The Mississippi - The Rapids - Aerial Railway Bridges - Breakfast at Braynor - Lynch Law - Card-sharpers - Crowding in the Cars - Woman's Rights! - The Prairie - "A Sea of Fire" - Crookstown - Fisher's Landing - Strange Quarters - "The Express-man's Bed" - Herding like Sheep - On board the Minnesota.
After leaving Duluth at four o'clock on Tuesday morning by rail, the country through which we passed was very beautiful. Lake succeeded lake, then came wooded hills and tiny mountain streams, crossed by high bridges. These bridges were without parapets, and so narrow that, looking out of the window of the car, one saw a deep gorge sixty or seventy feet below. One railway bridge across the Mississippi - a narrow enough stream there, at least to eyes accustomed to the broad St. Lawrence - was more than seventy feet high, and so unsafe that trains were allowed only to creep slowly across it. The rapids on the St. Louis River, along the banks of which the Northern Pacific runs, are magnificent. For some miles the high banks occasionally almost shut out the view; then, as the train winds round a sharp curve, a mountain torrent of foaming water bursts upon the gaze. Rocks tower above it, with great trees bending from their heights; in the stream are huge boulders round which the water whirls and hisses, sending its spray high over the rugged banks, in every nook and crevice of which grow long ferns and graceful wild-flowers. Then follows a long smooth stretch of water with grassy wooded shores, and through the trees one catches distant glimpses of yet wider and more beautiful falls than those just passed.
We breakfasted at Braynor at nine o'clock, and heard with pleasure that we had forty-five minutes wherein to satisfy exhausted nature. Everything was delicious, and we should have done the fare even greater justice had we known that it was the last good meal we should obtain for thirty-six hours. When we returned to the car we were greatly amused by an irrepressible fellow-traveller, whose over-politeness and loquacity savoured of a morning dram or two.
He insisted on pointing out the exact spot - marked by a tall, rough-looking post with a cross-tree on it, that stood near the rails - where two Indians had been "lynched" for some crime by the citizens; which exploit being regarded with pardonable pride by them, was boasted of to travellers accordingly. Volumes might be written on Yankee oppression of the poor Red-skins, and yet leave the disgraceful story but half told.
Our train was crowded, and during the morning two rather well-dressed black-eyed men came on board. The conductor told us they were the pests of that part of the road - three card-monte men - and that in spite of being carefully warned many travellers, especially amongst the well-to-do farmer class emigrating to Manitoba, were daily fleeced by them, there being no apparent redress, as they are sharp enough to evade any direct breach of the law. These men succeeded in drawing two boys of eighteen or twenty into their toils, and obtained possession of their watches, as well as all the money they had about them. When the lads protested vehemently, the sharpers offered to return the former upon receipt of five dollars, which they knew their victims did not possess. To our great relief, the men got off at the station where we stopped for dinner.
We changed trains at Glyndon for the branch line, then only recently laid to Fisher's Landing, but since that time continued to the frontier station of Pembina. There was only one passenger car to hold all those who had comfortably filled three on the other line, and it would be difficult to convey any idea of the crowding and crushing that ensued to obtain seats, and pack away the numerous travelling-bags and provision-baskets brought by the emigrants from Ontario. Having gentlemen with us, we were soon provided for; but just before the train started, a very dirty, fashionably dressed young woman, carrying an equally dirty baby, came in. Looking about her, and not finding a vacant seat, she said in an insolent tone, giving her head a toss -
"No seats? Wall, I guess I ain't agoin' to stand and hold this here heavy child!" and sat down in my lap. I had, like most people, often been "sat upon," figuratively, during my life, but never literally, and it was with some difficulty that I managed to extricate myself. The girl next proceeded, with the assistance of a dirty pocket-handkerchief and the tin drinking-mug belonging to the car, to perform her toilet and that of her infant; her efforts resulting in a streakiness of dirt on both faces, where the colour had been uniform before.