CHAPTER XIITHE QUEEN'S BIRTHDAY, HOBNOBBING WITH ROYALTY
AT this convention, the insurance business was carried through
nine days, the longest time on record, and not being a member
I was not compelled to be in the Hall, so had more opportunity
to go around and see the country than ever before or since. For
our next sightseeing we went southward along the coast of Lake
Ontario. Upon arriving at Toronto, we found the boat already gone
that we had expected to take to Niagara Falls, so I went to the
Manager of the Grand Trunk Railroad, and showing him my credentials,
asked for transportation for my wife, two daughters, and myself.
He replied, "Certainly," adding that he would give me
passes anywhere over his line that I wanted to go.
Although it was the 23d of May, the weather was disagreeably
cold, but abundant signs of festivity and rejoicing met us everywhere,
as the following day, Sunday, was the Queen's birthday, though
the celebration was not to take place until Monday. Throughout
Canada we found from strict to strictest observance of the Sabbath.
In none of the towns are any public buildings open, and in many,
neither boats nor street cars run, beginning with twelve o'clock
Saturday night and continuing twenty-four hours.
We went on to Hamilton that afternoon, and stayed over night.
It had at that time a population of 80,000, and is a lovely place
on the lake, of which a fine view was to be had from a mountain
quite near, ascended by an inclined railway.
Frances and the girls were very much interested in the number
of Highlanders in native plaids and bare knees that we saw there
collecting for the celebration.
Early the next morning we made the short run of thirty-six
miles to Niagara, where we spent four hours driving to the various
points of interest. Sightseers have described these falls time
after time, but no one can do them justice, and for a realization
of their wondrous beauty and grandeur they must be seen. Viewed
from the Canadian bank, the broad, foaming crystal sheet of the
American Fall, with the zephyr bridal veil beside it; the linking
horse shoe, green-tinted and of heavier volume; and beyond the
seething, rushing rapids with encircling mist, and the roar of
many waters; all combine to produce sensations overwhelming and
inexpressible. Crossing the Suspension Bridge (190 feet above
the water 180 feet in depth) we passed to the American side, and
ascended the tower, which is three hundred feet in height, and
five hundred feet above the river. From the top we had an extensive
view of the surrounding country, even from the shore of Ontario
to Erie, with the serpentine river in between. It was a pretty
picture with Goat Island and the Horseshoe Falls directly below
Frances who has never liked being in high places because her
head swims, said it was "fearfully grand," and soon
declared herself ready to descend.
We spent the remainder of our time down beside the wonderful
whirlpool rapids, and then started east for Kingston and the Thousand
Islands. Kingston is at the head of the St. Lawrence River, and
nearly two hundred miles by rail from Niagara, consequently we
arrived there in the middle of the night. Going to a hotel to
which we were directed, we there received the first and only unfair
treatment we met with during our stay in Canada. The next morning
after about a half night's lodging, minus breakfast, we were presented
with a bill of $4.00. Frances was highly indignant, and christened
the hotel the "Canadian Barbarian."
We took two meals in Kingston, but ate at places that were
not so extortionate. The town was alive with excursionists and
natives bent on doing full justice to Queen Victoria's 77th birthday.
The air was vibrant with band music and the noise of fireworks.
Boats were continually arriving crowded to the hull, but none
were scheduled to depart in the direction we desired until six
o'clock, and that would carry a large portion of the excursionists
who had come to witness the games. That was not a pleasant outlook,
but we had no choice, as time was limited, for I had to get back
to work. So we commenced our long talked-of trip down the St.
