Difference between revisions of "Western Wanderings"
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Latest revision as of 13:14, 31 August 2019
Western Wanderings is a series of articles written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in four parts in The Cornhill Magazine from january to april 1915. The articles reports his voyage in the Canadian National Reserve at Jasper Park in the Northern Rockies.
The text will be reprinted in Conan Doyle's autobiography Memories and Adventures in 1924. The Athabasca Trail poem at the end of the text was also published in the collected volume of Arthur Conan Doyle's poems The Guards Came Through and Other Poems in 1919.
- in The Cornhill Magazine (january-april 1915 [UK])
- Western Wanderings (january-april 1915, George H. Doran Co. [US])
- in Memories and Adventures (18 september 1924, Hodder & Stoughton Ltd. [UK]) as chapter XXV. To the Rocky Mountains in 1914
What a lot we have to learn! Something to teach also, no doubt, but what a lot to learn! — I write in May of 1914. Twenty years ago, when I was in New York last, I thought we had a lot to teach. But that is not so any longer. Much of what we could teach they have quickly and quietly assimilated. But we, when are we going to get past our class distinctions and our reserve, and get the genial, happy, high-spirited boyish-hearted tone of this delightful people? We are all afloat together for a tiny voyage in this little raft of a world upon the infinite ocean of space. How absurd that we should be superior or aloof to our fellow voyagers! It is fine to see the democratic kindliness which pervades this country.
Twenty years ago this was an ill-paved, noisy city. The surfaces now are excellent and the noises abated. Twenty years ago the police force consisted of stout, elderly, coarse-looking men, who seemed, so far as traffic management was concerned, to be very inefficient. Now the men are young, vigorous, and exceedingly capable at their job. The traffic handling is remarkably good, and reflects equal credit upon the police organisation and upon the discipline of the drivers. A certain air of truculence has also departed from the men. In all ways — so far as superficial outward inspection goes they seem to me worthy to compare with our own admirable force.
But the people in the streets - they make the finest spectacle in America. I write on a Sunday morning, with the New York church bells chiming. This afternoon my wife and I will, go down to Coney Island to see the crowds of pleasure-seekers. I know already what our experience will be. We shall meet many thousands of cheerful, good-humoured men, and as many smiling, happy women; we shall find a very high average of physical beauty in each sex; we shall see great swarms of people in innocent enjoyment, and among them all we shall not encounter one ragged person, one wicked, drink-blotched face; not one of those half sad, half comic, shambling, cringing, broken-down figures who are delightful in Dickens, but surely loathsome in life. They tell me it is a period of stagnation here. I can only answer that I have never seen such evidences of prosperity anywhere. By what magic of American energy or natural resources or tariff juggling they do it I know not, but only a blind man could go down Broadway and watch the crowds an doubt that this civilisation is more evenly distributed and has a higher average than our own.
They say that the chief industry of New York is knocking itself down and building itself up again. It is amazing to see the immense changes which twenty years have brought about. How surprised a Londoner would be if after such an absence, he found that Regent Street, Oxford Street, and Bond Street had been entirely rebuilt, with not one of the famous shops or houses left standing! That would just about describe what has happened here. It is another city. I lived here in 1894, and now I hunt about to show my wife the place and I am unable to find it. The houses, of course, are sprouting for ever higher. We have not yet quite reached the point foretold by a friend of mine, when the journey from the street to his office above would be the same as to his suburban home, the one horizontal and the other perpendicular. But when you have been fired up the fifty-nine storeys of the Woolworth pile, and when in the rapid ascent you feel the throb in your ears and incipient headache which comes from the change of atmospheric pressure, you realise the size of this greatest of inhabited buildings. Eighteen thousand persons are, as I am told, under its roof, and if it were to fall it would cut a swath of nearly one-sixth of a mile amid the smaller houses around it.
We stood on the summit and looked down on the wonderful panorama, the long thin city, the two great rivers, the island-studded bay, the swarming streets, with the thousands of hurrying straw-hatted pigmies. What a lot of humanity there is, and how very small is each unit! I cling to the hope of separate permanent existence and the continued life of the individual. A man bulks large in his own thoughts, but viewed in the mass from a distance this ferment of microbes is not imposing. Is each of these atoms the heir of the ages, and is it indeed needful that he shall enjoy his heritage for ever? Is he the object of profound divine solicitude, and is the universe a soul-factory for the perfection of such infinitesimal creatures? Reason shrinks appalled, while Hope will still remind us that, small as these creatures are, we know nothing bigger. We are at the top of Nature's class down here, and if there is any higher remove, then it is we who are in the direct succession to it. So Reason and Hope can go hand in hand on that.
There are few very few old buildings left in New York. I think Americans will some day bitterly regret that they have not been more reverent in this matter. I could not hear of any actual buildings of the Dutch period. The Battery no doubt stands upon the site of the old fort, but I do not think any of the original stonework is left. The only Dutch relic that I have seen is a gnarled branch of Peter Stuyvesant's pear-tree which he brought from Holland in 1665. This is piously preserved in the City Hall, which is itself of the very earliest nineteenth century, and contains a good deal of eighteenth-century furniture. There is the table on which Washington wrote his first message to Congress. There too and there again looking down from each wall is the strong face, with the tight lips and slightly underhung jaw, of the great father of his country. He has heavy, brooding, steadfast eyes. He was a worthy leader in so great a cause. The pitiable part of it is that independence must have come in another generation or two, without any bloodshed or ill-feeling, from the natural growth of the American people. It would have been an evil thing for Great Britain had it not been so, as in that case, with our 45 millions, we should now be a mere appendix to our 100 million consort, and be planning perhaps a patriotic rising and declaration of independence upon our own account. The races now will never merge their individuality, nor would it be desirable that they should. I do not see, however, why in the course of years or very suddenly if the occasion served there should not be found something of the nature of the old Pan-Hellenic League. By this every nation of Greek extraction could in classic days assemble to discuss those subjects which were of common interest. We have the framework of such a body in our quinquennial Imperial Conferences, where Canada, Africa, New Zealand, and Australia take counsel with the Motherland. Is it beyond the regions of the possible that where some defensive policy against a common danger had to be discussed America might also be represented at so august an assembly, which would no doubt be as ready to gather in Washington as in London? Some nexus may be needed some day for a mutual insurance, and it would seem possible for monarchy and republic to remain loyal to their own traditions and yet to find it in such a council.
To return to the old buildings, even the City Hall has been threatened by iconoclasts. Let America hold on tight to all she has that is historical. Washington square at least should never be allowed to fall into the hands of the reconstructor. This is a real bit of the old city, and a restful joy to look upon. But apart from New York, all along that line of country which I hope soon to traverse between here and Canada, the line of the old scalping raids and frontier villages, there should still exist traces of forts and Palisades and loopholed Colonial houses which, if they be tenderly preserved, will be viewed with ever-increasing veneration by all who believe, as I do, that Francis Parkman wielded the most magic pen of any historian, save perhaps Macaulay, with whom I have an acquaintance. The future of the world lies, I think, mainly with America, but she should keep her grip upon her past.
Mr William J. Burns, the famous American private detective, met me on my arrival at New York. It sounds a compromising statement — a nemesis for the number of dream criminals whom I have at various times arrested. But it was the warm hand of welcome and not a pair of darbies that Burns was holding out to me, for he is a friend of old standing.
We have a branch of the Burns Agency newly established in England, and there is ample need of something of the sort. The official police may possibly resent it at first, but they would soon recognise it, not as a rival, but as a powerful ally. It may supplement their efforts in many ways, and it may be a source of strength to the
ordinary citizen. However, I could not answer for any Bums Agency which had not a Burns to direct it, and such men are very rare. I look upon him as one of the forces which are moulding modem America. He will leave his country much purer and better than he found it.
To show how his agency works, and how it is a source of strength to the ordinary citizen, one has only to look at the Frank murder, which is now interesting this country. This is a case where a child at Atlanta, in Georgia, was murdered under peculiarly atrocious circumstances. A young Jew named Frank was held for the crime. The evidence was preposterous, but the police, having acted precipitately, were faced by the loss of credit which would come from admitting their mistake. It was exactly the situation of Oscar Slater and the Glasgow authorities. In the case of Frank, as of Slater, a case was made up of shreds and patches, a little suspicion here, a racial prejudice there, absolutely false statements as to fact, vague allegations of previous evil conduct, witnesses whose opinions were moulded by suggestion — all the familiar array by which Justice is baffled. The man was condemned to death. And here America showed that it had what England lacks. In England it is only by the long-drawn, inconclusive agitation of a few amateurs that a reversal can be hoped for. In America the friends of the ill-used man can turn to Bums. It is one of his admirable maxims that no money can induce him to touch a case if he is not convinced of its justice. Having been convinced, he at once turned his whole energy and organisation to the task of setting the thing right. By what other means could it be done when all the local authorities are hand in glove with each other? Of course he had great difficulties to meet. The prejudice of Jew and Gentile was now complicated with that of local jealousy. Georgian papers forgot the whole subject of justice in their sectional indignation that their own police force should be set right by a stranger. But the stranger holds the winning hand and the game will be his. Through his exertions it will be tried once more before the Supreme Court of the United States. Then we shall see what we shall see.
