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CHAPTER XI—SIGHTSEEING IN CANADA; QUEBEC AND THE ST. LAWRENCE

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 a visitor.

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 seeing.

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 it—the 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 conversation—each in her native tongue—freely 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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