W4263 TO [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his sister Ruby
Dec 3 1902 [date estimated]
To: [Rev.] Calvin McQuesten Montreal Quebec
From: Ottawa Ladies' College
My dearest Cal,
The Mither is writing & wanting to know what she'll tell you about Xmas as presents--Well really we're not going to spend any money on each other this year. But the Mither, we think, must have glasses, so if you will chip in with me for them, Hilda & I will trot her down to have her eyes examined. We're scaring her that you'll do all kinds of things if you come home & find she hasn't obeyed your orders.
Hilda has a five o'clock tea table--of drawn work that will be lovely for the Mither & I'll have a carving cloth, also a pleasure work started before last Xmas done in time, & with her glasses--she'll count them a present & a little plant.
I fancy you needn't think about any other way of getting rid of your [fees?].
We really don't think any member of the family should spend much money for we have what we really need.
I had thought of getting Edna a pair of manicure scissors & Mama says she'll chip in. Edna can't cut her right hand nails with the ones we have & I don't blame her. So if you have extra cash going, you can chip in, it all goes to the family after all.
I suppose the Mither told you I'm minus 6 weeks pay $34 but it is to be taken off, part off of each payment after Xmas & we are to have all our money up to Xmas. So I expect a $34 coming in--but after I've taken out fare back to Ottawa & something to keep me going till Feb. there will be only about $20--however it will help us along.1
As to Hilda, Mary is giving her a hat pin holder & I have nothing for either. But we'll probably think of some article each needs & get it later on. Really I get as excited as ever when I think of Xmas coming & you coming home, Hurrah!--Won't it be jolly? We are poor but I guess it must be the Irish in us that makes us most joyful & hilarious on occasions!2
In spite of being short so much it is really fine having such a long holiday and I can help the girls & we'll be having really a jolly time. Last week we were quite gay, going to three "Teas," Wed, Thurs, & Friday. And this week we've made calls & done fancy work. Hilda has started me on drawn work mats that cost nothing & are very pretty & not hard to do.
I was up on Monday to see Emily MacLaren & she said Jean had been suffering tortures from an ulcerated tooth, but it had been lanced & she was better, tho' very much pulled down.
The little Mither got her meeting over yesterday. She was almost ill beforehand, but as soon as it was off her mind she was as gay as could be & trotted me down town to look at--well, perhaps you'll see later, if Santa comes to bad boys.
This morning I walked down to Brown's to have him doctor a fern & up to the James's where I sat on the table & was regaled with eleven o'clock tea & chocolate cake. By the way it would almost pay you to get your boot laces as we do from Willie James. He is getting us a gross for 62c, that is 144 for 62c & usually pay 50c for 24 or 12 pairs.
I expect Annie Anderson, you know, Mrs. Ross's niece, to stay with us on the 10th on her way to her brother Harry (Arry) at Chatham.
Well, my dear old boy, had better stop.
With much love.
Your affec'ate sister, Ruby
[P.S.] I'm telling the Mither she must hurry & practice her piece. I bought her a song "My Rosary" & the family like encouraging her to sing.
1 There has been an outbreak of scarlet fever at the college and it has been quarantined so Ruby will be home early and will miss some of her pay (W4690).
This letter illustrates the financial condition of the family in 1902, twelve years after the sudden death and bankruptcy of their father, Isaac (W2511, W2520). Ruby has taken a job at the Ottawa Ladies' College to earn the money to put Tom through school, and it is obvious from this letter that the family is "poor" and that they rely on her income. For more on the family finances, see E2-2. For Ruby's biographical sketch, click on "Family" on the Home Page and then on Ruby's picture.
2 Their maternal grandmother, Mary-Jane (McIlwaine) Baker was Irish.