CHAPTER XISIGHTSEEING IN CANADA; QUEBEC AND THE ST.
WE found the Canadians, whether of English or French extraction,
a people of unfailing courtesy and kindness, ever ready to go
out of their way to give any desired information or extend a favor.
And there was so much to see! From Ontario's shore to St. Anne
de Beaupré, far down the St. Lawrence, we extended our
sightseeing, delighted always with the exquisite views throughout
the country, and the cities, whose places of interest well repay
Beginning with Ottawa, we first visited the Parliamentary buildings.
They are three in number, built of multicolored stones of various
shapes and sizes. The effect is decidedly picturesque. In the
central one are the Senate Chamber and House of Commons. We were
shown through the former, and also invited to sit in the Governor-General's
chair, which was placed on a canopied dais, corresponding to the
Sovereign's throne in England. After availing ourselves of that
privilege, the attendant conducted us through a pretty passageway
to the library, which is circular in shape and very handsome.
An exquisite statue of the virgin Queen Victoria occupied the
central place, with other statues, busts, and cases of coins and
medals arranged within the floor space; while the wall from floor
to ceiling presented a solid bank of books, beautifully bound
and seemingly innumerable.
We next toiled our tortuous way up to the tower, stopping during
the ascent to watch the stupendous mechanism of the clock, its
huge weights and immense dial. Reaching the crown, we had a splendid
view of the timber-filled Ottawa and the French town of Hull,
with its various manufactories beyond, while immediately below
clustered the extensive lumber yards and many church spires of
the city. While descending the numerous flights of stairs, we
had a hearty laugh at Frances's agility and its termination. In
skipping along to show that she "could stand more than her
daughters," she lost her footing, and had not her headlong
career been arrested by a fortunately at-hand engineer, she would
most probably have sustained a more serious damage than the loss
of a shoe heel and a piece out of her waist.
The grounds surrounding the Parliamentary buildings are extensive
and beautifully kept, a feature of which is the Lover's Walk on
the river bank to the rear. Winding half way up the cliff, it
affords many a lovely view through, occasional openings in the
thick timber growth so abundantly interspersed with pretty birch
trees. Of course, this was the chief show place of Ottawa, but
we greatly enjoyed visiting the National Art Gallery, Fisheries
Building, and the Experimental farm, which was only a short distance
from town. The garden seeds were just being planted, but there
were many varieties of flowers, and the museums were well worth
We went over to Hull to watch the process of making paper out
of wood, and were decidedly interested from the moment the logs
were hooked out of the river until the finished sheets were handed
us as souvenirs. Hull claimed at that time 13,000 inhabitants,
11,000 being French Canadians, while Ottawa's 50,000 were almost
entirely of English extraction.
Our first excursion was to Montreal, the great commercial metropolis
of Canada, where we commenced our sightseeing with Notre Dame
Cathedral. It is a handsome, massive structure, an imitation of
Notre Dame of Paris. Its twin towers seem to stand as sentinels
to the grand old pile, rearing their heads two hundred and twenty-seven
feet in the air. Within, it is beautifully vaulted and multicolored,
while its vastness is impressive, the seating capacity being estimated
at 15,000. Nearby stands a portion of the wall built in 1673,
which formerly enclosed the town then known as Villemarie. The
chapel of the Sacred Heart adjoining had just been completed,
and is a marvel of beauty.
We next visited the little Varennes Church, some distance away,
through queer byways, where one would least expect to find a place
of worship. An extensive convent adjoins itthe Seminary
of Saint Sulpice, and between the two is an underground passage,
where formerly nuns dwelt in a cave.
From there we followed our guide (a charming lady, who had
noticed our badges while we were in her church, Notre Dame, and
offered to show us around) to the ancient Bonsecours Church, a
monument of the old régime, when the white flag
waved over Canadian soil, and which is still the favorite shrine
where Montreal Frenchmen love best to pay their devoirs to-day.
The furnishings are neat and quaint, the pulpit very unique, and
the confessionals so queer and tiny, to all of which colored lights
lent an additional charm. We were told that the corner-stone,
over two centuries old, was laid by a woman, Marguerite Bourgeois.
The image of the Virgin, which was given her, is still to be seen
upon the gable overlooking the river.
Passing the great Bonsecours market and walking along Commissioner's
wharf, we beheld for the first time the St. Lawrence, whose different
phases we were soon to see from many points of view. Passing the
CustomHouse, we crossed the historic Champ de Mars, where
French, English, American and Canadian soldiers have successively
trod its truly military soil.
