Abbildungen der Seite


out for many miles a rich, flat tract, varied by field and forest; and ever and anon the church and village, and in the far distance the bold range of hills which shelter these fair valleys from the ice-blast of the north.

For one hundred miles up the great river, the scene is the same, monotonous if you will, but monotonous in beauty ; the shores all along thickly dotted with the white cottages of the simple habitans. A short distance above Cape Rouge, we met a large raft of white pine, one of the strange sights of the St. Law.

It was about three acres of timber, bound together by clamps of wood into a solid stage ; on this were erected five or six wooden houses, the dwellings of the raftsmen. The wind was in their favor, and they had raised in front a great number of broad, thin boards, with the flat sides turned to the breeze, so as to form an immense sail. These floating islands are guided by long oars; they drop down with the stream till they meet the tide, then anchor when it turns, till the ebb again comes to their aid. They have travelled from many hundred miles in the interior; by the banks of the far distant branches of the Ottawa those pines were felled; in the depth of winter the remote forests ring with the woodman's axe; the trees are lopped of their branches, squared, and dragged by horses over the deep snow to the rivers, where, upon the ice, the rafts are formed. When the thaw in the spring opens up the mountain streams, the stout lumberers collect the remains of their winter stock, with their wellworn implements, and on these rafts boldly trust themselves to the swollen waters. They often encounter much danger and hardship; not unfrequently the huge mass goes aground, and the fast sinking stream leaves the fruit of their winter's labors stranded and useless on the shingly beach.

As the evening dropped upon us, the clouds thickened into a close arch of ominous darkness, while a narrow rim of light all round the horizon threw all above and below into a deeper gloom. Soon, a twinkle of distant lightning and a faint rolling sound ushered in the storm; then the black mass above split into a thousand fragments, each with a fiery edge; the next moment the dazzled sight was lost in darkness, and the awful thunder crashed upon the ear, reverberating again and again. Then

jagged lines of flame dived through the dense clouds, lighting them for a moment with terrible brilliance, and leaving them gloomier than before. We saw the forked lightning strike a large wooden building on the bank somewhat a-head of us, stored with hay and straw: immediately afterwards a broad sheet of flame sprung up through the roof, and, before we had passed, only a heap of burning embers was left. In a short time the tortured clouds melted into floods of rain.

We pass St. Trois, St. Anne's, Three Rivers, Port St. Francis, and enter Lake St. Peter. These towns improve but little : their population is nearly all of the French race; the houses are poor, the neighboring farms but rudely tilled. The Canadian does not labor to advance himself, but to support life; where he is born there he loves to live, and hopes to lay his bones. His children divide the land, and each must have part bordering the road or river, so you see many farms half-a-mile in length but only a few yards wide.

Here in autumn they reap their scanty crops, in winter 'dance and make merry round their stoves. With the same sort of dress that the first settlers wore, they crowd, each Sunday and saint's day, to the parish church. Few can read or write, or know anything of the world beyond La belle Canada ; each generation is as simple and backward as the preceding.

But, with their gentle courteous manners, their few wants, their blind, trusting, superstitious faith, their lovely country, their sweet old songs, sung by their fathers centuries ago, on the banks of the sunny Loire, I doubt if the earth contains a happier people than the innocent habitans of Canada.

Lake St. Peter is but an expansion of the river; the waters are shallow and the shores flat and monotonous; after twenty-five miles it contracts again and flows between several wooded islands.

We leave Sorel at the mouth of the Richelieu river, to the left: this town is made, by English hands, more prosperous than its neighbors. On the same side, thirty miles higher up, is Varennes, a place of much beauty: a hundred years ago people crowded to its mineral springs; now it is but a lonely spot. A fine old church, with two lofty spires, stands in the centre of the village ; in the back-ground, far away to the south-east, is the holy moun. tain of Ronville; on the summit the Pilgrim's Cross is seen for

many a mile.

Above Montreal, the Ottawa joins the St. Lawrence; both streams seem bewildered among the numerous and beautiful islands, and, hurrying past in strong rapids, only find full rest in the broad, deep river, fifteen miles below.

