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A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 



A HOME-HELP IN 
CANADA 



BY 



ELLA C. SYKES 

AUTHOR OF "THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE' 
"PERSIA AND ITS PEOPLE," ETC. 



WITH A PORTRAIT 



LONDON 

SMITH, ELDER & CO., 15 WATERLOO PLACE 

1912 

[All rights reserved] , >- ^ 



F 

50IG 
3 
SS 



Pi land by BAU.AHTVNB, HAK*OM A- Co 
At it R-lUniyo. ?,, 



DEDICATION 

This book is dedicated to the many friends, 

British and Canadian, known and unknown, 

whose kindness speeded me on my way 

during my never-to-be-forgotten 

tour in the Dominion. 



PREFACE 

I WAS greatly impressed by a letter in The Times, 
that put in forcible words the hard lot of many of 
the million surplus women in the United Kingdom. 
It showed how the labour of educated women was 
too often a drug in the market, and how difficult 
nay, often impossible it was for a girl to earn enough 
to support herself comfortably and lay by for old 
age, and as a remedy for this state of things it men- 
tioned the openings in the Overseas Dominions. 

As the ideas in the letter appealed strongly to me, 
I resolved to go out to Canada in order to investigate 
what openings there might be in the Dominion for 
educated women. Shortly before I started, it was 
pointed out to me by a candid onlooker that I should 
gain far more information if I would go as a home- 
help for part of my tour, thus getting a practical 
insight into the conditions of life. 

I confess that the idea was distasteful to me, for 
I had had little experience in the domestic arts, 



viii A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

though I had undergone some "roughing" wh-n 
travelling in Persia, and had always been strong. 
But, as the answer to my objections was that "evi- 
dently I wished merely to dip my fingers into the 
water, and shirked taking a plunge that might be of 
real use to the women I wanted to assist," I decided 
to go, and am now deeply grateful for the somewhat 
unpalatable advice, as I have learned so much from 
having followed it. 

This book is the plain, unvarnished record of what 

saw during a six months' tour in 1911. Practically 
all my remarks apply to Western Canada, as my 
experiences were mostly limited to that part of the 
Dominion, and must not be regarded as typical of 
the Eastern provinces. 

I wish it to be understood that, when writing of tin 
five posts that I took as home-help, I have altered all 
the names of those with whom I came into com 
and have tried to conceal the locuhti. * in \vhirh th< v 
lived, being most anxious not to give offence in a land 
with tfreat kindness. 

I was also careful to let it be known at the on 

I was simply a " tempera iv," and I always 
settled beforehand th<- duration of my engagements. 
But, so badly is tin- hm,-h,-lp ne.-ded in Canada, that 



PREFACE ix 

my services were only refused once or twice, by mis- 
tresses who most naturally wished to be "settled" 
with their domestics. 

From first to last, none of my employers had any 
suspicion that I was under no necessity to earn my 
livelihood, and I trust that my investigations may 
prove useful to girls who wish to try their fortune in 
the Dominion. 

My own experiences are unattractive, because I was 
an incompetent amateur, trained to do nothing pro- 
perly that the country wanted. But I do not hesitate 
to say, that if I were obliged to earn my living, were 
proficient in some useful art, and knew what I know 
now, I should not hesitate for a moment between the 
wide, free life of Canada and my probable lot in over- 
crowded England ! 

It is well for a woman to know, in Canadian par- 
lance, what she will be "up against " if she crosses 
the Atlantic, much of the literature treating of life in 
the Dominion being so roseate-hued that the fact that 
WORK, and usually very hard work, is the order of 
the day there, is sometimes ignored. The girl who is a 
failure in Great Britain will most certainly not be a 
success in the Dominion. 

Canada is a Land of Opportunity for the young, 



x A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

strong, and resourceful, who can cheerfully adapt 
themselves to entirely new conditions of life, in whi< h 
they must divest themselves of many an English 
prejudice, and not object, for example, as one girl 
did, to the master of the house sitting at table in ln> 
shirt-sleeves ! 

In order to succeed, a girl must be skilled in some- 
thing that the country needs, such as teaching, steno- 
graphy, dressmaking, poultry, or vegetable-raising, a 
knowledge of the domestic arts being absolutely essi-n- 
ti.il. I do not recommend an educated woman to 
take up home-helping as a profession, save in certain 
districts, as that calling is too often only another nam 
for maid-of-all-work or drudge, 5 a month b 
usually the highest salary for incessant work and 
little relaxation. But if she can cook, bak , and 
wash, a girl need never starve, and a few months of 
domestic work will not be time wasted, as sh< will 
learn the excellent Canadian methods of doing things, 
and, what is perhaps more important, the Canadian 
point of view, that will help her considerably wh-n 
she starts on work more to her taste. 

But she must not expect to receive wages and give 
nothing in return, somewhat in the spirit of a girl who 
wrote to me lately to inquire wlu-thcr she could y. 



PREFACE xi 

post as home-help " where the woman of the house 
did all the hard work " ! 

Canadians are, as a rule, remarkably capable, and 
have " no use " for the incompetent, who will find 
the Dominion a hard country, with few to care whether 
they sink or swim. 

I ardently desire that British women shall help to 
build up the Empire, and the sisters of the men who 
are doing such splendid pioneer work in the Dominion 
are surely fitted for the task. 

But they must realise clearly what is demanded of 
them in a new country if they are to do their part 
worthily across the Atlantic. 

E. C. S. 

Sept. 1912. 






CONTENTS 



CHAP. PAGE 

I. THE START FOR CANADA .... I 

II. SEEKING WORK AT WINNIPEG . . 1 8 

III. MY FIRST POST AS A HOME-HELP . .41 

IV. TRAVEL THROUGH WOOD AND PRAIRIE . 6$ 

v. AT A WOMEN'S HOSTEL .... 88 

VI. ON A DAIRY-FARM IO8 

VII. FROM CALGARY TO THE PACIFIC . . .130 

VIII. LIFE ON A CHICKEN RANCH IN BRITISH 

COLUMBIA 152 

IX. MY THIRD POSITION AS HOME- HELP . .171 

X. A VISIT TO AN ALBERTA FARM . . . 1 86 

XI. AT WORK IN A TOWN 2OO 

XII. OPENINGS IN CANADA FOR EDUCATED 

WOMEN 222 

XIII. ON THE PRAIRIE DURING THE HARVEST . 243 

XIV. EASTWARDS AND HOMEWARDS . . .284 



xiii 



NOTE 

BY kind permission of the Colonial Intelligence League for 
Educated Women (Office, 36 Tavistock Place, W.C.), I have 
published a few extracts from the letters of girls who have gone 
out under its auspices, and to whom it has given valuable aid in 
finding work. 

This Society aims at supplying reliable information to educated 
women wishing to take up work in our Overseas Dominions. 

In Canada, its Representative at Victoria, British Columbia, 
helps them to get suitable posts, while various voluntary Com- 
mittees in other parts of the Dominion undertake the same work. 

As this book goes to press, the League is about to start a 
Settlement in British Columbia, in which women may be trained 
to the conditions of Canadian life before taking up land on their 
own account. 



A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

CHAPTER I 

THE START FOR CANADA 

IT was towards the end of April when I left Euston 
for Canada, and I felt rather lonely at the idea of a 
six months' tour without any travelling companion, 
nor did I relish the thought of a second-class passage 
with its cramped cabin accommodation. A lively 
girl shared the railway compartment with me, a girl 
whose crowd of relatives engaged in seeing her off 
almost besieged the carriage ; and though they pre- 
vented me from saying many last words to my own 
friends, yet the general effect of all the laughter and 
chat was certainly cheering. 

When we boarded the fine Empress steamer, nearly 
five hundred passengers sorted themselves in the 
second class, and I hastened to find the cabin that 
had been allotted to me, being far from pleased when 
I discovered that it was on the lowest tier, lying 



2 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

almost on the water-line. Though it had a port- 
hole, yet I was not permitted to have it open, and 
as luggage was piled on the three other berths, I 
waited with some anxiety to see my fellow-passengers. 
Two nice-looking girls made their appearance shortly, 
and we " sized " each other up in the manner of worm n, 
the result being luckily favourable on both sides. A 
servant-girl of the " slavey " type, going out to her 
brother in Vancouver, was the fourth of the party, 
but she was such a trying room-mate when sea-sick, 
that after the first night the steward took pity upon 
us and removed her to another cabin. 

With the exception of the closed porthole (a big 
exception to me), there was nothing whatever to 
complain of on board, as far as I was concerned. My 
cabin companions could not have been more con- 
>oderate ; and as we were all bad sailors, we had a 
good deal to test us during two days of enforced cap- 
tivity in our berths days that made us feel more 
lik- <'!<! frimds than mere acquaintances. 

Certainly no one could desire a nicer stewardess 
than the one who supplied us liberally with oranges 
during our sufferings, and sometimes the remarks of 
the steward to other passengers gave us food for 
amusement. He thoroughly disapproved of four 



THE START FOR CANADA 3 

youths who occupied a cabin next to ours, and one 
rough day we heard him say to them : 

" What, hungry again ! Why, you've just had 
bacon and eggs and bread and butter and tea for your 
breakfasts. If you're hungry like that you ought to 
get up and go on deck ; you've no business to be 
lying here with such appetites." 

" I wonder whether we shall ever get upstairs 
again and enjoy ourselves ? " said one of my room- 
mates plaintively, as the second day dragged its 
weary length to a close, and it seemed hardly likely, 
with the big vessel pitching and tossing and rolling 
as she was. But all things come to an end, and next 
day, fortified by salt baths, we struggled up on deck 
and began to make friends with our fellow-passengers. 
I came across one woman who was an excellent sailor, 
and she scoffed at the idea that we had had rough 
weather, remarking, "I never call it bad unless you 
stand on your head ! " Everyone was in high spirits. 
Many were going to Canada for the first time, some 
having only the vaguest idea of what they intended 
to do when they got there ; but one and all were full 
of hope and optimism. 

A young girl, who sat opposite to me at table, inter- 
ested me considerably. She was quite alone, but had 



4 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

a boundless confidence in her own capabilities, and 
^' was actually going right across the great continent 
to make a home in Vancouver for her parents and 
their other children. She had no introductions, and 
apparently not a single friend in the whole Dominion ; 
and not only did she intend to get work for herself 
as a stenographer, but she was commissioned to buy 
a house and get everything in readiness for the rest 
of her family, who would follow her in a year's time. 
There was a touch of the pathetic in the girl's absolute 
certainty that she would " make good " at once, and 
I wished that I could help her, but could only give 
her the address of the Y.W.C.A. (Young Women's 
Christian Association) in Vancouver, and impress 
upon her to put up there, or at some lodging approved 
of by the Society. I never saw her again, but I fancy 
that she was of the type that succeeds. 

A middle-aged couple with a charming dog were 
pleasant acquaintances, and told me how they intended 
to make their fortunes in fruit-farming. I was cer- 
tainly ignorant enough of such matters, but it occurred 
to me that people who had never done a day's manual 
work in the whole course of their lives, and who had 
no idea of the theory, much less of the practice, of fruit- 
fanning, would be at a decided disadvantage ; and, 



THE START FOR CANADA 5 

as it turned out afterwards, my presentiment was 
unfortunately true. 

Canada is eminently the Land of Youth and Opti- 
mism, but it is also in very truth the Land of Work, 
and English people sometimes are apt to lose sight 
of this side of the shield. An old man, over seventy, 
with a young wife and several small children, was 
constantly patrolling the deck, and I was aghast 
when I was informed that he also was about to try 
his luck at fruit-farming. The Dominion is cer- 
tainly no land for the old and weak ; old-age 
pensions and workhouses do not exist, and there 
would probably be no charitable society to busy itself 
about this helpless-looking family. Though there are 
kindly hearts in plenty, yet Canadians are engrossed 
with their own affairs, and would probably be annoyed 
at such feckless folk coming out to a new country. 
Fortunately these were the exceptions, and the great 
majority of passengers on our crowded promenade- 
deck were young and vigorous. As there was a 
shortage of chairs, I usually went up early to secure 
seats for my room-mates and myself from the sailor 
who had charge of them ; and if the men wanted to 
rest or read, they were obliged to do as best they could 
on the deck. But repose was not much in their line, 



6 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

and all day long we had displays of skipping and "cock- 
fighting," and now and again there would be tugs-of- 
war with the first-class passengers, in which the latter 
were invariably beaten, to our unconcealed joy. It 
was a standing grievance with the second-class that 
the first-class passengers had such a liberal allowance 
of deck space, part of which they never used, while 
we were so crowded that there was barely room to 
walk about at all. 

I spent much of my time in chatting with Enp;li>h 
people who were returning to the Dominion after a 
winter spent in the Old Country. " We could never 
live in England now, after having been in Canada," 
was the universal verdict ; and again and again I 
heard the comment, " The life over there is so much 
bigger." An Englishman, who had been out some 
dozen years, pointed to his small boy with pride as 
a "real young Canadian " ; but his wife gave me the 
first hint of the unceasing work that, as a rule, falls 
to the farm* rV wives. 

is what she said to me one day as we sat 
together on det k : 

M My husband (we weren't married then) wrote to 
me to come out to him at Winnipeg, as he had got a 
h"inc for me at last, and I left my own people \\ith 



THE START FOR CANADA 7 

any amount of things for our new house, as Fred had 
told me how dear everything was across the Atlantic," 
and she laughed a little at the remembrance. 

" Well, he met me all right, and we were married ; s 
but before we went off to the prairie I had to do some 
shopping in Winnipeg, and I remember asking him 
what was the colour of our bedroom paper, as I wanted 
to get a toilet-set to match it. He didn't say much 
then, but I shall never forget my feelings when I found 
our new home was just a one-roomed wooden shack, 
divided in two with a curtain, and not papered at 
all ! It was an awful shock to me, I can tell you. 
Of course I couldn't unpack my boxes, and I found 
that I had to do the cooking and washing for three 
men besides my husband, and was left alone all day 
long. How I got through that first year I hardly 
know," and a wistful look came over her worn face. 
" After a time we had party after party putting up 
at our farm for the night, men, sometimes with their 
families, coming along the trail to take up home- 
steads, and some of them were dirty beyond words ! 
They left things behind them, and one day I found 
the house crawling ugh ! " and she shuddered with 
disgust. " It seemed to put the finishing touch to 
things, and I went to bed for a whole day, and cried 



8 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

and cried, and just longed to talk it over with 
some woman who would understand and not laugh 
at me." 

" Poor thing 1 " I murmured sympathetically, and 
she smiled brightly, and continued, 

" Oh well, I saw that it was no use crying over spilt 
milk, and I must do the best I could, so next day I set 
to work and got the upper hand of those horrible 
insects after a time, though we were never rid of them 
entirely." 

14 But now that you are well off your life is much 
easier, isn't it ? " I inquired, and was surprised when 
she shook her head. 

" Do you know, I had less work when I began 
my married life as a poor woman than I have now," 
and at my exclamation she continued, " All these 
farmers have a perfect passion for getting more and 
more land. They will sacrifice everything to that, 
and the house and its comforts have to come last. 
My husband buys every acre he can get, and of course 
has to engage hired men to work his farms ; and the 
more men there are, the more work it is f<>r a woman 
to prepare three hot meat meals a day and do all the 
washing-up after them, not to speak of washing the 
clothes and keeping the house clean.' 




THE START FOR CANADA 9 

I began to understand, as I listened to her, that the ^ 
great scarcity of women in Canada is the reason why 
a prosperous farmer's wife who could afford a trip 
to .England with her husband and child thus com- 
plained of being overworked. 

I also saw that a life such as she described would 
be far harder to an Englishwoman, fresh from a com- 
fortable home, than to a Canadian, and I was con- 
.ed in this when, later on, one of these latter told 
that she loved the prairie, and was sorry to leave 
it when her husband got a good post in a town. " A 
woman on the prairie can help the men in so many 
ways," she said, "and my bread got to be the talk 
of the district. The men used always to be begging 
me to give them a loaf when I was baking." 

There was a nice English girl on board, who had 
constituted herself protectress of two poor children, 
a boy and a girl, aged six and four respectively, going 
out under the care of the Canadian-Pacific Railway to 
their parents in Montana. Miss Roberts washed and 
dressed these waifs every morning, played games 
with them, and was quite a mother to them on board 
ship. She was on her way West to marry her " young y 
man," who had written home for her to join him, 
and I hoped that she might have the good luck that 



io A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

she so richly deserved. I used to amuse myself with 
a lively little boy, whose mother was a martyr to sea- 
sickness, feeling hopelessly ill even when the ocean was 
quite calm ; and one day she inquired where I had 
left my children, and was surprised to hear that I 
was single. 