Wishing to attend service in a church of our own denomination,
we had rather a difficult time locating one, which was explained
later when we learned that it was there better known under the
name of Wesleyan than Methodist. The minister and several of the
congregation extended us a cordial welcome, making us feel very
much at home, and impressing us still more forcibly with the fact
that the Canadians can perhaps even take the palm from us Southerners,
in the matter of true hospitality and genuine courtesy.
The afternoon was spent in a visit to St. Helen's Island and
taking the trip up Mount Royal. The inclined railway ascends by
an angle of more than forty-five degrees, and I suppose not one
in our party but breathed more freely upon stepping from the car
at the summit. But all other sensations were soon forgotten as
our attention was turned to the wonderful view afforded us. The
city lay spread out for miles below, while the gleaming surface
of the St. Lawrence shone like a polished mirror, and from its
great distance, the Victoria Bridge, a mile and three quarters
in length, was so dwarfed in size that it appeared scarcely larger
than an ordinary trestle.
After Montreal came Quebec-alone and inimitable! We went by
the Grand Trunk Railroad, and one of the unforgetable things in
life is that view which bursts upon one's sight as the train suddenly
approaches the water's edge, where, free from obstruction, Quebec
arises in all its intoxicating beauty beyond the river.
The clustering lower town jumbled at the foot of the great
rocky promontory, the towering Heights of Abraham, bearing aloft
the walled city crowned by its citadel, and circling the peninsular's
base, the blue waters of the majestic St. Lawrence! Such is now
the "great red rock" where first floated the fleur-de-lys
of Samuel de Champlain early in the seventeenth century.
And truly, while sightseeing down in the little Basse Ville
under the cliff, we felt that time had moved but little there
since that day. We did not risk a descent by the Breakneck Stairs,
but drove down the winding way, and thought the tiny stone houses
and narrow streets too queer for anything. There was scarcely
more than enough room for the carriage to pass in any of the streets,
and while driving through one named "Sous le cap,"
the hubs almost struck against the dilapidated old houses which
were braced against their opposite neighbors by cross-beams of
timber to keep them upright. And how amusing it was to see at
close quarters a store, then a bedroom, then a stable, and so
on! We wondered that the children ever lived beyond infancy amid
such surroundings, yet their general health and beauty was a fact
as noticeable as their numbers. Swarms of them followed the caléche
(or wagon, as the English-speaking, portion of the inhabitants
usually translate it) all the way asking for "un cent."
After leaving Montreal on the way down the St. Lawrence the
people are almost entirely French-speaking, and those youngsters
had learned the name of our smallest piece of money, but prefixed
it by their own adjective.
We stopped to inspect the ancient church of Notre Dame des
Victoires built in 1688. It was exceedingly quaint, with odd
little windows high up from the floor, the panes being alternately
blue and red with queer figures in the centre of each. It had
just one confessional and the stations were of bronze.
Continuing our windings in and out amid a perfect labyrinth
of crooked streets, each one of which might reasonably be considered
to have four or five legitimate continuations, we were more and
more charmed with the quaintness of it all, and could almost believe
ourselves in a land of many centuries across the sea.
Reaching the cliff drive we had the great sweep of waters on
one side and the towering Heights of Abraham to the right. What
stupendous effort was enjoined upon Wolfe's troops in the scaling
of that smooth, almost perpendicular embankment. Surely Spartan
blood could not have attempted more! High up on the bluff was
an inscription telling that there it was that our brave General
Montgomery fell December 31, 1775, in the attempted assault on
Quebec. We also saw where Cape Diamond gave way in 1888, burying
people and houses in its terrible descent of five hundred feet.
It was said that the groans and cries of the smothering ones were
horrible to hear many hours after the catastrophe.
We next turned our attention to the Haute Ville, visiting
Laval University, with its choice collection of rare paintings,
the ancient Basilica, the old Parliament Building, and then on
to the Plains of Abraham, where fell both Wolfe and Montcalm in
the struggle of a century and a half ago. Which was greater? Does
the star of the conqueror shine brighter than that of the conquered?
Nay, worthy representatives of different nations,opposing
foes,in history's chain of glorious and honored dead, they
are linked side by side, while equal tribute is paid to their
memory in the land for which they fought and died.
