Naturally enough, the scene of Montreal's greatest animation is the shore of the St. Lawrence. Although a thousand miles from the open ocean, here is a river frontage of three miles, curbed by a series of stone quays. Here ships and steamers of all sizes are discernible, from simple river craft to transatlantic liners. Some are discharging freight from Antwerp ; others are loading it for Liverpool; this one is bound for Boston or New York; that has but just arrived from France; while yonder spacious vessel will depart to-morrow for Brazil, a "happier one, Its course to run From lands of snow to lands of sun".
The Harbor From The Custom House.
Some are to make their daily journey to and from Quebec, connecting there with steamers for the Saguenay and other places on the lower river. A few will turn their prows northwestward to ascend the Ottawa, or southward to steam up the Richelieu; while many more will go through one after another of the great fresh seas, to reach almost the centre of the continent. Between a labyrinth of funnels, masts, and hulls, and the long line of warehouses confronting it, we see innumerable cabs conveying passengers to their staterooms, or waiting to receive them when they land. Along this water front extend for miles the metaled paths on which roll back and forth a multitude of freight cars, while all around them, motionless or active, are hundreds of express wagons and drays engaged in a more detailed distribution of commodities. Meantime, above the busy scene, the sable plume of commerce waves triumphant, as the impatient steamers heap their furnaces, and elevators extract grain from barges, or shoot the precious product into empty holds; while huge cranes swing aloft great bales and cases, to lower them with a giant's strength, yet with the delicacy of the human hand, into the places they will occupy during the voyage. Nor does this labor end at sunset. The harbor of Montreal was the first port in the world to be lighted by electricity, and it now uses the invention so extensively that freight trains come and go along the wharves, and vessels load and unload, with the same facility by day or night. The channel of the port, too, from three hundred to five hundred feet in width, is buoyed throughout, and lighted like a city street.
Royal Victoria College, Montreal.
Windsor Hotel, Montreal.
Nocturnal work is far more justifiable, however, at Montreal than elsewhere, from the fact that all this commerce is confined to about eight months of the year, and stops entirely when winter comes. By means of that incalculable power which Nature, seemingly without the slightest effort, uses in her great achievements, the mighty river, which is here about two miles wide, and whose stupendous volume nothing human could resist or check, is suddenly arrested in a single night, and soon is bridged with a thick, crystal pavement, upon whose sparkling surface the population of the city can for months walk, skate, race horses, and even lay a railway, where steamers plowed their way, and blue waves hastened oceanward so recently. Strange, is it not? that under such conditions steam navigation practically began on the St. Lawrence; for the first river steamboat, after Robert Fulton's successful experiment on the Hudson, in 1807, was, two years later, built and used successfully at Montreal. In looking at this noble city as it is to-day, massively built, superbly decorated, and throbbing with the energy of more than a quarter of a million souls, it seems incredible that, only two hundred years ago, it was a poor French settlement, continually threatened with destruction by the Indians. Montreal was, in fact, a far more dangerous place of habitation than Quebec, being much less protected from attack than the well-situated fortress on Cape Diamond, and lying farther west in a territory swarming with ferocious savages. Less than two centuries since, the fields near Montreal had to be tilled by bands of armed men under the eyes of soldiers ready at a moment's notice to defend them. Farm after farm was thus protected until the seed had been deposited in the earth; and in the harvest time the same precautions were repeated. At night the inhabitants took refuge in a settlement consisting of log cabins surrounded by a palisade. "These Indians," wrote a Jesuit missionary of that epoch, "approach like foxes, attack like lions, and disappear like birds." Their diabolical malignity and treachery made life here for the white men one of constant peril. To-day, when standing in such safe and beautiful enclosures as the Place d'Armes and Dominion Square, it seems incredible that two centuries ago no one could venture even a little distance into the adjoining country without a serious risk of being scalped by lurking foes. In 1692, only ten miles from Montreal, a young girl, fourteen years of age, with the aid of only six persons, two of whom were boys and one an old man, successfully defended her father's blockhouse against a band of Indians, day and night for a week, until reinforcements arrived. Nor was the town itself exempt from dangers. A chronicler relates that frequently some bloodthirsty Iroquois would crouch all night among the vegetables in the garden of the nuns, hoping that one of them would come out, that they might brain her with their tomahawks.