" You always look so happy," she said, " that I felt 
sure you must be married." This reasoning amused 
me, and I was more amused when she added, after 
a moment's reflection, " Perhaps you are so contented 
because you are free and can do what you like ? " 
This remark reminds me that nearly every girl on 
board had her mind set on matrimony. Some acquaint- 
ances confided to me their hope of being married in 
Canada, where husbands were said to be a drug in the 
market ; and I got rather horrified to observe how 
free-and-easy became the relations of the men and 
maidens, the manners of girls who seemed at first to 
be "pinks of propriety," becoming what I imagine 
is the fashion in the servants' hall. Our old coach- 
man once told me that a man in his class could \valk 
out with a girl for a year and no one would think 
anything of it, but if it came to "waisting," as he 
expressed it, this was a sign to all and sundry that 
the couple were engaged ! According to this theory 



8 

' 



THE START FOR CANADA n 

there should have been many betrothals on our vessel, 
as couples sat in the closest proximity, and embraces 
were occasionally exchanged in public. Much coal grit 
fell on the deck from the funnel, and this needed a 
good deal of male help if it got into a girl's eye. One 
young man on board was really most clever at curling 
he eyelid up over a match and then removing any 
irritating particle, and having watched him do this 
once or twice, I myself experimented later on during 
a railway journey with complete success on a little 
boy who had been suffering for some hours with an 
inflamed eye. 

It got colder as we neared the land, and we had 
the excitement of icebergs in the distance ; the air 
was like champagne, making me long to walk for 
miles, and infecting the men and boys to such an 
extent, that they tore about the deck chasing one 
another to the imminent danger of quiet passers-by. 
Everyone was as good-humoured as possible, and 
there was plenty of give and take in fact, I never 
heard a cross word all the time I was on the vessel. 
Most of us were hazy as to our geography when the 
rugged coast-line of the Dominion hove in sight. Was 
that land Newfoundland or Nova Scotia ? Were we 
to thread the straits of Belle Isle, and could that coast 



12 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

be Anticosti ? One ni^ht we were all roused by a 
fearful grinding sound as the ship tried to force her 
way through ice, and the sea was apparently one mass 
of floes and ice-hummocks next morning, a wonderful 
sight, and making me understand more fully the books 
on Arctic travel. In fact, so beset were we that our 
steamer had to back out and then turn, in order to 
find a channel of clear water, thus wasting many hours. 
Our steward told me that early in the mornini 
had observed seals on the floes, but there was no life 
of any kind visible when I made my appearance on 
deck We were all afraid that we should be dis- 
embarked at Halifax, and it was a great relief later 
on to hear that we were heading for Quebec, and that 
night the pink sunset flushed the blocks of ice with 
which the sea was flecked, and showed us here and 
there a fishing-boat, boldly making its way along what 
seemed a perilous path, far from the long, grey, snow- 
flecked shores. 

The last day on board was a mixture of excitem- nt 
and fatigue. No deck-chairs were provided, so we 
tramped up and down more than usual, surveying the 
somewhat dreary snow-covered hills bordering the 
dulf of St. Lawrence. All our boxes had been dragged 
upstairs and from the hold, and had been piled, one 



THE START FOR CANADA 13 

above another, on the long side-decks in readiness for 
the Customs officials, and at Rimouski everyone 
hung over the side, eager to see these latter and the 
doctor and pilot come on board. From that moment 
we were all on our feet, either waiting in a long 
queue to be interviewed by the doctor, or making 
herculean efforts to get boxes to the front and opened 
for the inspection of the Customs officers. My cabin 
trunk was in a place easy of access, and I wished to 
engage the attention of one of the officials. " Don't 
have him on any account," said a man near me, who 
looked upon me as a friend, if not a relative, as he 
had just discovered from the name on my box that 
we were both called Sykes. " Why, he is the man 
who pulls out everything, and has been dreadful to 
all the first-class ladies." However, I decided to risk 
it, as I was anxious to have my things examined, and 
in a moment the official ferreted in my box and pulled 
out a toque. " How much had I paid for it ? Was 
it new ? Had I any new dresses ? " I answered him 
truthfully, and was rather puzzled when he came 
upon a little box of cough-lozenges, which he opened 
and examined carefully. I could not imagine what 
he wanted, until he remarked, " The l ad.' says these 
are good for tonsilitis. I was laid up for three months 



14 A HOME HELP IN CANADA 

in hospital with it last winter, and my throat is feeling 
rather bad to-day." " You are welcome to half the 
box," I replied, rather amused at his coolness. But 
he answered, " No, I will only take three," and slip- 
ping one into his mouth then and there, he departed. 
" Well, he does know how to make himself at home 1 " 
was the remark of my namesake, as I went off for my 
interview with the doctor, who by this time was not 
nearly so beset as at first. 

" What is your name ? Where are you going ? 
Have you ever been to Canada before ? " were all 
the questions asked of me, and I was given my paper, 
and later on returned to the luggage to see whether 
I could get my second box examined. It was in 
another part of the deck, and an interested bystander 
informed me that the official about to do it was a 
"regular little devil." Certainly he seemed in a rage, 
and the way he began to burrow in my trunk was by 
ueans reassuring. " Is that new ? " he demanded, 
as a white alpaca came to the top. " No, I have worn 
it for two seasons," was my answer. " Well, you are 
a careful dresser," was the retort, to the joy of tlu 
bystanders, some of whom were disagreeably inquisitive. 
I told him how many new dresses and hats \v< n in 
the box, and he suddenly appeared to become con- 



THE START FOR CANADA 15 

vinced of my good faith, and said half-shamefacedly, 
" Some of the ladies try to tip me and prevent me 
from doing my work. Often the best-looking ladies 
have the worst hearts." To this I made no reply, 
and to my surprise he waxed quite communicative, 
saying what a hard job this work was, and how he 
must be at it till midnight, and then have to begin 
again at six o'clock the next morning, until I felt quite 
sorry for him. 

At last the lights of Quebec came into view (what 
a pity it was that we could not approach one of the 
most beautifully situated cities in the world by day- 
light !), and we of the second-class exchanged many 
good-byes. The first-class left the steamer before 
anyone else, and as we saw them getting off, a young 
man remarked to me bitterly, " That is one of the 

my privileges that first-class people have " ; and 

felt rather mean as I retorted, "Well, I suppose i 
they have a right to it, as they pay for it." 

Yes, money does make a difference, and as I drove 
off to the charming Hotel Frontenac in the darkness, 
I was delighted to think that I should have two or 
three days in comfort before I set to work as a home- 
help. Food, service, and all were excellent on board, 
but, being a bad sailor, I dislike the sea, and beyond 



16 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

everything I thirsted to have the luxury of a room 
to myself, and not be present "at a party all day 
long," as a lady once described life on board ship. 

I shall never forget my glimpse of Quebec. It was 
the end of April, and hot as summer, yet patches of 
snow lay about in corners. The views from the 
famous Dufierin Terrace were superb, a panorama to 
take one's breath away, with the St. Lawrence and 
Charles Rivers, and the historic island of Orleans, off 
which the English fleet once lay for so many months. 
It was delightful to wander up and down the streets 
of what looked like an old French provincial town, 
the illusion heightened by hearing French spoken on 
every side. Though several fine public buildings and 
the trams give an up-to-date air to the city, yet the 
massive walls and fortress-like gateways, the citadel 
and ramparts take one back to the days of the " Grand 
Monarque." The number of Roman Catholic chur< 
and convents surprise the visitor, and the strong 
Roman Catholic element, I was told, bars progress in 
many directions. For example, if a good play or 
opera be performed in the city, it is no uncommon 
thing for the priests to find some fault with the work 
in question and to forbid their flock to patronise it, 
as in the case of Carmen, which was once'pla\vl 



THE START FOR CANADA 17 

to a wellnigh empty house owing to clerical inter- 
ference. 

The climax of my visit was the time passed on 
the Heights of Abraham, where the column with its 
inscription, " Here died Wolfe victorious, Sept. isth, 
1759," brought vivid memories to my mind of a 
man who was the very incarnation of patriotism, and 
who won for us the great Dominion, on the threshold 
of which I was standing. 



CHAPTER II 

SEEKING WORK AT WINNIPEG 

IT was early in May whrn I travelled from Montn al 
to Winnipeg in the luxury of the Pullman car, and 
about ten o'clock on the third night the negro porter 
deposited my grip and hold-all upon the platform, and I 
was asked by a couple of red-capped boys whether I were 
not going to the big Canadian-Pacific Hotel. " No," 
I replied, "but will you take my things to the Home 
of Welcome ? " At this they made themselves scarce, 
and I heard afterwards that girls bound for tin- 
Home seldom gave them a tip, and this disagree- 
able experience accounted for their desertion. So I 
had to drag my belongings into the big waiting-room, 
crowded with men, until I captured another small boy, 
offering him a quarter (is.) if he would help me, which 
he did somewhat reluctantly. 

Apparently the nearest way to the Home was across 
many lines of rail, and I devoutly hoped that we 
should not be knocked down in the darkness by the 
trains that seemed to be running in all directions, 

18 



SEEKING WORK AT WINNIPEG 19 

the perpetual clanging of their big engine-bells rather 
confusing than directing my steps. 

At last we reached a frame-built house with a little 
verandah, and I was kindly received and shown up- 
stairs to the one " single " room ; for I had written 
to the Matron beforehand, saying that I was coming 
to Winnipeg in search of work, and would gladly pay 
extra for the privilege of a bedroom to myself. It 
was five dollars (i) a week, including my board, the 
other inmates paying three and a half dollars, as they 
had to share rooms. 

Next morning a dressing-bell clanged at half-past 
seven, but I was up half an hour earlier in order to 
avail myself of the bathroom undisturbed, and at 
eight o'clock descended to a breakfast of porridge, 
tea, toast, butter, and marmalade ; on other mornings 
we had bacon, and sometimes salt fish. I found that 
my table-companions were mostly of the servant 
class, some rather rough members of society ; but the 
Matron 'whose kindness to me from first to last made 
my life in the Home almost pleasant, presided, and 
led the conversation with admirable tact. She inter- 
viewed me after the meal, and I wrote my name in 
her register, and explained that I wanted a post on 
the prairie as home-help, but that I was neither com- 



20 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

petent nor experienced. She looked at me rather 
sadly as she said, " What a pity it is that English- 
women are taught to do nothing properly," and I 
agreed with her most heartily. She did her best to 
help me, and I went to the Secretary of the Y.W.C.A., 
who advised me to put an "ad.," as they call it, into 
the most widely read newspaper. This I did, and 
worded it thus : 

" Educated Englishwoman, inexperienced, wishes 
to assist mistress of farm in housework." 

Besides this, a lady, one of those who are the world's 
helpers, was extraordinarily kind in trying to get me 
work suited to my limited capacity, and I studied 
the advertisements assiduously, but found that only 
general servants were required in the town, and that 
on the farms the mistresses demanded competence in 
baking, laundry, and dairy-work, not to speak of 
ordinary cooking and scrubbing. 

One morning the Matron said that she had heard 
of a possible post for me, and I made my way to a 
neat wooden house in the city. A pleasant-faced, dis- 
hevelled woman, clad in a collarlcss blouse, and with her 
skirt sagging, opened the door and ushered me into 
a well-furnished parlour. She wished to engage me 



SEEKING WORK AT WINNIPEG 21 
for her sister, a mother of four children, and expecting 
her fifth to arrive shortly. 

My work would be to cook, wash, and clean for the 
household, and keep an eye on the children, and for 
this, to me, herculean task I was offered only fifteen 
dollars (3) a month, as I was inexperienced. The 
sister had been a Salvation Army captain, and had 
had to discharge her last help because she was always 
"running after the men"! I suppose my inter- 
viewer did not think that this would be my failing, 
for she urged me to accept the situation. " You are 
real strong," she said, "and if you will only launch 
right in you will have a lovely home." I knew my 
many limitations too well to venture to follow her 
advice, but we shook hands warmly at parting, and 
she called after me as I went down the street to change 
my mind and try ! 

As I walked back through the wide thoroughfares of 
hustling, bustling Winnipeg, I felt that Canada is a 
hard place for women who have brought out nothing 
that the country wants, and was depressed at my 
inability to cope with the circumstances in which I 
had placed myself, wondering, not for the first time, 
whether I were not a fool to have started on thisJ 
absurd adventure. But it would not do to show 



22 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

the white feather so early in the day, though the next 
posts offered to me, the one to be maid-of-all-work 
in a town doctor's family, and the other to be house- 
keeper to a bachelor, were not such as I could accept, 
and only increased my sense of failure. 

The Home was not calculated to raise my spirits, 
and I felt ashamed of myself for criticising the food 
and the company of some of those who ate it with 
me. For one thing, I missed the fruit and vegetables 
to which I had always been accustomed they are 
terribly dear in Winnipeg; I found the meat here 
and throughout Canada very tough, as a rule, and at 
first I disliked having tea with every meal. I would 
have drunk water gladly, but had been specially 
warned in England not to touch it in Winnipeg, though 
later on I did so, when I discovered that there was a 
patent filter of the most hygienic type screwed on to 
one of the taps in the kit dim. All the inmates of 
the Home would have to find other lodgings before 
V long, as a big band of girl-immigrants was expected 
:n England. These are lodged free for twenty-four 
hours, the Government subsidising the Home for that 
purpose, and fifty girls could be packed at a pinch 
into the big room at the top of the house. This 
innunt grant (I could have taken advantage of 



SEEKING WORK AT WINNIPEG 23 

it myself) is occasionally abused, and I was told of a 
case in which a well-to-do Englishwoman and her 
two daughters actually got free board and lodging 
before proceeding on their way west ! 

I soon became friendly with several of the inmates 
of the Home, many of whom confided their affairs to d 
me with the utmost frankness, and took a kindly 
interest in my hunt for work, being greatly surprised, 
however, that I wished to go on a farm, where the 
life was, so they said, far harder than in the towns. 
One delicate girl, who had been a book-keeper in 
England, and who had imagined that she was going 
to make her fortune in the Dominion, told me that 
she had had nothing but poor posts and overwork 
since she left her home. Her first place was in a shop, 
where she worked all day long at book-keeping, and at 
night slept in the store, in company with a bulldog 
that guarded the safe 1 

Another, who went out as a general servant, com- ? 
plained bitterly of a late mistress, who had belonged 
originally to Fanny Low's own class. This woman 
was in the habit of giving large dinner parties, and 
on one occasion, when the guests had departed and 
midnight had struck, she commanded her overworked 
" slavey " to scrub the kitchen floor. This order 



24 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

made the proverbial \v>im M turn," and Fanny 
notice and at last got her release, but not before lu-r 
health had been undermined. 

Irish Biddy, whose hair was apparently n< 
brushed, and whose brogue was so strong as to be 
almost unintelligible to me, seemed to be in a 
petual state of taking situations and throwing tin m 
up, when she would return to the hostel and indulge 
in floods of vituperation against the unfortunate woman 
who had had the ill-luck to engage her. Once I heard 
her say at table that she never quarrelled, but her 
opposite neighbour retorted immediately, " When you 
have a bad break on, Biddy, and begin to curse and 
swear, there's no one in the world that can put up 
with you." As I was informed on good authority 
that Biddy could not make toast properly, mud: 
cook a potato, I felt sorry for her various cm pi 
Many of the inmates of the host. 1 \\. re fond of run- 
ning down the Canadians \vh..m they looked ujx.n il 
merciless taskini-tn>, B, and apparently f-\v of them 
wished to give a fair return for wages which certainly 
were double, if not trrble, what they would ha\v 
received in England. ( )iu reason for tin nism 

was that British servant^ a IT u>u.illv ^nalMs. and 
do not grasp that in Canada they must turn their 
hands to anything, and be cook, house-parlourmaid, 



SEEKING WORK AT WINNIPEG 25 

washerwoman, and perhaps baker and dairymaid all 
in one ; and another reason is that they have the 
haziest ideas as to the conditions of life that prevail 
in the Dominion. 

One pretty English girl told me of her experiences. />, 
She had come out after reading some attractive litera- 
ture about the good time that a home-help is sup- 
posed to have in the country, and on the voyage had 
hired herself to a farmer and his wife for the very 
small sum (as wages go here) of seven dollars (i, 8s.) 
a month. Once they had got her on to the prairie , 
they worked her all day, and gave her little, if any, ; 
relaxation. She had expected to have been taken 
drives with her employers, but they always went off 
without her, sometimes leaving her alone for two or 
three days with the hired men, and she was not really 
treated as one of the family. On one occasion she 
visited a friend on a neighbouring farm, and lost her 
way on the prairie, and would have been out all night 
if the barking of a dog had not guided her to a home- 
stead, where the inmates, with true Canadian hospi- 
tality, put her up. When she got home the next day, 
she discovered that her employers had not made the 
slightest effort to find her, and having had enough 
of the way in which they scolded her if she did not 
do her work to their liking, she decided to leave. 



