W6310 TO REV. CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his sister Ruby McQuesten
Nov 3 1908
To: Rev. Calvin McQuesten Knox College Toronto, Ontario
From: 316 Fifteenth Ave., West Calgary, Alberta
It seems ages since I've written to you, but somehow this last month seemed an unsettled one & then there were birthday letters & it must have been the spells of cold weather that blocked my trains of thought. Anyway wandering Willies are always lazy. Did you see in the Sat. Globe about the man who was a wandering Willie who was hungry and asked for a bite. The woman gave him a sandwich made of two hard squares of bread and a hard square of ham between. Some time later a companion found him hanging in pain on to a hayrick [haystack]. He asked him what was the matter. He said "I've just eaten a square meal and the corners of it are still scratchin' me."
Well I've eaten a square meal but not that kind. The kind that go into me are making me quite portly. I weigh now 134 lbs & the girls call me lazy, fat & saucy.1 Not having anything special to do I prolong my meals by making fun of them & reading their fortunes in their tea cups. Now & again a girl comes up to me very confidentially & I think something really important is coming and it is "Say you know you told me I'd get a letter--well I got it."
There is a girl at the Y. with really an endless number of yarns & it only needs one mild one from me to get a half-a-dozen good ones from her & some have a good deal of fun.
On Hallow E'en three of us dressed up like kids--I don't mean we intended to represent kids--one was an Indian and two of us were old dames. I had little corkscrew [?] curls & had put some [yarn?] on my hair and wore a shawl & bonnet. We made four calls and had two suppers.
Do you remember Miss Grantham who used to be with Mr. Chisholm in Hamilton [?] She & some girls keep house a few doors away.
Did Mama tell you that a letter I had sent to you in Aug. had been returned to me from the dead letter office[?] It had your address on in full & I would rather that any other letter had gone astray. You must have wondered at not receiving it until the enclosed. However, I'll finish the process & cremate the whole business. Thank you for answering my last letter so completely. It eased my mind as after receiving this one from the dead letter office I would have been wondering about the fate of the other. 2
I hope you don't mind this ink being pale. It has been watered. It is really a lady-like shade.3
Talking about lady-like makes me think we have an ungentlemanly horse here--Thomas [Motter?] by name. He kicked when I drove him & acted quite disreputably. And I had tried to be friendly to him & had even put the harness on him gingerly. And I had given him the place in my heart before [promised?] by the Baby Pavey at my other house. 4 But he was false to his trust.
To-day we went up the hills to the North of the city It has a beautiful view & we made two calls & were regaled on tea & cake at each place.
By the way, I've never been able to find out where that Government Farm is where Mr. [Saulby?] and his family live. I've thought sometimes that if they were any place near Calgary & in the habit of coming in they might sometime call on me. Someone said he thought there was a Government Farm ten miles out.
There is a Mr. Shortt [sic] assisting Mr. Clark of Knox Church here. I haven't met him but a friend of mine in speaking of me found out that he knew you.
Also there is a Miss Ptolemy attending [church?] here who was one of your flock when you preached near Hamilton. I fancy there are a lot of Ptolemys in that place.
Do you remember a young Dobbs who used to go to one ["congregation" is scratched out] church in Hamilton. I don't suppose you do for I never met him in Hamilton. He is a nice lad & he has just broken his collar bone playing football.
Lizzie MacLaren says Leslie isn't as interested in football this year & she hopes soon he'll give it up. I had a long letter from Helen Robinson. She says little Mr. Willie Smith was away in England for three mos. & looked very well on his return but is working like a Trojan now. She and her mother were at "[Bes?]" & her little mother went in wading with her skirts up to her knees. You could just imagine little Mrs. R. Chris was around campaigning with Sir Wilfred. Kay had been taking snap-shots which caused lots of fun but as usual didn't turn out. Comical Kay or Kath as we used to call her. Mariss has just been a jewel in writing to me--she is an awfully true friend Mariss. She was up at Huntsville for her holidays. Both asked after you in their letters.
Well sonny I think I've told you everything--I suppose Knox College will find you now. How are you liking it this year. Send me a line some day when you get settled. And give my love to Tom & I'll write him next. With much love,
Your affec'ate sister
1 Ruby has been gaining weight steadily over the summer and early fall. Perhaps that is why the doctors decided that she should stay there for the winter, however she relapsed toward spring, and Calvin was alarmed at her condition when he met her in Winnipeg in March 1909 (W6369, W7798).
2 This a significant letter and a tantalizing bit of news about missing letters--and how I wish we had those letters that Ruby "cremated." We have NO letters from Ruby between July 22, 1908 (W6229, W-MCP3-05-003) and Sept. 8, 1908 (W6266), except for one brief letter from Ruby to her sister, Hilda, Aug. 15 (Box 03-001). The missing letters for this period are likely the letters that were destroyed. We have some clues that lead to correspondence and possibly contact between Ruby and David Ross (her fiance): (1) Ruby's letter of Sept. 10 to Cal indicates that Cal had written to her to suggest that she visit the Rosses (W6281). (2) In her letter to Cal of Oct. 1, 1908, she states that "it's all finally off between David and myself" (W6302), which certainly indicates communication.
The letter that she mentions in this letter as having gone astray, and which landed in her mother's possession, is likely a letter which gave away some details about a secret relationship between herself and David. In 1906 when David first proposed, her mother had objected and had demanded that they wait two years, but they had carried on a secret relationship, as her mother notes in her letter of May 1908 (W5622, W6135).
It is a mystery how a letter from Ruby in Calgary to Calvin in Toronto ended up in the dead letter office in Hamilton and in Ruby's mother's hands, unless someone in the dead letter office in Toronto knew the McQuesten name and sent it along to Hamilton. The other possibility is that Calvin actually, or inadvertently, gave the letter to his mother, or she found it among his laundry that he had brought home, and she pretended it had gone to the Dead Letter Office.
It is a great mystery that there are NO letters from the family TO Ruby in the archive, yet she often comments to thank Tom or Calvin, etc., for their letters. Did she destroy them and, if so, why? Were they destroyed later to remove any possibility of TB germs being transmitted, yet we have so many of the letters from Ruby to the family and they would have been even more TB germ-laden. It is ossible that Ruby cremated some of the family letters along with the letters from David Ross--but that is not likely, since they were so careful to save the letters. We can only speculate on the reasons unless with research some of the letters come to light.
3 This comment likely explains why many of the letters are very difficult to decipher.
4 Ruby rented a room from a Mrs. Pavey when she first came to Calgary, but took her meals at the YWCA, see W6203.