Despite the absence of traffic, but driven by habit, the streets and avenues are immensely wide, which makes them look even more empty, and two electric tramway lines serve these endless thoroughfares along a flat terrain. Light and electrical energy are distributed everywhere with extraordinary profusion, and the smallest of shops will sparkle in the evening. This is due to the Ottawa River which, on the doorstep of the city, flows down a 20-meter high waterfall; since the river's flow rate is estimated at four thousand five hundred cubic meters per second, i.e. that of the Rhine at Strasbourg, it is easy to calculate that the energy developed by this waterfall is about one million horsepower. Though important sawmills have been installed there many years ago, only a fraction of the water's power is being put to use. During our visit, we admired the simplicity of execution, the intelligence which prevailed in the installation of these sawmills; enormous logs, floated down the rivers from the northern forests, are captured in turn, channeled to the saws and from there cut up in succession with quasi-magical speed. The wood thus cut will form gigantic rafts that will be floated down to the St Lawrence, which will distribute them to all river and lake banks to go down South to help build cities.
The abundance of wood in North America and the low cost of labor for carpenters (12 francs a day), though they are quite skilled, explains the relative rarity of stone or brick houses (a mason is paid 20 francs a day), but I stand among those who think this is a miscalculation, since fires cause each year enormous losses in money and lives; they require continuous and costly firemen and surveillance services and maintain the inhabitants in the constant fear of being burnt alive; furthermore, it is somewhat disquieting for foreigners to see everywhere in hotels reminders of the horrible death to which they are exposed during their sleep: hidden behind the window curtains, a coil of knotted rope to climb down to the street; in passageways, axes hung on the wall with a sign that reads : « In case of fire, bust this panel, you will find stairs behind ». In fact, fires are unavoidable and frequent and, after leaving our hotel for three hours only, we have returned to find a house several stories high burned to the ground in such a short time.
While the provincial capitals Montréal and Toronto each host the Parliament of their respective province, Ottawa, the seat of the Government, is the residence of the Governor or Vice-Roy. The Dominion's Parliament is located in a splendid monument on a high hill overlooking Ottawa River: the local architects who designed this palace seem to have been inspired by Westminster Abbey, though there are less sculptures on the outside; a local building stone has been used, which happens to be of very good quality, with a color that pleases the eye. While one walks around the vast rooms of the quasi-cyclopean monuments that have been erected for the Dominion, one cannot fail to conclude that the authors of such huge creations had in mind not the present but the future, and that they were driven by a robust faith in the high destiny of the Dominion.
From Ottawa, we rejoin the St Lawrence near its exit from Lake Ontario: we sail among thousands of islands, a cool and gracious summer meeting place of the fashionable crowd, hailing from the most distant cities.
However, like all these magnificent residences of the wealthy, or American multimillionaires, all these "grand hotels" are bound to cause these green islets to lose their primeval charm. As I was wishing a moment ago, I can visualize the characters of Fennimore Cooper's "Ontario": the honest Jasper, the crafty "big snake", paddling noiselessly on his bark canoe in search of the Frenchman along the thousands twists and turns of the great river.
We are now in the English province of Ontario, on our way to its capital Toronto; we are following the north bank of Lake Ontario through a countryside similar to that of Normandy or England. If it was n't for the tree stumps that are cut at man's height, have not yet been disintegrated by time, and that the furrows circumnavigate, showing cultivation is recent, nothing would remind us that this is a new world that our locomotive is steaming across at high speed. The lakes themselves (if we had n't tasted their water to realize it is fresh) would simulate a vast and tranquil sea.
Not far from the western limit of Ontario lies Toronto. While in Québec one believes one is in France, if it was n't for the red coats of the English infantry and the dark uniforms of the mounted volunteers, in Toronto one believes one is in England, what with the inhabitants' English and Scottish accents, the English cut of clothing, and finally the business activity. This city of around 200,000 seems to be very wealthy, the streets are wide and clean, the private and public buildings important, the hotels comfortable. It is said that except for agriculture, Canadians are unable to develop their country's natural resources and that, to that end as well as to sell their raw materials, they call upon the Yankees; after having seen Toronto's inhabitants, I am rather led to believe that they have acknowledged the fact that the climate's rigor as well as the higher cost of fuels shows that it is more in their interest to sell raw materials rather than transform them; indeed, Toronto lacks neither money nor subtleness.