26 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

But this she had great difficulty in doing, as the 
fanner and his wife asserted that she had promised 
to serve them for a year ; and though she stoutly 
denied this, she could hardly get away, and had even 
more trouble in obtaining the wages due to her. This 
experience is a rare one, Canadians being, as a rule, 
most kind to their employees ; but it shows how un- 
wise it is for young girls to venture alone into a strange 
country instead of putting themselves under the 
protection of the societies that have been formed to 
help them, such as the British Women's Emigration 
Society, which sends out so good a stamp of girls, that 
the Matron told me that she only knew of two cases 
that had been real failures out of the hundreds with 
which she had had to do. Mary Black was, I frar, 

/A of rather too independent a character, for she refused 

to take a post that the Matron pressed upon her, and 

tr went off to a small hotel as waitress. Here she had 

to share a room with four others, two of the girls being 

^ Galicians of such unpleasant habits that she gave up 
the situation in a very short time, and was thankful 
to take the one that ^he had despised before. 

But these were not the only inmates of the H<>m-. 
Two charming Englishwoman, who had been gover- 
nesses, and who had made up their minds to try tlu-ir 



SEEKING WORK AT WINNIPEG 27 

fortune together in the Dominion, stayed here for a 
few days, and I shall not soon forget their radiant 
faces as they came to tell me that they had been 
engaged as waitresses at the Hudson Bay tea-rooms, 
where the Matron and I repaired next day to wish 
them good luck. The hours were not long ; they had 
installed themselves in a "rooming-house," and had 
all sorts of schemes for making money in various 
ways, plans which, I trust, have been carried out 
successfully by these brave-hearted women. 

My sympathy was also roused by a young girl who 
had come out with a sister, a mere child about fifteen. 
The elder girl had acted and sung in public, and was 
most hopeful about getting work ; but, as she ex- 
pressed it, " I must first settle Laura (the little sister) 
comfortably, and then I must find a place for Mother 
with a photographer, as she paints photographs, and will 
join us out here if I tell her that prospects are good." 

" But can't your father help you, as he is in 
Winnipeg ? " I inquired. 

"Oh, Father ! " and young Eighteen laughed 
pathetically. "He's an artist, and you know what 
that means. If anything can be done here, I am the 
person to buckle-to and do it. Father can only just 
manage to keep himself going." 



28 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

Both sisters started in a humble way as nursemaids, 
but I feel sure that the indomitable pluck of the elder 
girl will win a comfortable livelihood for them both, 
if not for the whole family, in the future. 

One of the inmates of the Home interested me by 
giving me details of the way in which many of the 
British girls hurl themselves, as it were, into marriage. 

They were in the habit of frequenting a matri- 
monial agency in the town, and some had actually 
gone all the way to Vancouver to marry men whom 
they had never seen ; while others told her, without 
any appearance of shame, that tiny had left un- 
satisfactory husbands behind them in England, and 
intended to take fresh ones out here. One girl 
had great difficulty in her hunt for a hustxmd. 
Her advertisements met with no success, but finally 
tin- agency provided a man, and the couple were to 
meet for the first time at the church where the mar- 
riage ceremony would take place. "Milly," said my 
informant, " had no roof to her mouth, had a ii; 
like a bolster tied in half, and a limp. When the couple 
saw one another at tin- chui< h d><r, the girl stepped 

..nd and s.iid, ' Milly Mnith i>, my name.' ' Mii. 
Walk r, iv j.l icd he, and off he walked in a great hurry, 
without another word, and she i-n't married yet 1 " 



SEEKING WORK AT WINNIPEG 29 

This anecdote reminds me of what a girl at the hostel 
said to me one day. " Before I came out to Canada," 
she remarked, " I read that I should find a number 
of men on Winnipeg platform waiting to propose to 
us girls, but, would you believe it, when I got out of 
the train not a single man even spoke to me ? " and 
her voice trembled with mortification. Of course, this 
business-like way of looking upon marriage seems 
horrible, but yet I saw things in rather a different 
light when girl after girl assured me that she had no 
idea of what she was in for when she came out to the 
Dominion, and that she had never known the real 
meaning of the word " work " until she got there. 
Canada is a hard nut for a woman to crack unless she 
be strong and self-reliant. It is a ruthless land for 
the weak and incompetent, and to such as these the 
idea of having a man to fend for them must be well- 
nigh irresistible, while to be ill in a strange city, 
without friends or money, and where hospital accom- 
modation must be paid for, would try the nerve of 
the strongest. 

Winnipeg, the third city of the Dominion, is bright 
and bustling, full of movement along the immensely 
wide thoroughfares of Main Street and Portage 
Avenue, with tramcars constantly running and crowds 



30 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

for ever passing, the great majority being young 
men. Here, as in the other towns of the West, save 
Victoria, I noticed an almost entire absence of old 
people, and wondered whether the strenuous life of 
this Land of Youth was too much for them. Every- 
thing goes hey presto 1 Here funerals pass at a smart 
trot, and I could hardly keep up with the brisk pace 
at which the choirs led the psalms and hymns in the 
churches. 

The greatest grain market of the American continent 
is a kind of melting-pot of many nationalities, the 
inhabitants of fifty countries being represented in the 
Dominion. The British and Scandinavians are per- 
I haps the most in evidence, but there are many French, 
Germans, Spaniards, Italians, and Galicians, and all 
of these will in a few years probably regard Canada 
as their motherland. 

Side by side with the handsome public buildings and 
the numerous palatial-looking banks and big stores 
are small frame-built shops that must inevitably be 
pt away before long. There are excellent tram- 
services, and one notices many good horses, tlu> 
majority well-fed and groomed, but too often drive n 
with the cruel bearing-rein. Winnipeg has its parks 
and theatres, but the chief places of ami; >cem 



SEEKING WORK AT WINNIPEG 31 

to be the cinematograph halls, with such attractive 
titles as "Dreamland" and "Starland," and I saw 
far too many drinking saloons. Despite their presence, 
I hardly ever came across a drunken man. Once I 
was somewhat persecuted by one when I was writing 
in a hotel, and in consequence retreated to the 
"parlour." However, my enemy found out my 
refuge, but when I said sternly, " This is the ladies' 
room, you must not come here," he replied at once, 
" A' right, I good fellow ; I turn out," and off he 
went, and did not reappear. 

The Post Office was always thronged with people 
waiting for their letters, standing opposite pigeon-holes 
marked A-E, and so on, or opening little private 
boxes and taking out their correspondence. One day, 
as I stood in the long queue, a pleasant-faced old 
gentleman bowed to me to take his place. I demurred 
with a smile, but he insisted, with the words, " I 
come from a country where the ladies go first ; in 
Canada they go last 1 " To the latter part of this 
remark I must take exception, for I was never made 
to go " last " from the Atlantic to the Pacific and 
back, and not once did I have to hoist my belongings 
in or out of any railway car, meeting with the utmost 
kindness again and again. 



32 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

He went on to inquire what I was doing in Winnipeg, 
and was quite distressed to hear that I was looking 
for a situation as home-help, but said that he could 
perhaps assist me by giving me an introduction to 
some clergyman, a friend of his. I did not feel in- 
clined to respond to this offer, and thought that the 
incident was closed ; but a few days later I came 
across the Englishman again, who put me to the blush 
by urging me to write to him for help were I hard up 
at any time in fact, I had considerable difficulty in 
impressing upon him the fact that I was by no means 
penniless. 

" I know an educated woman when I see one," he 
said, " and I feel that you are throwing yourself away 
as a home-help." 

I longed to tell my good-hearted acquaintance that 
I was under no compulsion to earn my livelihood, but 
I feared to trust ray secret to anyone, and, holding 
out my hand in farewell, I assured him that I was all 
rif^ht. " Do you think you will come through ? " and 
tin -re was real concern in his voice. " I am perfectly 
sure that I shall," was my answer, and I went my 
way considerably cheered by one of the most genuine 
bits of kindness that I have ever encountered. 

It was curious how completely I had now merged 



SEEKING WORK AT WINNIPEG 33 

myself into my part. It was no longer acting. I 
knew the despairing feeling of hunting for work and 
finding none, and I had a pang of disappointment 
as girl after girl went off to her post, and I, the in- 
competent, was left behind without one. I filled up 
time with washing my clothes, thus learning the use 
of a wringer and a washing-board, and the right way 
to hang the garments on the line, and was humiliated to 
find that I did everything in the wrong way if I fol- 
lowed the light vouchsafed to me by Nature ; and I 
also helped to clear the table after meals and assist 
with the drying of the many cups and plates. 

Part of my long delay in getting work was owing to 
the fact that the newspaper had twice omitted to put 
my " ad." into its columns, through some negligence, 
and thus I was twice thrown back, as it were. I was 
urged to take a post as telephone girl, where a salary 
is paid and teaching given at the same time, and also 
would I not be a waitress ? In each case, even if 
I had not determined to go on the prairie, the stuffy, 
overheated atmosphere of the offices and hotels would 
have strongly repelled me; and in all probability I 
should have been "fired " the next day, as I heard 
again and again that English waitresses are looked 

upon as too slow, and are speedily hustled out of 

c 



34 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

their posts by the alert Canadians, who seem to do 

their work with lightning speed. 

One day I found a letter in my "ad." box to the 
effect that if I would call at such or such an office 
I should hear of a " position " (they never speak of 
situation) to suit me. Accordingly I went, and was 
interviewed by a burly Canadian, who did not trouble 
to rise from his seat or remove his hat as I entered. 
"Mother is old and past her work," he began, "and 
she wants a strong girl to take over things. My father 
has a whole section, and there would be him and my 
brother and the two hired men to * do ' for, and you 
would have to milk three cows and make butter." 
"As well as do all the cooking, bread-making, and 
washing ? " I inquired. " Yep, it's a good bit of 
work," was the answer, and I declined the post with 
thanks. 

On 1 4th May there was a procession in Winnipeg to 
commemorate the Fish Creek and Batoche engage- 
ments, in which the Red River Rising was put down. 
A column opposite the Town Hall marks these vic- 
tories, and from here the bands, with detachments of 
different corps, marched by. And then came the 
veterans. All the mm who had fought against Riel 
strode past in their Sunday best, but wore slouch ft It 



SEEKING WORK AT WINNIPEG 35 

hats with red bands and a couple of small brown 
ostrich tips. Each man carried a bunch of flowers, 
mostly carnations, and this reminded me that the 
Matron had told me that that day was called " Mother 
Sunday/' and it was incumbent on all to wear a flower 
and to write to his or her mother, were she in the land 
of the living, the preachers alluding to this custom in 
their sermons. In some newspaper I read a letter in 
which it was urged that a Sunday ought to be devoted 
to the remembrance of the fathers, but I do not think 
that the idea met with much acceptance. After the 
men, two or three bands of well-set-up Boy Scouts 
passed by, the whole procession on its way to St. 
John's cemetery to lay flowers on the graves of the 
dead heroes ; and there was much excitement when 
the nurse, who had been at Winnipeg during the Rising, 
drove past, a striking figure in her garb of red with 
voluminous white head-gear. As I watched the pro- 
cession, I entered into conversation with an elderly 
Englishwoman who stood beside me, and who had 
been twenty-seven years in Winnipeg, during the 
infancy of the city living in a tent on the site of the 
present big Canadian-Pacific Station. " I nearly broke 
my heart at first," she said, " things were 'fierce,' and 
often we had only bread to eat. My husband was a 



36 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

carpenter, but sometimes had no work except sawing 
wood, and I did the men's washing. Think of it 1 
There were Indians all round us, and they used to 
shoot wild-duck where the Town Hall stands." 

" Do you want to go back to England ? " I inquired. 

"Oh, dear no. I love Canada, and wouldn't live 
in the Old Country for anything, for here we all have 
money in our pockets, and over there we couldn't 
make a living." Yet she bore no love towards the 
Canadians, asserting that they looked down upon the 
English, and she launched into a long account of the 
slights inflicted upon her by her next-door neighbour. 
" She was always rude to me until her daughter was 
married, and then she came and begged me to help 
with the wedding. Can you believe it ? None of 
them knew how to clean a fowl I They would have 
cooked 'em, insides and all, if I hadn't been there," 
and she laughed with much enjoyment. " And then 
there was the wash. My neighbour said one day that 
she couldn't imagine how I got my clothes to look 
so white, and I answered her, * You Canadians are 
like the ducks ; you just dip your linen in and out of 
the water, and expect the sun to do the cleaning for 
you.' And now we are the best of friends," she wound 
up, the whole conversation leaving me with the im- 



SEEKING WORK AT WINNIPEG 37 

pression that the much-resented attitude of superiority 
was not on the part of the Canadian woman ! 

Not far from where we stood were the Government 
Immigrant Halls, over which I was taken one morn- 
ing. Here 450 immigrants can be accommodated at 
a pinch, and they are given free lodging for seven days, 
during which they are helped to get work. The whole 
place was a miracle of good management. In the 
rooms the beds were one above another as on board 
ship, and could be chained up against the wall. They 
were provided with wire and fibre mattresses, the latter 
being destroyed at intervals for the sake of cleanliness, 
and the immigrants supplied their own blankets. 
There were baths and rows of washing-basins, with 
hot and cold water laid on ; on each floor was a 
kitchen with stoves and a batterie de cuisine; there 
was a laundry for the women, a hospital, an office 
where the immigrants could leave their possessions while 
roaming about the city in search of work, and the 
whole building was warmed with steam-heat. I was 
greatly impressed with the good sense and kindly 
thought of all the arrangements, which must be a 
priceless boon to men and women seeking their for- 
tunes in a new country. 

At last I heard of a post that seemed within my 



38 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

capabilities, but I urged my would-be employer to 
meet me before I closed with her, and went to a 
rendezvous at a stable at which she had put up 
after driving into Winnipeg. She was a pleasant- 
faced little woman, and her letters to me had been 
nice, though vague. So I began to ask for a few 
details. " You said, when you wrote," I remarked, 
"that your family consisted of yourself and your 
husband." "Sure," was her reply, and then she 
hesitated for a moment. " Well, I think I ought to 
tell you," she went on, " that my father-in-law of 
eighty-two lives with us ; but he is hale and hearty, 
and will turn the handle of the washing-machine on 
Mondays. Then there is my brother-in-law and our 
hired man, and " here she made quite a long pause 
"there is my sister-in-law." "Oh, I suppose she 
would help with the work ? " I put in, feeling rather 
depressed at this category. " Well, she might, perhaps, 
do something, but she isn't like other girls not mad, 
oh no, but just queer and odd." She assured me that 
all her neighbours considered her situation to be an 
ideal one as regarded the w.-rk ; but when she spoke 
of the thirty pounds of butter that it was " up to me " to 
make each week, the chi;k-ns that I must ll lay down " 
before long, and the addition to lur family that she 



SEEKING WORK AT WINNIPEG 39 

expected in July, my heart failed me. I explained 
that I lacked the necessary experience to wash, bake, 
and cook for four men and as many women, for she 
intended to engage a nurse to look after her in a month 
or six weeks' time. And yet I was so anxious to get 
a situation, that I nearly closed with my would-be 
employer to stay with her for two or three months at 
ten dollars (2) a month, though the programme of 
work would have staggered even an English " general." 
But I had another string to my bow, so telling her of 
this, and that I would clinch the matter by writing to 
her on the Monday, as I could not come out to her 
by the mail-cart until the Tuesday, we separated, and 
a wire from my other " string " met me as I turned 
into the newspaper office. It was from a widow on 
a prairie farm, who did her own work and needed a 
companion. As I felt that I could honestly under- 
take this post, I accepted at once for a month, 
wrote to decline the other situation, and on 22nd May 
departed for my first venture. Though I left the 
Home with joy, as the fortnight I had spent there had 
been a very long one, yet it was with no little regret 
that I said good-bye to the Matron, whose constant 
kindness and that of her friend had meant much to 
me. Everybody congratulated me on getting a con- 



40 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

genial "position," and it was with an exciting sense 
of seeking my fortune that I left the station with its 
great clanging engines, beside which our English ones 
look like toys, and set off for the goal of my desires, a 
farm on the prairie. 