Near the Wolfe monument we saw two very old cannon, one of
which was dated 1761 and the other 1775. Continuing our walk we
passed under St. Louis Gate and climbed upward to the citadel,
being fully repaid for all exertion by the transcendental beauty
of the view five hundred feet above the sparkling river. To the
southeast arose the mountains in Maine, to the north the Laurentian
Mountains with a vast wealth of charming scenery spread out between.
Half way below we looked upon the Dufferin Terrace with its pavillions
and splendid up-to-date Hotel Frontenac, and had a veritable bird's-eye
view of the Basse Ville, looking so like a picture of past
ages away down at the water's edge.
The brotherhood engineer who had so courteously and efficiently
acted as our guide in Quebec, and whose great kindness will never
be forgotten, next offered to take us for some provincial sightseeing
down the St. Lawrence. Thus it was our great pleasure to spend
a few hours with his father's family in the quaint little village
of L'Ange Guardien. None of them save our guide and mouthpiece
spoke English, neither did Frances know a word of French; yet
she was not to be denied friendly intercourse with her hostess
simply through lack of the medium of a common language, so she
and Madame Goulet carried on a seemingly satisfactory conversationeach
in her native tonguefreely interspread with smiles and gesticulations.
We thoroughly enjoyed this glimpse of home life among the French
Canadians, besides visiting two places of interest quite near,
namely: an Indian village and Montmorency Falls. We had been struck
with the number and beauty of the falls throughout Canada, but
these were the loveliest of all. An outlying straggler of the
main fall looked like shimmering threads of molten silver, while
others broke into bewildering cascades suggestive of Fairyland.
The great Fall makes a plunge in one headlong rush of two hundred
and fifty feet. Higher than Niagara, yet lacking that stupendous
grandeur of its volume, it nevertheless has a more picturesque
beauty in its setting.
We descended an almost interminable, dizzying stairway, in
order to get a full view of it, and at the base of the cliff found
snow still unmelted. Two stone piers remain of what was once a
suspension bridge over the falls, grim monuments telling of the
two lives lost, when the bridge went down over the rushing waters
in that mighty descent of two hundred and fifty feet.
We took the train that evening for St. Anne de Beaupré,
the noted pilgrim shrine, twenty miles farther down the St. Lawrence.
Arriving at seven o'clock, we found the churches closed for the
night, and though the air was rather biting and frosty, we spent
the long twilight on the banks of the river watching the odd scenes
near at hand, and the lights of Quebec thirty miles away. If night
delayed its coming, neither did it tarry long, for when we were
awakened at four o'clock, the sun was shining brightly.
The Cathedral stands very near the railroad, its front facade
presenting the usual twin towers to which we had become so accustomed.
The interior is very handsome, the floor being of marble of a
rich reddish tint, as are also the bases of the two rows of huge
columns, while on the walls are many bas-reliefs in lovely veined
marble. A beautiful statue of St. Anne holding the infant virgin
stands in front of the altar with bright drapings and subdued
lights, and the effect of the whole produces rather a weird, hushed
sensation upon the beholder. The front wall is almost covered
with a pyramid of crutches, while in the western corridor hang
innumerable eye-glasses and pipes; these having been discarded
by the pilgrims who went away cured of diseases and bad habits.
The Scala Sancta, whose lengthy stairway is ascended by penitents
or supplicants on their knees, is near by. The building is particularly
plain, but the interior is lovely with groups of statuary, and
mural paintings depicting scenes in the Holy Land.
We returned to Quebec in time for breakfast, and during the
day we took a trip down into the shopping district to see L'Aliberté's
fur establishment, said to be the finest in America, and also
went through Parquet's consolidated stores, the most extensive
in Canada, whose proprietor drove a dog-cart. and peddled milk
through the streets of Quebec thirty years previously.
As our train was not to leave until ten-thirty, we remained
upon the terrace from late afternoon far into the twilight, drinking
in the wonderful scenery about us, and Frances went to sleep!
It is a trick of hers to doze peacefully in her chair at any hour
of the day or night. She says it is because she lost so much sleep
with her babies (she has had nine), but there is perhaps an additional
reason. Frances was but fifteen when I married her, and for years
my run was at night, and though I have gone out on the road at
all hours of the twenty-four, never have I left home without a
warm meal. Frances laughed as heartily as any of us upon being
awakened, and regretfully we took our last look at the Canadian
Gibraltar, and soon started upon our twelve hours' ride to Ottawa.
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