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A Holiday Trip to Canada
Chapter IX

I felt just a little sad at finding myself once more on board the “Royal Edward" leaving behind so pleasing an experience as mine had been. This sense of sadness was aggravated by the fact that, as regards passengers, I was again amongst complete strangers; it was really good to see the familiar faces of the boat's officials and crew, and my heart warmed to them as to old friends.

We slipped out quietly from the docks in the very early morning; so quietly that, when I awoke, we were well down the river. Three days in the river accustoms one to the slight movement of the boat, and I am hoping that there is less chance of being ill on the homeward voyage.

Happily it is not long before the ice of formality is broken on board a vessel, and I was soon on friendly terms with many of our passengers.

My cabin companion was a lady from British Columbia, who was going on a visit of several months duration to the Old Country, with her brother.

Compared with the number of passengers on the outward journey, there were very few coming home, and they were of a very different type from those who were on the boat going out.

These were people whose fight had been fought, or who had an ordinary life before them. Those going out had, most of them, a big fight to face, and therefore seemed to draw one’s sympathies and interest.

Among our passengers was a party of about forty Canadians, volunteer artillerymen, who were coming over for firing competitions on Salisbury Plain and elsewhere. They came from all parts—from Nova Scotia, from Quebec, from Ontario, from Prince Edward Island, and some all the way from British Columbia. They had met and trained together in camp, so they were very fit and knew each other well.

Quite a dozen of these men from the Province of Quebec, could not speak English at all, and one of them had to act as interpreter.

It redounds to the credit of these artillerymen, and I am glad to say that, despite the fact that in England the competitions had, in many cases, to be fired with guns which were obsolete in Canada, and that the men had therefore to learn again how to handle these old guns, they succeeded in carrying off the prizes in nearly all of the competitions for which they entered.

Being now intensely interested in everything relating to Canada, the voyage home with so many Canadians from all parts of the Dominion promised particular pleasure.

Talking one day to the lady who shared my cabin, I was not a little surprised to hear that many of the older and richer families of British Columbia are descended, on the distaff side, from Indian blood, and are proud to admit this even when evidence of it is not apparent.

When the pioneers went out in the service of the Hudson Bay Company, there were no women, except Indians, and I believe that this all-powerful company rightly insisted on the men honourably marrying the Indian women, whom they had taken away from their tribe.

Yarns of the hardships of the earlier settlers, and indeed of settlers in these days, especially when away from the beaten track, appealed to me very forcibly, particularly as the narrator was, in most cases, connected with the yarn, or had known those of whom he was speaking.

Who can fail to admire the grit of a man and his wife who would have to fell trees, build their own hut or “dug-out,” carry their provisions on their backs for many weary miles from the nearest place of our chase, to their shanty; wander through forests in search of food, and contend with winter snows and frosts of almost arctic severity?

What townsman, used to close association with his fellow men and to the luxuries and conveniences of a town life, but will shudder at the loneliness of a family, most of whom had been born in one of the back blocks in Vancouver; who, when the father and mother had sufficient money to take them to the nearest town to be baptized, could barely make themselves understood? So lonely had been their life, and so limited their intercourse with human beings, that they wore scarcely able to speak their own language intelligently.

One man told me of a hunting expedition upon which he went with other youths not many years ago. Chopping pieces of bark off trees as they went was the only way in which they were able to mark the track by which they should return.

On the way back to camp at night, one of them slipped into a badger hole and hurt his foot badly. They carried him as far as they could, until they were too exhausted to take him further; then they left him, and hastened to camp to bring the necessary help. When they returned they found that the poor fellow had been attacked and almost eaten by wolves.

On another occasion, one of the party lagged behind and missed the track, and having altogether lost his bearings, could not find it again. After a long search they came across him, frozen to death, not far from the track which they had made the previous day.

I also heard of a girl, the sister of my informant, who, crossing the ice of the St Lawrence river, going from Quebec to Levis, to school, in the early winter, met with an unusual adventure; unfortunately the ice broke away, possibly by force of the tide, and the child was carried away down stream on an ice floe. Happily she was rescued, but only after almost superhuman exertion and with great difficulty.

Despite my friend’s terrible story about the wolves, I believe it is rarely that anybody is attacked by them; indeed, they would probably attack only when driven to bay, or when very hungry. The grey wolf ot the prairie has not been known to attack man. 

Speaking of animals of the wilds, I had always thought that the pelts of animals were only satisfactory if trapped in a wild state, but I hear that black, grey, and silver fox, the former especially, are being reared in partial confinement, and that experiments covering the last two years have, so far, been quite satisfactory. A particular kind of soil is chosen, a large tract enclosed, and care has to be taken that the animals do not escape by burrowing.

I had intended making some purchases of fur whilst in Canada, but the price asked was greatly in advance of that in London, London being, as they told me, the fur market of the world.

When we reached Quebec, I was delighted to find that we had permission to land for a few hours. I had again the good luck to meet some of the kind friends who had come over from England with me.

Desiring to see as much of Quebec as possible, we took a carriage and drove round the old and the new towns, and over the battlefields, looking very peaceful and perhaps rather desolate now, with Wolfe’s monument alone on the solitary plain.

The authorities have enclosed this monument with a hideous high railing, for visitors had chipped off scraps of the stone to carry away as mementoes to such an extent, that, at last, it was so defaced, that what was left of it was broken up and buried and a new monument erected on the same spot.