From Toronto, it takes one only a few hours to travel across the lake, which is rather narrow here, onboard comfortable ships aboard which, however, fainthearted people do not dare venture when the wind blows, as these Great Lakes also have their storms and swell; shipwrecks are not rare. On the other bank of the Ontario, exactly south of Toronto, lies the mouth of the St Lawrence, rolling its waters from Lake Erie; this is the border with the United States. Our steamship enters once more this great river, but here its waters are faster and clearer; it is lined with steep cliffs that it took centuries to carve out of limestone and shale layers that date back to the Silurian Period, i.e. one of the world's oldest foundations. The distance between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario is sixty kilometers, and their levels differ by one hundred meters; therefore one could think that the waterfall between them was one hundred meters high, but as the waters were wearing the barrier down, they were making the falls recede towards Lake Erie. Thus the river's new bed has a steep slope and the waterfall itself has lost some of its initial height.
The waterfall has already covered a distance of 25 kilometers since it started receding between the two lakes, and its height is now only 55 meters: one can therefore predict that since the waterfall is edging back while losing height, when it reaches Lake Erie it will disappear, and only a deep torrent strewn with rapids will link the two lakes. I must admit that the first time I visited, I approached the cataract without much emotion. During the course of my long travels, I was given to see such wonderful natural spectacles that I did not think they could be surpassed or even equaled; I was gravely mistaken. Already at a distance, the clouds of spray which rise in the atmosphere and shroud the cataract, the muffled roar which strikes the ear, both prepare the traveler's mind, and as he moves forward, anxious to see, the noise of the cataract becomes sharper and more powerful; finally one sees the foaming mass of water and senses its enormous power compared to the weak strength of mortals... Indeed, what a unique spectacle that this fifteen hundred meter-wide, ten meter-deep body of water falling ceaselessly from a height of fifty meters into an abyss where everything moves, is sprayed, vaporized as in a furious rage, each liquid molecule seeming eager to extinguish the enormous force that drives it in movements of shock, of rotation, that the cleverest analysts would be unable to follow by calculation. However, thanks to a rather wide basin that sprawls beneath the waterfall, the waters quickly calm down and, in a surprising contrast, allow a small steamship loaded with tourists to sail around in a tranquil area. The steamship comes close to the fall's foam or backs up, thus playing with danger and teasing, sometimes to the limit, the passengers' terror. The waters, for a while enclosed and calmed, rush anew into a narrow canyon lined with steep cliffs; they look like a sea marching furiously as they speed along at forty kilometers per hour. Finally, through a succession of raging waves, three kilometers downstream lies the whirlpool, a great circus ring where the waters all swirl in the same direction before settling towards Lake Ontario.
I was given to see the world's most famous waterfall in summer and in winter, and these are different but equally wonderful spectacles; in winter, the huge rock faces alongside the waters are dressed with gigantic ice stalactites that stand as many pillars of the purest crystal, sparkling in the bright sun of fine winter days. Each one of the emerging rocks' pointed tip reached by the spray is covered with awkwardly shaped thick layers of ice; in that season, there are no more tourists: the great river is returned to its former solitude, and day-dreaming takes us back to the succession of centuries that elapsed before our time, when the lumberjack's axe had not yet tapped the forest that stands on the edge of the waters, when the Red Indian, the bear, and the moose were the only witnesses of this imposing spectacle which is doomed, as we said earlier, to vanish in turn in the succession of centuries.
Industry has not failed to capture the energy of these falls; lately, a new concession of 120,000 horsepower was granted to a single and only company. An important town has already materialized at « Niagara Falls » and this fashionable spa resort will be paired with a vast industrial city: it is « fin de siècle » and picturesque.
The town of Niagara has an exclusively American style: here, negroes are already at ease and we shall find them, and them only, as servants in hotels, sleeping cars, etc. During my latest stays in North America, I endeavored to study negroes with an aim that I would like to call patriotic: indeed, are n't we destined to undergo the arrival in France of African blacks as we penetrate deeper into their countries? I have seen how the negro issue is important in the United States, how much the eight million negroes dispersed in the country impress upon the population an aspect, morals, care, and a legislation that differ from those of our own social State, which is already so complex. The intrusion of the black race in France will probably be swift, since we are hospitable, inclined to consider blacks as equals, knowing them only through « Uncle Tom » or « Paul and Virginie »; our religious feelings also favor immigration: finally, our temperate climate will allow negroes to multiply while the regions of Northern Europe will repulse them due to the rigor of winters.