W2315 TO DR. CALVIN BROOKS MCQUESTEN from his brother Isaac B. McQuesten
Jan 13 1873
To: Dr. Calvin Brooks McQuesten
From: Hamilton, Ontario
My dear Brother
Your letter was nothing short of a godsend, arriving as it did on Saturday morning; for the night before, after family worship I was sitting on the sofa looking over the paper before going back to my reading,--not speaking a word to Mrs. McQ. that not having occurred since her return from the East--when she commenced by asking me how I dared to sit in the same room she was, & ordering me to leave it and go into the library. Poor father thought there was something coming, and, as he was walking, walked into the dining room. There was such a fury in her tone & look that from shear [sic] contrarity [sic] I was enabled to keep quite cool. She seemed to have the idea that I was trying to play innocent of thinking of anybody's but her own comfort. So I disabused her mind of that notion by telling her that nothing would have been as much in consonance with your wishes & mine as a separation;1 and that she owed it entirely to the forbearance and long suffering of her husband that she had a chance given her to somewhat recover her ground; that for my part I did not believe she would, even if she could, so conduct herself as to be bearable to any human being. Jerusalem! if you wanted to see the fury of a wild beast you might have been gratified then without the expenditure of seventy-five cents. She stormed at me to leave the house at once and never appear in it again. Then I slowly and deliberately went over my past life: shewed [sic] her how by her treatment she had done everything in her power to train, cultivate and perfect every evil part of my nature; tried to destroy all my father's confidence in me; [ground??] me down as long as she held the mastery over me; and never tried to win me by kindness and love; had time and again, whenever she saw me talking with others, cross-questioned me to find out if anything was said about her; had never taken the part of a wife in her treatment of father; had succeeded in driving you away from home; that she was certainly not the attraction that kept me there; and that as to leaving it I should most decidedly not consult her; that when she learned to treat her husband with kindness and consideration, it would be quite time enough to think of that matter. Of all the language that I ever heard, hers was far ahead. And I'm afraid, my Skeleton, I must award to myself a palm that I told you in a former letter you had carried off: viz.--the possession of her affection(?). I believe I have the greater share--she called me a fiend, a lost spirit, one utterly given up to Satan, that from the earliest childhood I must have been utterly diabolical and satanical. Well, to cut the matter short, Calvin, in all honesty, when returned to the library, I was actually trembling from the awfulness of the curses she had called down upon me. However she knows unmistakably my feelings towards her, and I thought it was not a breach of confidence to give her a slight insight into yours. She limited her encomium of you to simply calling you a liar. But as that is only one of the qualities of a devil, you are wanting in perfect development. Next evening when she was out father came into the library; and after he had been there a moment, I heard a slip in the hall, waited a few moments (I think without exaggeration two or three minutes) went to the door, as I opened it, a rap came on it; and Master Clarence McKeand wanted to come in--he has been for about two weeks at the house2--he didn't come in, but went back into the sitting-room pretty quickly. Father said we had better be a little careful in our conversing together. And then asked me if I ever saw a face so thoroughly ugly as hers when she was enraged. I asked him if she had ever got as bad as that before. "Once," he said, "when she wanted a thousand dollars for that villain of a brother of hers in Sandwitch [sic] Islands, who has since deserted his wife & family, & they now have to be supported by the missionaries. And I thought I had never seen anything that gave me such an idea of Hell (these were his words) as her face. If she could get control over my property I wouldn't give much for my life. While that is safe from her I am--and will always be." Her idea is that Master Clarence shall stay here & go to school. What think you? His mother is not well just now, & has no servant; so there ought not to be a row till she is better. We ought not to be guilty of any petty malice or spite. But we ought both to use our influence against such a thing as a permanent fixture. However, time enough for that. Probably there will be another denouement before a great while. Let us meantime console ourselves. The oracle says: we have both unbending wills, incapable of being controlled, and that never would give in. That little piece of intended malignment [sic] I consider complimentary than otherwise [sic]. A few months must shew [sic] something. Your chain will soon close. If I get a chance to send it shall I do so? When these examinations are over I'll be glad. This so steady reading has made me so that I cannot apply myself vigorously. The harder one wants to work the harder he wants amusement to be as an interlude. This law is an almost infinite subject: between theory and practice. Now, my boy, I have given you all there is. Calvin, we must thoroughly trust one another. For my part, I am certain I can place the most complete, implicit confidence in your word. We have sometimes misunderstood each other. I have never mistrusted you. And I hope you have confidence in me. I shall try & merit it. If so, we need never fear. I desire to obtain no advantage over you. In one way--nominally at least--I have. Had it been otherwise, & had I refused it; it would have been to the injury of us both, and could not have benefitted [sic] you. It would moreover to some extent have been a satisfaction to Mrs. McQ. to whom my feelings are now such, whether they be unchristian or not I can't help it, that I would willingly have your place & and mine mutually changed, provided hers remained just as it is. If you have time, drop me a line. Peter goes to the post now, & when I'm from home keeps all my letters till my return. Am not very lively as you can imagine. So give me a word or two to cheer me up occasionally.
As ever yours
1 In W2304, Isaac writes to Calvin Brooks that their father had agreed to consider separating from his third wife, Elizabeth Fuller McQuesten. Although she had first played the part of the loving wife, she grew more and more demanding, making threats to get what she wanted. She expected her husband to satisfy her every desire for objects and money and tried to coerce him into changing his will to favour her. Isaac, who was as of yet unmarried and still living with his father, apparently saw himself as his father's defender and would confront Elizabeth about her behaviour. Isaac was married on June 18, 1873 to Mary-Jane Baker and they moved to nearby Bold St., but he had hoped that Calvin Brooks would move to Hamilton to stay with their father. Unfortunately, that never occurred and in fact Calvin Brooks did not even come to his brother's wedding despite repeated invitations, see W1380, W2408.
Elizabeth made life miserable, particularly for her husband and Isaac but also for Isaac's wife Mary. In the end, however, Dr. McQuesten's will bequeathed to her an annuity while his sons received all of his property and investments. See W-MCP5-6.351 for details and links.
2 The McKeands (W4535) were likely relatives of Mrs. Elizabeth (Fuller) McQuesten, Dr. Calvin McQuesten's third wife. She had tried to pressure her husband to "buy a lot and build a house for them [McKeands] in Hamilton so that she could get them back near her" but he refused (W2348, W2368, W2372). Nellie McKeand came to stay with Mrs. Elizabeth (Fuller) McQuesten when she and Isaac were in conflict over Dr. McQuesten's estate. Mrs. McKeand and Archie and Clarence were living at Wellington Square in Hamilton in April 1873 (W2354, W4323). It is likely that they returned to the United States when Elizabeth (Fuller) McQuesten retired there after Dr. McQuesten's death in 1885. For more on Dr. Calvin and Elizabeth Fuller McQuesten, see W-MCP5-6.351, (See also Dr. McQuesten's Deed of Trust, W0234 to W0252).