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Romantic Canada
Chapter XXII Ontario

ONTARIO is so modern, and, to use a popular term, "up-to-date", that some years ago we were told by Torontonian after Torontonian that if we were on the quest of the romantic we would not find it in Ontario.

We did not know what to make of it at the time, having in mind a number of quaint old field-stone houses which we had seen along the road from the car window in coming through from Montreal.

About these houses there was that certain unmistakable "something" which for lack of a better word is called "atmosphere". "Atmosphere and story" just seemed to radiate from all their old windows.

I see yet, the picture made by their old, yellow-brown stone sides and their steep roofs; all, in a clump of Lombardy poplars and smooth, rolling fields, with here an apple orchard, and here a sprinkling of sheep grazing on the rounded knolls, and cows standing with feet in the brook.

Then I tried to make my Toronto friends see those old stone-houses. "U-u-mph," they said, "but they're damp."

Not long after that we came in contact with that other type of early-Ontario house. The one with the low sides made of wood thinly stuccoed with white plaster on the outside—the "Roughcast" houses of Ontario. They of course carry in their now "peel- ing" plaster an appeal to remember the Old Pioneers and days—the days when the hardships of the wilderness rose up as a wall to deter all but the hardiest spirits from blazing a trail here; here, where the true West had its portal.

Usually a clump of lilac bushes stands by these old doors, the boughs gnarled and thick with age and the increasing struggle for existence—the old lilac that strikes the human interest note and tells plainer than words, of the domesticity that once was the pride of the little family domiciled here so far away from "Home," in the Old Country. And over against these two old types of Provincial houses are set the really palatial dwellings that represent the newer Ontario. And yet to prove that no hard line separates Old and New, there is a fine, old home down Saint Catharine's way that claims to be one of the earliest houses in the Province which, under the skilful renovation of a modern architect, still holds itself proudly with "the best".

If one had time to go into all the old houses of the Province, the real old-timers—I am sure one would still find, as in Quebec, many fruits of the loom. The old, woven carpet and bedspread, the old loom, and here and there, perhaps, a grandmother to weave and many sitting and sewing at squares for "pieced-pattern" bed-quilts.

In Empire Loyalist homes, of the country, there is, of course, still to be found many a handsome and valuable piece of old furniture. Some of the oldest and daintiest chairs we have ever come across, and one of the dearest collections of little, old books, we once encountered in British Columbia, out of Ontario.

Ontario is a sweeping Province of magnificent lakes and waterways. Her coastline is almost as extensive as that of any Province. If it were not that certain Atlantic Provinces have al- most a monopoly of the word, she might even be called "Maritime".

Toronto is even now entering upon an era of a new waterfront with docking accommodations of the best. For the Lake trade? Yes. And presently for the Ocean's.

So, in Ontario the trail of Romance, we soon discovered, led almost as surely "By the 'longshore road" as down Nova Scotia way.

Ontario being a land of lakes, is, in consequence, a land of campers and camp-fires; a land of the canoe; a land of fishing and hunting. And in the North a land of logging, with the picturesque figures of the lumbermen on snow-shoes.

Out there in the Georgian Bay is the romance of thirty thousand islands. There are the picturesque figures of the Ojibways in canoes, still taking the same old fishing and "trade" routes as in the days before the coming of Champlain. Still there is Manitoulin.

The craft in greatest favour everywhere on lake, river and bay of Ontario, is the canoe. I do not think anyone can know what an extensive cult is the "canoe" till they see it in Ontario. In season it creeps on the bosom of the lake like a leaf dropped silently from the tree. And Romance rides in more or less every canoe, so that, if anything, the Romantic may be said to be more difficult to keep up with in Ontario than any of the Provinces. The trail of the Romantic invariably leads to a tent somewhere by a stream. And a camper may be just as romantic a figure as one who mows the hay, or lists to the Angelus out of the Perce fishboat. What can be more Romantic than a group around a campfire? Here seems to be situated the very source and fountain-head of "pipe-dreams", stories of the forest, legends of the Indians—all interwoven and crossed with traditions of pioneer explorers.

And these old tales are always having new chapters added, every time an angler catches a fish; every time a hunter takes a gun under arm.

Go out anywhere with an Ojibway of the Georgian Bay region, and you will happen upon a black pot a-sling over a log upheld by two other logs, and a roaring fire under the pot. Across the log may be several bits of branches with a forked branch cut to give "beard" to the hook from which swing a number of smoky tea-kettles and lard-pails, all hard a-boil with tea, potatoes, or fish, or maybe just pork, suspended in the flame and the smoke, or above the live coals, toward which a frying-pan is tilted to bake the dough it holds into a cake of bread.

Do not these pots and kettles call to the cauldrons of Quebec, the Madeleines and far Newfoundland, as to sisters? Ethnology of people! Sometimes, it would seem, there is an ethnology of in- animate things.

Here in Ontario, among the Indians, one finds skilful workers of sweetgrass, though apparently there is nowhere such a concentration into a trade as in Pierreville.

But the Ontario squaw shows much delicacy in the use of porcupine quills. These she dyes, or uses an imturel, in combination often with birch-bark, to make a basket that is of Ontario, and one which would hold its own every time with the Quebec basket "pour Madame's boudoir." The Ojibway woman shows an innate taste in design. The "patterns", as well as the colours employed in her basket, are frequently exquisite in their harmony.

Somewhere on the beach or under trees, clinging to life, yet half decadent, as a thing whose usefulness has been "outclassed", one happens here and there on the tribal or community-canoes, long, sinuous lines of boathood half bizarre by reason of design, simplicity of material and traditions of the builders; but more than half "bizarre" by reason of things that cannot be classified yet nevertheless are positive in suggestion. Was it in such canoes the Iroquois pursued the Hurons fleeing toward the wilderness and out of it, to the shelter of the French at Quebec? Was it in such canoes that the old explorers, Champlain, Frontenac, the old Jesuit Missionaries, Breboeuf, Carron, pushed along these lakes and water-highways? Was it in such, the coureurs du bois, the trapper, the pioneer, the soldier, all those characters of old—romantic characters of Old France, Old England, Old Scotia—was it in such they took the paddle in hand, metamorphosing it at a stroke into a "quill" wherewith to write "France" and "England" across the page of a continent?

Here, too, among the Ojibways is still in use the hollowed stone with its companion, nicely smooth and rounded for grinding com. Old squaws of the Ojibiways can, and do still, "turn the trick" easily enough. Then there is another form of mortar, with a wooden pestle four or five feet in length, bulky at each end and slender in the middle, so that two hands may grasp it quite easily. Thus, by these two instruments, comes the grain to the dough of the frying-pan loaf.

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