, with a kindness of which I cannot sufficiently express my appreciation, met me at the landing stage and gave me a welcome as warm as it was sincere.

One of these ladies constituted herself my guide to Montreal, but, on the whole, it is a city for which I cannot raise any enthusiasm.

To my friendly guide I had much to relate, as also had she to me. In this exchange of confidences I learned that her voyage out was likely to have a romantic issue, a romance not unconnected with the gentleman who had been my kindly escort to Niagara.

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