W-MCP2-4.090 TO MARY BAKER MCQUESTEN from her daughter Ruby
Nov 12 1908
To: Mary Baker McQuesten Whitehern, Hamilton, Ontario
From: 316 Fifteenth Ave., West, Calgary, Alberta
My dearest Mitherkins,
I does seem a long time since I'd written and yet there is nothing special to tell. Last week was fine & warm & I took my walk for four days running. And I started in quite energetically to do some sketching. And if only such weather & such moods lasted in time I might become an artist. For I really did enjoy it--sad specimens as the sketches were. And last of all on Sunday when another girl and myself went out for a walk we came upon the loveliest spot I've seen since I came & there was a view with the blue mountains & purple hills & little fir trees and rolling yellow hills--everything you needed for a picture. Though it was Sunday I'm afraid I wanted to sketch & planned for the future.1 And so it served me right and it has been winter weather ever since.2 But there is a charming valley there with a river and a high wooded bank on one side that makes one think of the Gatineau Valley.
And I've heard since that the person who lives in one little house is a very nice little woman & only too glad to see people & so I'm meditating if any warm snatches come of asking the woman if she'll let me stay for dinner. I may as well pay her as the Y. & then I'll leave my art material there & have no lunch to carry & just have a nice walk of three miles out & there do some sketching & have my dinner & rest there & sketch a little more & come back in the afternoon. It repents me that I didn't think of this scheme & find this charming valley before. Now I'm afraid old winter is here pretty much for keeps. Only I suppose it shows I am getting really strong again when my energy for work comes back. For I really had no desire before. Only I might have painted you some sketches for Xmas & now I'm afraid you'll all have to wait. As for other presents I don't think I'm going to do a single thing. I'm too lazy at night after all my fresh air to do anything but read or play a little & go to bed. Do you know I weigh now 136 lbs. 2 more lbs. in a week. Probably by now it is 138. See me out do Touser [Hilda].
Then Monday Thanksgiving Day I rested & then went to church & then came back to the Y. & then as some girls were sewing there I got my red hat & ironed it out flat & steamed the velvet and got a piece of cardboard & made a large crown & had enough velvet to cover it & then had the large piece for a bow in front with the quill. And it really looks quite fine. I'm quite proud of myself.
Florrie hadn't asked me over for she was taking it easy & not having a big dinner as turkeys are too dear & I was quite glad not to go out as we were asked to wait at a big supper at the Methodist Church at six o'clock.3 Miss Laurence and I were to help the ladies wait on one table & were asked to go at five. When we arrived we were told we must have our tea first, were brought tea and turkey galore and there were jellies & salads & pies & cakes, such an array as I'd never seen. However turkey & bread & butter & apple pie were enough for me & then about six we fed the hungry crowd. I don't think I admire people when I see a bunch of them eating. There was the dearest little green jelly with green grapes & the stupid men were afraid of being poisoned so we ate it ourselves afterwards. Then there was a concert but it was warm & we were sleepy so in the middle of it the four of us cleared out. And the ladies insisted on filling our pockets with apples & we departed to our 'appy 'omes.
Your fine letters came that day too. So it was a very nice day though I was away from home. I'm afraid I was slow in taking in the idea about my ticket. I had thought it was good for six mos. But you will have settled everything by now.4
It was nice you had that visit with the Clark's & very nice of Mrs. Clark to remember me. I'd quite like that little watch of Elsie's. Did she offer to give it to you?
And does Tom really weigh 190 lbs? Isn't that fine. When I come home & weigh 150 & H. [Hilda] weighs 150 & Tom 190 and the other members of the family--Mary, especially--do their duty we'll bulge into the Graham's pew in front & the Stewart's (or is it Stuart--it seems to me they pride themselves on their royal lineage) behind. Hurrah!
The kitchen will be so splendiferous that my scheme of growing mushrooms will be apt to receive the cold shoulder. The thought that you have such an industrious family at home makes up for keeping the black sheep--a remittance man--away in the far country.5
With much love my dearest mother & love to all.
Your affec'ate child
1 Ruby was a fine artist and many of her paintings are on view at Whitehern.
2 A strict Presbyterian Sabbath was kept by the McQuestens, and they were not even allowed to write letters on a Sunday.
3 Florrie Whittemore is a Hamilton friend and a fellow Tuberculosis patient in Calgary, see W-MCP2-4.070.
4 Ruby's return ticket had to be redeemed when it was decided that she had to remain in treatment in Calgary, see W-MCP2-4.092. This was likely a mistake because she did not fare well in the cold, and she had to be sent to another sanatorium in Muskoka the next year. She died of Tuberculosis in 1911, see W6135.
5 Ruby is referring to herself (darkly facetious) as the "black sheep" and a "remittance man": a person who is sent away from home and family (usually in disgrace) and kept there with a remittance as long as he/she stays away. Many sons were sent off to the New World from England as remittance men. In this letter Ruby notes her expenses. In another letter her mother refers to Ruby as being "exiled": "it is such a trial having to leave one's home and it is terrible for poor Ruby to be thus exiled for years, indeed it does not do for me to think of it and I have to pray for grace to submit and leave it in God's hands" (Box 12-626). These two comments provide a deeper insight into the family relationship. Ruby is feeling like a black sheep and her mother is feeling guilty at Ruby being exiled.