W6718 TO MRS. MARY BAKER MCQUESTEN from Sarah Mullin
Jul 18 1911
To: Mrs. Mary McQuesten Bayfield Ontario
From: 7 Turner Ave. Hamilton, Ontaro
My dear Mrs. McQuesten,
Your good letter of the 12th was much appreciated and enjoyed tho' I had had tellephone [sic] news of you occasionally. 12 Yes, we have had it hot & then the storms!! The cyclone was not as bad as the one some years ago when I hid in Edna's lap but it lasted longer & the thunder & lightning much more severe, it took the top of my old tree off. I am so glad you escaped it all & was in an atmosphere where you could breathe without going into the cellar where I spent a whole morning and partook of my dinner there, the other day. I went down at different times. Betty has also put in this cellar she has stood this heat wonderfully well.
In the midst of all these trying times Bertha was summoned to her father in St. Louis who had had a severe stroke, she is still away. I was from Monday till Thursday without any help then I got a woman, she comes at 9:00 leaves any time between 3 or 6 so I have breakfast or tea to look after; she is exquisitely clean which makes up for all else. I must say I like the quiet evenings, with no disturbance by late-comers in & can understand the discomfort you have with the noise of people about late or early, roosters & cow bells; it is getting fresh air & change at a cost, still you will find some good from it all. When you return to the city, meeting old friends and congenial people, getting pleasure out of their travels will divert your thoughts from the past & give some thing to think of or tell those at home.3
I enjoyed so much your vivid description of the place around you, if it were not for leaving Willie at home I would be tempted to join you if room could be had
Hilda came Saturday & made me a most delicious cake, etc., she got tea for me. This woman leaves the table set, so she did not have very much to do, it was lovely having her. After tea she remained on the veranda, with our [work?]. It is such a comfort not having to fight mosquitoes & flies nor bugs of any kind when the electric light is on.
Did you hear that Robin send me a cheque for an electric fan when he heard it was so hot. He certainly is a thoughtful kind son, his last gift is a little arrangement like a pocket match box, by pressing a little bead it sends out a flash, it is simply splendid to get about with in the dark, & is most useful when an electric light burns out of order after those terrible storms, this small battery can be taken out and recharged when necessary. Lady Taylor brought it when she returned from her Western trip, her son-in-law gave her one. It was so nice for Willie to have under his pillow in winter & see the time without having to get up in the cold. There seems to be nothing those Americans won't invent to make things easy.
When Lady Taylor & Mrs. Joe [Mrs. Joseph Thomson] came with it they found me in a fearful plight. 4 The man brought me a crate of berries in the afternoon which had to be put up. Mrs. Taylor had arrived that day. I worked in the cellar till darkness, only coming up for tea. I need hardly say I was tired; that would not have mattered had I been clean & tidy. I was too down & out to do anything but take my boots, stockings & bandage off. I was in the act of lying down on the sofa when Mrs. S [or L?] said there was a carriage at the door and two ladies coming up our steps. Willie marshalled them in & up stairs, just think of it, immaculate Mrs. Joe & breathless Lady T. What a state for me to be caught in! Well it could not have been helped and I hope they will not think too severely of me. I thought Lady Taylor looking much better than when she left.
I had a letter from Nellie today, the heat there was nothing to ours but it is more continuous, she takes a hot water bag filled with ice water for her head when she goes to bed, she is not coming home till September; it will be cooler and pleasanter then, her old lady is standing this heat wonderfully well----perhaps you know [that] Robin & another Dr. have taken a flat, I am preparing his bed and table linen.
This is taking the form of an epistle & must be closed before becoming wearisome.
[Closing written sideways on front page] Much love to you both
Yours very affectionately
Sarah [?] Mullin
1 For more on the Mullin family, see W4521
2 Mary is in Bayfield, Ontario, resting and vacationing for the month of July, 1911. Then in August, she vacationed in Chippewa, Ontario. In W6752, dated August 17, 1911, Mary describes her accommodation and the cost at Chippewa of only 5.00 per week, including meals. In 1903 She describes a summer vacation with Ruby at Port Carling in which they had run out of money and had to write to Calvin while there to ask him to send "two dollars or perhaps V" for their "dinners on the way home." See: W5059 August 5, 1903.
Then in February 1912, Dr. Calvin Brooks McQuesten, Mary's brother-in-law, died and left her a bequest of $36,000, which finally relieved her financial situation. Consequently, Mary's vacation in 1912 at Vancouver was a much more luxurious one, see W6780. See also W5012n, July 1903 in which Ruby and Mary (mother) went to Port Carling for their summer vacation.(W5074).
This inheritance from Dr. Calvin Brooks McQuesten reveals a dark and ungenerous side of his character. He had managed to retain the Alexandria Arcade after Isaac's bankruptcy and death, and had been receiving a relatively generous income from it, yet he never once offered to pay anything for his nephew Tom's or Calvin's education. He had remained single and, as a doctor, he must have been aware that Ruby was literally working herself to death to pay for Tom's education in law, so that Tom might eventually restore the family. He also did not offer to pay for any of Ruby's health costs, sanatoria, etc. See W1652, Box 12-316, Box 14-108. The only explanation for this is that he remained bitter at the bankruptcy settlement after Isaac's death and felt that Mary had received a disproportionately larger amount.
3 Ruby McQuesten died of tuberculosis on April 9, 1911 after a long illness. See W6135.
4 For more on Mrs. Taylor and Mrs. Joe Thomson, see W5382 and W4415.