Lawrence upon the Empire State, with so many passengers
aboard that it was too hot to stay in the cabin, and on deck it
was rainy and cool. But in spite of travelling under difficulties,
we greatly enjoyed the lovely scenery. We were not fairly among
the islands until after passing Clayton, then we saw themall
shapes and sizes; some merely a huge rock with two or three shrubs
upon them; others with magnificent residences, which were touched
up by the search-light. An ex-pilot was aboard and gave me a good
deal of information that was full of interest, relative to the
islands that we passed. Quite a number of them are owned by millionaires,
who have their summer residences there. He related such a sad
incident connected with a particularly beautiful place, saying
that the owner had moved there from New York, and on the third
day the youngest child fell off the little dock at the landing
and was drowned. The family took the body away for interment and
He told us also that the river has two channelsAmerican
and Canadianand that the number of islands is really three
By eleven o'clock the rain was descending in torrents, and
a strong wind began blowing the waves into great caps. An hour
later we landed at Brockville in a raging storm, and with scant
protection from the weather, as our first encounter with the gale
resulted in a broken umbrella, and the others could not be held
upright. We secured fair accommodations at a small hotel, but
a very poor breakfast at five o'clock, after which we had to start
afoot for the Canadian Pacific Railroad depot a mile away. Fortunately,
we caught a hack on the route and reached the station just five
minutes before the train pulled out.
At 9:30, we were back in Ottawa, feeling as if we had been
through experiences of a month's duration. Altogether I have never
travelled during so short a timefour dayswith such
an outlay of money and so many stops and handicaps. Of course,
the Queen was responsible for most of the trouble, but then we
Americans should not have "butted in" when her loyal
subjects were doing honor to her natal day! There are times to
go and not to go, and if we insist upon turning them around, why
we must expect to pay the forfeit. I believe we did!
The convention had the honor of being invited to a garden party
by Lord and Lady Aberdeen, the former being at that time Governor-General
of Canada. It was a most elegant affair, and they put themselves
to great inconvenience in entertaining that immense crowd, besides
being tortured by the vast swarms of mosquitoes that were let
into the house, as it was impossible to keep the screen doors
closed. After presenting cards to our hosts and hostess, from
whom we received pleasant smiles and cordial hand-shakes, we passed
out upon the lawn, where there were seats for all, and a well-equipped
band. During the evening my wife and I had the pleasure of a conversation
with Lady Aberdeen. After our pictures had been taken, Lord Aberdeen
announced that refreshments would be served, but that only a hundred
could be accommodated at one time. We were among the last, but
had excellent coffee and tea, dainty sandwiches, ice-cream, and
cake, all served on exquisite china. At the close of the lunch,
Lord Aberdeen addressed the gathering, and was responded to by
Mr. Arthur and "Shandy." Then followed the rush for
the electric cars, but we were all accommodated finally, and reached
our lodgings in due season. If I am not mistaken, this convention
lasted at least four days beyond the accustomed three weeks, so
that we came to feel quite at home in the Queen's Dominion, and
left, knowing that for many a day we should remember the timber-filled
Ottawa, the clean-cut land, intersected by canals, and the country
side dotted with its frequent wayside crosses. And though it has
been our good fortune to travel extensively in America, in looking
back through the years, we find Quebec upon the pinnacle of our
On our return trip, we stopped over in Washington a day, more
especially to attend one of the public receptions at the White
House, as I wanted to shake the hand of a Democratic President.
About one o'clock, we took our places in the "Indian file"
which stretched across the gallery to the door of the East Room,
and awaited our turn to approach the Chief Magistrate of our land.
It was highly entertaining to watch the genuflection, the "hand
touch," and the perennial smile of the President, as he dutifully
went through his set taskhappily now abolishedbut
it all created in me a desire to see if he had verily turned to
an automaton, and speech had gone from him. So, as the rapidly
diminishing line brought me in front of him, I extended my right
hand and said, "Howdy do, Brother Grover." His perfunctory
smile broadened considerably and his grip was human, as he replied,
"I'm glad to see you." His eye rested on a Queen Victoria
button I was wearing, and thinking me a visitor from beyond the
border, may have accounted for his affability, but I can certainly
testify to his genuine cordiality.
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