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Outside
by [?]

I had visited New York, Boston, Quebec, Montreal, and Toronto. In Winnipeg I found a friend, who was tired of cities. So was I. In Canada the remedy lies close at hand. We took ancient clothes–and I, Ben Jonson and Jane Austen to keep me English–and departed northward for a lodge, reported to exist in a region of lakes and hills and forests and caribou and Indians and a few people. At first the train sauntered through a smiling plain, intermittently cultivated, and dotted with little new villages. Over this country are thrown little pools of that flood of European immigration that pours through Winnipeg, to remain separate or be absorbed, as destiny wills. The problem of immigration here reveals that purposelessness that exists in the affairs of Canada even more than those of other nations. The multitude from South or East Europe flocks in. Some make money and return. The most remain, often in inassimilable lumps. There is every sign that these lumps may poison the health of Canada as dangerously as they have that of the United States. For Canada there is the peril of too large an element of foreign blood and traditions in a small nation already little more than half composed of British blood and descent. Nationalities seem to teach one another only their worst. If the Italians gave the Canadians of their good manners, and the Doukhobors or Poles inoculated them with idealism and the love of beauty, and received from them British romanticism and sense of responsibility!…. But they only seem to increase the anarchy, these ‘foreigners,’ and to learn the American twang and method of spitting. And there is the peril of politics. Upon these scattered exotic communities, ignorant of the problems of their adopted land, ignorant even of its language, swoop the agents of political parties, with their one effectual argument–bad whisky. This baptism is the immigrants’ only organised welcome into their new liberties. Occasionally some Church raises a thin protest. But the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ continues to take up his burden; and the floods from Europe pour in. Canadians regard this influx with that queer fatalism which men adopt under plutocracy. “How could they stop it? It pays the steamship and railway companies. It may, or may not, be good for Canada. Who knows? In any case, it will go on. Our masters wish it….”

It is noteworthy that Icelanders are found to be far the readiest to mingle and become Canadian. After them, Norwegians and Swedes. With other immigrant nationalities, hope lies with the younger generation; but these acclimatise immediately.

Our train was boarded by a crowd of Ruthenians or Galicians, brown-eyed and beautiful people, not yet wholly civilised out of their own costume. The girls chatted together in a swift, lovely language, and the children danced about, tossing their queer brown mops of hair. They clattered out at a little village that seemed to belong to them, and stood waving and laughing us out of sight. I pondered on their feelings, and looked for the name of the little Utopia these aliens had found in a new world. It was called (for the railway companies name towns in this country) ‘Milner.’

We wandered into rougher country, where the rocks begin to show through the surface, and scrub pine abounds. At the end of our side-line was another, and at the end of that a village, the ultimate outpost of civilisation. Here, on the way back, some weeks later, we had to spend the night in a little hotel which ‘accommodated transients.’ It was a rough affair of planks, inhabited by whatever wandering workman from construction-camps or other labour in the region wanted shelter for the night. You slept in a sort of dormitory, each bed partitioned off from the rest by walls that were some feet short of the ceiling. Swedes, Germans, Welsh, Italians, and Poles occupied the other partitions, each blaspheming the works of the Lord in his own tongue. About midnight two pairs of feet crashed into the cell opposite mine; and a high, sleepless voice, with an accent I knew, continued an interminable argument on theology. “I’ beginning wash word,” it proclaimed with all the melancholy of drunkenness. The other disputant was German or Norwegian, and uninterested, though very kindly. “Right-o!” he said. “Let’s go sleep!”