I take this case as an instance of the practical working of one side of Bums' activities. But there are others. Here is a man who is absolutely honest, absolutely fearless, and out for one object only, which is to make the law of the land respected — a fine weapon ready to hand for every reformer in any city which suffers under the tyranny of 'graft.' The cannibal City Father who grew fat upon his own child has received a setback and been compelled to reconsider his paternal duties since Mr. Burns appeared upon the scene. Festive and venal mayors look less rubicund when their eyes light upon this tribune of the people. Pictures have become less common in certain council-rooms since it has been shown that the disc of a detectophone may lurk behind one of them, and Mr. Burns' stenographer be recording the conversation in some room at the far end of the block. There is a long list of towns which he has cleaned up — and some British-American ones are on it, for corruption, unfortunately, does not cease to grow at the 49th degree of latitude.
But yet another new field is opened up by the Burns system — and this is the most valuable of all. It is that prevention of crime is far more important than its detection or punishment. This prevention is to be attained by making certain crimes so dangerous, so sure to bring retribution, that it is no longer worth while to take the risk of committing them. Theoretically, of course, the police of the country should do this. Practically, in a huge country it is not so. The distances are so great and there is so little connection between the police organisations that the criminal can escape from one place and find a clear field in another. This is where Mr. Bums steps in. He undertakes to protect a bank. By an elaborate organisation and unwearied patience he does what he undertakes. Criminals find by experience that if a bank is announced as under the Bums protection, and if they break it, they will never have peace again. Sooner or later he will get them. When once this was practically established they naturally left that bank alone. Other banks who desired the same immunity joined the association. And so it comes about that a great number of the American banks announce their dependence upon this private police force. Now I hear it is about to be extended to hotels. I should think it would act admirably there. It may seem strange to our British notions, but I am convinced that over here it fills a very necessary place in the national life.
It has its disadvantages, however, for the man himself. Mr. Bums' maxim has always been to go for the big men, the large 'grafters' who had come to consider themselves above the law. One after another he has downed them. But they lie and watch their conqueror with malignant eyes. Should his foot slip, should he stumble into any trap that could be laid for him, should there be one moment of weakness in his life, the whole pack would be at his throat. But this little, erect, alert man with the calm grey eyes, the small reddish moustache, and the clear resonant voice is still their master. I have found him and his organisation one of the most interesting phenomena in America.
A great deal of the crime of America does not seem to be the offspring of poverty or degradation, but to be cultivated in what we should call in England the middle classes. I remember that, when the four gunmen who shot the man whom the police feared were on their trial, the papers contained pictures of their sweethearts and Wives. They were such good and well-dressed types of womanhood that I found it hard to believe that the portraits were genuine. But yesterday, when I visited the Tombs prison, where criminals await their trial, I saw a crowd of the prisoners' friends waiting for an interview. There were some lower types among them, but the general effect was a queue waiting at the upper circle door of a good London theatre. Is it that American crime is drawn from more educated classes, or is it that, being more successful and lucrative, it leads to a higher standard of living? I cannot answer that, but can only record the fact.
I passed up a stone stair, with turnkeys and others hurrying along corridors which led to it. 'Is there room in F for another Chinaman?' a voice was howling. Through a glass door I caught a glimpse of a prisoner instructing his attorney. His darting hands, now appealing palm upwards, now stabbing points into the stolid lounging lawyer, showed his nationality even before you caught a glimpse of his eager Italian eyes. Further on a score of women sat behind bars in one long cage. I shrank from staring at them, but the disinclination did not seem to be mutual. In the next row of cells a jovial English forger insisted upon shaking me heartily by the hand through his bars. 'Very comfortable indeed, sir,' said he, with the air of a Connoisseur who compares hotels. was last at Madrid, sir. Very much behind the times. Havana, too, is very bad. But this is excellent. For one and sevenpence a day I have meals from the restaurant. Very good fare. What do they do who have no money? Ah, that's a rocky road, no doubt, sir. But I am very comfortable myself. Good-bye, sir. We can't all be out and about, can we?' He seized my hand once more and shook it heartily. After all, a criminal has some claims upon a man who writes on crime. When my old friend, Major Arthur Griffiths, was inspecting officially a row of 'lags,' he heard one whisper to the other, 'If it wasn't for the likes of us, the likes of him wouldn't have a coat to his back.'
It seemed a pleasant, bustling, companionable place, the Tombs, in spite of its sinister name. The real tomb is at Sing Sing, which I visited next day. It lies about thirty miles from the city, in a lovely situation on the bank of the Hudson, which makes its shocking conditions the more pathetic. In the old days of harsh wardens this prison must have been a breeding-place for monsters. A man emerged from it with a vicious hatred for the world which had debased him so. Now the Acting Warden, Mr. Clancy, a good example of the Celtic Irishman who has shown that capacity for administration which we are inclined to deny him at home, has done all a man can do to mitigate the conditions imposed by the original construction of the prison. It was built in 1825, but how even at that early date men could construct such a place is beyond my comprehension. The cell in which a man may have to spend twenty years or more is roughly 8 feet long, 31/4 feet broad, and 6 feet high, with the bars at the narrow end, so that only the minimum of light can reach him. I speak with knowledge, for I was barred up in one for some minutes, and was able to assure a reporter that I had obtained the only five minutes of rest since I arrived in New York. But indeed it is a grim subject for joking when one considers it as a permanent home. When the prison is crowded two men are put in one of these cells. Under the old regime it was customary to lock them up sometimes for forty-eight hours without a break. How their reason could sustain it is a question — very often, I am told, it did not. Now the prisoners are kept at their trades for many hours in the day, so that they are more independent of their cells. But even so there is only one thing which a rich and progressive State should do with such a prison. It should be swept utterly away, with all its horrible memories, and the latest and best model placed on its site, for a better position could nowhere be found.
I was amazed, when I entered the prison, to be shown straight into a large hall in which seven hundred convicts were seated, listening to a rather second-rate and flamboyant music-hall entertainment. It was curious that I should just happen to strike such an occasion, and shows the danger of generalising upon one's experience, as treats of this kind only occur a few times a year, and this particular one was in honour of Commemoration Day, a charming national holiday which we might well adopt. Hence the gleam of light in the darkness of Sing Sing. What an audience it was to act before! How eagerly did their starved minds take in every joke and allusion! 1 sat at one side, well to the front, and looked back at the audience, the long lines of intent faces turned upward towards the stage. There was something horrible and grotesque in the contrast between the vulgar knockabout comedians above and the dense serried files of tragedy below! So it seemed to the spectator, but no such thoughts were in the minds of the convicts themselves, who entered with whole-hearted appreciation into the spirit of the entertainment. There were many types of faces among them a few great ones, many degraded, and a few entirely abnormal. Two small, stunted epileptics were my nearest neighbours — cases, I should judge, for an asylum rather than a prison. Then came a slate-coloured mulatto with an earnest, strained expression, a man of fine nature, but capable of sudden acts of violence under the goad of ill-usage. Next to him was a heavy man with overhanging forehead and deep-set eyes abnormal, brooding, and dangerous. Next to him again was a bright, intelligent lad who might have been a rising young professional man. By his side sat an obvious ruffian, stunted, broad-shouldered, savage. It was strange indeed to know that out of that rude assembly might at any moment be summoned a council of bankers, financiers, lawyers, or members of any other learned profession. I only trust that no innocent men were eating out their hearts among them. With memories of Beck, Edalji, and Oscar Slater, I had my uneasy doubts. When one thinks of such possibilities the Divine supervision of the Universe seems to be in need of justification.
American public appointments are made very often from political reasons, with no regard to the previous experience of the individual. To British ears this sounds abominable, and very often it is so. But there come occasional compensating cases which do something to atone for the failures and scandals. Here, in Sing Sing, was an example. Mr. Clancy, whom I have mentioned, is an Irish American, a heavy, kindly man, with a Johnsonian face and figure. This man knew nothing of prisons when he was made warden, but he had a big human heart in his breast and a good sensible brain in his head, and the two carried him further than the wisdom of the experts. Truly in every profession there is much to be said for the fresh eye and the unprejudiced mind. Horrified by the mass of misery before him, he set himself earnestly to alleviate it and to humanise these poor brutalised creatures. For some reason they imagined that he meant them no good, and regretted his incompetent predecessor. To show their resentment of the change they started a furious riot, in which the prison nearly met with destruction, for it was set on fire by the inmates. Mr. Clancy showed his resolution in quelling these disturbances, and did not allow them to turn him from his kindly intentions, which have now softened at every possible point the lot of the prisoners. Some points are not possible, however, and no kindness on the part of Mr. Clancy can make these barred dog-kennels fit for human habitation.
I stood in the execution-room, beside the fatal chair. it was a clean, well-ordered room. With its benches, its batteries, and its wires, it have the impression of a scientific laboratory. There are the wooden arms which more than a hundred Convulsed hands have grasped. It is a clean but not an entirely satisfactory method of homicide. By a wise provision, a post-mortem is immediately held, and at this it is not unusual to find that the heart is still faintly fluttering. The guillotine, with all its bloodshed. is still the most merciful method of destruction, because it is the quickest and surest. But why not prussic acid? That is painless and instantaneous. Electricity can produce dreadful effects. When the four gunmen were executed the jerk at the moment of death was so convulsive that the false teeth of one of them shot out among the spectators. Horrible!