CHAPTER III 

MY FIRST POST AS A HOME-HELP 

THE day got hot as the morning wore on, and I could 
have wished that the occupants of the crowded 
" first-class " car had not been so indifferent to the 
charms of fresh air. A young Scotch mechanic, who 
shared my seat, opened my window, propped it up 
for me as the catch would not work, and entered into 
conversation as the train passed through a prettily 
wooded part of the prairie. He informed me that he 
had left Scotland fourteen years ago, and had re- 
visited his home after serving through the Boer War ; 
and on my inquiry as to which country he preferred, 
he replied, in a strain that reminded me a little of 
Kipling's "Chant Pagan." "I wouldn't live in the 
Old Country again for anything," he concluded. " It 
was all so small when I went back, and it made me 
laugh to see the ridiculous little fenced-in fields no 
bigger than our gardens out here " ; and he glanced 
at the magnificent sweep of the prairie as it rolled 
towards a far horizon. 



42 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

When the train stopped at his station, he said " Well 
then ? " as a farewell salutation, and grasped the hand 
of the home-help, in whose prospects he had taken a 
frank interest ; and so we parted in friendly fashion. 

When I reached my destination some hours later, 
Mrs. Robinson's man was nowhere to be seen, so I 
was advised to enter a kind of 'bus, that jolted and 
bumped its occupants over a road more like a ploughed 
field than anything else. Its goal was a grey-painted 
wooden hotel, where finally a shock-headed youth 
driving a buckboard made his appearance, and I was 
jolted back again to the station for my trunk. 

Here a difficulty arose. The baggage-room was 
locked, and a bystander informed me that the station- 
master was having his tea, and that I should disturb 
him at my peril. My informant added that he him- 
self wanted to get his boxes out of that room, as he 
had a drive of five-and-twenty miles before him, yet 
he would not venture to brave the baggage agent's 
wrath. It was certainly a shame to disturb the poor 
man at his meal, but, as T had some distance to go, I 
summoned up my courage and knocked at his door, 
which in a moment or two was flung open violently. 
I poured out profuse apologies before the irate-looking 
official who appeared on the threshold could say a 



MY FIRST POST AS A HOME-HELP 43 

word, and, as a result, not only was my trunk produced 
in a jiffy, but the stationmaster himself helped it on 
to the buckboard, and we parted the best of friends. 

It was a lovely evening as my taciturn young driver 
and I started off to my future home. The prairie was 
undulating, with bluffs covered with poplar and wild 
cherry, and here and there reedy " sloughs," as they 
call them, alive with wild-duck. I had a sense of 
adventure as mile after mile separated me farther and 
farther from the railway, yet there was always an 
uneasy feeling that perhaps I might not please my 
new employer, and very probably would not be con- 
sidered worth even the small salary of 2 a month. 
The silent yokel who drove me had been three years 
in Canada, but my questions as to how the Dominion 
compared with his old home in the North of England 
elicited the shortest and most reluctant of replies. 

At last we reached a nice-looking wooden house, 
surrounded by a little garden, and a pleasant-faced 
lady came out, warmly welcomed and embraced 
me, and then led me into a spotlessly clean and 
well-appointed abode. I felt that I was indeed for- 
tunate in my first venture, and enjoyed supper, which 
was graced by my driver and his brother in their 
shirt-sleeves. Mrs. Robinson then helped me to wash 



44 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

up the supper things, showed me to a prettily furni 
bedroom opposite to her own, and promised to call 
me about six o'clock on the morrow. I had given her 
a reference, kindly furnished by the Honorary Secre- 
tary of the British Women's Emigration Society, but 
she declined to read it, saying that " one look at my 
face " was quite sufficient for her, so I felt that my 
new life had begun under flattering auspices. 

Next day it was a curious experience to dress h 
and descend to the kitchen to help my mistress with 
the preparation of porridge and fried bacon for breuk- 
fast, and at half-past six the two youths appeared 
with pails of new milk, and tidied themselves for the 
meal. In the wooden lean-to, answering to the scullery, 
was a basin of water, and into this they plunged tin -ir 
heads and hands, and came dripping into the kitch< -n 
to dry themselves with the roller- towel hung on the 
door. They then combed their hair with the aid of 
a small mirror on the wall, and sat down, waiting for 
me to serve them with porridge out of the saucepan 
excellent f.uv when accompanied by milk fresh fmm 
the cow. They never thought of lending a hand as 
1 passed them the jug, cut the bread, changed their 
plates, placed the dish of bacon on the table, and 
handed them the tea poured out by my employer, 



MY FIRST POST AS A HOME-HELP 45 

eating my own meal in the pauses of waiting. I con- 
fess that it went somewhat against the grain to wait \ 
on them in this manner, and I had to remember that 
they had been up early milking and feeding the animals, 
and therefore deserved a good meal. As soon as they 
had finished, they swung out of the kitchen and off 
to their work of "seeding," while I rolled up the 
sleeves of my apron and donned a pair of indiarubber 
gloves for the wash-up. 

Even this apparently simple operation has a right 
and a wrong way of tackling it, and of course I took 
the wrong way by putting a mixed assortment of 
crockery and silver into the pan. My mistress now 
showed me how to wash the cups and saucers first, 
then the silver, then the greasy plates, the knives 
receiving attention last of all, everything being piled 
on a tray to drain, and scalded with boiling water 
from the kettle in order to facilitate the drying opera- 
tions, plate-racks being unknown on the prairie. 
After this the washing-cloth must be rinsed out (in 
many places a little mop is used), and I was implored 
never to use the dish-cloths for opening the oven door 
or for handling pots and pans. This was a lesson 
hard of learning, as they hung invitingly from the line, 
and the legitimate rag was never to be found when 



46 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

wanted, while I soon learnt from painful experience 
that every part of the stove was capable of inflicting 
a burn upon bare hands. 

The washing over I went upstairs to d> tin- rooms, 
but the way in which I made my own bed met with 
disapproval. The usual English manner of arranging 
the pillows was stigmatised as " most untidy," and I 
was shown how to place them in an upright position, 
Canadian fashion, and lean against them an elabo- 
rate pillow-sham, with the words " good-morning " 
and " good-night " embroidered on opposite sides 
of it. 

We then descended to the " shed," as Mrs. Robinson 
called the scullery, and my employer churned a mass 
of cream, but would not permit me to assist her, as 
she was sure that I should " make myself in a terrible 
mess " if I did so probably quite true, but humiliating. 
I was set to peel potatoes, to prepare rhubarb for pies, 
and to draw water from the well just outside the back 
door. To do this last job I had to let down a large 
milking-pail by means of a strap, and had hauled up 
/ two or three bucketsful when a catastrophe occurred. 
>umably I had not fastened the strap properly, 
but anyhow the pail vanished down the well, dis- 
appearing with a resounding splash as it reached the 



MY FIRST POST AS A HOME-HELP 47 

water ! I uttered a cry of despair that brought Mrs. 
Robinson out in a trice, and though she must have 
felt much vexed, yet she behaved nobly, and said 
that Jack and Harry had already lost two buckets in 
this way, and mine made the third ; but she would 
persuade them to descend with a ladder and retrieve 
the whole lot, and meanwhile we must do the best we 
could with a very inferior pail. I felt most grateful 
to her for her forbearance, and later on, when the 
midday meal was ready, we strolled to the barn and 
found two fascinating colts eagerly awaiting their 
mothers, that were at work ; and I cannot describe 
the neighing and whinnying that took place when the 
two teams at last came in (in Canada a pair of horses 
is always called a team), the mares wild with im- 
patience to get to their little ones. 

Dinner consisted of fried bacon, for the second time 
that day it is the staple food on most farms and we 
had a milk-pudding for "dessert," as Canadians call 
the second course. Tea, as is the custom throughout 
the Dominion, was served at every meal, and at first 
I got very tired of it, and used to supply myself with 
hot water from the stove close at hand, to the surprise 
of the others. 

" Have you got ' nerves ' that you won't take 



48 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

tea ? " Mrs. Robinson inquired, with a scarcely veil* 
contempt. 

" No, not yet," was my answer, " but I don't want 
to have them." 

Later on I took tea like everyone else, and got 
accustomed to it, though I always reverted to cold 
water whenever I could be sure that it was safe to 
drink it. At one farm, when I asked whether the 
water was good, I was not particularly reassured by 
the answer, " Well, I can't quite say, but I have 
never heard of anyone getting typhoid from it." 

Mrs. Robinson, not content with tea three times a 
day, partook of it during the morning, and again at 
four o'clock, and I told her frankly that this indul- 
gence partly accounted for the frequent attacks of 
" nerves " to which she was subject. 

I still remember how tired I felt that first day, 
and how glad I was when my mistress said that I could 
do what I liked till four o'clock, as she herself always 
took " forty winks " during the afternoon. I lay 
down for half an hour, and then intended to go for 
a walk, but hardly had my head touched the pillow 
when I was sound asleep, ami never awoke until I 
was roused by Mrs. Robinson at half-past four. She 
was kindness itself, and had lit the stove and made 



MY FIRST POST AS A HOME-HELP 49 

her afternoon tea, making me feel ashamed at having 
performed my duties so badly, and firmly resolved to 
do better in the future. In England I was usually 
looked upon as capable, but here at every moment it 
was borne in upon me that I was very much the 
reverse, and this gave me a humiliating feeling of being 
out of my element. 

Next day I descended to the kitchen full of energy, 
though the floods of rain coming down in a veritable 
torrent had a depressing effect. The local butcher, 
his wife, and a friend were expected to dinner, so we 
had a busy morning cleaning the dining-room (we our- 
selves always ate in the kitchen), getting out the best 
glass, china, silver, and cutlery, and sweeping the 
drawing-room, only used on state occasions. 

Mrs. Robinson thought that her guests would hardly 
venture on a twelve-mile drive in such a deluge, but 
preparations had to be made all the same. Clad in 
macintosh and rubbers, I drew water from the well, 
got cream and butter from the little dairy, only a 
stone's- throw from the house, and did my best at 
chopping wood for the fire, which needed constant - 
replenishing, no coal being used in this part of Canada, 
and which went out in the most aggravating way if 
left for only half an hour to its own devices. 



50 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

At last all was ready ; the beef was cooking in the 
oven, the potatoes put on to boil, the table laid in 
the dining-room, and we could go upstairs to attire 
ourselves. To my surprise the guests actually arrived, 
driving up in an open buggy, from which they emerged 
in a half-drowned condition, and we helped them off 
with their dripping wraps, which we hung up to dry in 
the little kitchen. When all were seated at table I 
had my first experience as a parlour-maid, carrying in 
the soup, the meat, the rhubarb-pie, and tea, and 
changing and clearing away the plates and dishes. I 
could have laughed as I waited on the company, so 
entirely did I seem to have changed my identity, and 
I sat at table and ate during the intervals of serving. 
The guests were most kind to me, and seemed anxious 
to know how I liked Canada, and whether I intended 
to settle in the country, saying that they thought I 
< was very brave to "pull up stakes " and come by 
myself so far from home ! In my turn I asked the 
butcher, who led the conversation with much 
aplomb, how long it was since he had left England. 
"Thirty years ago, and I've never gone back again 
and never want to," was the uncompromising answer. 
During the meal the guests discussed a sad case that 
had occurred in the neighbourhood during the previous 



MY FIRST POST AS A HOME-HELP 51 

year. A farmer, in a small way, had hurt his arm, and 
the doctor prescribed a linseed poultice for the wound, 
but owing to gross carelessness the druggist gave the 
man " bed-bug " poison by mistake, and the victim, 
after enduring agonies of pain, was obliged to have 
the limb amputated. 

During his illness his wife tried to help with the 
farm- work, and one day while driving the " mower " 
she stopped to talk to a neighbour, dismounting from 
her seat and omitting to put the catch on to the 
machine. The horses began to move as she was 
getting back, with the result that her leg was so 
terribly gashed by the knives that she was permanently 

imed, and one of the problems of the neighbourhood 
how best to assist the "poor Cripples," as they 
jre called, for unless they could work their land 

ley would have no means of subsistence. 
When dinner was over the women came into the 
kitchen, and, in the friendly Canadian fashion, helped 
me with the big wash-up ; I then kept a watchful eye 
upon the tiresome stove, and at four o'clock carried 
tea and cakes into the dining-room. Mrs. Robinson 
had expected that her guests would have stayed to 
the half-past six repast, but to my relief they de- 
parted just before, shaking hands warmly with the 



52 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

home-help, and inviting her to visit them in their own 
homes. 

It seemed a day devoted entirely to preparing meals, 
and hardly was the buggy out of sight than we had 
to hurry to get supper ready for Jack and Harry. 

That night a coolness arose between my employer 
and myself. The rain had ceased, but the air was 
damp, and she wished me to sleep with my bedroom 
window shut in case her lace curtains should get 
draggled. This I declined to do, as fresh air is a 
necessity to me, and, moreover, the room was small 
and had no fire-place. Though I offered to close the 
wooden jalousies she took my refusal in bad part, and 
next morning, when the young men had gone off to 
their work, she gave me my congt, saying that sho 
was dismissing me for incompetence in laundry-work ; 
and I now learnt by practical experience the Canadian 
custom of '* firing " an employee without any previous 
warning. Though it was humiliating to be turned off 
at a day's notice, when I had intended to stay for a 
month, yet I was not altogether sorry, as the life 
was almost entmly an indoor oiu-, quite different to 
what I had imagined existence to be on a prairie 
farm, and the " daily round " was beginning to bore 
me considerably. I said pleasantly that I would go 



MY FIRST POST AS A HOME-HELP 53 

whenever she liked, and she then asked me to stay 
for a week, and straightway had a nervous attack, 
which turned my feeling of irritation into pity. Poor 
woman 1 The monotony of her life, combined with 
no outdoor exercise and too much strong tea, was 
ruining her health. Her chief amusement during the 
ten days I was with her was to have daily chats with 
her neighbours on the 'phone, this distraction having 
its drawbacks, as some of the farmers' wives were 
mean enough to listen to conversations not intended 
for them, and Mrs. Robinson told me that she could 
often hear the click, as some woman took up her own 
" receiver " to overhear what was perhaps being 
spoken in confidence. The whole circle of farms was 
on the same telephone line, so the house was alive with 
Us at all hours, rather a difference from the un- 
>ken calm that is popularly supposed to brood over 
the prairie. The ladies exchanged the local bits of 
gossip, and most of them appeared to ** enjoy bad 
health," a thing that seemed strange to me when I 
was standing outside the house and drinking in the 
glorious prairie air. The pity of it is that the women 
have far too little of it, as they confine themselves to 
their hot kitchens, and many hardly leave the house at 
all during the long, severe winter. Mrs. Robinson told 



54 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

me that she was indoors last winter for over a month 
at a time, and it was far too cold to open the windows ! 
On the prairie there are no sash-cords, so the win- 
dows have to be pushed up from the bottom and k< j,t 
open by means of a stick, and it is usually impossible 
to push them down a few inches at the top and thus 
air the rooms, overheated by the furnace in the cellar. 
Certainly the Dominion has no room for idlers. A 
farmer's wife who rode past one afternoon said that 
she had had to milk eight cows before having any 
breakfast that morning, and felt "rotten"; and 
Mrs. Robinson told me that all her friends would give 
anything to be able to hire some capable " girl " to 
help them, as they were getting on in life, and the 
strain of the long years of drudgery was beginning to 
upon them. The only servants obtainable seemed 
to be Galicians, who do not appear to be very pleasant 
inmates of a house, and, moreover, the farmers round 
here wore apparently far from wealthy. But, of course, 
there is a good deal in being accustomed to the work. 
One nice small boy, belonging to a neighbouring farm, 
told me that he had to milk six cows every day, and 
had begun at the age of seven, but that his father's 
hired man could though my 

young friend had given him instruction. 



MY FIRST POST AS A HOME-HELP 55 

Mrs. Robinson herself was not overworked, but she 
had lost the habit of repose, and was never quiet for 
a moment. Not only did she sweep out the whole 
kitchen and "shed," and shake all the carpets after 
every meal, but she would ply the broom in between 
times, when apparently it was entirely unnecessary 
in fact, she was for ever goaded by a malignant demon 
of unrest. Unluckily for her she had no outdoor 
tastes, and was so nervous that she could not drive 
herself ; and as the youths were fully occupied with 
working the land, she had to stay at home for lack of 
a charioteer, and never went farther afield than the 
>wl-house. Here, and apparently all over the prairie, 
there are terrible " electric " storms at intervals, and 
Mrs. Robinson had many tales of men and horses 
being struck by lightning, while the extremes of heat 
and cold must be very trying to English people until 
they get acclimatised to them. Though it was May, 
yet the winds were bitterly cold, and on the 27th of 
that month I awoke to a world covered in snow. All 
the trees were bowed down with it, and the house 
seemed quite dark, so thickly filled with flying flakes 
was the air, and in spite of waterproof and galoshes, I 
found that my visits to the dairy, the well, or the wood- 
pile were fraught with much discomfort. 



