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QUEBEC—HISTORICAL SKETCH OF CANADA.
Take mountain and plain, sinuous river and broad tranquil waters, stately ship and tiny boat, gentle hill and shady valley, bold headland and rich fruitful fields, frowning battlement and cheerful villa, glittering dome and rural spire, flowery garden and sombre forest—group them all into the choicest picture of ideal beauty your fancy can create, arch it over with a cloudless sky, light it up with a radiant sun, and, lest the sheen should be too dazzling, hang a veil of lightest haze overfall, to soften the lines and perfect the repose—you will then have seen Quebec on this September morning.
The river St. Charles, winding through low, rich grounds, empties itself into a wide basin, closed in, to the north-east, by the island of Orleans. In the angle it makes with the St. Lawrence is a lofty promontory; there stands the city, walled and bastioned round. On an undulating slope, rising gradually from the margin of the smaller stream to the foot of the battlements, lie the suburbs of St. Roch and St. Valier; St. John's spreads up the shoulder of the height, along the land face of the defences; St. Louis is the continuation; thence, to the river St. Lawrence, is open ground. On the highest point of the promontory, and the most advanced into the stream, is Cape Diamond, the strongest citadel in the New World. On the river side, a hundred yards of perpendicular rock forbid the foot of man; another is fenced off from the town by a massive fortification and broad glacis; the third side of the grim triangle looks out upon the plains of Abraham, in a line of armed ramparts.
The lower town is built upon a narrow strip of land, saved from the water, under the lofty cliffs of the promontory, stretching from the suburb of St. Roch to where the citadel overhangs. Busy wharves, with numerous ships alongside, extend all round the town and for three miles up the great river.
From Quebec to the opposite shore is but three quarters of a mile, but the basin just below is five times as wide, and large and deep enough to hold the English Navy. Through the strait the tides flow with great rapidity, rising and falling twenty feet, as the flood or ebb of the sea dams up or draws away the waters of the stream. There are many and dangerous currents; very few ever rise again who sink for a moment in their treacherous embrace; even strong swimmers have gone down like lead.
The pretty village of Point Levy, with its churches and neat dwellings, ornaments the opposite side of the river; it, too, has a share of wharves, rafts, and shipping. Quaint ferry-boats, with paddle-wheels worked by four fat horses pulling and puffing round on the deck, cross every few minutes. Dirty, impudent-looking little steamers run out from hidden nooks in the shore, lay hold of huge ships twenty times as big as themselves, and walk away with them as an ant carries a grain of wheat.
When people came on board, they told us the English news; they had got two or three posts since we left. There was the staff officer to give the soldiers their orders, the emigrant agent, some people of business come to look after their consignments, and a few to greet their friends, our fellowtravellers. No one coming to meet me, I went ashore on my own account; landed at the bustling, dirty market-place, climbed up into a caleche—a very queer-looking affair on two high wheels, with a shaft-frame like a gig, the body swinging on broad leather straps, fastened on to rude springs before and behind—the driver perched himself on the narrow seat where the dashboard should have been, shouted, Marche! marche! and the stout little horse started at a rapid pace.
The way was up a narrow winding street, twisting up the steep end of the promontory, with short cuts for foot passengers from bend to bend; we enter the fortified town through Prescott Gate, turn sharply to the left, and I am set down at a large hotel, having in front an open space, called the Place d'Armes.
Now, while we rest after the long and weary voyage, lend me patience while I tell the old tale of how, and by whom, this fair city came to be built; and why the flag of dear Old England floats upon its citadel.
The first European who ever visited these lands was Jacques Cartier. In the month of May, 1535, the year after his circumnavigation of Newfoundland, he again sailed from St. Malo with three small ships. He and his followers were blessed by the bishop in the cathedral, received the holy sacrament, and bade farewell to their friends, as if for ever. The little squadron was for a long time dispersed, but met again with great joy on the 26th of July. Having visited Newfoundland, they kept it to the north, and sailed into a large gulf, full of islands; they passed on the north side of Anticosti, and, sometimes landing by the way, came at length to the mouth of the Saguenay. By means of two Indians, taken in the former voyage, at the Bay of Chaleur, they conversed with the inhabitants, and overcame their terror. These simple people then received them with songs of joy, and dances, giving them freely of all the provisions they had. The adventurers soon gathered that there was a town some days' sail higher up; this, and the river, and the countries round about, the natives called Hochelaga ; thither they bent their way. The kind-hearted Indians tried, by entreaties and innocent stratagems, to detain their dangerous guests.