The Canada I Knew
No. 3—From the 6o’s to the 8o;s
In this instalment Miss Seymour tells of the great arsenal explosion in Quebec City, and of the terribly destructive fire which surrounded Ottawa in the days when it was “Bytown”, and describes some of the means taken by Lord Dufferin to restore the city to prosperity.
BOTH my cousins were far better looking than I. As for Agnes, she not only was the most beautiful girl I ever saw, but she had a magnetism about her, which I have read about in books, but never saw anyone else in real life possess.
Her suitors were like a swarm of bees round a honey pot, and, like the honey pot, she made no effort to attract them. It used to be a case of “look and die,” and it used •to be quite amusing to watch the efforts some would make to keep their liberty. One poor fellow said so bitterly to :me one day, “It’s not as if Miss Agnes would ever give a :fellow the chance of saying she is flirting with him.” She was a very dignified young woman.
When the Grenadier Guards were stationed in Montreal, a certain gallant colonel, a married man, came up to .a dance given, and soon after his return to his regiment wrote her a most impassioned love letter, asking her to keep several dances for him, at a ball which was shortly ¡after to be held.
The indignation that letter caused! If the writer had heen at hand, sudden death was the easiest punishment ■considered good enough for him. We talked the matter ■over (it was not mentioned to mamma) and it was answered.
Agnes wrote back a charming note, saying that of •course she would keep a dance for him, and thanked him :for his very amusing letter, which we had all enjoyed so •thoroughly that Captain—(to whom she was at the time engaged) said it was fine enough to be printed. ¡Strange to say, the colonel did not come up for that dance.
Later on, we left Toronto and went to live in Niagara, my aunt having married and settled there, grandmamma [going with her, so my ¡mother rented our Toronto house, and took a •cottage near them. But I am afraid our lives were not what would be called ■quiet country lives.
There may not have been ¡so many dances, but we had riding, driving, and lboating, and the Niagara River is simply ideal for iboating, as after pulling ¡up the river for seven or ■eight miles, the oars were ¡shipped and we floated home.
Since coming up to the Canadian West, I have often been amused ¡at the point of view from which the noble red man is viewed, and contrast it with ours.
In Niagara our rectoUs wife was a full-blooded Indian chieftainess, ¡and •our great delight was to tell her she was accused •of doing things she never 'had dreamt of; when she •would draw herself up to Iher full height and say,
“The idea of thinking the grand-daughter of--(some
unpronounceable name) doing that!”
Some time after this, through those ever-changing moves with which Fate seems inexhaustibly supplied, but which are too long to detail, our little family found itself, after visiting in turn Niagara and Quebec, ensconced, with a somewhat depleted fortune, in Government House, Toronto. As Parliament then met in Quebec, this house was not in use and was given to my aunt for the use of herself and family, as compensation for the services of her late husband. Mamma and my aunt still joined
fortunes, and the household goods of both families were moved there.
An Eerie Night
npHE first night of the move, my aunt and I were alone A there, and very big, cold and empty that place did seem, with its thirteen unoccupied rooms. However, we undressed and went to bed, and just as I was falling asleep, I heard a sound at one of the windows downstairs.I said to my aunt, “There is someone trying to get in," and, jumping out of bed, threw up the window and called out, “Who’s there?”
My aunt jeered at me for being so silly, as she said if any man had replied “It is I,” I would have replied, “Oh, is it? I beg your pardon.”
By this time we were both laughing, but thought it wiser to go down stairs and see what was amiss. She took a coal oil lamp and a stick, I think I took the rest for the blower of the stove, and down we marched.
On opening the door of the big ball room, which opened off the dining room, we saw two men with something black across their faces, outside one of the French windows.
We called “John!” “Henry!” although no man was near to help us, and the would-be thieves made off.
Going down those stairs had been rather fun, but going up them— UghI
Just before we went to Gaspe, my cousin Caroline Stuart, married Mr. Alfred Wyndham, (afterwards Col.) a young Englishman who came out to Canada with a
good deal of money; an honest, true - hearted Christian gentleman, but one of the many of that type who seem to be born with a genius for muddling away wealth; but, if he lost money, he won respect and affection; and there is many a man up here to-day who has cause to bless the name of “The dear old Colonel” as he was always called, he hating been in command of the 12th, at the time of Riel’s rebellion.