At the other side of the execution-room are the condemned cells, and in them, Becker. the ex-policeman, was awaiting his end. I am told that he had been a great power in New York, and that a number of his fellow prisoners in Sing Sing owed their incarceration to him, some of them rather on account of his personal enmity than for their own misdeeds. It can be imagined how they exulted over the fall of their enemy. When Becker's appeal failed and he had to return, a doomed man, to Sing Sing, it is said that he implored that his arrival should be so timed that he might avoid the triumphant gaze of his fellow prisoners.
I ate some of the prison food, which was plain but excellent. It was not always so. Men have amassed money by working off tainted provisions upon the convicts. When ill-used in this manner the poor creatures used to moo like cows. This sound can be produced without movement of the lips and cannot therefore be traced. When fourteen hundred men do it simultaneously the effect must be astounding. Mr. Clancy, with great good sense, does not forbid low conversation at meals. What is the good,' he says, 'of forbidding what cannot possibly be prevented?' Sitting elbow to elbow with bent heads in a vast room, nothing can stop them from communicating with each other. They did not appear to me to take any great advantage of the permission.
There are punishment cells for refractory prisoners at Sing Sing, but they did not seem to me to be the torture chambers of which T have read at Saint Quintin and some other American prisons. The cell which I inspected was a good deal larger than the ordinary ones, and the punishment consisted in keeping the man within it and preventing him from joining the others at work and meals. A terrible man was within. He had a thin-lipped, cruel face, and he paced like a panther incessantly around the little enclosure, his head hanging, his eye looking furtively sideways. It was a most fierce and bestial presence. The man was a foreign pimp who lured men into houses of ill-fame, whence they occasionally never emerged. It would be a wicked thing to let such a man loose upon the world once more.
Which brings me to a question which I am ever asking from those who might give an answer, but to which no answer is forthcoming. Why should a habit and repute criminal ever be released? Consider the extra strain upon the police, the extra danger to the public, the corruption of the young. How often one sees an item which runs in this fashion: 'Seven previous convictions were shown against the prisoner, all of violent assault. These have now culminated in murder: A career of uninterrupted brutality has ended in the killing of some inoffensive John Smith. But who actually killed John Smith'? Was the State not an accomplice in the crime, even as a keeper who deliberately opened a cage and let out a tiger would be responsible for that tiger's victims? The State knows that as sure as night follows day the man, if released, will repeat his offence, and that the offence will probably culminate in murder; and yet, knowing this, they let the man out How do they stand then to John Smith? The State is there to protect him, and yet, by neglecting obvious precautions, it has brought about his death and can only afford him such useless reparation as lies in revenge.
No. When a man has thrice been convicted of a penal offence he should for ever be segregated from the community in a permanent seclusion, which need not be an unduly harsh one. It may mean an extension of our prisons, but consider the lessening of crime, the easing of the labours of the police, the security of the public, and the thinning-out of the criminal classes. I am aware that there are already attempts in this direction, but they are dead letters unless they are relentlessly carried out. As Kipling says, 'The horn and the hump and the hoof and the hide of the law is obey.'
It would be a good thing for the United States if the prison system could be standardised and directed from Washington. It is a reform, however, which is difficult to effect, as the various States are very jealous of Federal encroachment upon their rights. At present, in prisons as in marriage laws, each State has its own regulations, which vary between the utmost extremes. A few yards' difference in the scene of a crime may mean the difference between a torture chamber and a rest cure for the criminal. In some cases clemency has been pushed to an extraordinary degree. In the prison at Great Meadows, in the south of New York State, a Mr. Homer has tried most amazing experiments with good results, so far as a trial of two years can afford definite conclusions.
In this wonderful establishment no arms are allowed to the warders, there is no prison uniform, and the prisoners are allowed not only to go freely about in the neighbourhood of the prison, but even to go unescorted for railway journeys of hundreds of miles. They become as attached to their life there as the Dartmoor convict who was released on the completion of his term and was found sleeping in his cell next morning, having burgled the prison during the night. At Great Meadows everything is on honour, and the man Who broke faith would have a hard time at the hands of his comrades. I can well understand that such a system may have a reforming effect. The question is, will it be a deterrent? May it not suggest to the man Who meditates crime that at the worst he will have a very pleasant seclusion rather than a punishment? I fear it might act in this direction.
But I do strongly hold that the naked club held over the prisoner's head must have a brutalising effect. I cannot believe that it is necessary. The knowledge that there is force in the background is enough, without for ever menacing the man with it. Without going all the length of Great Meadows this concession to a prisoner's self-respect might well be made. Enough now about prisons and prisoners — but good luck to the genial Irish American Clancy in his efforts to cleanse Sing Sing.
We went to see a baseball game at New York — a first-class match, as we should say — or 'some ball,' as a native expert described it. I looked on it all with the critical but sympathetic eyes of an experienced though decrepit cricketer. The men were fine fellows, harder looking than most of our professionals — indeed they train continually, and some of the teams have to practise complete abstinence, which is said to show its good results not so much in physical fitness as in the mental quickness which is very essential in the game. The catching seemed to me extraordinarily good, especially the judging of the long catches by the 'bleachers,' as die outfields who are far from any shade are called. The throwing in is also remarkably hard and accurate, and, if applied to cricket, would astonish some of our batsmen. The men earn anything from a thousand to fifteen hundred pounds in the season. This money question is a weak point of the game, as it is among our own soccer clubs, since it means that the largest purse has the best team, and there is no necessary relation between the player and the place he plays for. Thus we looked upon New York defeating the Philadelphia Athletics, but there was no more reason to suppose that New York had actually produced one team than that Philadelphia had produced the other. For this reason the smaller matches, such as are played between local teams or colleges, seem to me to be more exciting, as they do represent something definite.
The pitcher is the man who commands the highest salary and has mastered the hardest part of the game. His pace is remarkable, far faster, I should say, than any bowling; but of course it is a throw, and as such would not be possible in the cricket field. I had one uneasy moment when I was asked in Canada to take the bat and open a baseball game. The pitcher, fortunately, was merciful, and the ball came swift but true. I steadied myself by trying to imagine that it was a bat which I held in my grasp and that this was a full toss, which asked to be hit over the ropes. Fortunately, I got it fairly in the middle and it went on its appointed way. But I should not care to have to duplicate the performance.
There are many strong arguments for baseball, and I wonder that it has not caught on more rapidly in England. First of all, the whole match can be played out in a single evening, and that is a very great advantage. Secondly, it needs no specially prepared ground, but can be played on any fairly level field or common. Thirdly, it costs little in the way of outfit. These are great virtues, and when one adds that it is a game which works the audience up to a state of frenzied excitement, and that there is to the expert never a dull moment, it is clear that we should find a place for it among our sports. The tactics of the rooters or fans are the only things which an Outsider can find to criticise. So long as they cheer their own side no one can blame them, but when their yells are for the purpose of rattling the other side they offend against our conceptions of sport. However, I fear there are cricket grounds in England where such tactics have not been unknown.
This morning of early June 'my Lady Sunshine' and I — (if I may be allowed to quote the charmingly appropriate name which the New York Press has given to my wife) are leaving New York for Parkman Land, which I have long wished to explore. But 'right here,' as he would say himself, I should like to say a few words upon the ubiquitous and energetic American reporter.
He is really, in nine cases out of ten, a very good fellow, and if you will treat him with decent civility he will make the best of you with the public. It is absurd for travellers to be rude to him, as is too often the attitude of the wandering Briton. The man is under orders from his paper, and if he returns without results it is not a compliment upon his delicacy which will await him. He is out to see you and describe you, and if he finds you an ill-tempered, cantankerous curmudgeon, he very naturally says so and turns out some excellent spicy reading at your expense. The indignant Briton imagines that this is done in revenge. The reporter would not be human if it did not amuse him to do it, but it very often represents the exact impression which the vituperative traveller has made upon the pressman, himself as often as not an overworked and highly-strung man.
The public demand to know something of the stranger within their gate. Therefore the editor and his reporter have got to get their information. So far is reasonable. But it is the utter want of system which makes the practice a most unending and intolerable nuisance. There are, we will say, forty papers or press agencies which wish to see you. They come separately and at all hours. You are never free from them. They take you often when you are tired out and incapable of giving your best. They have developed into so formidable a nuisance that to my knowledge they keep out of America very many of that type of Englishman whom the American would most desire to see in his country.
Might I make a suggestion to the American Press? It is quite possible to reconcile their admitted rights on one side, and the reasonable convenience of travellers upon the other. Let the interview be regularised. When the stranger arrives let him be permitted to name a time and place where he will meet the Press. A formal card could be handed to him on which he records the appointment. There let him give himself up for an hour or so to anyone who desires to see or to ask. After that let it be recognised that he has passed the literary customs, and that no one else has any possible right to examine his mental baggage. It would surely be an easier way for the Press, and it would be infinitely so for die traveller.
I can assert that with confidence, as on my first visit to America, it was so arranged for me by Major Pond. I was turned loose in a room full of journalists, like a rat among terriers. However, that finished my troubles, whereas on this recent visit I have never been able to get to the end.
