Lakes Smith and Howard - Lovely Lake Scenery - Long Lake - The Little American - "Wait till you see our Minnetaunka!" - Minneanopolis - Villa Hotels - A Holiday Town - The Great Flour-mills - St. Paul's - Our American Cousins - The French Canadian's Story - Kind-hearted Fellow-passengers - A New Way of Travelling together - The Mississippi - Milwaukee, the Prettiest Town in Michigan - School-houses - A Peep at Chicago - Market Prices - Pigs! - The Fairy Tales of Progress - Scotch Incredulity - Detroit Ferry - Hamilton - Good-bye to my Readers.
On leaving Lichfield our road lay through some beautiful, slightly undulating country. Between lofty bluffs, the train emerged along the shores of a lovely lake, and before its beauties had disappeared, another and another followed in rapid succession. The first two, Smith and Howard, are very much alike. Then we passed through two or three pretty little villages, their streets avenues of trees, the roads as well kept as the drive of an English park, the houses and gardens marvels of neatness, and glorious with flowers, and the orchards laden with ripe fruit. As we passed Long Lake, a narrow sheet of water that called forth expressions of admiration from us all, a bright little American child, with whom we had made friends, said shyly -
"You think that pretty. Wait till you see our lake - our Minnetaunka: they call it Wayzata now!" she added sadly.
We did see it about noon, and its beauties justified the preference. Minnetaunka - let us keep the old name which the child seemed to love so well - about twenty-five miles long, is full of islands kept in perfect order. Their natural beauties are developed with the taste and skill that characterize the American nation, by the inhabitants of the beautiful villas scattered along its shores. Tiny yachts and skiffs lay at anchor, or, with all sails set, skimmed the glistening water, bearing, no doubt, pleasure-parties from the pretty villa hotels, which could only be distinguished from private houses by the numerous chairs and newspaper-readers on their verandahs. A little steam-yacht lay at the wharf, while a merry party of young people, laden with picnic baskets, embarked. When the train sped on, and we had strained our eyes for the last peep, the child, watching our faces, asked -
"It is beautiful, isn't it?"
We had no words to tell her how lovely we thought it. Cedar Lake, which we passed before reaching Minneanopolis, could not bear the comparison. An old man, pointing out some large flour-mills near the road, told us of a terrible explosion there in 1877, when many lives were lost. The machinery and mills were shattered to pieces, and thousands of pounds' worth of damage was done; yet in 1878 they were again in full working order, and as celebrated as ever for the fineness of their flour.
At St. Paul's we changed trains, and said good-bye to the charming Americans who had been the pleasantest of travelling companions.
On the Chicago and Milwaukee line which we now took, we saw more of the American element, and felt Uncle Sam's land a greater reality. Every man was a colonel or general; every woman was neat and pretty, but painfully slight. All were perfectly at home; no matter how long the journey, they did not get so tossed and travel-stained as we Canadians.
Before the train left St. Paul's we heard the story of a poor little French Canadian woman. She was returning to Quebec from Fort McLeod, eleven hundred miles from Winnipeg, in the North-west territories. She had gone there to settle, but a terrible home-sickness for her own people had impelled her to spend nearly her last shilling in the payment of her passage back. Now she came in great distress to tell of the loss of her pocket-book, containing her tickets, and all she had to buy food and lodging on the way. A generous compatriot said he would see that she was provided for; and the railway officials offering to give her a through ticket for less than half-price, the money was soon collected from amongst the passengers, the Yankees being the most liberal. The poor thing, drying her eyes, acknowledged her gratitude with all the expressive gesticulation of her race.
Comedy and tragedy jostle each other in life. At St. Paul's, also, our sleepy Frenchman and a friend, who had left Winnipeg together to be travelling companions to Ottawa, discovered that their tickets were for different routes, and they had to separate. They met again at Chicago, only to say good-bye once more, their routes still not agreeing. At Toronto they again encountered, to separate at Brockville. One went by the "Canada Central," and the other the "St. Lawrence and Ottawa" at Prescott; so each entered Ottawa at opposite ends. And, as one of them said, "The best of the fun is, my baggage goes with T - - , and I travel sans everything."
From St. Paul's our road lay along the banks of the most beautiful part of the Mississippi river, which, shallow though it is, is also broad, bright, and clear. The surrounding country was in the height of its summer beauty. Charming villages nestled under the high banks; houses were built on projecting shelves of rock, with so little space between them, that it seemed as if a slight shove would precipitate them over the edge. Every foot of ground was utilised, and there was none of the debris that hangs about the back yards and odd corners of Canadian villages. At every wharf were numbers of small craft and river steamers, seemingly plying a thriving trade.