After my cousin was married, she and her husband spent a year in England with his people, and mamma and I spent that winter in their pretty house at Lake Simcoe, my brother who was still going on with the law studies, being articled to a lawyer in St. Catharines. During that winter, my poor mother had two more, heavy financial losses.
Consequently my brother decided to give up law, and, thanks to Sir Edmund Head, obtained a position in the Civil Service in Quebec, and was for some time secretary to Sir John A. Macdonald, who had always been a true friend.
When our reverses came, I, of course, wanted to do something, to help, but my brother fretted so over the idea, and the thought was so painful to my mother, that that idea dropped.
The right, wholesome feeling about women’s work of to-day is a blessing that only «’«* of the past generation ean fully appreciate. In my day a girl who supported herself lost all social standing, and doubtless many a girl married the first man who asked her, rather than be a burden, or lose caste.
In spite of hard times, my life in Quebec was most enjoyable, skating and dancing in the winter, and driving partit« in the summer.
A Tragic Happening
I HAD the horrible accusation laughingly brought against me that winter, of having been the cause of a suicide, but I was not in the least to blame.
One of the regiments then in Quebec, gave a ball for the Grenadier Guards, and one of the hosts came up to and asked if 1 would do them a kindness. Of course I said I would if possible. “Well,” he said, “would you mind my
introducing D-to you, and would you dance with
him? You see it is our ball, he is Captain and really should dance with someone, and if any one can get him to talk, you will.”
Presently he came up with a woebegone mortal, who really looked as if he would prefer a dentist’s chair. However, on being introduced, he asked me to dance, and was left in my clutches. The band struck up a Redowa. I said "Oh, that is a Redowa.” (He) “I can’t dance a Redowa.” (I) "We could waltz it.” (He) “I don’t waltz.” So I said "Shall we sit down here?” and I honestly did my best to get that poor man to speak, but he only looked frightened. At last I caught the eye of another man, who was watching us with a very amused expression. and I could not help smiling, thereon he crossed the room and said: “It is a shame to miss this, if you are not
dancing with D-, may I not have a turn?” I turned
to the poor victim, and asked if he would think me rude if I left him, and a beam of positive joy passed over his face, as he assured me he would not object to my leaving him.
The next day Capt. D-cut his own throat, and they
always said that I had frightened him into doing so.
As I write, one scene after another crowds my mind; we were a very merry, happy set of young people, prepared to enjoy to the veriest the banquet life provided us, and although we had many hours of prose, romance and enjoyment held the upper hand.
Considering, as all we Toronto girls did, that although the other Canadian cities were charming, still Toronto was Queen of them all, there was one point which we were very proud of, and that is, that whilst both in Quebec and Montreal, military men took the first place in society, our Toronto men could compare well with any of them. The Robinsons, Kingsmills, Rewards, Boultons, Hamiltons, Ridouts, Stantons. Oh, I could easily add to the list, we used to beast that in the other cities, the Military led the society, with us they were admitted into it; so you can understand cur delight when on Prince Albert, our beloved Queen's husband offering commissions to the four first men who headed the examinations into the Army, all four commissions were won by Canadians, though the contest took in the whole British Empire.
The names of the winners were, first, John Ridout, (brother of Lady Edgar), second, Charles Robinson, son of Sir J. B. Robinson (those two first both Torontoboys), third, Alfred Rykert of St. Catharines, and the name of the fourth 1 have forgotten, as he was not a personal friend. Our present record shows that our men of to-day are equal to any who have gone before them, and the sight of a medal always goes straight to my heart.
I remember one day at the rink a man being introduced to me. He was a very ordinary looking mortal, and after skating together for a short time I quite forgot his existence. A few evenings after I met him at some large affair, and he had seven medals on. I immediately thought him beautiful; he was then Colonel, afterwards Lord Wolesley.
The Quebec Explosion
A MOST terrifying and horrible thing took place xl. whilst I was in Quebec. One of the soldiers had been behaving very badly, had innumerable “C.B.’s” against his name.
One morning as he was leaving his own quarters and going with a file of others down to the Arsenal, he said to his wife, “There will be a blow-up to-day, that will make old-open his eyes.”
That day one of the regiments was having a large picnic. Some of the party had gone on, and I was ready waiting or my escort, when we heard a loud bang, but thought it
was from some blasting going on near at hand, and gave no further thought to it.