One great advantage of such an organisation as I suggest would be that there would be some controlling authority to keep reporters to the truth. It might be arranged that, when a stranger could prove that a journalist had deliberately invented some lying statement about him, the man's name or the paper's name could for a time be struck off the list. Too often, I imagine, the unhappy reporter is instructed to furnish not only an interview but a sensation. One New York paper, for example — it was the New York Journal quoted me as having stated not only that the militant suffragettes should be lynched, but that I was ready to join the lynching party. I certainly have no liking for these people, but that I should utter such a ruffianly sentiment was an entire invention, which I took the first opportunity of publicly denying. It is the kind of incident which would be prevented by the presence of some external control.
Reminiscences of interviews are occasionally amusing. I can remember that on my previous visit I was approached one night by an interviewer in a very marked state of intoxication. He was so drunk that I wondered what in the world he would make of his subject, and I bought his paper next day to see. To my amusement I found that I had made the worst possible impression upon him. He had found no good in me at all. He may even have attributed to me his own weakness, like the Scotch toper who said, 'Sandy drank that hard that by the end of the evening I couldn't see him.'
I have said that we are starting for Parkman Land. Now, as I continue to write, I am just emerging from that enchanted country. I am surprised to find how few Americans and fewer Canadians there are who appreciate that great historian at his true worth. I wonder whether any man of letters has ever devoted himself to a task with such whole-hearted devotion as Parkman. He knew the old bloody frontier as Scott knew the border marches. He was soaked in New England tradition. He prepared himself for writing about Indians by living for months in their wigwams. He was intimate with old French life, and he spent some time in a religious house that he might catch something of the spirit which played so great a part in the early history of Canada. On the top of all this he had the well-balanced, unprejudiced mind of the great chronicler, and he cultivated a style which was equally removed from insipidity and from affectation. As to his industry and resolution, they are shown by the fact that he completed his volumes after he had been stricken by blindness. It is hard to name any historian who has such an equipment as this. From his 'Pioneers of the New World' to his 'Conspiracy of Pontiac' I have read his twelve volumes twice over and when I get back to my study, with these recollections fresh in my mind, I shall assuredly read them yet again.
We have spent a day at Fort William Henry, at the southern end of Lake George. The lake is not unlike Windermere in size and shape. If one could imagine a British fort at Windermere, while the French and Indians held Keswick in force and lurked in the woods as far south as Ambleside, it would give a general idea of this cockpit of North America. This fort was a Castle Perilous, often attempted, finally taken, when in 1759 on that old corduroy road now hard to trace among the brushwood, the Indian devils got in among the unarmed prisoners and murdered so many of them, to the lasting discredit of Montcalm. Both sides sank pretty low in this conflict, for the British Colonials did not hesitate to take scalps. But the lowest of all were surely those French priests who encouraged their Mission Indians, even in time of peace, to commit atrocities upon the settlers. Parkman gives actual documents which leave no doubt as to the facts. On the other hand, the bravery and nobility of some other French priests, of Fathers Jogue, Lallemand, and Breboeuf, reach the limit of human capacity. How they strove and worked and suffered, and how utterly futile have all their labours proved, except as an example of unselfish toil! No results of any sort remain save for one little handful of Christian Hurons at Lorette near Quebec, who are lineally descended from the old Missions. Soon they also will have passed, and the whole sad, heroic, useless chapter will be ended.
We went over the ground to the south of the old fort where in one single day — I think it was in 1757 — no less than three separate battles were fought. In the first, the British, sallying out to meet an invading army of French and Indians, fell into the usual ambush and were defeated. In the second, the French and Indians, having followed the British up to their entrenched camp, were in turn put to flight and their general wounded and taken. Finally, an independent body of the French, coming up in the evening and ignorant of all that happened, were overwhelmed and their bodies thrown into what is still known as the Bloody Pond, a quiet little lakelet beside the road. There was a ruffian of the days of Edward the Third who boasted that he never went to sleep until he 'had fought his fill.' I fancy Johnson's men must have fought their fill that day.
The verandah of the Fort William Hotel is certainly a spot on which to smoke and dream. The lake lies before you as it has always done, though the woods, I take it, are a second growth and lower than of old. Down this majestic water avenue one can see sweeping the pageant of that romantic invading army at which Munro and his comrades gazed in astonishment and despair. A thousand canoes spanned the lake from shore to shore and bore a host of Indian warriors, the pick of the tribes from Quebec in the East to Thunder Bay on the far side of Lake Superior. Behind were the boats which contained the white-coated regulars of France, the rude Canadian. Militia under their Seigneurs, and finally, in double boats, the artillery and the gunners. A fine flotilla of the dead to conjure up on this calm summer evening as you stand even where the garrison stood as they surveyed them. It was the same garrison who were massacred a week or two later upon the old corduroy road.
There is blood in the air here, for all the still peace of nature. You see that pretty woody island — Diamond Island it is called. There a picnic of officers and their wives was held many a year ago. Forgetting the flight of time, they lingered until at last they heard the evening gun from the fort boom across the waters. There was no further admittance, so they determined to spend the night where they were. It was a time of nominal peace, but there was never reat peace on the bloody frontier. A lynx-eyed Canadian coureur des bois had seen them from the forest. He summoned his Indian murderers. They paddled softly across in the darkness, and the sleepers had a horrible awakening. None returned to the fort.
We have explored not only tile beautiful tragic Lake George, but also its great neighbour Lake Champlain, almost as full of historical reminiscence. Upon this, level with the head of the smaller lake, stood Ticonderoga, the chief seat of the French Canadian power. Some five miles separate it from Lake George, up which the British came buzzing whenever they were strong enough to do so. Once in front of the palisades of Ticonderoga, they met with heavy defeat, and yet once again, by the valour of the newly-enrolled Black Watch, they swept the place off the map. I wonder if Stevenson had actually been here before he wrote his eerie haunting ballad the second finest of the sort, in my opinion, in our literature. It is more than likely, since he spent some time in the neighbouring Adirondacks. Pious hands are now restoring the old fort of Ticonderoga, much of which has been uncovered. All day we skirted Lake Champlain, into which the old French explorer first found his way, and where he made the dreadful mistake of mixing in Indian warfare, which brought the whole bloodthirsty vendetta of the five nations upon the young French settlements. Up at the head of the lake we saw Plattsburg, where the Americans gained a victory in the war of 1812. The sight of these battle-fields, whether they mark British or American successes, always fills me with horror If the war of 1776 was, as I hold, a glorious mistake, that of 1812 was a senseless blunder. Had neither occurred, the whole of North America would now be one magnificent undivided country, pursuing its own independent destiny, and yet united in such unblemished ties of blood and memory to the old country that each could lean at all times upon the other. It is best for Britishers, no doubt, that we should never lean upon anything bigger than ourselves. But I see no glory in these struggles, and little wisdom in the statesmen who waged them. Among them they split the race from base to summit, and who has been the gainer? Not Britain, who was alienated from so many of her very best children. Not America, who lost Canada and had on her hands a civil war which a United Empire could have avoided. Ah well, there is a controlling force somewhere, and the highest wisdom is to believe that all things are ordered for the best.
About evening we crossed the Canadian frontier, the Richelieu River, down which the old Iroquois scalping parties used to creep, gleaming coldly in the twilight. There is nothing to show where you have crossed that border. There is the same sort of country, the same cultivation, the same plain wooden houses. Nothing is changed save that suddenly I see a little old ensign flying on a gable, and it gives You a thrill when you have not seen it for a time — God bless it! but God bless also the kindly flag to the South.
Things are not well with Montreal. It pains a Briton to have to say so when it is the first British city to which he comes. But things are not well with it. The visitor has realised that before he has got from the station to his hotel. It is rich and should be prosperous, the busy port of a great country. But the streets are in a bad state, and everywhere one sees signs of neglect. One important street has been up, as I am credibly informed, for four years. Is it incompetence, or is it the old enemy 'graft'? It is not for a stranger to say. No one admires the French Canadian race more than I do, and I was grieved to hear that the guilty town council are nearly all of that race. I wish some high-nosed old Governor of their own breed could come back to deal with them — de Frontenac for choice. It would not be long before the City Fathers would be testing one of their own institutions. My only day in the town was a cheerless one, with rain above, mud below, fog over all, and an after-luncheon speech to deliver, so perhaps the gloom has reached my thoughts, and things may seem other when I visit the town on my return.
There is an organisation called the Canadian Club, which is a terror to the visitor. It is ubiquitous and heads him off in every direction, asking him for an address. Up to now I have had such invitations from Quebec, Montreal, Hamilton, Vancouver, Fort William, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, and several more. I have actually accepted in the case of Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Ottawa. In each case the procedure is the same — a short lunch and then a speech, which is supposed to cover half an hour. One is left with very mixed feelings over the business, since on the one hand it is honourable that these kind people should desire to hear from you, while on the other your holiday jaunt changes suddenly into a lecture tour, unless you discriminate, and if you do discriminate you find it hard not to give offence. On the whole it is best to sacrifice your holiday to some extent and give of your best, such as it is. You will find in return a warm welcome and a surprisingly indulgent and sympathetic audience.
Canada within recent memory was, outside the old provinces, a land of wild animals and their trappers, with a single thin belt of humanity across it. This loosely-connected community was clamped together by the steel of the Canadian Pacific. But the country was still length without breadth. Now the map has been rolled back. The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway has put a fresh girdle round the country, and the Canadian Northern promises yet a third. In England we have come to understand what an enormously important Imperial asset the Canadian Pacific has been. But I do not think that we have realised yet what the Grand Trunk Pacific stands for. Crossing the prairie a good deal to the north of the line of the Canadian Pacific, it has opened up a vast stretch of country which was useless before. The recent joining up of the lines from East to West marked the triumphant end of a campaign against nature quite as important to the Empire as many a military campaign. Never, until you follow such a railway in its early days, do you realise how civilisation and even life itself spring from that Aaron's rod of steel.
