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CHAPTER XII—THE 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 us.

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 them—all 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 never returned.

He told us also that the river has two channels—American and Canadian—and that the number of islands is really three thousand.

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 time—four days—with 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 sightseeing memories.

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 task—happily now abolished—but 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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