At eight o'clock in the morning we were beside the wharf at Montreal : jt is of great extent-reaching nearly a mile up the river, and very solid, built of handsome cut stone. It is broad and convenient for purposes of commerce ; vessels of five hundred tons can discharge their cargoes there. Immediately above the town, the rapids of Lachine forbid further navigation. The city extends along the river nearly two miles, the depth being about one half the length. The public buildings are calculated for what the place is to be,—at present being perhaps too large and numerous in proportion, though fifty thousand inhabitants dwell around them. The neighboring quarries furnish abundant materials for the architect, and the new shops and streets are very showy. The French Cathedral is the largest building in the New World : its proportions are faulty, but it is nevertheless a grand mass of masonry ; ten thousand people can kneel at the same time in prayer within its walls. The town is well lighted and kept very clean, full of bustle, life, and activity,—handsome equipages, gay dresses and military uniforms. Many rows of good houses, of cut stone, are springing up in the suburbs, and there is a look of solidity about everything, pleasing to the Eng.

Some of the best parts of the town are still deformed by a few old and mean buildings, but, as the leases fall in and improvements continue, they will soon disappear.

Montreal is built on the south shore of an island thirty miles long, and about one third of that breadth. All this district is very fertile ; the revenues belong to the seminary of the St. Sulpicians, one of the orders of the Church of Rome, and are very ample. The Mont Royal alone varies the level surface of this island. The Parliament House, the seat of government, the military head quarters, and the public offices of Canada, are in this city ; the trade is very considerable ; within the last few years it has rapidly increased, and is increasing still. The export of corn to

lish eye.

England opens a mine of wealth, while in return its wharves are crowded with our manufactures and the luxuries of other countries. The people are fully employed, and live in plenty ; but there are occasionally disturbances among them, occasioned by the collisions of the English, Irish, and French races. The elec tions are carried on with much excitement and bitterness of feel. ing, but usually end in the success of the conservative principle. Society also is much divided ; there is but little of that generally social feeling which characterizes Quebec. Their entertain. ments have more display, but are far less agreeable than those of the sister city, and among the different coteries of the inhabit. ants there is not apparently much cordiality.

Montreal would be considered a very handsome town in England, and in bustle and activity far surpasses any one of its size there ;

the wharves, hotels, shops, baths, are also much finer ; it possesses quite a metropolitan appearance, and no doubt it will, ere long, be the capital of a great country. Few towns in the world have progressed so rapidly in size, beauty, convenience, and population, within the last few years, and at this present time its commerce is in a most prosperous condition. You see in it all the energy and enterprise of an American city, with the solidity of an English one.

The removal hither of the seat of government from Quebec and Kingston, has, of course, given it a considerable impulse of prosperity at their expense; but it is still more indebted to its excellent commercial position, and the energy of its inhabitants.

Now, from the bustle, prosperity, and contentions of Montreal, let us bear back our thoughts for a moment over the bridge of history to the time—but yesterday in the world's chronology-when the kings of the ancient people welcomed the Pale-faces to the shores of HOCHELAGA. That day was their Hastings. They were smitten with deadlier weapons than Norman bow or lancethe plague of the white man's crimes; their innocence was barer than the Saxon soldier's breast, their wounds far deeper, more hopeless of a cure. They were not subjugated nor driven out, but they withered up before the strangers. Beneath the grounds where they hunted, their bones lie; their land is their wide


[ocr errors]

cemetery; scarcely a mound, or stone, or a trace even of tradi. tion, now points out the spot where any of their millions sleep.

Gentle, feeble, simple,—they were yet too proud to mingle with a race whose superiority they felt; they refused its civilisation, but alas! copied its vices; in these, at least, they felt themselves its equal. As the snow in spring, they melted away--stained, tainted, trampled down.

My fancy is busy with the past. I have swept away those crowded wharves and lofty spires : on their sites the rich cornfields wave again ; the shady forest spreads over the distant slopes, the birch-bark roofs of the wigwams peep through the tall trees upon the mountain side, the light canoe skims over the broad river ; the wise Sachems of the tribes meet us on the shore with generous welcome; the graceful Indian maiden bends beneath her fragrant burthen of fruits and flowers, to be laid at our feet.

A cabman seizes me by each arm, “ Tetu's or Rasco's, Sir, take you up, luggage and all, for a shilling.” In a moment my graceful Indian maiden was changed into an Irish porter ; the burthen of fruits and flowers, to my well-worn portmanteau, which was presently laid at my feet in the bar-room at Rasco's Hotel.

« ZurückWeiter »