1 waited, wondering why I was left, when a neighbor rushed in, white with horror, saying “There has been an explosion at the Arsenal, and the whole town may go. St. John gate has been blown down, and scores of men killed." My first thought was for my brother, who was at his office in the city.
Seizing my hat, 1 rushed off, to see if Grant was safe. As 1 was turning down the nearest corner to his office. I was stopped by our rector, who said, “You cannot possibly go on. The whole of this part of the town is impassable. Sixteen men have been blown to bits, and poor Mahon (the Captain) has been buried in the ruins of the St. .lohn wall and gate.”
lie assured me that my brother’s office had not been shaken, so, feeling a little reassured, I turned to go back home, .lust as I did so I saw a Capt. Mann, and thinking that was the name given me, stopped and held out my hand saying, “Oh, Captain Mann, I am so glad.” “It was not 1,” was the reply. “I wish it was, it is poor Mahon, and he has a wife and two children.”
That horrible day, it can never be forgotten, there was an immense store of gun powder in the Arsenal, and if the flames reached that, all Quebec, or rather the greater part of it, would have been blown up. Of course all the troops in the town were sent to do what they could to help, but the bravest quailed from setting foot on that Glacis. At last, though I suppose the hold-back was almost momentary, Capt. Louis Bradshaw, of the 9th, a Quebecer, who had been home on leave, and who was to embark that evening to rejoin his regiment, seized a hose and with a cheer cried “Come on, boys,” and of course was immediately followed.
It was Capt. Bradshaw’s action which everyone said saved the City. Ah, those old Quebec days!
At last came Confederation, and all the Civil Servants had to leave for Bytown, as Ottawa was then called.
If we had been ordered to Siberia, we could hardly have felt more distressed.
My brother did not go to Ottawa with the rest of his Department as, being Gen. Sir Patrick Macdougall’s private secretary, he accompanied that gentleman to Montreal.
Eighteen months passed before our family party were re-united, and nearly two years after that, before we went to Ottawa, the two happiest and saddest years of my life.
It was while we were in Montreal that Mr. D’Arcy McGee was shot. As my brother was not only a great admirer, but also a personal friend of that statesman, of course he felt his death keenly.
From all I have heard of Mr. McGee, not many better men than he are to be found. A genius, true hearted, loving and kindly to all it was in his power to assist, a mine of learning, it did seem hard that the country should lose a mind like that.
Early Days in “Bytown”
IN 1868, we left Montreal for Ottawa; such a forlorn looking place as “Bytown,” as it was then called, appeared, I can only describe it, in the words of a very young cousin—“It does not look like a town, but the back yard of a town.”
Of course the situation was glorious, and by the time we got there, the beautiful Parliament Buildings were finished, but everything else seemed in a transition
Sir George Bury’s Own Story
ANY one who starts near the bottom and rises •close to the pinnacle of his or her profession has a real story to tell if he (or she) can be prevailed upon to reveal it. Candor, simplicity, philosophy and humor characterize the life story of Sir George Bury, which under the caption “The Making of a Railroad Man” will begin in the January 1 MacLean's, and continue through three generous instalments. Sir George retired, amidst nation-wide speculation, from the vice-presidency of the C. P. R., about five or six years ago. He tells in this remarkably significant narrative how he got h:s foot on the f.rst rung of the ladder, how he fought inch by inch to retain his foothold, how he finally won to the heights; and—vividly and dramatically—why he retired. It is a human document of vigor and power and a constructive message for all Canadians.
stage, and hopelessly ugly, and to add to our woes, before leaving Montreal, I had had a severe shock to my nerves, which brought on an attack of spasmodic hysteria, a kind of nervous prostration, which made me a bore to myself, and everyone I came in contact with.
My cure, however, was effected in a strenuous way. First my brother had typhoid fever, and was ill for seven months. After that, my mother had it, and was delirious for twelve weeks; and in nursing and caring for the two so very dear to me, I grew strong.
How little we have to do with the arranging of our own lives. Step by step, we are led on, guided, helped, our very troubles and sorrows turned into our greatest joys. That at least has been my experience.