56 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

My poor mistress had had a bad night, and was full 
of complaints as to Jack's surliness and his unwilling- 
ness to take any advice from her. Certainly it is a 
mistake for a woman to run a farm with hired help, 
unless she is thoroughly conversant with all tin- 
details of the work, which Mrs. Robinson was not. 

This, of course, Jack knew perfectly well, and would 
n to no suggestions from his employer ; but as 
he was honest, capable, and sober she did not wish to 
dismiss him, for she had once had a disagreeable 
experience with a hired man who turned out to be 
a drunkard, and she asked me whether I could say a 
" word in season " to her factotum and his brother. 

Personally, I had no cause to complain of either uf 
my fellow-labourers, though their table manners were 
a trial to me until I had firmly resolved not to notice 
i. They were worthy young fellows enough, and 
after a day or two Harry never failed to greet me 
with a smilf and a cheery " Can I 'elp you ? " This 
readiness to oblige was most useful, for he got me 
wood and water, saving me many times from going 
out in the rain or snow to the well or wood-pile. Mrs. 
Robinson informed me that her last lady-help used to 
romp with tin- yuihs, and in consequence they \ 
ready to do anything for her ; but my different methods 






MY FIRST POST AS A HOME-HELP 57 

appeared to answer well enough, for when my employer 
was laid up for a couple of days, and I had to prepare 
the meals unaided, I found the stove lit when I came 
down in the morning, and the kettle filled with water. 
They were always ready to find fun in the merest 
trifles, and any antic of the elderly cat would send 
them into fits of bucolic laughter. 

I did my best to say a good word for Mrs. Robinson, 
but it was a delicate matter, and when Jack made no 
comment on my remarks, and Harry only vouchsafed 
a "She's so silly about things," I felt that my well- 
meant intervention had probably made matters rather 
worse. To my suggestion that they should tell the 
" missus " when she reappeared that they were glad 
she was better, their uncompromising " But we ain't " 
left me in a painful confusion. 

As the time for me to leave drew nearer, my em- 
ployer liked me better and better, and said that she 
would miss my "bright face dreadfully," and now 
and again she dropped me a word of praise on the 
performance of the household "chores." One day, as 
I was scrubbing the back staircase, she exclaimed, 
" What a terrible come-down your mother would 
think it could she see you now ! " 

" I consider it a great come-up," I retorted with a 



58 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

laugh, and felt quite proud when she said later on that 

the stairs had seldom looked whiter. 

We had always cakes or scones for tea, and I learnt 
here the excellent and speedy Canadian method of 
measuring flour, sugar, butter, &c. by the cup, and 
small quantities by the table- and tea-spoon : I never 
saw weighing-scales throughout my tour, but at first 
found it difficult to translate the pounds and ounces 
of my English recipes into " cups " and spoonsful. 

On Saturday we had a general clean-up. I washed 
with soap and water the shabby linoleum that covered 
the kitchen floor, and the smart dining-room linoleum 
was cleansed with skim milk, that gave it a wonderful 
polish ; the drawing-room, a repository of countless 
knick-knacks, had to be dusted, and the carpet -cleaner 
diligently used here and in the bedrooms. The work 
tired me hardly at all when I got into it, and my 
chief concern was the fear that my hands would become 
permanently blackened from the cleaning of dirty 
ins, while the many washing operations made 



my nails terribly brittl. 

The kitchen floor was partly covered with loose 
pieces of carpet that I was for ever displacing at 
first, arousing my empln tic n marks 

about my "shuffling tread." One length went from 



MY FIRST POST AS A HOME-HELP 59 

the "shed" to the kitchen table, and there was a 
piece laid down for the feet of each youth, an attention 
that they much disliked ; but I suppose it was easier 
to shake the mud off bits of carpet than to remove it 
from the linoleum. The pots and pans were kept in 
the " shed," and here it was that I scraped out the 
porridge saucepan every morning, a tiresome task 
anyhow ; and as it had two holes that were stopped 
up with scraps of calico, it behoved me to be careful 
not to pull these out during my cleansing operations. 

The kitchen table was covered with white oilcloth, 
and on it Mrs. Robinson mixed her dough for bread 
and pastry, without the aid of a board ; but for meals 
we had a tablecloth, that the boys speedily soiled, 
owing to the uncivilised way in which they ate their 
food, and I should have infinitely preferred the oil- 
cloth unadorned. 

I had a hot position with my back to the stove, 
in which there was one large oven in the middle, and 
on the right a boiler that it was my task to keep 
filled from the rain-water tank at the back-door. 
Above the stove was a receptacle in which plates and 
dishes could be kept hot, and on either side hung a 
collection of pots and pans. The big block-tin kettle 
was king of the kitchen, and it behoved me to be 



6o A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

careful of it, as when on the boil the steam from its 
spout was capable of inflicting a bad burn, as I dis- 
covered to my cost. 

During the daj-s of rain it was most difficult to keep 
the fire alight with the damp wood, and we had re- 
course to drying the logs in the o\vn ; and win -n tin- 
weather suddenly got hot, the kitchen was a veritable 
Black Hole of Calcutta, and the hateful house-fly and 
mosquito began to annoy. 

Sometimes I used to wonder whether it wen- indeed 
I who was cleaning out rooms on my hands and knees, 
or rubbing clothes on the washing-board, or ironing, 
or replenishing that voracious stove with pieces of 
wood. I must confess that though I gave my whole 
mind to my work, yet I found the life very monotonous, 
and it was hard at first to be ordered about, and not 
to be mistress of my own time. Mrs. Robinson and 
I had a curious kind of friendship. She liked im- 
personally, invited me cordially to visit her later on, 
confided in nv , uul begged in. t correspond with 
her, and yet she not unnaturally hated tin- amateur 
way in which I set about my work, and made me feel 
that I did nothing right and was thoroughly incapable. 

But my depression vanished wh.-n I awoke up one 
morning to feel a warm wind blowing and to see the 



MY FIRST POST AS A HOME-HELP 61 

snow melting fast. The birds were all singing, and a 
wren was actually building its nest in the pocket of 
an old coat of Jack's that he had left hanging outside. 
The trail had been so bad on account of the snow that 
perforce I had stayed two or three days longer than 
my week, and now that the roads were drying I made 
a personal appeal to Jack to drive me to the station 
the next day, for I knew that he and Harry would 
miss me, and I had a lurking fear that he might tell 
Mrs. Robinson that it was impossible for me to leave 
for the present, in order to prolong my stay. 

We had quite an excitement on my last evening, as 
I persuaded one of the boys to go down the well and 
make an effort to retrieve the three lost buckets. This 
he accomplished finally with the aid of a rake, tied on 
to a long clothes-prop, and I alternately watched his 
efforts, which seemed to be attended with considerable 
risk, and gazed at the young moon and stars in a 
wonderful sunset sky, and at the long line of prairie, 
purple as the sea where it lay on the horizon. 

And now the time for my departure had arrived. 
Mrs. Robinson had a meeting of the " Women's v 
Auxiliary," a charitable society, at her house that 
afternoon, and came up three times to my room as 
I was finishing my packing, to urge me to come down, 



62 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

as " the ladies all want to see you." When she paid 
me my wages she gave me a little homily on the subject 
of untidiness in my work, saying that she was speaking 
for my good, and that I must improve if I intended 
to be a success in my next situation ; but she tem- 
pered her severity with a word of commendation of 
my willingness, and said that I had learnt a good deal 
while with her. I listened in a humble M!< -n < -, and 
did not " answer back," though I wished that she could 
have understood with what an immense effort I had 
earned the money that she handed to ni ! 

At last the buckboard made its appearance. I bade 
well to sunny-faced Hairy, who said, " Let us hear 
how you get on," as he wrung my hand; and M; 
Robinson embraced me, gave me a little souvenir, and 
was genuinely sorry to say good-bye to me. The 
colts insisted on accompanying their mothers, and 
impeded our progress a good deal, one of them soon 
beginning to lag behind ; but Jark had no pity for 
uul iath i iiuelly remarked, "It would come 
though it wasn't wanted, and so it must just take 
the consequences." 

I was delighted to be off after ten days of indoor 

during which my horizon had been practically 

bounded by tin- wi 11 aiul the wood-pile, ajid I enjoyed 



MY FIRST POST AS A HOME-HELP 63 

even the roughness of the track. " It will jolt your 
bones up a bit," as Jack truly said, and I had to 
plant my feet firmly on my "grip," lest it should 
be shot out, and keep an eye on my trunk fastened on 
behind. 

But jolts and bumps were a trifle when one was 
drinking in the intoxicating air. Summer had come 
with a rush. The grass was starred with purple and 
white violets, tiny wallflowers, pansies, and dainty 
stitchwort ; grasshoppers were chirruping loudly, and 
the frogs (" peepers," Harry called them) were croak- 
ing in a jubilant chorus from every pond we passed. 
The air was full of down from the poplars, a kind of 
jummer snow ; small yellow canaries (I heard later 
on that they came from Florida) flitted about, and 
there were orioles, blue-birds, and wild-duck. 

Everything was so full of life and freedom that I 
quite sorry to reach the little prairie station and 
bid farewell to my driver. He shook hands with me 
warmly, saying that he hoped all would go well with 
me, and when I thanked him for having been kind 
and helpful, he blushed up like a girl, but looked 
pleased in his rather boorish way. " Don't go to 
Canadians in your next place, they know too much," 
was his parting advice, words that showed me that 



64 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

he had not been unobservant of my numerous defi- 
ciencies. 

I had made my first venture, and though I had 
been a failure, yet I knew that I had got more or less 
into Canadian ways, and should probably succeed 
better in my next situation. My mistress had shown 
me much kindness, and I saw by the light of later 
experiences that I had had a very easy place with 
her, which only my lack of training prevented me 
from filling properly. 

The fine air had made me feel very fit, and capable 
of doing double the work that I could have accom- 
plished in England, but all the same I had a con- 
viction, that only strengthened as the months went 
on, that the post of home-help is not a suitable open- 
ing for an educated woman, unless in some specially 
selected district, where she can live in conditions 
more akin to those of which I had read before I cam-' 
out to the Dominion. 



CHAPTER IV 

TRAVEL THROUGH WOOD AND PRAIRIE 

IN my efforts to investigate openings for educated 
women, I travelled from the Atlantic to the Pacific 
and back again by the Canadian-Pacific line, the 
familiar C.P.R., that one hears spoken of so constantly 
that I used to say that it was something like the 
S.P.Q.R. of old Rome. My ticket was called "first 
class," but it only entitled me to a seat in a long car 
with a passage down the centre, and with little room 
for hand-baggage if it chanced to be crowded. 

Accordingly, if I made night journeys I took a berth 
in the Pullman, and went in luxury, being, moreover, 
entitled to sit in the fine Observation car at the end 
of the train, a sort of glass coach with a platform 
outside, from which one could see the often marvel- 
lously beautiful panorama. 

On any short day- journey, such as from Toronto or 
Montreal to Quebec, the Pullman can be exchanged 
for the Parlour car, where each passenger has a com- 
fortable revolving arm-chair. These two are the real 

<* E 



66 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

first-class accommodation, and the Tourist car (almost 
equally comfortable, though not as elaborately up- 
holstered) is the second, while the Colonist or Emigrant 
car, often crammed with Russians, Poles, Galicians, 
Swedes, and Italians, is distinctly for third-class 
passengers. 

The huge engines make our English ones look almost 
like toys by comparison, and the long carriages, 
raised high above the platforms, have only an en- 
trance at each end, and are approached by steps. I 
was always haunted by the fear that the train might 
glide off if I wandered far from these steps during 
any halt at a station, for the conductor merely calls 
out " All aboard ! " and even as he utters the words 
the train begins to move. 

My first long journey was from Montreal to \Yin- 
nipeg. I had tried to interest some of the ladies of the 
former city in my work, but the general opinion was 
that the sexes were too evenly divided in East. m 
Canada for there to be much scope for English worn, -n, 
except as domestic servants, though I got much 
encouragement from the Principal of the Victoria 
Cafe*, 

is a two nights* run from Montreal to Winnipeg, 
and when I got into the Pullman I was interested in 
seeing the negro porters making up the beds for the 



TRAVEL THROUGH WOOD AND PRAIRIE 67 

night. Each passenger has a plush-covered section 
to himself, a section that would accommodate four 
people seated opposite to one another, and these seats 
are pulled out till they meet, and a broad shelf above 
them is brought forward to serve as the top berth. 
From this latter, mattresses, blankets, and green 
curtains are produced, and the porter sallies out to 
a particular cupboard and returns with spotlessly 
clean sheets and pillow-cases. I always engaged a 
lower berth, as a ladder is needed to ascend to the 
top one, and likewise to descend ; and I was careful 
to see that my window was drawn up, and a gauze- 
filled frame, some six inches high, inserted into the 
aperture in order to ensure fresh air during the night. 
The green curtains were hung from a rail in order to 
screen the occupants of both berths, but as I disliked 
being at the mercy of the upper berth, I always insisted 
on a second curtain of some thin material being hung 
on a cord to the shelf just above my head, and thus 
being entirely under my own control. 

I found the negro porters very civil, but an American 
lady from the Southern States on one occasion sharply 
reprimanded one because he asked, " What do you 
say ? " to a question of hers that he had not grasped. 

She was annoyed with me because I declined to be 
drawn into the controversy, and told me in rather a 



68 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

pointed way an anecdote of an old negress, once a 
slave, who had found her way into Canada. " How 
do you like this country, Matilda ? " her former master 
inquired. "You aren't ordered about here as you 
were down South." " Oh no," was the reply, " it's 
only gentlemen and ladies who know how to do that, 
not this white trash ! " 

Personally, I generally slept well in the Pullman, 
though when men snored heavily and children crird 
it was not always easy to abstract oneself. Dressing 
in the morning was also a trial, as a mere slip of a room, 
with two basins (towels in plenty), and no fastening 
on the door, was all the accommodation provided. 
It was almost impossible to dress if three or four la 
wished to accomplish this feat at the same time, and 
consequently I would either get up early, or mak. 
the major part of my toilet in my berth, though it 
was no easy task to do my hair in a space in which 
I could not sit upright ! In fact, I was almost moved 
to envy by the example of one old lady, whose snowy 
coiffure was most elaborately waved and puffed and 
curled. She was going right across to Vancouver, a five 
days' journey, and told a passenger that she had had 
her hair arranged on the day of the start, and that she 
would not touch it until she reached her destination. 

The meals served in the restaurant car were ex- 



TRAVEL THROUGH WOOD AND PRAIRIE 69 

cellent, though somewhat expensive, and as here and 
at every good-sized hotel throughout Canada the 
waiters expect to be tipped at every meal (the 
scale was $d. to is.), money, I found, ran away 
swiftly. In the Tourist and Colonist cars there are 
stoves, &c., for cooking food, so that their occupants 
can save considerably by bringing provisions with 
them. The big parties of girls that the British 
Women's Emigration Society sends out in charge of 
matrons, travel in what are called "stripped " Tourist 
cars. Each girl has to buy a straw-filled mattress, 

illow, and blankets, most of the articles being useful 
to her afterwards, and the matron lays in provisions 
for the long train journey hams, tinned meat, bread, 
cake, condensed cream, and so on. These "pro- 
ted " parties are a great boon to inexperienced girls 

f whatever class, as they are preserved from un- 
desirable acquaintances on board ship, and are looked 
after, together with their belongings, until they reach 
their final destination. 

At Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg are hostels, 
where all women immigrants are given free board and 
lodging for twenty-four hours, and are helped by the 
matrons in charge to find work if they elect to stop 
in these cities. 

As railway porters are conspicuous by their absence 



f~ f i 



i 



70 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

in Canada, everyone must be able to cany his own 
hand-baggage, and I found that a flat suit-case, which 
held my night-things, a book, and writing materials 
was most useful. A woman travelling alone is always 
the object of kindly attention, and never once did I 
lift my " grip " in or out of any train, some passenger 
invariably possessing himself of it and leaving me free 
to clamber up or down the steps of my carriage in 
fact, so well was I looked after that I feared that I 
must give the impression of being rather helpless. 
There is always a good deal of movement in the cars. 
Men come round with newspapers, post cards, maga- 
zines, fruit, and sweets ; the conductor wishes to 
inspect your ticket, and often takes it away, giving 
a slip of card in exchange, which he sticks into the 
hat-band of all the men ; and the brakesman passes 
to and fro constantly, wearing thick gloves. 

