It is not so in the lower world. There is not a bird to be seen, for no bird could secure a living with three feet of snow on the ground. Nature is very dead, and I understood the glee with which the children used to announce the return of the crows, for these wise birds are the unfailing harbingers of Spring. With us Spring is undecided, fickle, and coy. She is not sure of herself, and after making timid, tentative advances, retreats again, uncertain as to her ability to cope with grim Winter. In Canada, Spring comes with an all-conquering rush. In one short fortnight she clothes the trees in green, and carpets the ground with blue and white hepaticas. She is also, unfortunately, accompanied by myriads of self-appointed official maids-of-honour in the shape of mosquitoes, anxious to make up for their long winter fast. As the fierce suns of April melt the surface snow, the water percolates through to the ground, where it freezes again, forming a sheet of what Canadians term “glare-ice.” I have seen at Rideau Hall this ice split in all directions over the flower-beds by the first tender shoots of the crocuses. How these fragile little spears of green have the power to penetrate an inch of ice is one of the mysteries of Nature.
Would space admit of it, and were paper not such an unreasonably expensive commodity just now, I would like to speak of the glories of a Canadian wood in May, with the ground flecked with red and white trilliums; of the fields in British Columbia, gorgeous in spring-time with blue lilies and drifts of rose-coloured cyclamens; of the autumn woods in their sumptuous dress of scarlet, crimson, orange, and yellow, the sugar-maples blazing like torches against the dark firs; of the marvels of the three ranges of the Rockies, Selkirks, and Cascades, and of the other wonders of the great Dominion.
As boys, I and my youngest brother knew “Hiawatha’s Fishing” almost by heart, so I had an intense desire to see “Gitche Gumee, the Big-Sea Water,” which we more prosaically call Lake Superior, the home of the sturgeon “Nahma,” of “Ugudwash” the sun-fish, of the pike the “Maskenozha,” and the actual scene of Hiawatha’s fishing. To others, without this sentimental interest, the Great Lakes might appear vast but uninteresting expanses of water, chiefly remarkable for the hideous form of vessel which has been evolved to navigate their clear depths.
One thing I can say with confidence. No one who makes a winter journey to that land of sunshine and snow, with its energetic, pleasant, and hospitable inhabitants, will ever regret it, and the wayfarer will return home with the consciousness of having been in contact with an intensely virile race, only now beginning to realise its own strength.
Calcutta—Hooghly pilots—Government House—A Durbar—The sulky Rajah—The customary formalities—An ingenious interpreter—The sailing clippers in the Hooghly-Calcutta Cathedral—A succulent banquet—The mistaken Ministre—The “Gordons”—Barrackpore—A Swiss Family Robinson aerial house—The child and the elephants— The merry midshipmen—Some of their escapades—A huge haul of fishes—Queen Victoria and Hindustani—The Hills—The Manipur outbreak—A riding tour—A wise old Anglo-Indian—Incidents—The fidelity of native servants—A novel printing-press—Lucknow—The loss of an illusion.