“Is it the clang of wild-geese?
Is it the Indian’s yell,
That lends to the voice of the North-wind
The tones of a far-off bell?”
The Indian boatmen said nothing, but thought deep, like the Irishman’s parrot.
“The voyageur smiles as he listens
To the sound that grows apace;
Well he knows the vesper ringing
Of the bells of St. Boniface.”
Once the young Scot had reached his flock, he wrote back to a friend in the States telling how he came across on the edge of the wilderness
“The bells of the Roman Mission,
That call from their turrets twain
To the boatmen on the river,
To the hunter on the plain.”
That friend was a fellow-townsman of the “Quaker Poet.” The story was told to Whittier and inspired the lines of The Red River Voyageur.
WINNIPEG TO ATHABASCA LANDING
“To the far-flung fenceless prairie
Where the quick cloud-shadows trail,
To our neighbor’s barn in the offing
And the line of the new-cut rail;
To the plough in her league-long furrow.”
Place a pair of dividers with one leg on Winnipeg and the other leg at Key West, Florida. Then swing the lower leg to the northwest, and it will not reach the limit of good agricultural land.
From Winnipeg to Edmonton, roughly speaking, is a thousand miles, and two railway lines are open to us,—the Canadian Pacific and the Canadian Northern. We go by the former route and return in the autumn by the latter.
Pulling out from Winnipeg, we enter a prairie wheat-field one thousand miles long and of unknown width, into which the nations of the world are pouring. “The sleeping nation beyond,” is what General Sherman in a moment of pique once called Canada. The sleeping giant has awakened. We are on the heels of the greatest economic trek this world has ever seen. The historian of to-morrow will rank it with the world migrations.
The flourishing centres of Portage la Prairie, Brandon with its Experimental Farm, Regina, the headquarters of the Mounted Police, Moose Jaw, and Medicine Hat are passed, and with these the new, raw towns in the tar-paper stage, towns that smell of sawdust, naked stand of paint. Never in the world’s history did towns spring into life as these do. To-day the wind on the prairie, to-morrow the sharp conversation of the hammer on the nail-head, next week the implement warehouse, the tent hotel, the little cluster of homes. In England it takes a bishop to make a city, but here the nucleus needed is a wheat elevator, red against the setting sun.
The ploughs that we saw in Winnipeg are at work here among the buffalo bones and the spring anemones. As day breaks we catch a glimpse of a sunbonneted mother and her three little kiddies. An ox is their rude coadjutor, and through the flower-sod they cut their first furrow. It is the beginning of a new home. Involuntarily one’s mind jumps to the crowded cities of the Old World with their pale-cheeked children and fetid alleyways. Surely in bringing the workless man of the Old World to the manless work of the New, the Canadian Government and the transportation companies are doing a bit of God’s work.