Five years ago there was hardly a townlet, save Edmonton, in the thousand-mile stretch between Winnipeg and the Rockies. Only five years ago. Now there are fifty, only villages as yet, but with the seeds of growth in all, and of greatness in some. They toe the line — the iron line — like a string of runners starting upon a race. Already you can see which is making a good start and which a bad. Each is the centre for a circumference of farm land, and on this depends the advance of the town. Biggar and Scott and Wainwright and Watrous catch the eye for the moment, but there are plenty of likely outsiders, and it's the riding that does it. A big man can at any time make a big town. At present they are very much alike the little wooden church, the raw hotel, a couple of stores, a red-painted livery stable, and a dozen houses. On the horizon here and there one sees far-off farm buildings, but beyond them and away fifty miles over the horizon there are others, and others, and yet others, for whom this townlet and the railway line mean life and the world.
I seem to have passed with one giant stride from Montreal to the Prairie, but, as a matter of fact, it is not until one has reached the Prairie that the traveller meets with new conditions and new problems. He traverses Ontario with its prosperous mixed farms and its fruit-growing villages, but the general effect is the same as in Eastern America. Then comes the enormous stretch of the Great Lakes, that wonderful inland sea, with great ocean-going steamers. We saw the newly built Noronic, destined altogether for passenger traffic, and worthy to compare, both in internal fittings and outward appearance, with many an Atlantic liner. The Indians looked in amazement at La Salle's little vessel. I wonder what La Salle and his men would think of the Noronic! For two days in great comfort we voyaged over the inland waters. They lay peaceful for our passage, but we heard grim stories of winter gusts and of ships which were never heard of more. It is not surprising that there should be accidents, for the number of vessels is extraordinary, and being constructed with the one idea of carrying the maximum of cargo, they appear to be not very stable. I am speaking now of the whale-back freight carriers and not of the fine passenger service, which could not be beaten.
I have said that the number of vessels is extraordinary. I have been told that the tonnage passing through Sault Ste. Marie, where the lakes join, is greater than that of any port in the world. All the supplies and manufactures for the West move one way, while the corn of the great prairie, and the ores from the Lake Superior copper and iron mines move the other. In the Fall there comes the triumphant procession of the harvest. Surely in more poetic days banners might have waved and cymbals clashed, and priests of Ceres sung their hymns in the vanguard, as this flotilla of mercy moved majestically over the face of the waters to the aid of hungry Europe. However, we have cut out the frills, to use the vernacular, though life would be none the worse could we tinge it a little with the iridescence of romance. Suffice it now to say, that an average railway truck contains 1,000 bushels of wheat, that there are forty trucks in a corn train, the whole lift being 40,000 bushels, and that there exists at least one freighter which is capable of carrying 400,000 bushels, or ten train loads. The sinking of such a ship would seem to be a world's calamity.
We stopped at Sault Ste. Marie, the neck of the hour-glass between the two great lakes of Huron and Superior. There were several things there which are worthy of record. The lakes are of a different level, and the lock which avoids the dangerous rapids is on an enormous scale; but, beside it, unnoticed save by those who know where to look and what to look for, there is a little stone-lined cutting no larger than an uncovered drain — it is the detour by which for centuries the voyageurs, trappers, and explorers moved their canoes round the Sault or fall on their journey to the great solitudes beyond. Close by it is one of the old Hudson Bay log forts, with its fireproof roof, its loop-holed walls, and every other device for Indian fighting. Very small and mean these things look by the side of the great locks and the huge steamers within them. But where would locks and steamers have been had these others not taken their lives in their hands to clear the way?
I do want to take my hat off once again to the French Canadian. He came of a small people. At the time of the British occupation, I doubt if there were more than a hundred thousand of them, and yet the mark they have left by their bravery and activity upon this Continent is an ineffaceable one. You pass right through the territory of the United States, down the valleys of the Illinois and of the Mississippi, and everywhere you come across French names: Marquette, Joliet, St. Louis, Mobile, New Orleans. How come these here? It was the French Canadians who, when the English colonies were still clinging to the edge of the ocean, pushed round from the North into the heart of the land. French Canadians first traversed the great American rivers and sighted the American Rockies. Keep farther north and still their footsteps are always marked deep in the soil before you. Cross the whole vast plain of Central Canada and reach the Mountains. What is that called, you ask? That is Mount Miette. And that? That is Tête Jaune. And that lake? It is Lake Brulé. They were more than scouts in front of an army. They were so far ahead that the army will take a century yet before it reaches their outposts. Brave, enduring, light-hearted, romantic, they were and are a fascinating race. The ideals of the British and of the French stock may not be the same, but while the future of the country must surely be upon British lines, the French will leave their mark deeply upon it. Five hundred years hence their blood will be looked upon as the aristocratic and distinctive blood of Canada, and even as the Englishman is proud of his Norman ancestor, so the most British Canadian will proudly trace back his pedigree to the point where some ancestor had married with a Tachereau or a De Lotbinière. It seems to me that the British cannot be too delicate in their dealings with such a people. They are not a subject people but partners in empire, and should in all ways be treated so.
The other sight which interested us at Sault Ste. Marie was an Indian or half-breed school. The young ladies who conducted it seemed to be kindness itself, but the children struck me as mutinous little devils. Not that their actions were anything but demure and sedate, but red mutiny smouldered in their eyes. All the wrongs of their people seemed printed upon their cast-iron visages. Then-race has little to complain of from the Canadian Government, which has treated them with such humanity that they have really become a special endowed class living at the expense of the community. Still, there is the perennial fact that where they once owned lake and forest, they now are confined to the fixed reserve. That no doubt is the whisper which brings that brooding scowl upon young faces. They are a cruel people, and in the days of torture the children were even more bloodthirsty than the rest. They are a race of caged falcons, and perhaps it is as well that they are not likely to survive the conditions which they loved.
By the way, I have never understood how anyone could look at a number of Red Indians of any age or tribe and doubt where they came from. They are obvious Asiatics — Tartars, or Chinese, with an occasional dash of Esquimaux. This seems to me to apply to the Indians as far south as Mexico; but if so, who peopled America before these wanderers came across? I have never heard of any primitive race unless it be the digger Indians of the South. There are no vestiges of human occupation, as far as I know, which bear any signs of great age. Was the whole Continent an empty derelict till within a recent period, with only the wild beasts to wander over its vast plains and forests? I write this far from books of reference, but except an ancient skull dug up under doubtful circumstances at Calaveras, I cannot remember any signs of ancient man, though the extinct animals ran to size and number as nowhere else upon earth. On the other hand, in Central America one comes at once upon the signs of ancient civilisations and of vanished empires, founded apparently by races who came not from Asia, but either from the South or from the Sea. If one looks upon the monstrous figures of Easter Island and compares them with the Mexican or Peruvian statues, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that in the one you see the germ of the other, and that the Central American and Peruvian empires had their origin far out in the Pacific Ocean.
The Twin Cities of Fort William and Port Arthur, at the head of Lake Superior, form, I think, the most growing community of Canada. They call them Twin Cities, but I expect, like their Siamese predecessors, they will grow into one. Already the suburbs join each other, though proximity does not always lead to amalgamation or even to cordiality, as in the adjacent towns of St. Paul and Minneapolis. When the little American boy was asked in Sunday school who persecuted Saint Paul, he 'guessed it was Minneapolis.' But in the case of Fort William and Port Arthur they are so evidently interdependent that it is difficult to believe that they will fail to coalesce; when they do, I am of opinion that they may grow to be a Canadian Chicago, and possibly become the greatest city in the country. All lines converge there, as does all the lake traffic, and everything from East and West must pass through it. If I were a rich man and wished to become richer, I should assuredly buy land in the Twin Cities. Though they lie in the very centre of the broadest portion of the Continent, the water communications are so wonderful that an ocean-going steamer from Liverpool or Glasgow can now unload at their quays.
The grain elevators of Fort William are really majestic erections, and with a little change of their construction might be aesthetic as well. Even now the huge cylinders into which they are divided look at a little distance not unlike the columns of Luxor. This branch of human ingenuity has been pushed at Fort William to its extreme. The last word has been said there upon every question covering the handling of grain. By some process, which is far beyond my unmechanical brain, the stuff is even divided automatically according to its quality, and there are special hospital elevators where damaged grain can be worked up into a more perfect article.
