CHAPTER IX. A vexatious incident - John Bull enraged - Woman's rights - Alligators become hosses - A popular host - Military display - A mirth-provoking gun - Grave reminiscences - Attractions of the fair - Past and present - A floating palace - Black com
The night-cars are always crowded both in Canada and the States, because people in business are anxious to save a day if they have any expedition to make, and, as many of the cars are fitted up with seats of a most comfortable kind for night-travelling, a person accustomed to them can sleep in them as well as on a sofa. After leaving Chicago, they seemed about to rush with a whoop into the moonlit waters of Lake Michigan, and in reality it was not much better. For four miles we ran along a plank- road supported only on piles. There was a single track, and the carriages projecting over the whole, there was no bridge to be seen, and we really seemed to be going along on the water. These insecure railways are not uncommon in the States; the dangers of the one on the Hudson river have been experienced by many travellers to their cost.
We ran three hundred miles through central Michigan in ten hours, including stoppages. We dashed through woods, across prairies, and over bridges without parapets, at a uniform rate of progress. A boy making continual peregrinations with iced water alleviated the thirst of the passengers, for the night was intensely hot, and I managed to sleep very comfortably till awoke by the intense cold of dawn. During the evening an incident most vexatious to me occurred.
The cars were very full, and were not able to seat all the passengers. Consequently, according to the usages of American etiquette, the gentlemen vacated the seats in favour of the ladies, who took possession of them in a very ungracious manner as I thought. The gentlemen stood in the passage down the centre. At last all but one had given up their seats, and while stopping at a station another lady entered.
"A seat for a lady," said the conductor, when he saw the crowded state of the car. The one gentleman did not stir. "A seat for a lady," repeated the man in a more imperious tone. Still no movement on the part of the gentleman appealed to. "A seat for a lady; don't you see there's a lady wanting one?" now vociferated several voices at once, but without producing any effect. "Get up for this lady," said one bolder than the rest, giving the stranger a sharp admonition on the shoulder. He pulled his travelling cap over his eyes, and doggedly refused to stir. There was now a regular hubbub in the car; American blood was up, and several gentlemen tried to induce the offender to move.
"I'm an Englishman, and I tell you I won't be brow-beat by you beastly Yankees. I've paid for my seat, and I mean to keep it," savagely shouted the offender, thus verifying my worst suspicions.
"I thought so! - I knew it! - A regular John Bull trick! just like them!" were some of the observations made, and very mild they were, considering the aggravated circumstances.
Two men took the culprit by his shoulders, and the others, pressing behind, impelled him to the door, amid a chorus of groans and hisses, disposing of him finally by placing him in the emigrant-car, installing the lady in the vacated seat. I could almost fancy that the shade of the departed Judge Lynch stood by with an approving smile.
I was so thoroughly ashamed of my countryman, and so afraid of my nationality being discovered, that, if any one spoke to me, I adopted every Americanism which I could think of in reply. The country within fifty miles of Detroit is a pretty alternation of prairie, wood, corn-fields, peach and apple orchards. The maize is the staple of the country; you see it in the fields; you have corn-cobs for breakfast; corncobs, mush, and hominy for dinner; johnny-cake for tea; and the very bread contains a third part of Indian meal!
I thought the little I saw of Michigan very fertile and pretty. It is another of the newly constituted States, and was known until recently under the name of the "Michigan Territory." This State is a peninsula between the Huron and Michigan Lakes, and borders in one part closely on Canada. It has a salubrious climate and a fertile soil, and is rapidly becoming a very productive State. Of late years the influx of emigrants of a better class has been very great. The State has great capabilities for saw and flour mills; the Grand Rapids alone have a fall of fifteen feet in a mile, and afford immense water-power.
In Michigan, human beings have ceased to be "alligators" they are "hosses." Thus one man says to another, "How do you do, old hoss?" or, "What's the time o' day, old hoss?" When I reached Detroit I was amused when a conductor said to me, "One o' them 'ere hosses will take your trunks," pointing as he spoke to a group of porters.
On arriving at Detroit I met for the first time with tokens of British enterprise and energy, and of the growing importance of Canada West. Several persons in the cars were going to New York, and they took the ferry at Detroit, and went down to Niagara Bridge by the Canada Great Western Railway, as the most expeditious route. I drove through the very pleasant streets of Detroit to the National Hotel, where I was to join the Walrences. Having indulged the hope of rejoining my former travelling companions here, I was greatly disappointed at finding a note from them, containing the intelligence that they had been summoned by telegraph to Toronto, to a sick relative. They requested me to join them there, and hoped I should find no difficulty on the journey!