W4454 TO [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his sister Ruby McQuesten
Feb 1 1901 Friday noon
To: [Toronto, Ontario]
From: [Ottawa Ladies' College]
My Dearest Cal,
It was so good to get your letter--I really had been quite hungry for a word from you, tho' I knew you would be busy as ever. We always expect more time after Xmas & there are always more things going on to take up time. You must have had a lovely time at your boarding house. I wish you could have got a couple of rooms at your old place. I hope the good people won't go to anymore balls & sprees, or you will be expected to get your own dinners.1
This week has been a long slow one to me. Tho I didn't really have the Grippe; on Sunday & Monday was pretty sick & rather under the weather the rest of the time But I'm all right now & have an invitation to go out snow shoeing to-morrow night which I've accepted if nothing interferes.
Last Friday night the whole household was suddenly awakened at 2 o'clock by the ringing of the electric bell through the whole house. It rang thru all the flats & the girls thought it was a fire alarm. I did not know what it was but wasn't frightened. Miss Browne came in in quite a panic. No one knew why the bell was ringing & still it rang. The girls were all in the hall with white faces asking each other in ghostly tones, " what is it?" Miss B & I hurried downstairs & found Mrs. Ross & Miss Boyd looking at the button. But no one was pressing it. Mr. Grierson was the only one asleep. We came up & met the head laundress followed by her maids hurrying down to see if the laundry was on fire. Finally Grierson was aroused to take the battery to pieces & the noise stopped. Whatever possessed the bell to ring of its own accord no one knows. It will remain a mystery unless you could suggest, but it gave the house a lively scare by way of variety.
Such a family as we've had between Grippe & colds here. No less than twenty girls had to have hot drinks last night, so we have a cup brigade & the teacher on duty carries around a tray of cups & dispenses drinks to all the dry ones. It is really funny to call out, "Who wants a drink!" However most of the girls are better now, tho' thirteen were down at one time. Grippe is very prevalent here as I suppose it is elsewhere.2
There goes dinner bell so will leave this for the present.
Dinner or rather Friday lunch is over & have just a few minutes to scribble. I'm sending you this letter of Uncle Calvin's --it's too good to keep to myself--but be sure you don't lose it & after you are thru please send it back to me for, wouldn't lose it for the world 3
Next week is the last of the term so we've been giving the luckless youngsters exams to write & now it is luckless me to examine them. Tomorrow we'll have special services in the churches & then it'll be all over.
The question of mourning here produced quite a discussion. The government people of course went into mourning & all the government clerks however poor & all the people who go in the government set, or want to be considered in it, e.g. Mrs. Herridge at her dear Lord's wish.4
Well we here had no money to spend on new dresses & we wouldn't feel any more sorry if we had, so we're wearing our colors & of course are very common & unfeeling among all the black gowned St. Andrews people. However it doesn't worry me in the least, only it makes me provoked to see the number of people who will do anything to be considered in the fashion.
Well my dear old boy must close. I hope you'll be invited again to Eglinton & have some fun. I've just finished your book & really it has been quite a change from ordinary things. It is very well written all thro'!
With much love, hoping you'll take good care of yourself,
Your affectionate sister,
1 A boarding house upset, or "hustle" was mentioned in Calvin's letter to his mother of October 10, 1900 (W4444). Calvin and Tom regularly had boarding-house problems, and Mary worried about the "upsetting" and about their care and meals, (W4436, W4454, W4759).
2 Ruby often writes about the outbreak of Grippe or Scarlet Fever, or other illnesses at the college, and mentions & her own illness earlier in this letter. In 1907 Ruby had to give up teaching because she was ill and it then was diagnosed as the "Con" or Consumption, and later as Tuberculosis. For more on Ruby's health, illness, treatment and death, click on "Family" on the Home Page and then on her picture.
3 The letter from the uncle, Dr. Calvin Brooks McQuesten, is W4451, a very eccentric and somewhat humourous letter.
4 The mourning is likely for the death of Queen Victoria on January 22, 1901. Ruby states that it is the lack of money, and not respect, that prevents her from wearing black.