By the way, it was here, while lying at a steamship wharf on the very edge of the city, that I first made the acquaintance of one of the original inhabitants of Canada. A cleared plain stretched from the ship to a wood some hundreds of yards off, As I stood upon deck I saw what I imagined to be a horse wander out of the wood and begin to graze in the clearing. The creature seemed ewe-necked beyond all possibility, and looking closer I saw to my surprise that it was a wild moose. Could anything be more characteristic of the present condition of Canada — the great mechanical developments of Fort William within gun-shot of me on one side, and this shy wanderer of the wilderness upon the other? In a few years the dweller in the great city will read of my experience with the same mixture of incredulity and surprise with which we read the letter of the occasional correspondent whose grandfather shot a woodcock in Maida Vale. Talking of moose, an extraordinary adventure befell the train in which we travelled, some few hours before we boarded it. In the middle of the night the engine, rounding a curve, crashed into a bull moose which was standing between the metals. I daresay the glaring headlights petrified the poor creature with terror. The body passed under the engine and uncoupled it from the tender, so that it ran on by itself, leaving the train behind. It was only when the engine returned and the cause of the incident was searched for that the dead body of the creature was discovered at the rear of the train, jammed under the dining-car.
Beside the growing modem town I saw some rude mouldering shacks which are, as I learn, the wooden houses of the old original Jesuit mission of Thunder Bay the farthest point reached in the old days by these brave priests, who reckoned that it took them always a full year in canoes up the Ottawa and along the chain of lakes before they could reach their parish. I am intensely conscious of how valuable every link with the past will be in the days to come, and I implored some leading citizens to remove one of these huts to their town park, to furnish it in the old fashion, and to piously preserve it for all time. I should be proud to feel that I had helped to rescue such a national possession.
The true division between the East and West of Canada is not the Great Lakes, which are so valuable as a waterway, but lies in the five hundred miles of country between the Lakes and Winnipeg. It is barren, but beautiful, covered with forest which is not large enough to be of value as lumber. It is a country of rolling plains covered with low trees with rivers in the valleys. The soil is poor. It is really a problem what to do with this belt, which is small according to Canadian distances, but is none the less broader than the distance between London and Edinburgh. Unless minerals are found in it, I should think that it will be to Canada what the Highlands of Scotland are to Britain a region set apart for sport because it has no other economic use. The singular thing about this barren tree land is that it quite suddenly changes to the fertile prairie at a point to the east of Winnipeg. I presume that there is some geological reason, but it was strange to see the fertile plain run up to the barren woods with as clear a division as between the sea and the shore.
And now at last I am to the west of Winnipeg and on that prairie which means so much both to Canada and to the world. It is wonderfully impressive to travel swiftly all day from the early summer dawn to the latest evening light, and to see always the same little clusters of houses, always the same distant farms, always the same huge expanse stretching to the sky-line, mottled with cattle, or green with the half-grown crops. You think these people are lonely. What about the people beyond them and beyond them again, each family in its rude barracks in the midst of the 160 acres which form the minimum farm? No doubt they are lonely, and yet there are alleviations. When a man or woman is working on their own property and seeing their fortune growing, they have pleasant thoughts to bear them company. It is the women, I am told, who feel it most, and who go prairie-mad. Now they have rigged up telephone circles which connect up small groups of farms and enable the women to relieve their lives by a little friendly gossip, when the whole district thrills to die news that Mrs Jones has been in the cars to Winnipeg and bought a new bonnet. At the worst the loneliness of the prairie can never, one would think, have the soul-killing effect of loneliness in a town. 'There is always the wind on the heath, brother.'
Land is not so easily picked up now by the emigrant as in the old days, when 160 acres beside the railroad were given away free. There is still free land to be had, but it is in the back country. However, this back country of to-day is always liable to be opened up by the branch railway lines to-morrow. On the whole, however, it seems to be more economical, if the emigrant has the money, to buy a partially developed well-situated farm, than to take up a virgin homestead. That is what the American emigrants usually do who have been pouring into the country, and they know best the value of such farms, having usually come from exactly similar ones just across the border, the only difference being that they can get ten acres in Canada for the price of one in Minnesota or Iowa. They hasten to take out their papers of naturalisation and make, it is said, most excellent and contented citizens. Their energy and industry are remarkable. A body of them had reached the land which they proposed to buy about the time that I was in the West; they had come over the border with their wagons, their horses, and their ploughs. Being taken to the spot by the land agent, the leader of the party tested the soil, cast a rapid glance over the general prairie, and then cried, 'I guess this will do, boys. Get off the ploughs.' The agent who was present told me that they had broken an acre of the prairie before they slept that night. These men were German Lutherans from Minnesota and they settled in the neighbourhood of Scott. It may be hard for the British farmer, unused to the conditions, to compete against such men; but at least it must be clear to him that there is no use his emigrating with a view to agriculture in the Western States of America, when the Americans are themselves flocking into Canada. The gains upon the farms are very considerable. It is not unusual for a man to pay every expense which he has incurred, including the price of the land, within the first two years. After that, with decent luck, he should be a prosperous man, able to bring up a family in ease and comfort. If he be British and desires to return to the Old Country, it should not be difficult for him to save enough in ten or twelve years to make him, after selling his farm, more or less independent for life. That is, as it seems to me, an important consideration for many people who hesitate to break all the old ties and feel that they are leaving their motherland for ever. Everyone agrees that the emigrant farmer should have a hundred pounds as a minimum for his actual start, apart from whatever he may have to give for the land. The man who has not the money must earn it before he can take over even a free homestead. But it is not difficult for him to earn it if he is saving and industrious. Two or three years' working for others, or, better still, learning his trade in some mixed farm in Ontario, would give him the pounds. It is to be noted that even in the corn-growing West the mixed farms are those which seem to give the best and most secure results. Hog-raising, horse-breeding, dairy produce — these are lucrative insurances against a bad crop. There is no end to the agricultural possibilities of the West and North-West of Canada. There is only an end to the railway development, but that is being pushed forward as fast as the necessary capital can be supplied. Up in the Peace River district, far to the north of the present grainlands, there is an enormous area where the soil is so luxuriantly prolific that fifty bushels can be taken from die acre, and the wheat which has been sown in June can be gathered within ten weeks. There is room for a million large farms in this quarter. Considering how rich these farmers may become, and how long is the winter at that high latitude, I should not be surprised to see the development of a large migratory population, who would come with the early spring, and in the late fall would descend to the warm, pleasant places of the British Columbian coast, there to amuse themselves until work time came round once more.
So much about farms and fanning. I cannot see how one can write about this western part and avoid the subject which is written in green and gold from sky to sky. Mere is nothing else. Nowhere is there any sign of yesterday — not a cairn, not a monument. Life has passed here, but has left no footstep behind. But stay, the one thing which the old life still leaves is just this one thing — footsteps. Look at them in the little narrow black paths which converge to the water — little dark ruts which wind and twist. Those are the buffalo runs of old. Gone are the Cree and Blackfoot hunters who shot them down. Gone, too, the fur traders who bought the skins — Chief Factor MacTavish, who entered into the great Company's service as a boy, spent his life in slow promotion from Fort This to Fort That, made a decent Presbyterian Woman of some Indian squaw, and finally saw with horror in his old age that the world was crowding his wild beasts out of their pastures. Gone are the great herds upon which both Indian hunter and fur trader were parasitical Indian, trader, and buffalo all have passed, and here on the great plains are these narrow runways as the last remaining sign of a vanished world.
Edmonton is the capital of the western side of the Prairie, even as Winnipeg of the eastern. I do not suppose the average Briton has the least conception of the amenities of Winnipeg. He would probably be surprised to hear that the Fort Garry Hotel there is quite as modern and luxurious as any hotel in Northumberland Avenue. There are no such luxuries as yet in Edmonton, though the Grand Trunk Pacific is preparing one which will equal the Fort Garry. The town is in a strangely half-formed condition, rude and raw, but with a great atmosphere of energy, bustle, and future greatness. With its railway connections and waterways it is bound to be a large city. At present the streets are full of out-of-works, great husky men, some of them of magnificent physique, who find themselves at a loss, on account of cessations in railroad construction. They tell me that they will soon be reabsorbed, but meantime the situation is the rudest object-lesson in economics that I have ever witnessed. Here are these splendid men, ready and willing to work. Here is a new country calling in every direction for labour. How come the two things to be even temporarily disconnected? There can be but one word. It is want of capital. And why is the capital wanting? Why is the work of the railroads held up? Because the money market is tight in London — London which finds, according to the most recent figures, 73 per cent. of all the money with which Canada is developed. Such is the state of things. What will amend it? How can capital be made to flow into the best channels? By encouragement and security and the hope of good returns. I never heard of any system of socialism which did not seem to defeat the very object which it had at heart. And yet it is surely deplorable that the men should be here, and that the work should be here, and that none can command the link which would unite them.
A line of low distant hills breaks the interminable plain which has extended with hardly a rising for fifteen hundred miles. Above them is here and there a peak of snow. Shades of Mayne Reid, they are the Rockies — my old familiar Rockies! Have I been here before? What an absurd question, when I lived there for about ten years of my life in all the hours of dreamland. What deeds have I not done among redskins and trappers and grizzlies within their wilds! And here they are at last glimmering bright in the rising morning sun. At least, I have seen my dream mountains Most boys never do.
It is a marvellous line, this Grand Trunk Pacific, and destined to a mighty future, for it crosses these great mountains so deftly that it never has a grade above two per cent., or needs any help for an ordinary engine with a standard train. When in the immediate future the wheat of the west and north-west comes pouring out to the western ports to find the Panama Canal, the easy haulage should place this line above all its compeers as a commercial success. And here, by its very side as we enter the mountains, I see to my surprise the shafts of coal mines rising in the wilderness. Just beyond them we reach the edges of the new National Park, which is our destination; but as it is about half the size of Belgium, it is still an hour or two before we pull up at Jasper, where the superintendent, Colonel Maynard Rogers, and his charming wife, whose guests we are, have their headquarters. Colonel Rogers is a soldier of Empire whom I first met with his Canadians in South Africa and who now, as I correct these proofs, is encamped on Salisbury Plain — a development we little thought of in those peaceful days of June.