I, of course, also visited the monuments erected in front of the Chateau Frontenac, to the memory of the two brave men Wolfe and Montcalm.

I was rather alarmed when driving up and down over the streets of Quebec; they are so steep and so bad, but both driver and horse were accustomed to the roads and we came through the ordeal in safety. I suppose it is impossible that the roads can be kept in good condition, because of their steepness and the effect of the winter's frost and snow upon them.

The streets in the older part of the city are quaint and narrow, and Quebec, to me, was an altogether delightful place.

We went through the fort or citadel which is garrisoned by 200 artillerymen, and is fitted with a "wireless” installation.

From the citadel we had a glorious view of the surrounding country. Looking down on the grand river, and across it to Levis, one could not help being impressed by its beauty now, or imagining how different the scene would be in winter, when, instead of shipping, one would see sleighs, carriages, and even a railway tram, making a causeway of the water which was now like burnished gold under the brilliant rays of an almost tropical sun.

Our first two days on the homeward voyage were delightful and remarkable for a beauty of atmosphere which I had never before experienced. The nights, with a full harvest moon, and stars which looked double their ordinary size, were such as arc not easily forgotten.

The sky being cloudless and the atmosphere clear we had a splendid view of the Newfoundland coast as we passed it, and we could see one of the famous fleets of fishing boats with their sail; glittering white in the sun.

Canada is, I believe, desirous of annexing Newfoundland, but the latter is of course the older country, and the Newfoundlanders object to Canada’s designs, preferring to have their own governor and be independent.

Canada, too, is anxious to have a navy and her own coast defence, and is making strides in that direction; when she has accomplished this, as accomplish it she will, I have no doubt that her ships will be manned chiefly by these hardy fishermen, who, when called upon, will render a good account of themselves.

There is in course of being built, a very large Marconi station in Newfoundland, and I understand that Messrs Harmsworth have built large paper mills there, for the pulp or pulp wood can be procured and the paper manufactured and carried to England more cheaply than it can be produced in the latter country.

We sighted a number of icebergs after passing Belle Isle, as many as seven being in sight at one time.

Several stowaways have been found in the coal bunkers; they have been seen by the engineers, but as these bankers open one into the other, the stowaways cannot very well be got at until much of the coal has been consumed.

On one voyage, as many as thirteen stowaways were found, but instead of keeping them to prosecute on arrival in port, they were set to work to earn their passage by stoking, and anyone who has seen a stoker come up from the engine room will realize how heavy a toll these stowaways paid for their passage, for of wages there would be none.

There would seem to be no end to the wonders of science as applied to safeguarding navigation. Chatting to the Marconi operator one day, he went to much trouble to explain to me the method of submarine signalling, now in use on most well regulated vessels. I would not repeat the technical details with which he favoured me even if I could, but he told me that if the ship is in a fog, the operator, by placing a certain receiver to his ear, can at once tell, not only whether another ship is near, but also its position; and by a still newer and more wonderful invention, sounds can be transmitted under water, caught by a recorder on the ship's bottom, and sent on to the captain on his bridge, so that even a bell-buoy, otherwise inaudible, can be heard and its warning heeded.

With so many safeguards one might easily be lulled into a sense of absolute safety on a modern, up-to-date passenger boat, and though the protection afforded by science, which is so wonderful, can be rendered useless in a moment by the smallest error, which is so human, yet, thanks to the splendid men who command the ships of the maritime nations, that sense of safety is rarely shocked, and the traveller heeds nothing, but goes his way in comfort and confidence.

I had mentioned that I should like to be shown over the ship, and with the usual courtesy with which every request was met on board the "Royal Edward,” I was informed that at four o’clock in the afternoon I should be taken round.

The kitchens were a marvel of cleanliness, spacious and with plenty of air; the bake house, where three master bakers are required, still-room and serving room, are apart from the cook’s galley. In the latter the dinner was placed ready for cooking; huge copper vessels with potatoes ready to be boiled; large square tins, some holding perhaps a dozen ducks, others containing joints of meat all ready for the oven. We were also shown a culinary novelty in the shape of an automatic egg boiler, which, when the eggs had been boiling the correct length of time, was lifted up out of the water.

I forgot to ask how many cooks there were, but there must be quite a small army of them, for there are about 1,200 passengers aboard besides the officers and crew, and the dining tables are scarcely cleared before it is time to set them again.

I have lately come to the conclusion that, in these days, the average child is coddled and sheltered to an unreasonable extent by adoring and over-anxious parents, and I wonder what the majority of these good folk would think of a child of eight or nine years of age being sent on a journey across the Atlantic alone.

We had on board a little fellow of this tender age, who had been placed in charge of the stewardess, and a real good time he had. The passengers, especially the men folk, laid themselves out to amuse him and make him happy.

I am told that it is no uncommon occurrence for a child to take, not only this journey, but also the journey across the Canadian continent, “out West.” On the latter trip, a ticket bearing its name, address, destination and other particulars, is sewn to its clothes, and it is always well looked after by everybody, and, without exception, is always handed over in safety to the person to whom it is going.

I cannot help but think that journeys taken under these conditions, given certain qualities in the child, must tend to create a spirit of independence and self-reliance which serve it in good stead in its inevitable fight for existence in after years.

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