Amongst things that I never could understand, was that neither my brother, Grant, nor my cousin, Bertie Stuart, ever showed any wish to marry. Certainly, so far as Grant was concerned, I have to be grateful that he did not, as not many years after we went to live in Ottawa, our dear mother met with such a terrible accident, that for weeks her life was despaired of, and she was a helpless cripple, to the end of her very long life. She was 97 when she died. How often I have given thanks for having beeñ left to care for her. No daughterin-law could have been the same comfort to her that her own child was.
I think it was in 1870, or ’71, that the fire which surrounded Ottawa, and to a very great extent cut us off from the rest of Canada, broke out. That certainly was a time of gloom and sadness; the city was encircled with a pall of smoke, which as darkness and night came on, showed a dull lurid red.
The Great Fire
XJEWS from the adjacent villages was mostly brought -LNl in by refugees, many of whom from being wealthy farmers, now found themselves penniless, as in addition to the loss of their homes, barns, stock, furniture, they had, to save the delay of coming into town, kept all their money in boxes or hiding places at home. The loss to the farmers, and gains to the banks, must have mounted into many hundred thousands of dollars.
At that time we were living in the house on the cliff, overlooking the Ottawa River, with the Chaudière Falls and Rapids to the west of us, and the Parliament Buildings and the river on the east, whilst to the north, we faced Hull and Ironsides. That view was always beautiful to me, more especially when the rafts began coming down, the raftsmen in their picturesque costumes, singing their boating songs as they floated along.
Our next door neighbor was Mr. Herbert O’Meara, a friend and brother official of my brother’s, they having worked together in the same department for many years. Mrs. O’Meara, previous to her second marriage, had been the widow of Capt. the Hon. James Bury, the second son of the Earl of Charleville, who, as Lord Tullamore, had been a friend of my mother and her people when stationed in Toronto. All this, of course, promoted great intimacy, and a friendship which I am grateful to say is as firm as ever.
All during that terrible fire period Mr. Fred Austin, brother of Mrs. O’Meara, would patrol the street until near morning. He used first to go to his sisters, knock at their door and call out “2 a.m. Char. All’s well,” then repeat that cry at ours.
As Parliament was not then in session, the House of Commons was turned into a receiving depot, and day after day we all met, to receive, make over, and distribute, the tons of clothing, provisions, and supplies which poured in for the relief of the sufferers.
Poor Ottawa seemed to be fated to suffer from fire, as besides this one, Mr. Eddy, the owner of the Eddy match and pulp factory, had three very large ones, but the one which, starting near Ironsides, east of Ottawa, on the opposite side of the river, swept round through Hull, and destroyed four miles of the west of the city, was by far the most serious.
That last fire was after my dear brother’s death; for some time I was not uneasy as to our own house, but when I saw blazing roofs of houses being carried down the river, and huge flaming bits of debris, coming into our own back yard, I began to think it time to see about getting my mother away to some place of security; so our dear friend, W. W. Edgar, ran about, to see if a vehicle of any kind could be procured, but not a horse or carriage of any kind could be heard of. All were in requisition. At last Mr. Edgar found a friend who .took my poor mother off, in spite of her strong objections. She went to my cousin, Mrs. J. J. Gormully. I, of course, could not leave my maid servants alone, and all that right we watched place after place go. The saddest to me, was to see the big Roman Catholic Cathedral burning.
With the child-like faith, common to so many of the habitants, and saying that they felt God would not allow His house to fall, many of them carried their valuables there and left them. But their faith was sorely tried, as that Cathedral went; I will never forget Continued on page 75
Continued from page 22
watching the steeple, sway, then fall with a crash.
Society at Government House
WHEN we first went to live in Ottawa, Lord Lisgarwas the Governor-General and although he was doubtless politically the right man in the right place, they, especially Lady Lisgar, were not socially liked, so it can be understood what it meant to Canadian society, when our beloved Queen Victoria sent Lord Dufferin with his delightful family to live amongst us.
I only wish I had even a portion of “His Excellency’s” gift of penmanship, that I could do some justice to people so charming, socially and intellectually. Being brought into contact with them, was an education in high thought and high breeding. They had the gift given to so few, of making those asked by them to Government House, feel that each was a personal guest. Of course at the large state balls invitations were sent out broadcast, every one who had entered a name in the visitors’ book, being asked. On one occasion one good lady, who had not been at any of the previous balls was sitting alone, and to all appearances, unknown. Lady Dufferin, seeing no one was talking to her, crossed the room, and began to speak about the dancers, whereon the good lady drew herself up and in a very freezing tone said “Madame, I have not the honour of your acquaintance.” Instead of resenting the rude speech, Her Excellency only laughed pleasantly and said, “Oh yes, but you have; I am your hostess. I am Lady Dufferin.” and then without appearing to notice the confusion of the poor woman, went on chatting pleasantly, and left her later, feeling happy and comfortable.
