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   Chapter 17 THE GREATER RHINE.

ZigZag Journeys in Northern Lands; By Hezekiah Butterworth Characters: 10818

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

The Return Homeward.-On the Terrace,-Quebec.

HE Class made their return voyage by the way of Liverpool to Quebec, one of the shortest of the ocean ferries, and one of the most delightful in midsummer and early autumn, when the Atlantic is usually calm, and the icebergs have melted away.

As the steamer was passing down the Mersey, and Liverpool with her thousands of ships, and Birkenhead with its airy cottages, were disappearing from view, Mr. Beal remarked to the boys,-

"We shall return through the Straits, and so shall be probably only four and a half days out of sight of land."

"I did not suppose it was possible to cross the Atlantic from land to land in four days and a half," said Charlie Leland.

"We shall stop to-morrow at Moville, the port of Londonderry," said Mr. Beal. "A few hours after we leave we shall sink the Irish coast. Make notes of the time you lose sight of the light-houses of Ireland, and of the time when you first see Labrador, and compare the dates towards the end of the voyage," said Mr. Beal.

Past the green hills of Ireland the steamer glided along, among ships so numerous that the sea seemed a moving city, or the suburbs of a moving city; for Liverpool itself, with her seven miles of wonderful docks, is a city of the sea.

The Giant's Causeway, the sunny port of Moville, the rocky islands with their white light-houses, were passed, and at one o'clock on Monday morning the last light dropped into the calm sea, fading like a star.

The Atlantic was perfectly calm-as "calm as a mill-pond" as the expression is, during the tranquillity of the ocean that follows the settled summer weather. The steamer was heavily loaded, and had little apparent motion; bright days and bright nights succeeded each other. A flock of gulls followed the steamer far out to sea. For three days no object of interest was seen on the level ocean except the occasional spouting of a whale.

The sky was a glory in the long twilights. The sun when half set made the distant ocean seem like an island of fire, and the light clouds after sunset like hazes drifting away from a Paradisic sphere.

On Thursday morning the shadowy coast of Labrador appeared. The voyage seemed now virtually ended after four days from land to land. There were three days more, but the steamer would be in calm water, with land constantly in view.

The Straits of Belle Isle, some six miles wide, were as calm as had been the ocean. The Gulf of St. Lawrence-the fishing field of the world-was like a surface of glass. The sunrise and moonrise were now magnificent; the sunsets brought scenes to view as wonderful as the skies of Italy; gigantic mountains rose; clustering sails broke the monotonous expanse of the glassy sea, and now and then appeared an Indian canoe such as Jacques Cartier and the early explorers saw nearly three centuries ago.

The wild shores of Anticosti rose and sunk.

"We are now in the Greater Rhine," said Mr. Beal to the boys,-"the Rhine of the West."

"How is that?" asked Charlie Leland. "Is not the Hudson the American Rhine?"


"It is the New York Rhine," said Mr. Beal, smiling. "The river St. Lawrence is, by right of analogy, the American Rhine, and so deserves to be called."

"Which is the larger river?" asked Charlie.

"The larger?"

"Yes, the longer?"

"It does not seem possible that an American schoolboy could seriously ask such a question! I am sometimes astonished, however, at the ignorance that older people of intelligence show in regard to our river of which all Americans should be proud.

"Ours is the Greater Rhine. The German Rhine is less than a thousand miles long; our Rhine is nearly twenty-five hundred miles long: the German Rhine can at almost any point be easily spanned with bridges; our Rhine defies bridges, except in its narrowest boundaries. The great inland seas of Superior, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Erie require a width of miles for their pathway to the ocean. The Rhine falls cannot be compared with Niagara, nor the scattered islands of the old river with the Lake of a Thousand Islands of the new. Quebec is as beautiful as Coblentz, and Montreal is in its situation one of the loveliest cities of the world.

"The tributaries of the old Rhine are small; those of the new are almost as large as the old Rhine itself,-the gloomy Saguenay, and the sparkling Ottawa.

"Think of its lakes! Lake Ladoga, the largest lake in Europe, contains only 6,330 square miles. Lake Superior has 32,000 square miles, and Michigan 22,000 square miles.

"You will soon have a view of the mountain scenery of the lower St. Lawrence. The pine-covered walls along which trail the clouds of the sky are almost continuous to Montreal."

"But why," asked Charlie Leland, "is the German Rhine so famous, and ours so little celebrated?"

"The German Rhine gathers around it the history of two thousand years; ours, two hundred years. What will our Rhine be two thousand years from to-day?"

