Chapter One. The Father of Waters.
Father of Waters! I worship thy mighty stream! As the Hindoo by the shores of his sacred river, I kneel upon thy banks, and pour forth my soul in wild adoration!
Far different are the springs of our devotion. To him, the waters of his yellow Ganges are the symbols of a superstitious awe, commingled with dark fears for the mystic future; to me, thy golden wares are the souvenirs of joy, binding the present to the known and happy past. Yes, mighty river! I worship thee in the past. My heart fills with joy at the very mention of thy name!
Father of Waters! I know thee well. In the land of a thousand lakes, on the summit of the “Hauteur de terre,” I have leaped thy tiny stream. Upon the bosom of the blue lakelet, the fountain of thy life, I have launched my birchen boat; and yielding to thy current, have floated softly southward. I have passed the meadows where the wild rice ripens on thy banks, where the white birch mirrors its silvery stem, and tall coniferae fling their pyramid shapes, on thy surface. I have seen the red Chippewa cleave thy crystal waters in his bark canoe—the giant moose lave his flanks in thy cooling flood—and the stately wapiti bound gracefully along thy banks. I have listened to the music of thy shores—the call of the cacawee, the laugh of the wa-wa goose, and the trumpet-note of the great northern swan. Yes, mighty river! Even in that far northern land, thy wilderness home, have I worshipped thee!
Onward through many parallels of latitude—through many degrees of the thermal line!
I stand upon thy banks where thou leapest the rocks of Saint Antoine, and with bold frothing current cleavest thy way to the south. Already I note a change in the aspect of thy shores. The coniferae have disappeared, and thou art draped with a deciduous foliage of livelier hue. Oaks, elms, and maples, mingle their frondage, and stretch their broad arms over thee. Though I still look upon woods that seem illimitable, I feel that the wilderness is past. My eyes are greeted by the signs of civilisation—its sounds fall upon my ear. The hewn cabin—picturesque in its rudeness—stands among prostrate trunks; and the ring of the lumberer’s axe is heard in the far depths of the forest. The silken blades of the maize wave in triumph over fallen trees, its golden tassels giving promise of a rich return. The spire of the church peers above the green spray of the woods, and the prayer of the Christian ascends to heaven sublimely mingling with the roar of thy waters!
I launch my boat once more on thy buoyant wave; and, with heart as buoyant, glide onward and southward. I pass between bold bluffs that hem thy surging waves, and trace with pleasant wonder their singular and varied outlines—now soaring abruptly upward, now carried in gentle undulations along the blue horizon. I behold the towering form of that noted landmark “La montaigne qui trempe à l’eau,” and the swelling cone on whose summit the soldier-traveller pitched his tent....