That little story is typical of their whole life during the seven years in which Lord Dufferin was Her Majesty’s representative in Canada. Woe betide one of his aides who failed in kindliness or courtesy.
I was at a garden party at Government House when Lord Ava, his eldest son, returned a day or so sooner than he was expected from England. It was delightful to see the welcome that not merely his family and the staff had for him, but the servants, too. All got a hearty handshake. It was impossible not to realize that we were in the midst of a happy united home.
From some cause which I now forget, Ottawa was suffering from a sad financial reverse; the only people who seemed to have any money were the Government employees, and civil servants as a rule are never wealthy.
“Britannia Rules the Waves”
SO LORD DUFFERIN after thinking the state of affairs over, decided to give a large Fancy Dress Ball, realizing what an impetus that would be to trade, and the aftermath proved his wisdom. Money was found, and found in profusion, for the silks, laces, velvets required, and the Ottawa tradeslfien were set on their feet again. My aunt, Mrs. Grant Powell, being the granddaughter of one of Queen Charlotte’s maids of honor, had a quantity of jewellery given her by members of the royal family, and at that ball Margaret Powell went as Queen Elizabeth, all her jewels having been given her great-grandmother by George III, Queen Charlotte and their children.
Amongst the guests was one lady, who possessed a very stately figure, and a
very sternly marked face, and she went to that ball in a wonderfully correct and handsome costume as “Britannia.” Lord Dufferin and his household appeared as “Francis I and his Court.” As the stately lady went forward to make her curtsey, “King Francis” when extending his hand looked over Britannia’s shoulder at her husband, who was following her, and said, “The waves?”
In that household “Britannia” was always suspected of being the better man, so that title of “The Waves” followed the husband for the rest of his days.
At last Lord Dufferin’s term of office had to come to an end, in spite of Canada caring for him so much that at the request of our government he was left here for two extra years.
Lady Dufferin disliked leaving very very much. Her brother, Capt. Hamilton said to me, that he wished people would not speak about it to her, as she had difficulty in restraining her tears. She had had more home life in Canada, more of her husband’s companionship, than his busy political life had left him free to give her, for many a previous day.
Our next Governor-General was Lord Lome (later the Duke of Argyll), the husband of our Princess Louise, and they, too, were both very much beloved, but as my mother, just after their arrival, met with the terrible accident which left her a cripple for life, I never even once went down to Government House, although, thanks to my beloved Ottawa young people, I used to be kept well posted in all the gaiety of the day. Now and then I would attend a “Drawing Room” and make my curtsey.
A Vice-Regal Threat
TN THOSE days one of the great A amusements was going down the river on a raft, “Shooting the Slides,” as it was called. A friend of ours was taking the vice-regal party down on one occasion. There were one or two bridges across the rapids, which the rafts went under, and Her Royal Highness said to her husband, “Lome, do bob your head!” He only laughed but did not move. At the second bridge, again he was told to “bob” and again only laughed. As they were coming to the third, H.R.H. took up her parasol, and said, “Look here, young man, if you don’t bob your head this time, I will give you a whack with this.” So I suppose he did.
Our dear princess met with a sad accident, which forced her to leave Ottawa. She was going down to the House one evening, and from some cause the horses took fright and ran away; the carriage was upset, and the aide, Col. McNeil, was thrown onto her, forcing her head against one of the glass windows, and portions of the glass got in her car, and for many, many months after that she suffered dreadfully.
Lord Lome told Mrs. Lewis, our archbishop’s wife, that he was most anxious about her. He said that though she wrote by each mail, she seemed unable to carry out an idea, would begin to say something, then leave that and continue with something else; but we heard that eventually she recovered.
In the fourth and concluding article of one of fhe most interesting autobiographical series ever published in Cqnada, Miss Seymour will tell in her inimitable way of remembrance of her first railway train, the first sperm lamp (which took the place of dips) and the invention of the telephone, as well as some more interesting sidelights upon the statesmen and soldiers and their women, who made the Dominion.