On my arrival in Canada I was struck by the fact 
that most men appeared to do their work in gloves. 
Perhaps the reason is that they are obliged to protect 
nds during the intense cold of winter, and so 
get into the habit. Be that as it may, I was al 
surprised to see men riding, driving, or using pickaxe 
and shovel with gloved hands, and in the men 
partment of the drapers' shops there were immense 
piles of these handgear. 






TRAVEL THROUGH WOOD AND PRAIRIE 71 

The " check " system for luggage is what I was 
accustomed to from Continental travel, and usually 
it works splendidly. Once I lost a box for two or 
three days during the height of the tourist season, 
and on another occasion I had a good deal of bother 
about retrieving an errant trunk. This was, perhaps, 
partly my own fault. I travelled with two boxes one, 
old and shabby, held my " home-help " possessions, 
and this I kept with me ; while the other, containing 
smarter clothes, was either sent on ahead, or left at 
the station until I required it. On one occasion I 
left this box for over a month, and it was finally 
traced to the unclaimed baggage department at Win- 
nipeg, the baggage-agent exerting himself nobly on my 
behalf, sending constant wires, and assuring me that 
he would leave no stone unturned to recover my lost 
property, the check for which I had in my possession. 

Travelling in Canada is very pleasant, because fellow- 
passengers soon become friendly with one another, 
and I never took a journey without getting informa- 
tion of some kind from all sorts and conditions of men. 
From Montreal to Winnipeg I was fortunate enough to 
fall in with an American traveller and author, well 
known in Canada for her explorations among the 
Rockies. We walked and talked and had our meals 
together during the two days I was with her, and as 



72 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

both of us loved travel and had heard the "call of tin- 
wild," we had plenty of subjects of conversation as we 
watched the scenery from the Observation car. It 
seemed a land all lake and river. The big trees had been 
cut down, and were replaced by an after-growth of fir 
and alder, crowded together ; boulders were sprinkll 
about everywhere, and masses of grey rock cropped 
out. There were no high mountains, but it was a 
hilly country, with many a mile of muskeg or morass, 
and reminded me of parts of Scotland, though here the 
myriads of rushing streams were not brown but black, 
this colour being supposed to come from the roots of 
the firs, and, instead of the familiar heather, the ground 
was carpeted with young shoots of the blueberry. 

There were few signs of habitation to be seen as the 
train sped along the well-laid track, but at one tiny 
station a picturesque family emerged from the Colonist 
car, the father and little son in leather fur-trimmed 
coats and fur caps, while the mother wore a murh- 
mbroidered scarlet dress. They were young and 
strong, but behind them staggered a white-hain .1 ,,M 
woman, with a sack loaded with In T belongings on her 
bent back, poor soul, and looking very unfit to be 
starting life in a new country. Here and thnv m 
small wood-built t.wn with an air of tx-in- pitched 
down anyhow, or a cluster of houses with makeshift 



TRAVEL THROUGH WOOD AND PRAIRIE 73 

trails to pass for roads, and now and again a desolate- 
looking log-cabin, a sight that always gave me a 
pang of possibly misplaced sympathy for its lonely 
occupant. Noble lakes, fringed with trees that grew 
to the water's edge and dotted with wooded islands, 
were dreams of beauty, and usually there was no 
trace that any human being had ever intruded on 
their centuries of privacy, though occasionally I 
noticed cut logs floating down the rivers, sign-manual 
of the lumberman's activity. It was a country to 
which Service's lines might apply : 



" But can't you hear the wild ? it's calling you. 
Let us probe the silent places . . . 
Let us journey to a lonely land I know, 
There's a whisper on the night-wind, there's a star 

a-gleam to guide us, 
And the wild is calling, calling ... let us go." 



I was sorry to part with my charming travelling 
companion when we reached Winnipeg, having no idea 
that not many weeks would elapse before I came 
across her again at Edmonton, just as she and her 
party were about to set off "on the trail." We were 
both of us interviewed in that city, and were amused 
at the newspaper article, in which her achievements 
in the Rockies and the objects of my tour, together 
with my travels in the East, were described in care- 
fully balanced alternate paragraphs. 



74 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

A month later, when I had left my first post as 
home-help, my box and I were deposited on the plat- 
form of a little prairie station to await the arrival of 
the daily train. So tiny was the station that it ap- 
parently boasted of no official, and I wondered how I 
was going to " check " my luggage. Two girls walking 
up and down examined the trunk, and finally told 
me that it ought to have a label with its destination 
inscribed thereon, otherwise it would certainly go 
astray. I thanked them, but said that I had no 
labels, as I had been told that with the excellent 
checking system they were quite unnecessary. 

" Oh no, that is a mistake. We always tie tags to 
our boxes," cried the girls in chorus. " But there is 
Mr. Bright coming; I am sure that he will tell you 
what to do if you will ask him." 

Terrified at the idea of losing my belongings, 
1 hastened towards a man who came up at this 
moment, and laid my case before him. He tl 
himself into the breach immediately, said he would 
procure a label from his own house, and returned 
t few minutes with one and a piece of string. 
I felt most grat i we walked up and down, 

talking of the Old Country, which he had never seen, 
until the train arrived, when he helped me in and 
told the conductor about my trunk. I mention this 



TRAVEL THROUGH WOOD AND PRAIRIE 75 

little episode, only one out of many, to illustrate the 
innate kindliness of the Canadians. 

It was an interesting journey to my destination, \ 
Edmonton, as new prairie land was being opened up 
all along the line. I could see men ploughing the first , 
furrows of their homesteads, or building the lumber / 
shack that was to replace the tent close by, and I 
felt the splendid vitality of it all, and rejoiced to 
think that my own race was still at its work of empire- 
building, a work that had begun with great Elizabeth. 
Men in grey slouch-hats were on the platforms at 
every station, or lounged in front of the grey-painted 
wooden hotel, near which were rows of gaily coloured 
agricultural implements, a bright spot in the land- 
scape. Everyone seemed to be poor, and my eyes 
invariably went to the few women, who often dressed 
with a pathetic attempt to follow the fashion, and 
these nearly always looked thin and worn. Yes, 
pioneer work is fine work, but it exacts a heavy toll 
from the women, because they are almost everywhere 
in the minority, and few of them compared favourably 
with the lean, sinewy, fit-looking men. I fancy that 
want of fresh air during the long winter must account 
for a good deal of this, and often the mosquitoes and 
flies are such a curse, that even in the summer the 
women venture out very little. Then the isolation 



76 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

must be taken into account, and the fondness for 
too much, and too strong, tea plays its malignant 
part, in company with monotonous and incessant 



I travelled for some hours with a pretty English girl 
who was going as teacher to a remote prairie school. 
Her journey was a tedious one, as when she left the 
train she would have a long wait for her connection, 
and after that would have a drive of fifteen miles to 
her post. She had no idea where she was going to 
board, and my heart misgave me when she said that 
she was about to teach Canadian children without 
any experience beyond what she had gained in Eng- 
land. It was no good to tell her that she should h.i\ 
gone through a short course in Canada, which would 
have been of the greatest help to her. Probably she 
knew it as well as I did ; anyhow, it was too lat. m 
the day to give her the information. Brave as she 
was, she felt depressed when we shook hands at part- 
ing, and I wished her all success in her venture. But 
I think that Fate will deal kindly with her, bei 
she was so plucky and so determined to " make good." 

On my way I was obliged to stop for a night at 
Yorkton and another at Saskatoon, as my trains were 
not particularly amenable. The first place appeared 
to be merely one half-made street, and o-rtainly 



TRAVEL THROUGH WOOD AND PRAIRIE 77 

would never have ranked as a town in Europe, but 
the life and stir of progress were unmistakable. I 
descended among a group of men, rough-looking in 
appearance, one of whom took my " grip " and hold-all 
in charge, remarking, "Go on ahead, the hotel is 
just past the Hudson Bay Store." I obeyed his 
directions, followed a wooden side-walk, and found a 
substantial-looking building with the hall full of men, 
many of whom were being shaved. The clerk behind 
his counter was busily chewing gum, and when I asked 
for a room he made no answer, but simply pushed a 
book forward in which I wrote my name. " Want 
sup ? " he then condescended to inquire. " Yes, I 
should like some food, please." 

" In there," was his laconic reply, as he jerked his 
thumb backwards over his shoulder in the direction 
of an open door. I entered the dining-room, where a 
waitress thrust the menu in front of me with a " stand 
and deliver " air on her impassive face, and I was 
served with canned salmon, beef with canned tomatoes, 
and Indian corn, canned pineapple, and a cup of coffee 
sickly sweet, as the milk was canned like everything 
else. I ate the food, however, with relish, as it was 
nice to have a meal which I had not helped to prepare, 
and which would involve no " wash-up " afterwards. 

When I emerged into the hall the clerk called out, 



78 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

" Lady," (I wonder he didn't say " Woman ! "), " room 
ii," and the man who had taken over my belongings 
he station advanced, cap on head and cigarette 
in mouth. 

" Come right along, and I'll fix you up," he remarked, 
with a pleasant smile, and he carried my things up- 
stairs, lit my gas, and promised to call me at 5 A.M. 
the next morning. 

Certainly, if people go out " West " they must not 
expect the deference to be found in old civilisations, 
and in one hotel the conduct of the bell-boy, aged 
fourteen, amused me not a little. He came into tlu> 
" parlour " to make up the fire, and at some remark 
of mine he left his work, took possession of a " rock- r " 
near me, and swung himself to and fro as ho talk. d. 
" This hotel is not used to bell-boys," he began, md 
they arrange our hours very badly. The other boy 
and I have been talking things over, and if they don't 
give us more time off we have made up our minds to 
resign." I hope that the manager shivered at this 
ultimatum ! The same youth, a thoroughly nice little 
fellow, when he received a small douceur from me at 
parting, remarked, "Good-bye, Miss Sykes ; I hope 
have a most successful journ< 

This specimen of young Canada was only one among 
many, and all these sturdy, inclrpcnclcnt offshoots of 



TRAVEL THROUGH WOOD AND PRAIRIE 79 

the Old Country are the right stuff to build up the 
Overseas Dominions. I was very far from agreeing 
with an Englishwoman, travelling in Canada, to whom 
I narrated this small anecdote, thinking that it 
would make her smile, and was taken aback at her 
comment, " How dreadful ! Such conduct is quite 
anarchical ! " 

On another occasion, two small C.P.R. red-capped 
boys accompanied me and my taxi to the hotel, into 
which they carried my belongings with more zeal than 
discretion, one boy whisking my hold-all through the 
door to the imminent danger of the protruding um- 
brella handles. I made no remark, but he turned 
to me with the curious apology, "I'm thankful 'hey 
are all right, for you would have killed me if I had 
smashed them up ! " 

I had been warned before I left England that 
Canadians resented " frills," by which term they denote 
airs of superiority, more than anything else, and I 
bore this advice in mind throughout my tour. I was 
somewhat taken aback once in the baggage-room of 
a large station, for when the railway employees saw 
my name painted on the lid of my box, one of them 
called out, " Hi ! Dick, come here ! Your relative 
has just arrived from the Old Country," and a pleasant- 
faced young man was reluctantly dragged forward. 



8o A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

With admirable tact he lifted his cap, and said with a 
polite smile that he was " pleased to meet me " (the 
usual formula of greeting), and I smiled in return for 
lack of a suitable reply. But my attitude, I fancy, 
must have been correct, as the baggage-agents began 
at once to give me advice as to how to dispose of my 
second trunk in the cheapest possible way. 

When I left Yorkton, a little crowd was gathered 
on the platform to speed the departure of a couple of 
Boy Scouts who had been selected to go to the Corona- 
tion, and later on, at Calgary, there was a fine muster 
of Scouts and Scoutmasters, who paraded outside the 
Cathedral to the strains of the town band, and tlu-n 
attended the service, after which a sermon was preached 
to wish them God-speed. In stirring words it was 
impressed upon the lads that they must do th< -li- 
nt most to uphold the honour of the Dominion in 
the Old Country, and as I looked at the rows of 
eager young faces, it seemed to me that the founder 
of the movement had calhd into being a new 
order of chivalry that would go far to neutralise 
the dangers of materialism and the worship of 
in.unin n. 

My run ii- m Yorkton to Saskatoon, and again on 
to Edmonton, filled mi- with exultation. When I 



TRAVEL THROUGH WOOD AND PRAIRIE 81 

had left the wooded country behind, we emerged on 
to a vast expanse, Kipling's 

"... far-flung fenceless prairie 
Where the quick cloud-shadows trail," 

and which reminded me of the Persian Desert in its 
infinity, its distant horizon, and its air of mystery. 

But there is an enormous difference between the 
two. The desert, with its wastes of rolling sand, might 
well stand for a symbol of Death, while the boundless 
prairie, with a soil only waiting for the plough in 
order that it may supply food for millions, is an 
emblem of Life. The keen tonic air that blows across 
the desert and the prairie, filling those who breathe it 
with the joie do vivre, and making them almost in- 
sensible to fatigue, is practically the same, and con- 
verts the Oriental traveller and the Canadian into 
optimists of the first water. Even the horses and 
cattle, galloping with outstretched tails as the train 
passed, and the colts and calves, gambolling in a 
pretended fright, were influenced by this Elixir of 
Life ; and how much more so were the human beings, 
who had to contend with countless difficulties in their 
conquest of this enormous wheat-field, 900 by 300 
miles, and said to be the largest in the world. When 

I made the journey, many a station was marked by 

F 



82 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

a red-painted C.P.R. horse-box converted into a 
couple of rooms, and here and there little colonies 
seemed to be living in disused cars. At Leslie, " quite 
a place," as a fellow-traveller remarked, there was 
some kind of a ffite on, and a big party left the 
train, most of the women bearing babies or leading 
small children, and I felt that one of the crying needs 
of Canada was for more women to come out to assist 
their overworked pioneer sisters. It must be quite 
an event for these lonely women to visit some little 
town (every cluster of houses in Canada is a town, if 
it is not a city), even if it only has a road or two 
like a section of a ploughed field, with a few wooden 
houses of all sizes and designs and colours planted 
here and there, apparently at haphazard, along it. 

Whenever I think of Saskatoon there always comes 
into my mind the picture of a motor containing a 
young man and a woman. It came full tilt along a 
deeply rutted track, bumping up and down in a way 
that would have shaken the machinery of any \\vll- 
conducted English car to pieces, and rushing with an 
apparently reckless disregard of consequences into the 
main street of the town. I cannot quite say why. 
but, as I watched its progress, I Mt almost as if it 
were a manifestation of Saskatoon itself, an embodi- 
of the splendid lif<- and energy that seemed to 



TRAVEL THROUGH WOOD AND PRAIRIE 83 

vibrate through the whole city, and I was sorry that 
the kind deaconess, to whom I had a letter of intro- 
duction, said that there was not much opening for 
educated women in this "live wire," as I heard 
it called. But when I left the next day, and 
drove over the Saskatchewan River, through a hilly 
district which promises to become the residential part of 
the city, and made my way with many a jolt and bump 
to the station at South Saskatoon, three miles off, it 
seemed to me that the centre of some of the best wheat 

country in the whole Dominion could not fail to need 

. 

the services of capable women at no very distant date. 

Again I passed little towns in embryo, houses ap- 
parently pitched down anywhere, many only contain- 
ing a single room ; and there were frequent lakes 
with alkali-covered shores, the water of which was 
useless. And at all these tiny outposts of civilisation 
my heart warmed to see the Union Jack flying over 
the schoolhouse. A Canadian farmer's wife delighted 
me by saying that the children were carefully in- 
structed in the meaning of the flag, and that her small 
boy was terribly upset when the symbol of empire on 
his school had to be taken down to be repaired, as 
he thought some disaster would certainly occur. 

I ruffled another woman by commenting adversely 
on the " gum-chewing " habit. 



s. A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

"It depends entirely on how it's done," she re- 
marked very stiffly ; but when she saw that I had no 
wish to offend, she condescended to give me some 
information about this curious custom. 

She said that it was supposed to be good for the 
digestion, a very different theory from that of a 
revivalist preacher, who held up a long stick of this 
flavoured wax at one of his discourses and denounced 
it as a " root of all disease " ! I was also interested 
to learn that it could be munched practically for ever 
without diminishing in bulk, and was amused at the 
tale of a small child whom the school-teacher forced 
to eject the u gum " that she was chewing surrepti- 
tiously during school hours. When the cherished 
possession was confiscated, the little girl burst into 
floods of tears, sobbing out that the stuff didn't belong 
to her, but had been "loaned her " by one of tin 
other pupils ! She also told me the curious fact that, 
owing to the in t nsc dryness on the prairie, glass 
tumblers, both in winter and summer, would now 
and again crack with a noise like the report of a pist< >l. 