Jasper Park is one of the great national playgrounds and health resorts which the Canadian Goverment with great wisdom has laid out for the benefit of the Citizens. When Canada has filled up and carries a large population, she will bless the foresight of the administrators who took possession of broad tracts of the most picturesque land and put them for ever out of the power of the speculative dealer. The National Park at Banff has for twenty years been a Mecca for tourists. That at Algonquin gives a great pleasure ground to those who cannot extend their ravels beyond. Eastern Canada. But this new Jasper Park, which only awaits the forthcoming hotel to be a glorious place for the lover of nature, is the latest and the wildest of all these reserves. Two years ago it was absolute wilderness, and much of it impenetrable. Now, through the energy of Colonel Rogers, trails have been cut through it in various directions, and a great number of adventurous trips into Country which is practically unknown can be carried out with ease and comfort The packer plays the part of a dragoman in the east, arranging the whole expedition, food, cooking, and everything else on inclusive terms; and once in the hands of a first-class Rocky Mountain packer, a man of the standing of Fred Stephens or the Otto Brothers, the traveller can rely upon a square deal and the companionship of one whom he will find to be a most excellent comrade. There is no shooting in the park — it is a preserve for all wild animals — but there is excellent fishing, and everywhere there are the most wonderful excursions, where you sleep at night under the stars upon the balsamic fir branches which the packer gathers for your couch. I could not imagine an experience which would be more likely to give a freshet of vitality when the stream runs thin. For a week we lived the life of simplicity and nature.
The park is not yet as full of wild creatures as it will be after a few years of preservation. The Indians who lived in this part rounded up everything that they could before moving to their reservation. But even now, the bear lumbers through the brushwood, the eagle soars above the lake, the timber wolf still skulks in the night, and the deer graze in the valleys. Above, near the snow-line, the wild goat are not uncommon, while at a lower altitude are found the mountain sheep. On the last day of our visit the rare cinnamon bear exposed his yellow coat upon a clearing within a few hundred yards of the village. I saw his clumsy good-humoured head looking at me from over a dead trunk, and I thanked the kindly Canadian law which has given him a place of sanctuary. What a bloodthirsty baboon man must appear to the lower animals! If any superhuman demon treated us exactly as we treat the pheasants, we should begin to reconsider our views as to what is sport.
The porcupine is another creature which abounds in the woods. I did not see any, but a friend described the encounter between one and his dog. The creatures quills are detachable when he wishes to be nasty, and at the end of the fight it was not easy to say which was the dog and which the porcupine! Life in Jasper interested me as an experience of the first stage of a raw Canadian town. It will certainly grow into a considerable place, but now, bar Colonel Rogers' house and die station, there are only log-huts and small wooden dwellings. Christianity is apostolic in its simplicity and in its freedom from strife — though one has to go back remarkably early in apostolic times to find those characteristics. Two churches were being built, the pastor in each case acting also as head mason and carpenter. One, the corner-stone of which I had the honour of laying, was to be used alternately by several nonconformist bodies. To the ceremony came the Anglican parson, grimy from his labours on the opposition building, and prayed for the well-being of his rival. The whole function, with its simplicity and earnestness, carried out by a group of ill-clad men standing bare-headed in a drizzle of rain, seemed to me to have in it the essence of religion. As I ventured to remark to them, Kikuyu and Jasper can give some lessons to London.
We made a day's excursion by rail to the Tête Jaune Cache, which is across the British Columbian border and marks the watershed between east and west. Here we saw the Fraser, already a formidable river, rushing down to the Pacific. At the head of the pass stands the village of the railway workers, exactly like one of the mining townships of Bret Harte, save that the bad man is never allowed to be too bad. There is a worse m an in a red serge coat and a Stetson hat, who is told off by the State to look after him, and does his duty in such fashion that the most fire-eating desperado from across the border falls into the line of law. But apart from the gunman, this village presented exactly the same queer cabins, strange signs, and gambling rooms which the great American master has made so familiar to us.
The actual workers upon the railroad construction who are at the present moment the most indispensable citizens in Canada are for the most part Ruthenians, Galicians, Croats, and other weird people. The Italians come in for the higher work. The Irishman has worked up and disappeared from among the navvies. On the other hand, he makes a spirited contractor, and many an Irishman becomes rich in construction work. Blasting operations are a field which offers great chances to a smart man. They are a huge gamble and may ruin a contractor or make him wealthy in a very short time. The work is leased out by the railroad, who engage to pay so much for the removal of so many cubic yards of rock. The contractor finds the men and the explosives and arranges the mines. No one ever knows what their exact effect is going to be. Sometimes the whole rock is cleared at one blast and the result is a huge profit to the agent. At other times it may all settle down into the same place again and he may be a ruined man before he gets it off. Perhaps it is this element of chance which makes an appeal to the adventurous Irish nature. Apart from liquor saloons, journalism, and the police, which were supposed to be their specialities, the American fish have done remarkably well in many different forms of business, so that those who imagine that a self-governed Ireland would necessarily be an ill-administered Ireland might find themselves very mistaken. Again and again I found that the leading man in a rising Canadian city was a Celtic Irishman of humble origin, a lumberman or transport-man, who had worked his way up by his energy and his tact. As to political graft, it is the curse of America, and the native American or the German is as much involved in it as the Irishman.
And how we are homeward bound! Back through Edmonton, back through Winnipeg, back through that young giant, Fort William but not back across the Great Lakes. Instead of that transit we took train by the courtesy of the Canadian Pacific round the northern shore of Superior, a beautiful wooded desolate country, which, without minerals, offers little prospect for the future. Some two hundred miles north of it the Grand Trunk, that enterprising pioneer of empire, has opened up another line which extends for a thousand miles, and should develop a new corn umber district Canada is like an expanding flower: wherever you look you see some fresh petal unrolling.
We spent three days at Algonquin Park. This place is within easy distance of Montreal or Ottawa, and should become a resort of British fishermen and lovers of nature. After all, it is little more than a week from London, and many a river in Finland takes nearly as long to reach. There is good hotel accommodation, and out of the thousand odd lakes in this enormous natural preserve one can find all sorts of fishing, though the best is naturally the most remote. I had no particular luck myself, but my wife caught an eight-pound trout, which Mr. Bartlett, the courteous superintendent of the park, is now engaged in mounting, so as to confound all doubters. Deer abound in the park, and the black bear is not uncommon, while wolves can often be heard howling in the night-time. I'm afraid I said something harsh of Montreal the last time I was here. It still holds good as to the paving of the streets. But no one could go up to the Upper Park and look down at that wonderful view and then go away with an evil word for the city. It is magnificent. No wonder that old Jacques Cartier, the rude Breton sailor, when first he looked upon it 350 years ago, called it the Royal Mount and saw that France could plant its city here. I have seen many of the great panoramas of the world, but none, I think, so fine as this. There is a huge stretch of the St. Lawrence winding beneath you, shimmering away into the heat haze in the remotest distance. Down there to the south, behind the distant mountains, lies the American frontier, with that vast iron bridge connecting the rails up which lead to it. The river is broken with islands, St. Helen's Island, Nun's Island, and there, far to the right, a white streak marks the rapids of La Chine. There it was that on that dreadful night the bale-fires blazed while the frightened burghers of Montreal, staring helplessly from their palisade saw the shooting flames in which their fellow-countrymen were being tortured by the Indians. But between the river and the hill on which you stand, lies the real wonder, the vast outspread city, much larger than I had thought, though I was aware that its inhabitants were considerably more than half a million. The spires and domes give it an aspect of great solidity, and this impression is increased when you descend into its streets, for I have seen no American city which exceeds it in this respect. There is one street of banks and insurance offices which recalls the old world in the grey stone monotony of its cyclopean buildings. In Notre Dame they have also one of the finest Roman Catholic churches that I have entered, where the decorator has succeeded for once in being rich without being cheap or meretricious.
But the thing which pleased me most in Montreal, and indeed in America so far as art goes, was the supremely fine work of a French Canadian sculptor named Hebert. I do not know whether this gentleman is a member of our Royal Academy, but if not, it is assuredly the academy which is wronged. I doubt if we have any finer sculptor now living. The particular monument which shows his full powers is the statue of Maisonneuve, the founder of Montreal, in the Place d'Armes. The figures at the corners of the base, especially that of a crouching Iroquois and of a settler with his dog, moved me deeply. I found the same quality in his work at Quebec, where a small statue of the dying Montcalm is a most remarkable masterpiece. On the other hand, the Champlain monument in the same city, done by an imported Parisian sculptor, loses all the soul which makes the native work so wonderful. It may have technical merits, but it is ruined by the introduction of Fame and History and cherubs and all the childish frippery of the eighteenth century, which disfigure the interior of our own abbey. But Hebert — he is great!
Would that we could let him loose on London town, though I daresay he would lose all his virtue when his heart was no longer at the back of his chisel.
