“I—I don’t know,” I answered, thoughtfully.
“Don’t know!” cried “the Historian”—(we called Hugh Warren by that title from his ability to always give information on any mooted point). He was a walking encyclopaedia of historical lore. “Don’t know! Yes, you do. It is just what we want. It will be a delightful voyage, with scenes of beauty at every sunset and every sunrise. The Sault de Ste. Marie with its fairy isles, the waters of Lake Huron so darkly, deeply, beautifully green, and the storied waves of Superior with their memories of the martyr missionaries, of old French broils and the musical flow of Hiawatha. The very thought is enough to make one enthusiastic. How came you to think of it, Vincent?”
“I never think: I scorn the imputation,” repled Vincent, with a look of assumed disdain. “It was a inspiration.”
“And you have inspired us to a glorious undertaking. The Crusades were nothing to it. Say, Montague,” to me, “you are agreed?”
“Yes, I am agreed,” I assented. “We will spend our summer on the Great Lakes. It will be novel, it will be refreshing, it will be classical.”
So it was concluded. A week from that time found us at Oswego. Our proposed route was an elaborate one. It was to start at Oswego, take a beeline across Lake Ontario to Toronto, hence up the lake and through the Welland Canal into Lake Erie, along the shores of that historical inland sea, touching at Erie, Cleveland, Sandusky, and Toledo, up Detroit River, through the Lake and River of St. Clair, then gliding over the waters of Lake Huron, dash down along the shores of Lake Michigan to Chicago, and back past Milwaukee, through the Straits of Mackinaw and the ship-canal into the placid waves of Superior, making Duluth the terminus of our journey. Our return would be leisurely, stopping here and there, at out-of-the-way places, camping-out whenever the fancy seized us and the opportunity offered, to hunt, to fish, to rest, being for the time knight-errants of pleasure, or, as the Historian dubbed us, peripatetic philosophers, in search, not of the touchstone to make gold, but the touchstone to make health. Our trip was to occupy two months.
It was well toward the latter part of June in 1881, on one of the brightest of summer mornings, that our steamer, belonging to the regular daily line to Toronto, steamed slowly out from the harbor of Oswego. So we were at last on the “beautiful water,” for that is the meaning of Ontario in the Indian tongue. Here, two hundred years before us, the war-canoes of De Champlain and his Huron allies had spurned the foaming tide. Here, a hundred years later the batteaux of that great soldier, Montcalm, had swept round the bluff to win the fortress on its height, then in English hands. Historic memories haunted it. The very waves sparkling in the morning sunshine whispered of romantic tales.
Seated at the stern of the boat we looked back upon the fading city. Hugh Warren was smoking, and his slow-moving blue eyes were fixed dreamily upon the shore. He did not seem to be gazing at anything, and yet we knew he saw more than any of us.