As is usual in Canada, all the passengers v 

11 v with one another, and I enjoyed the journey, 
th"iigh the crying, bickering, and constant movement 
of several children did not add to the general harmony. 
Hut before I reached Edmonton a touch of tragedy 



; 



TRAVEL THROUGH WOOD AND PRAIRIE 85 

came upon the scene. An old and a young woman 
with two small children got into the car, and the 
young woman found a place opposite to me, and soon 
began to tell me a sad little history. The children's 
father, a blacksmith, had ridden an untamed and 
blindfolded horse in some races on Victoria Day, as 
the holiday of May 24th is named, and the animal, 
mad with fright, had pitched its rider on to a fence, 
where he had sustained fatal injuries. His old mother 
and children were going to bid him farewell in the 
hospital, where the poor wife was nursing her hus- 
band, and the kindly neighbour had decided to accom- 
pany the desolate little party to Edmonton, and 
begged me to excuse the lack of finish in her toilet. 
I just got the news in the middle of my work, and, 
s I am their nearest neighbour, I pitched on any old 
thing and came right along, and my husband must 
' bach ' * until I get home again," was the way in 
which she spoke of her truly Christian act. 

A friend, a well-known Canadian traveller, author, 
and lecturer alas, now passed away had given me 
excellent introductions to the ladies of Edmonton, 
who with the Deputy Minister of Education and the 
editor of the chief paper were all most kind and 
helpful, and I learnt much in this finely situated city, 

1 Live as a bachelor, and do all his cooking. 



86 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

which seems certain to double, or even quadruple, 
itself in the next few years, as the Peace River district 
opens out. 

What struck me most in the broad Jasper Avenue 
was the fact that half the offices appeared to be for 
the sale of " real estate," with " snap " building-lots 
temptingly advertised ; and I did not wonder when I 
was told that all the world dabbles in " real est. 
even servant-girls putting their savings into a building- 
lot, which they expect to sell in a year or two for 
double or treble what they gave for it. In the streets 
or on the cars the men seemed to talk of nothing but 
" lots " and " deals," and hundreds of youths will 
throw up any steady occupation and open offices 
wherein to start this fascinating, but in many cases 
risky, game. This passion, which, after all, is often 
only gambling under another name, has infected the 
scholastic profession, making it difficult to get nearly 
enough teachers to staff the Government schools in 
fact, so great is the deficit from this, among other 
causes, that the province of Alberta alone has a 
shortage of two hundred annually. 

After three busy and enjoyable days in Edmonton, 

it that I must set to work again, and I left the 

city in a 'bus, that took me down the high bank of the 

; to a bridge, which we crossed, and then up an 



TRAVEL THROUGH WOOD AND PRAIRIE 87 

equally steep wooded bank on the other side, which, 
as at Saskatoon, was being turned into a residential 
quarter. Then came a stretch over the prairie to 
Strathcona, a town in the make, and where was the 
C.P.R. Station. 

It poured in sheets the whole day, so that I did 
not much appreciate the pretty wooded country, which 
after awhile changed to miles of flat prairie, and then 
low hills, somewhat like our English downs, came into 
view, and I was at Calgary, where I was about to try 
and earn my living for the second time. 



CHAPTER V 
AT A WOMEN'S HOSTEL 

WHENEVER I left a situation in Canada I had to hunt 
about for a fresh one, and every time it was born 
upon me that I was too much of an amateur to turn 

hand to anything, save being a home-help. 
I hope that my college education might have a- 
me had I entered the lists as a school-teacher, but I 
cannot be sure even of that, as I was told that mathe- 
matics were a sine qu<1 now, and that science has 
always been my vulnerable point. Moreover, to 
teach some eight or ten children of varying ages in 
a prairie school would have been by no means to my 
taste, nor could I take such a post and drop it at tin- 
end of a month ; and governesses are seldom needed 
in a land where all send their chiklivn to the public 
schools to be educated togeth. u^h I had 

learnt to type, yet I found that that accomplish; ; 
was useless, unless accompanied by a knowledge of 
shorthand, and, as I had no d< xt. ntv in any manual 
art, I was fain perforce to be a hoin.-h.-lp. 

There are, of course, dangers when a woman has to 

i 



as 

Kx 



AT A WOMEN'S HOSTEL 89 

get work through advertisements, and, whenever 
possible, I applied first to the Y.W.C.A., which acts 
as an employment bureau as well as a hostel. Usually, 
however, I had to fend for myself and judge of a 
situation by the letter in response to my notice, in 
which I always put that I wished to assist the mistress 
of ranch or farm. 
The following was one of my answers : 

"Dear Madam," it ran, "I seen your 'ad.' in the 
Province. I have 100 and 20 acres of my hone, it is 
all payed for I lost my wife 4 years ago I ham 36 
years of age I have horses and cattle and a lot of 
chicken would you cair to go in Pardners with me 
I want to settle down again. Pleas let me know 
by return mail." 



I wondered how many " ads." he would answer 
before he found any woman willing to " go in Pardners " 
with him ! 

When I emerged on to the platform at Calgary, I 
was told by a blue-clad nurse, who met me at the 
station, that the Y.W.C.A., to which I had written, 
was full, but that I could be taken in at the Women's 
Hostel. Here the Matron received me most kindly, 
and gave me a nice room, which I shared with a lady 
who was considerate in every way, and I paid i a 



90 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

week for my board and lodging. I went at once to 
the newspaper office to insert my advertisement, and 
then to the Y.W.C.A. to see if I could get work. The 
only thing that the Secretary had on her books was 
the post of general servant in a house where the wife 
was ill, and there were four children, and the Matron 
of my hostel offered me a situation twenty-nine miles 
from the railway and among a Mormon community ! 
As neither of these posts attracted me, I went to an 
employment bureau in the town, where two men, 
seated, with their hats on and their hands in their 
pockets, surveyed me as I stated my needs, and the 
" boss " said that he was sure that he could find 
something to suit me if I would call again. " Take 
a drop in the morning" was his quaint expression. 
On my way home I saw a notice in a confectioner's 
shop that a girl was wanted as a waitress, so I went 
in, and asked to see the manager. A good-looking 
woman smiled as I somewhat abruptly started pro- 
ceedings by saying, " I am not a girl, and I have no 
experience in waiting, but you would find me strong 
and willing." 

"Everyone must have a first day," sh< .m-wered 
pleasantly, and wmt into details of hours and wages. 

" \\ ill you try me for a week, as a temporary ? " I 
asked. To this she demurred, saying that I should 



AT A WOMEN'S HOSTEL 91 

be nearly a week getting into the work, and it would 
not do at all if I left directly I had mastered it. 

Would I promise to stay the whole summer ? This 
I could not engage myself to do, as during my six 
months' tour I was anxious to have as varied an 
experience as possible. So I was reluctantly obliged 
to give up the idea. 

While I was seeking work, I went about Calgary 
with one or another of the inmates of the hostel. The 
town is situated, as it were, in a cup on the banks 
of the Bow River, and rolling downs rise around it, 
while across the river is Mount Pleasant, from which 
fine views of the Rockies may be obtained, and where 
are some of the best residences. There are no trees 
ive near the water, and as it was piping hot when 
was there in June, I often wished that there had 
m some public garden in the city in which we could 
tve sat in the shade. It seemed a pity that no 
provision had been made for a park while the town 
was in embryo, but I suppose everyone was too busy 
buying and selling building-lots to think of reserving 
a few for the benefit of the public. I was told that 
at first the smallest coin used was a quarter (is.), 
and even now it is an expensive city, the vegetables 
and fruit in the shops being at a premium. The 
streets were full of men, who loafed in big groups 



92 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

round the hotels, and as one passed, the talk seemed 
all of "real estate," of "deals" and "building-lots," 
while the post office seemed a haunt of tlu idl , who 
lounged, smoked, and spat, despite placards sternly 
forbidding all these practices. 

It was an extremely easy town in which to find 
one's way about. Down the middle ran the l<n 
Centre Street, from which branched off to east and 
west the avenues (aves they are called), numbered hi M , 
second, third, and so on, these being crossed by th* 
streets that were parallel with Centre Street. 

The " moving picture " shows were the chief amuse- 
ment here, as in most Canadian towns, and the only 
theatrical performance that I witnessed was a lurid 
in. 1". hama, but better, anyhow, than a play drama- 
n-mg the exploits of the notorious Crippen, which was 
widely advertised in a large city that I visited, the 
posters being most repulsive. 

Some of the shops had quaint notices "Hospital 
for sick clothes " on one, cloth. . f,, r " nifty " men < n 
another, and a bike for sale was 4t a snap for spot 
cash " ; while there were " shine " parlours for black- 
ing boots, and dental, optic, and even undtita! 
parlours. Wedding li<-no->, were to be obtained at 
the jewellers' shops a ( n\riii.nt arrangement, as 
the ring could be bought at the sam time- -and I 



AT A WOMEN'S HOSTEL 93 

was surprised to see that linen or calico was called 
muslin, there being frequent sales of " under-muslins. " 

The new Town Hall was an imposing stone building 
with a clock-tower, but the big rooms were too low 
for my taste. A gentleman, who had kindly consti- 
tuted himself our guide, took us to the basement, 
where I saw, to my horror, prisoners in iron cages, 
shut in like animals, and seated on iron bedsteads 
bare of any covering. The sight haunted me for 
days, and I was thankful that our conductor inquired, 
before leading us to their quarters, whether we should 
like to see the women prisoners. " Oh no, not for 
anything, poor creatures ! " we answered in chorus, 
hastily, and were relieved to be in the open air again. 

On another occasion we had the curiosity to attend 
a " faith-healing " service held in a big tent. Here 
the so-called " doctor " expounded a doctrine that 
sounded queer and garbled to my ears, interspersing 
his remarks with anecdotes, most of which bore little 
on the points in question. The climax of the meeting 
was when men and women came forward to be healed, 
kneeling in front of him, and answering in the affirma- 
tive to his question, " Do you love God ? " 

He then anointed the afflicted part with oil, praying 
that this brother or sister might be cured of sciatica, 
deafness, or paralysis, as the case might be ; and 



94 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

then came the parting benediction, " Now, brother, 
you are plumb-healed if you will only believe it," 
and off the patient walked. During the next few 
days the papers were full of testimonies from m-n 
and women who had been cured by this treatment, but 
I wished that I could have made a personal visit for 
example, to the boy suffering from a badly injured 
eye, from which the " doctor " removed the bandage 
in order to lay my doubts at rest by ocular demon- 
stration. 

On my way back to the Atlantic, I found myself at 
Calgary on September 4th, Labour Day, a holiday on 
which every place of business was closed. During 
the morning there was a procession, all the diffen nt 
trades and professions filing past. The plumbers and 
electricians, clad in blue, escorted cars festooned with 
Union Jacks, and laden with lengths of huge piping 
or telephones; painters in snowy white held al>ft 
standards composed of brushes ; tin-workers wore 
tin helmets, carried toy tin in^trunn -nts, and beat 
tattoos on tin basins ; \\lul. the leather- workers had 
belts and gauntletted gloves. 

All looked well in these makeshift uniform-, and 
were in pleasing conn a. t to UK- ban-l> .f m 
middle-aged business men, who slouched along in tln-ir 
dress behind a delightful little scarlet-clad boy, 



AT A WOMEN'S HOSTEL 95 

who might have come out of a Carpaccio picture as 
he marched ahead, bearing aloft a quaint banner. 
The town band, headed by a man riding a spirited 
horse, led the procession, and carriages, some con- 
taining the City Fathers, drove behind it ; but the 
weather was so cold and showery that the whole 
show was somewhat depressing. 

I greatly disliked being unemployed, and felt so 
idle and useless at being out of work, that I could 
thoroughly sympathise with the depression felt by 
several in the hostel who could find no posts, though 
their cases, alas, were very different to mine. 

One day I heard of something likely to suit me, and 
hastened to a hotel in the town, where a lively French- 
woman, adorned with a profusion of imitation jewellery, 
received me with an open-hearted kindness, and im- 
plored me to come with her to help with the house- 
work of a big farm at twenty dollars (4) a month. K 
When she found I could talk French, she became still < 
more anxious to engage me, saying that she wanted 
a companion, and felt that she and I would get on 
together splendidly. It never occurred to her, or to 
any of my would-be employers, to require a reference 
of any sort, and, accustomed as I was to English ways, 
I used to think that they were very confiding. 
But a Canadian explained the situation to me 



96 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

thus. " We don't pay much attention to testimonials, " 
he said, "because if a man is unsatisfactory his nli- 
tives will be glad to give him flaming references in 
order to get rid of him. So we are accustomed to take 
you British at * face value.' ' 

The Frenchwoman's home was twenty-four miles 
from a railway, and as she had three small children 
and was very far from strong, I should probably have 
had to " do " for the party, including her En^li>h 
husband and the hired men. Therefore, knowing my 
many limitations, I hesitated, said that I could only 
come to her for a month anyhow, but would let In r 
know definitely during the morning of the next day ; 
and she gave me an address in the town, her 1 i^t 
words being to urge me to close with her. The n< -xt 
morning I went to the address that she had gi\vn m -. 
but found the house shut up, and a neighbour told 
me that the inmates were all away; and when I returned 
to the hotel where I had had my interview, I t<>und 
that Madame had "gone south " without leaving any 
message for me. This would have been a cnu 1 hi . w 
to a girl dependent upon her own exertin> for a 
livelihood ; but as I had been uncertain <>f the wi 
of going with her, it was almost a nlu f t ha\v tin- 
matter taken out of my hands in this way. To do 
her justice, she N -.th.it I got a ccuj 



AT A WOMEN'S HOSTEL 97 

days later, in which she said that she had been called 
home unexpectedly, and had, as unexpectedly, found 
a girl to go with her. 

At the hostel we all took a frank interest in one 
another, and one or two of the lodgers who were 
of all classes, seemed as anxious for me to get a 
"position " as they were to get one for themselves. 

There was a certain jealousy between the British 
and the Canadians, which came out now and again in 
the talk at table, at which both races were repre- 
sented. An inmate of the hostel related that on one 
occasion she went to apply for a post at a house in 
the town. " We don't want any English here," was 
the rude remark of the mistress, when she presented 
herself ; but it elicited the retort, " If I had known 
you were a Canadian, I should never have applied 
for your situation," and Miss Bates flounced out 
with her head held high. The lady sent after her, 
saying that she would like to engage a girl who 
showed so much spirit, but Miss Bates refused, not 
unnaturally, to go. 

Of course there are faults on both sides to account 
for this attitude, but from what I saw during my 
tour, I am bound to say that my compatriots are a 
good deal to blame for it. They will persist in criti- 
cising Canada and things Canadian by British stan- 



98 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

dards, and do not boar in mind the precept that you 
must "do at Rome as Rome does," apparently for- 
getting that they have come to the Dominion to earn 
th ir livelihood. As I was nearly six months in the 
country, staying in many places, usually in the humble 
position of a home-help, and was treated throughout 
with kindness and courtesy, it seems to me that this 
antagonism would speedily be done away with were 
every Britisher to divest himself of English prejudices 
and come out with a perfectly open mind. 

Canadians are naturally intensely proud of the 
Dominion, and have every reason to be so ; and if, 
as yet, they have not the culture that has come to 
England as a heritage from former generations, they 
are abundantly endowed with qualities far more 
valuable to pioneers. I was once asked whether I 
were not afraid of travelling alone in a strange country, 
but answered that as I was among my own kith and 
kin in the Empire, I felt at home ; and this I maintain 
is the right attitude. 

Some of the inmates of the hostel had no right to 
be in Canada at all, and had come out after reading 
the alluring literature, in which things are, to say 
the least of it, seen through rose-coloured glasses. 
One lady, elderly and far from strong, who had had 
good posts in Engl.in.l, had actually taken her ticket 



AT A WOMEN'S HOSTEL 99 

for the Dominion after a talk with an enthusiastic 
Canadian lady, who had spoken vaguely of the " crowds 
of openings for women." My poor friend did not find 
many when she arrived in the country, and when I 
met her she was worn out with much work and little 
pay as a matron, and was having a rest before trying 
her luck afresh. She was skilful with her needle 
and could dressmake, but, as she could not use a 
sewing-machine, it would have been impossible for her 
to get work in a land where " more haste " is not 
always considered "worse speed." It was pathetic 
for one of her upbringing to have to go as house- 
keeper to three men on a ranch, and I confess that I 
saw her off at the station with considerable misgiving. 
Some months later, in passing through Calgary on my 
way East, I called at the hostel, and found her back 
again. Her health had broken down at the ranch, 
she had also had an accident, and was about to take 
a post as housemaid in a " rooming " house for a 
month, at a low wage, after which she hoped to get 
work again as a home-help. 