Traces of the old historical Montreal are not so numerous as one would wish. There have been fires which have done much harm. The Seminary of St. Sulpice still stands as it did from early days. The Château de Ramsay, too, is the old governor's house, dating from about 1700, and filled with many relics of old days. La Salle's house is still to be seen out at La Chine. It was he who named the place, and the full title was a La Chine, he being under the impression that it was the first stage on the road to China. So it was, but the road was a little longer than he knew.
Mat will be the destiny of Canada? Some people talk as if it were in doubt. Personally, I have none upon the point. Canada will remain exactly as she is for two more generations. At the end of that time there must be reconsideration of the subject, especially upon the part of Great Britain, who will find herself with a child as large as herself under the same roof.
I see no argument for the union of Canada with the United States. There is excellent feeling between the two countries, but they could no more join at this period of their history than a great oak could combine with a well-rooted pine to make one tree. The roots of each are far too deep. It is impossible.
Then there is the alternative of Canada becoming an independent nation. That is not so impossible as a union with the States, but it is in the last degree improbable. Why should Canada wish her independence? She has it now in every essential. But her first need is the capital and the population which will develop her enormous territory and resources. This capital she now receives from the Mother Country to the extent of 73 per cent., the United States finding 14 per cent., and Canada herself the remaining 13. Her dependence upon the Mother Country for emigrants, though not so great as her financial dependence, is still the greatest from any single source. Besides all this, she has the vast insurance policy, which is called the British Navy, presented to her for nothing — though honour demands some premium from her in the future and she has the British diplomatic service for her use unpaid. Altogether, looking at it from the material side, Canada's interests lie deeply in the present arrangement. But there is a higher and more unselfish view which works even more strongly in the same direction. Many of the most representative Canadians are descendants of those United Empire Loyalists who in 1782 gave up everything and emigrated from the United States in order to remain under the flag. Their imperialism is as warm or warmer than our own: And everywhere there is a consciousness of the glory of the empire, its magnificent future, and the wonderful possibilities of these great nations all growing up under the same flag with the same language and destinies. This sentiment joins with material advantages and will prevent Canada from having any aspiration towards independence.
No, it will remain exactly as it is for the remainder of this century. At the end of that time her population and resources will probably considerably exceed those of the Mother Land, and problems will arise which our children's children may have some difficulty in solving. As to the French Canadian, he will always be a conservative force - let him call himself what he will. His occasional weakness for flying the French flag is not to be resented, but is rather a pathetic and sentimental tribute to a lost cause, like that which adorns every year the pedestal of Charles at Whitehall.
At the same time, it is very important that this large and important section of the population — the only portion which grows rapidly without immigration — should be given no cause for discontent. Their religion is their most sensitive point, and though they have complete freedom in this respect in Quebec they have a real grievance in Manitoba, which is felt by all Canadian Roman Catholics. This is what is called the Manitoba School Question. When Manitoba was taken over it was on the promise or understanding that existing institutions should be respected. At that time there was in existence a system of Roman Catholic Schools. These have now been abolished and a general school system put in its place. The result is that the Catholic has to pay a rate for general schools and find an additional sum for his own schools. He does not descend to breaking the law, though he has certainly a better excuse than our own passive resistance Nonconformists had, but he feels a grievance none the less which is shared by his compatriots in Quebec, and which from every motive of justice and of policy should be removed.
I formed some opinions also as to the immediate prospects of Canada. It is undeniable that she has been going through a bad time, and that she is by no means out of it yet. I fancy that she is losing population rather than gaining it for the moment. The number of steerage passengers gives a disquieting idea of the exodus. However, there is reason to hope that the worst is past and that the good time will soon be resumed.
The base of all prosperity in Canada is the crop. This year it promises to be an excellent possibly a record one. This will bring the money into the country for which it is starving. One cause and an important one — of the present stagnation is worth quoting as an example of how legislation works in most unexpected ways. A law was passed in the supposed interest of the farmers by which the makers of agricultural machinery could not distrain upon farms in order to recover their debts. What was the result? When the farmer at the end of last harvest delivered his grain at the elevators and received his receipt which he can cash at the bank to the extent of 50 per cent. — he found the machine agent waiting for him, who promptly annexed his cheque. The result is that the average farmer has been left with no ready money to go on with. The ultimate effect, however, may be excellent, as he has been forced to pay his debt and now can hope to make clear profits in the future. With a good crop and a clear farm the prospects should be bright.
There is room for at least a hundred thousand more women in Canada and their provision is of the utmost importance, both for the present well-being and for the future population of the State. I heard this opinion expressed again and again by men who knew the life of the farms. The men, living alone, can get along in prosperous days, but become morose and disheartened when bad times come. They need comradeship and don't know how to get it. It is deplorable to think of all the superfluous women in England who would be invaluable upon the prairie. It is a delicate matter, and how it is to be arranged, I don't know. Louis the Fourteenth, or rather his minister, Colbert, handled it in very direct fashion, when every girl was sent out with her little 'dot' and snapped up by the eager habitants. Things are more complex now. But with State-aided passages and local committees of ladies, surely something could be done!
There is no subject upon which Canadian interests are more divided than upon the Panama Canal. It will vitally affect two sections of the country, the East for bad and the West for good. British Columbia will be the chief gainer, but Alberta will also profit by an easier route to and from Europe, avoiding the expensive haulage across the Continent. On the other hand, their gain will be the exact measure of the loss of the railroads which represent Eastern interests. Again, British Columbia will import as well as export by the canal, and so with cheap sea-carriage she will get machinery and other manufactures from Europe which at present are made in Eastern Canada. Middle Canada is seeking for a new vent by a railroad connecting up with Hudson Bay. It would only be available for steamer connection during four months in the year, but they would be the months of harvest. Altogether, it looks as if the St. Lawrence might lose its monopoly as the only avenue or exit from the country to Europe.
Ottawa and Quebec. We had a flying visit and a fleeting impression of each, the one quiet, well-ordered, demure with really magnificent Government buildings, the other more old-worldish than anything we have seen on this side. In spite of all one's reading, it does actually come as a shock when one sees a little scene of pure eighteenth-century France on the far shore of the Atlantic. Here the French are in a vast majority, but some English friends whom I met did not appear to have suffered in any way at their hands, and the city itself seemed well handled and progressive. Naturally, we visited the battlefield and stood where Wolfe fell — that strange, scraggy, high-nosed, chinless man who was so fine a soldier though no one could have had less martial features. Is there any example, by the way, of a very great soldier having what one usually calls a soldierly appearance? Not Napoleon certainly, with his chubby face, nor Wellington with his grave aristocratic features, nor Frederick with the expression of a pedantic schoolmaster, nor Marlborough with his handsome serenity. Blucher, perhaps, is the nearest to the conventional idea — Blücher and Murat. But of them all, I should think Wolfe was the least martial in appearance. Yet he had supreme courage. I could not conceive a finer test of nerve than that a man responsible for so desperate an enterprise should have whiled away the time by repeating Gray's verses to his fellow officers. There is a spiritual quality in the incident which is lacking in Wellington's lying down to sleep at Salamanca and ordering his staff to wake him when the French column had reached the appointed spot. And yet, that was wonderful and characteristic also.
There was a second battle of Abraham's Heights — less well known in England as no decisive results followed it. The French came back with fine courage and perseverance in the year after Wolfe's death and nearly recaptured the city. It was only the arrival of tie British Fleet which saved it. This fight is commemorated by a column 'aux braves' — including those of both armies. Neither side has anything to be ashamed of in the story of Quebec.
And now we are down the St. Lawrence and we look back at the green banks dotted with the white houses of the habitants. The river widens and the gulf is opening out before us. Good-bye, Canada, and all the friends we leave behind. Good-bye, Charlton, gentle, kind, and helpful. Good-bye, Lett, best of good fellows, half poet and half Leather-stocking. Good-bye, Rogers, path-breaker in the wilderness. Good-bye, Bell, most practical of mystics. Good-bye, Chamberlin, bull-dog Captain of Industry! Canada is well served by her children, even as they are blessed in their country. I have tried to put my thoughts upon her into verse.
THE ATHABASCA TRAIL
My life is gliding downwards; it speeds swifter to the day
When it shoots the last dark Cañon to the Plains of Far-away,
But while its stream is running through the years that are to be,
The mighty voice of Canada will ever call to me.
I shall hear the roar of rivers where the rapids foam and tear,
I shall smell the virgin upland with its balsam-laden air,
And shall dream that I am riding down the winding woody vale,
With the packer and the packhorse on the Athabasca Trail.
I have passed the warden cities at the Eastern water-gate,
Where the hero and the martyr laid the corner-stone of State,
The habitant, coureur-des-bois and hardy voyageur:—
Where lives a breed more strong at need to venture or endure?
I have seen the gorge of Erie where the roaring waters run,
I have crossed the Inland Ocean, lying golden in the sun,
But the last and best and sweetest is the ride by hill and dale,
With the packer and the packhorse on the Athabasca Trail.
I'll dream again of fields of grain that stretch from sky to sky,
And the little prairie hamlets, where the cars go roaring by,
Wooden hamlets as I saw them — noble cities still to be
To girdle stately Canada with gems from sea to sea;
Mother of a mighty manhood, land of glamour and of hope,
From the eastward sea-swept islands to the sunny western slope,
Ever more my heart is with you, ever more till life shall fail,
I'll be out with pack and packer on the Athabasca Trail.