Going to town
This morning I got up before sunrise. It is market day in Montréal and I have to go there with my father. We will be selling fresh vegetables, eggs and butter.
While crossing the river from Longueuil, where we live, the ferry owner told me it took 20 years to build the walls that surround the town of Montréal. When we arrive in Montréal, there is no dock. The boat has to come right up on the shore, near the Market gates. As we pass through the large gate, my father talks with the soldiers who guard it.
The marketplace is small, and is sandwiched between Capital Street and St. Paul Street. There are people everywhere, looking to buy and sell. The activity even spills onto the streets. We got here at seven o’clock in the morning. The first people to arrive are those who live in the city. They want to stock up on food because living in town means they do not have enough space to grow wheat or keep several animals like we can in the countryside.
We were able to sell all our food. All we have to do now is deliver wheat to Mr. Gamelin to pay him for the fabric, salt and wine he sold us last winter. We turn right onto St. Paul Street. Here, all the houses have two or even three floors. They are all made of stone and packed together. These merchants must be very rich to have such beautiful homes.
Mr. Gamelin lives in a house that is four times bigger than mine. I help his slave carry the wheat down into the basement while the men settle their accounts. One more delivery and this debt will be paid off.
Before going back home, we go for a little stroll through town. It is so different from the countryside where we live! In Montréal, the king has had a small citadel built on a small hill near Notre Dame Street. This way the city is well protected by both fortifications and soldiers. Today we can see the soldiers over on Place d’Armes, doing manoeuvres. Past it is a magazine where all the weapons are stored. It is a solid building that must be fire- and explosion-proof.
There are many important men and merchants in town. The last time I came to Montréal, I saw the governor who was at his Montréal home to handle the affairs of this part of the colony.
We make a final detour by the church to admire the Sulpician seminary next door. It is one of the oldest buildings in town. It is already sixty years old! I’ve never seen such a large clock before. The mechanism that turns it is made of wood. On the other side of the street there are school children getting ready to go home. I wish I could go to school, but my parents need me on the farm.
We head back to St. Paul Street. The closer we get to the market, the closer the homes are. The place is almost empty. We have to go home before the soldiers close the gates for the night.
Author: Léon Robichaud
See also – Traces of the past:
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