W4893 TO [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his sister Ruby
Apr 19 1903
To: [Rev.] Calvin McQuesten Montreal, Quebec
From: Ottawa Ladies' College
My dear old Cal,
I wonder what has been the matter with us lately. I really feel as if my reputation for letter writing must be entirely ruined. I don't think I ever left you so long before. Somehow one feels restless in the Spring and it seems hard to settle down and collect one's thoughts. I have been so wondering about you, whether you have changed or any of the others, your boarding house. And I wondered if you were going to get a chance for N.Y. at Easter time & I thought at one time I might have some spare cash to help you out, but some of it vanished and I have two five cents for collection to-morrow till my money comes which is due now.
The doctor whom I had in November when I was sick sent in his bill of $3 for 2 visits. I owe the dentist for past and present $2.50. And on such insignificant things my money vanishes. However pay day is at hand and the full dinner pail.1
Well I've really been having a pretty good time lately. Of course we had our holidays from Thursday night till Tuesday afternoon. And we had a very pleasant time. We were very busy, sewing on the machine we had rented, as we were anxious to get all our stitching done before it left. And I succeeded in making and finishing up quite satisfactorily two shirt waists,--tho' I did take the band off of the neck of one six times. I'm sure Miss Middleton also had her troubles & for a full day was quite depressed over the wrinkles on the shoulder of hers. Shirt waists are sometimes very troublesome my dear, tho' you don't know very much about them from personal experience. They are one of the things that try people's character and I'm quite sure you wouldn't worry about such trifling affairs as your country and its government if you were fitting a shirt waist into its place about your neck. Besides that I bound a skirt and mended an underskirt and fixed up a list of things that I had written down to make sure of remembering.2
Of course we had our fun too. We were out for tea one evening at MacLaren's. Our Field Naturalist excursion was on Sat. and a perfect day it was. Part of the time I helped the bug-man lift up stones and pop into his bottle all kinds of little crawly things & hoppers. It was quite exciting. I'll be really getting bold enough to lift up snakes one of these days with only one or two quivers down my spine and no one could ever see those. Did you know that the copper snakes here are not poisonous. Dr. Fletcher had them crawling over his hand this afternoon when we went out to the Aylmer and gathered the trailing arbutus. He says the black snake will attack you but it is not venomous.3
Then on Sunday I went to Dr. Armstrong's for dinner and out to the Willie Smith's for tea.
The week before the holidays I had on my mind the getting of the girls off. I was given the full charge of seeing about their tickets and finding what time each ones train left and arranging with the baggage man to have the trunks down to the stations in time. There were about twenty-five going off and I felt it quite a responsibility, for I don't think I'm naturally much good in that line. However everything went off without a hitch in spite of crowds at holiday time. The last batch of six went off to Lachute on the 6:20 p.m train & I was so anxious to have them off safely as the others, that they had their tea at five and were started off & had their baggage checked & their seats in the car at five minutes to six. So they had a clear 25 minutes to wait--poor brutes! However they were quite cheerful and seemed to think there was nothing strange about it.
Then since the holidays it has been examination papers ending with the making out of reports until eleven to-night. I really don't intend to look at the time to-night. But of course we might have worked last night. Instead we were invited by Dr. Macdonald, the deputy speaker, to dine at "The House" with him. He has a lovely little suite of rooms there, his butler who served us a most elegant dinner. At half past eight we went up to hear the speeches but it was very dry so Dr. Mac. took us down and treated us to ice cream & cake and bought us an elegant box of candy which we indulged in, not just hungrily in his room, while he told us a couple of creepy tales to dream on & then he escorted us & the candy home. Isn't he a fine gentleman, the old doctor?4
The night before, Thursday, I had a kind of feeling of hopefulness in my bones, that perhaps you might be up for the "Budge" [Budget at Parliament] but when I tho't of your long tiresome return journey, I was glad for your sake you hadn't to come. You're quite a notorious villain taking up the words of your superiors in this strike. And the worst of it is that Mr. Monk supported you in your evil doing.5
It must be very interesting meeting the Japanese Consul. I'd love to hide in a corner of his beautiful drawing room and listen to your talk. It is a fine opportunity for you.
Well dear old boy, you'll think this is an endless letter once I'm started. But I really had to explain my various doings. I hope old boy, you'll be having some good walks--I wish Johnston were not engaged so you could go together.
What is Ken making of himself these days? I wish you were away from him altogether, you poor old fellow. You have to put up with it all for the family.6
Well dear old boy, good-night. I'd like to give you a good old hug but we'll just imagine it.
With very much love.
Your affec'ate sister,
1 This letter provides an indication of the cost of medical and dental visits. According to Ruby's letter (W4263) she was earning approximately $5.99 per week at that time, ("I suppose the Mither told you I'm minus six weeks pay, $34..." W4263).
2 Ruby was a fairly accomplished seamstress, as was Hilda. On one occasion Ruby was able to send the money home for a new sewing machine (W-MCP1a.020). When the family could afford it, they had a seamstress come in for several days to do the family sewing (Box 12-179, April, 1912).
3 Ruby takes regular trips with the Field Naturalists society.
4 Ruby and her friends enjoy these dinners with Dr. Macdonald, the Deputy Speaker of the House, and he is always very generous.
5 The Montreal Railway strike was in effect at this time and Calvin was assigned to report on it (W4963). Eventually the job grew too stressful for Calvin and in Sept. 1903, he had to resign (W5105). For a Biographical sketch of Calvin click on "Family" on the Home Page and then on his picture.
6 Ken Trigge was Hilda's fiancee until she (and her mother) broke off the engagement because he drank alcohol and his job required that he "treat" others to drink also (W4635).