He added:-

"I look upon New England as one of the best products of civilization thus far. But there is rising a new New England in the West, a vast empire in the States of the Northwest and in Canada, to which New England is as a province,-an empire that in one hundred years will lead the thought, the invention, and the statesmanship of the world. Every prairie schooner that goes that way

is like a sail of the 'Mayflower.'

"In yonder steerage are a thousand emigrants. The easy-going, purse-proud cabin passengers do not know it; they do not visit them or give much thought to them: but there are the men and women whose children will one day sway the empire that will wear the crown of the world.

"The castles are fading from view on the hills of the old Rhine; towns and cities are leaping into life on the new. The procession of cities, like a triumphal march, will go on, on, on. The Canadian Empire will probably one day lock hands with the imperial States of the Northwest; Mexico, perhaps, will join the Confederacy, and Western America will doubtless vie with Eastern Russia in power, in progress, and in the glories of the achievements of the arts and sciences. Our Rhine has the future: let the old Rhine have the past."

The Class approached Quebec at night. The scene was beautiful: like a city glimmering against the sky, the lights of the lower town, of the upper town, and of the Castle standing on the heights, shone brightly against the hills; and the firing of guns and the striking of bells were echoed from the opposite hills of the calm and majestic river.

The Class spent a day at Quebec, chiefly on the Terrace,-one of the most beautiful promenades in the world. From the Terrace the boys saw the making up of the emigrant trains on the opposite side of the river, where the steamer had landed, and saw them disappear along the winding river, going to the great province of Ontario, the lone woods of Muskoka, and the far shores of the Georgian Bay.



"I wish we might make a Zigzag journey on the St. Lawrence," said Charlie Leland.

"And collect the old legends, stories, and histories of the Indian tribes, and the early explorers and French settlers," added Mr. Beal. "Perhaps some day we may be able to do so. I am in haste to return to the States, but I regret to leave a place so perfectly beautiful as the Terrace of Quebec. It is delightful to sit here and see the steamers go and come; to watch the bright, happy faces pass, and to recall the fact that the river below is doubtless to be the water-path of the nations that will most greatly influence future times. But our journey is ended: let us go."


Alone, beside these peaceful guns

I walk,-the eve is calm and fair;

Below, the broad St. Lawrence runs,

Above, the castle shines in air,

And o'er the breathless sea and land

Night stretches forth her jewelled hand.

Amid the crowds that hurry past-

Bright faces like a sunlit tide-

Some eyes the gifts of friendship cast

Upon me, as I walk aside,

Kind, wordless welcomes understood,

The Spirit's touch of brotherhood.

Below, the sea; above, the sky,

Smile each to each, a vision fair;

So like Faith's zones of light on high,

A sphere seraphic seems the air,

And loving thoughts there seem to meet,

And come and go with golden feet.

Below me lies the old French town,

With narrow rues and churches quaint,

And tilèd roofs and gables brown,

And signs with names of many a saint.

And there in all I see appears

The heart of twice an hundred years.

Beyond, by inky steamers mailed,

Point Levi's painted roofs arise,

Where emigration long has hailed

The empires of the western skies;

And lightly wave the red flags there,

Like roses of the damask air.

Peace o'er yon garden spreads her palm,

Where heroes fought in other days;

And Honor speaks of brave Montcalm

On Wolfe's immortal shaft of praise.

What lessons that I used to learn

In schoolboy days to me return!

Fair terrace of the Western Rhine,

I leave thee with unwilling feet,

I long shall see thy castle shine

As bright as now, in memories sweet;

And cheerful thank the kindly eyes

That lent to me their sympathies.

Go, friendly hearts, that met by chance

A stranger for a little while;

Friendship itself is but a glance,

And love is but a passing smile.

I am a pilgrim,-all I meet

Are glancing eyes and hurrying feet.

Farewell; in dreams I see again

The northern river of the vine,

While crowns the sun with golden grain

The hillsides of the greater Rhine.

And here shall grow as years increase

The empires of the Rhine of Peace.

University Press: John Wilson & Son, Cambridge.

Transcriber's Note

This book contains some archaic spelling, which has been preserved as printed. Minor punctuation errors have been repaired.

There is some variable spelling, particularly of place names; this has been repaired where there was an obvious prevalence of one form over the other, but is otherwise left as printed.

There are two references on page 57 to "Crofe Castle" in Dorsetshire, which appear to be an author error for "Corfe Castle". These have been preserved as printed.

Character dialogue sometimes transitions into tales, which do not use continuing quote marks. As a result, some closing quotes are omitted, and this has been preserved as printed.

The frontispiece illustration and advertising material have been moved to follow the title page. Other illustrations have been moved where necessary so that they are not in the middle of a paragraph. Omitted page numbers were either full page illustrations or blank pages in the original.

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