Another, a particularly charming woman, had been 
a governess with excellent posts, and was, moreover, 
an accomplished milliner. Unluckily she refused to 
turn this talent to account, but was determined to be 
a home-help. A place was found for her, and off she 



ioo A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

it, but returned in a couple of days, and amused 
....-/ us all with her account of her experiences with a fussy 
old lady. As I sat next to her at table, I asked why 
she would not go round to the shops and see whether 
she could get taken on as a milliner, but the bare 
idea of asking for work at a " shop " was abhorrent 
to her. I offered to accompany her in the quest, but 
she still clung to her " home-help " idea. 

*' You are most unfit for the post," I said to her 
bluntly ; and indeed a delicate, highly-strung woman, 
not in her first youth, cannot do the rough wrk that 
is expected of her in Canada. " Why won't you be 
a milliner or do dressmaking, and take to something 
that you can do, and that will bring you in money ? " 
I asked. 

44 1 hate the idea of it," was her answer. ' l I want 
to live in a home and arrange the flowers and h< lp 
the lady of the house with her correspondence." 

"I do not believe that there is such a post in all 
Canada," I retorted, but she was by no means < 
vinced. Her next step was to try work at an h -u-1 
in the Rockies, but the high altitude was too much 
for her nerves, and when I ran across her again 
had thrown up the post and was doing nothing. 

As I was then staying at an hotel, I was obliged to 
let her into the secret of my 4< home-help " doings. 



AT A WOMEN'S HOSTEL 101 

It was gratifying when she exclaimed with surprise, 
saying that she and everyone at the hostel thought 
that I was compelled to earn my livelihood, and more 
gratifying to be able to introduce her to various ladies, 
one of whom at all events has helped her to get work. 

Another of my table companions was a nice girl, 
who excited my warmest sympathy, as she was under 
the impression that she was a complete failure in 
Canada, and yet could not bear to return to England 
and confess herself beaten. She had been home-help 
to a small family, and was not a success, as she could 
neither cook nor wash, and was unable to manage the 
small boy who was placed in her charge. 

When I met her, she had got a job of plain sewing 
for some hours daily, and did not know what she should 
do when the engagement was over. I had no idea 
either, but I did my best to cheer her up, as her state 
of hopeless depression was the very worst in which to 
approach Fortune. Most luckily, an Englishwoman 
stopping at the hostel took a fancy to her, and offered 
to take her off to her ranch for a small salary, but 
with the promise of instructing her in those domestic 
arts, without a knowledge of which she should never 
have come to the Dominion. On the very day that 
this was arranged I went off to one of my situations, 
and my new friend accompanied me to the station, 



102 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

and said that I had given her courage, and that she 
was determined to be a success this time. She was 
young and adaptable, and I heard later on that she 
was doing splendidly at the ranch, so I hope that 
she will make her home in Canada. 

All nurses ought to know that they cannot get on, 
in Calgary, at all events, unless they have a General 
Hospital certificate for three years. I made friends 
with one nurse, who had had two years of General 
Hospital training, and had been seven years as district 
nurse, and yet, with all that experience, she got very 
few cases, although they were certainly lucrative 
when she did get them, as twenty to twenty-five 
dollars (4 to 5) a week was paid for a case. Otln-r 
English nurses told me the same tale of lack of work, 
and two were going out as home-helps in despair. 
At another town I came across a girl who had 
been a trained nurse in a Children's Hospital, but 
she could get no nursing, and, being a skilled 
seamstress, took a post as needlewoman and house- 
keeper combined. She had to sew from 9 A.M. to 
6 P.M., and do household duties before she began 1 in- 
work, so it was hardly surprising that her h< alth gave 
way, and that she hated Canada and longed to return 
to England. I understand that the reason of this 
is that nursing is practically standardised in the 



AT A WOMEN'S HOSTEL 103 

Dominion, and doctors naturally prefer to work with 
women who employ Canadian methods. 
^ Another ladv said that she had been a governess in 
England, and could cook, iron, sew, had taken charge 
of a house, and in her native land was considered 
most capable. But it was very different when she 
got to Canada, and because she could not scrub or do 
heavy washing she was looked down upon as stupid 
and incompetent, and had, as I had, a feeling of 
depression and helplessness. /Certainly the Canadian 
women are extraordinarily quick and clever in every 
kind of housework, and I never ceased admiring the 
way they could turn their hands to anything. The 
houses are always spotlessly neat, they are first-class 
cooks, and, as a rule, are very spick and span in the 
way they dress, however simple may be their clothes. 
On the farms they make the soap, cure the ham and 
bacon, bottle quantities of fruit for winter use, rear 
poultry, and on occasion can milk the cows, groom, 
harness and drive the horses, and are most handy 
with a hammer and nails. 

After giving a somewhat gloomy picture of various 
educated British women, I feel that I must now show 
the reverse of the shield, though it must be under- 
stood that the successful women are not, as a rule, 
to be found in cheap hostels or in the hotels. 



104 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

I met two sisters who had come out with the Arm 
determination to work hard for three years and 
to take whatever post was offered to them. Tin- 
result of their efforts was a comfortable bungalow, to 
which they have retired, and will keep poultry in 
independence for the rest of their days. Again, the 
Matron of a Y.W.C.A. Home told me that she was 
the daughter of a Scotch captain in the navy, and 
that when her father died she and her family were 
left very badly off, and she supported herself by 
teaching. One day she heard of the openings in 
Canada, and determined to go there, finally arriving at 
Toronto, at the age of seventeen, with only sixpence 
in her pocket, most of which she spent in writing a 
cheery letter home to her mother. Fortunately she 
saw an advertisement in the newspapers, and inter- 
viewed the manager of some business, who took her 
then and there into his office as book-keeper, where 
she remained for three and a halt years. She had 
gone into a cheap boarding-house at Toronto, and, to 
joy, the money that the manager gave her for 
the half-week in his office just enabled her to pay IHT 
week's board and lodging. Sh. learnt stenography in 
her spare time, and then got a post in a larq.- bank, 
where, if I remember rightly, she stayed twenty 
years, and had the proud distinction of being the 



AT A WOMEN'S HOSTEL 105 

first woman ever employed in a post of trust in any 
bank in Canada. 

The moment that she got regular work she gave 
much of her time to helping others, and when her 
connection with the bank was over she spent seven 
years in teaching the Indians. Now, she told me, 
she had two farms, some valuable stock and building- 
lots, and had paid into the Dominion Annuity Scheme 
in fact, was very well off, and had only taken the 
post of Matron to help the Y.W.C.A. I felt, while 
talking with her, that I had come across a remarkable 
woman, and I saw that anyone with her brains, 
pluck, and energy was bound to succeed, however 
hard might be the circumstances in which she was 
placed. A young girl, penniless and friendless, in a 
new country, where there are few helping hands held 
out to strangers, the odds seemed all against her, but 
she had character, and triumphantly overcame every 
obstacle. 

This is an extract from the letter of an applicant 
of the Colonial Intelligence League, who is working 
as a stenographer in the east of the Dominion : 

" February 1912. 

" I have been at work only two weeks, and they 
have paid me fifteen dollars a week (3, 2s. 6d.). . . . 



io6 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

I do not think the same work in London would bring 
in more than 305. a week. 

" I got temporary work immediately . . . and took 
three posts of a few days' each at los. 6d. a day. I 
got these posts simply by going to the typewriting 
offices and saying I wanted work. Apparently, after 
you have finished with one post, the typewriter people 
ring up the firm to find out if you have given satis- 
faction, and if you have they are glad to keep you 
on their list. I could have got half a dozen other 
posts easily, as they were ringing me up before I 
had done with one post to know if I could take 
another I 

" I do not find that living ... is quite so expensive 
as one is led to believe, that is, in proportion to the 
much higher salary one can get here. . . . 

" I have not met with any antipathy to the English 
stenographer ... but only the nicest treatment at 
the employment agencies and in the offices." 

While at the Women's Hostel I tried my hand at 
book-canvassing, as one of the inmates, who had heard 
that it was very lucrative, had started it, and asked 
me to " do " a few streets and see how I liked the 
job. She and I were to share any profits that might 
result, and I was provided with a section of what is 



AT A WOMEN'S HOSTEL 107 

known as a " Red Letter " Bible, also a Life of King 
Edward VII, and a " Household Companion." 

The pamphlet of instructions advised, or rather 
commanded, the canvasser never to reveal the object 
of his visit until he had got admittance into a house, 
never to let the volumes out of his hand, nor must 
he ever take " No " for an answer. 

I fear that I did not adhere to my instructions at 
all, hence my lamentable failure ; in fact, I started 
proceedings by stating my business, and as I was feeble 
enough to take " No " for an answer, I did not get 
a single order. After trying my luck at half a dozen 
houses, I gave up the idea of practising a profession 
that was utterly against the grain. Fate, however, 
was good to me, and sent me a reply to my " ad.," 
written in so kindly a manner that I at once closed 
with the writer, and set off anew on my quest for 
experience. 



CHAPTER VI 

ON A DAIRY-FARM 

I WELL remember how I arrived at my destination, 
a large dairy-farm, after ten o'clock on a June night, 
and wondered whether anyone would meet m 
the station. 

As I stood by my things on the platform, a man 
stepped forward from among a group of working 
men, and, with the kindness that I have encount 
everywhere in Canada, asked me whether he could 
cany them for me. I said that I was bound for Mr. 
Brown's farm, and was engaged as home-help by his 
wife. " Oh, that's all right," was the answer. " Over 
there are two of Brown's boys. I'll tell them that 
you are here, as most likely they have come to meet 
you." This, as it happened, was the case, and I shook 
hands with two taciturn yokels in " Buffalo Bill " 
hats, who volunteered a timid remark or two as they 
picked up my "grip" and hold-all and march, d m- 
off between them into the darkness. After a while 
we turned in at a gate ;md .stumbled along a track 
among pines, where we seemed in danger of colliding 



ON A DAIRY-FARM 109 

with cows, their bells sounding on all sides of us as 
we picked our way as best we could over the tree-roots 
on the path. Though I had only engaged myself for 
a fortnight, yet I was not quite easy in my mind, 
for I knew that my success in this venture depended 
almost entirely on whether my new " missus " and I 
took to one another ; and I should have liked to 
have questioned my guides about her, but of course 
that would not have done at all. By this time we 
were approaching a white-painted, log-built house, 
with green doors and windows, and a woman, with 
one of the kindest faces I have ever seen, came out 
with a light and shook hands with me. I liked and 
trusted her on the spot, and next day she told me 
that she had had the same favourable opinion of me, 
so our acquaintance had an auspicious beginning. 
She pressed food upon me, but I was tired and not 
hungry, and was glad to go upstairs to my room. 
This, I may as well say at once, was one of the draw- 
backs of my new situation, for it was only divided 
from that used by the family by a thin partition ; and 
as it had no door, merely a curtain, every sound in 
the next room was plainly audible, and I never felt 
as if I had any privacy. 

Mrs. Brown asked me to be in the kitchen next 
morning by seven o'clock, in order that she and I 



no A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

might get breakfast ready for her husband, his three 
hir<>d men, and the three children. Mr. Brown always 
quietly crept down the staircase at five o'clock, 
roused his men sleeping in a shack close by, and he 
and they started to milk forty cows before the eight 
o'clock breakfast. This began with porridge, eaten 
with new milk, the staple dish throughout Canada ; 
and then would come fried bacon or boiled eggs, and 
plenty of hot toast and butter, with, of course, the 
inevitable tea, usually too potent a beverage for my 
taste. Mrs. Brown and I used to have our breakfast 
alone if the men were late, as was often the case, and 
this arrangement I liked, for directly they appeared 
our work was cut out in waiting upon them. We 
all ate in the dining-room, and had a good deal of 
running into the adjoining kitchen to fill their pi 
and those of the children, from the porridge-pot, to 
bring in the eggs, bacon, and toast kept hot in the 
oven, to pour out their tea, and so on. During the 
progress of breakfast, the children would begin to 
straggle down in stockinged feet, and would hunt 
about in the kitchen for their boots. Kitty, aged 
seven, could attire herself, but usually needed some 
little assistance with her dress, that fastened behind ; 
Master Joe, aged five, could manage for himself, with 
the exception of tieing his boot-laces ; but the youngest 



ON A DAIRY-FARM in 

hope, only just three, had to be got up by Mrs. Brown, 
who always disappeared for that purpose as soon as 
breakfast was under weigh. 

I do not wish to run down the youth of Canada, 
but certainly in the three situations in which I en- 
countered children I found them rough, mannerless, 
and unruly, a great contrast to their courteous parents : 
they were always undisciplined, and completely lack- 
ing in deference to their elders. 

The young Browns did not go to school, but hung 
about all day, and not having enough vent for their 
energies, used to squabble constantly, the one who 
was worsted in any encounter, howling so vigorously, 
that at first I used to rush to the spot, feeling sure 
that some fearful accident had occurred. One reason 
of this was that the parents were far too busy to 
bring up their children in the way they should go, 
and Mrs. Brown, who was under no illusions as to 
her noisy family, used to lament to me that she, who 
had been a school-teacher, could not keep her own 
treasures in better order. 

After breakfast came the " prose/' as my " missus " 
called it, of washing-up ; but as we always washed 
the crockery and dried it turn and turn about, it was 
not nearly as monotonous a job as I found it later 
on. Moreover, my employer and I had got into 



ii2 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

sympathy with one another from the first, and en- 
joyed working together. 

She told me that the moment she saw the word 
"educated" in my "ad." she longed to secure my 
services, more as a companion than as a hom -li< lp, 
and I felt that first day as if I had anchored my bark, 
for the present, in calm water. My new mistress was 
most easy to get on with, and did not make me nervous 
or find fault with me. To use her own expression, 
she " never looked out for flies." She assured inr 
that she would be delighted to show me how to do 
things, but that she did not mind at all if I did my 
work in the English way, and she would like me to 
make my own cakes and puddings, as they would be 
a pleasant change from her own. She was liberal 
and yet economical, and often said that a bad house- 
wife "could throw out more with a spoon than h< r 
hu-band could put in with a shovel." I learnt much 
from her and enjoyed her teaching in fact, so kind 
was she, that after a day or two I had to insist on 
doing more work, as she was far too ready to tak< 
the lion's share of every task, and my salary was n \v 
at the rate of 3 a month. 

My first task after breakfast was to sweep out t lu- 
men's shack and make their beds ; thm there were 
the two bedrooms upstairs to be done, the dining- 



ON A DAIRY-FARM 113 

room and kitchen to sweep out, water to fetch from 
the well close at hand, and wood from the wood-pile 
near by ; the fowls also had to be fed and watered. 
When these " chores " were done, it was time to peel 
a bowl of potatoes, the only vegetable used in many 
parts of Canada, and then I laid the table for the 
one-o'clock dinner, and put the potatoes on to boil, 
and began to turn pieces of steak in the frying-pan. 
Canadians have a perfect horror of meat being " rare," 
as they call it, and so the steak had to be cooked 
until it was almost of the consistency of leather. We 
women waited on the men as soon as they appeared 
and had taken their seats, and we ate our own meal 
in the intervals of supplying them with meat, bread, 
and potatoes, pouring out big cups of tea for them, 
and dispensing slices of rhubarb-pie. This differs 
from our English fruit-pies, as the rhubarb, sliced 
small, is placed on one round of pastry and covered 
by another, and then baked. Though nice when 
freshly made, the lower crust soon becomes sodden 
as the juice oozes through it. Meat and "dessert," 
which answers to our pudding course, were served on 
the same plate ; but considerate Mrs. Brown produced 
another one for me, saying, "I expect that Miss 
Sykes is accustomed to have two plates." Of course 

I declined a privilege shared by none of the family, 

H 



H4 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

and indeed, so many ways are there of looking at 
things, I soon got to approve of the " one-plate " 
system, as it meant nine plates less to wash up after 
the meal ! 

Mr. Brown was a good-looking, intelligent young 
man, and often talked well when he had got accus- 
tomed to me, but at first the three hired men were 
very "bashful," as Mrs. Brown expressed it. She 
told me later on that since my advent they 
spent twice as much time as formerly in washing 
themselves and brushing their hair before m-;iK at 
which they always appeared in their shirt-slt-< 
Poor fellows! they had a hard life I thought. M > 
and men were up at five o'clock, and would drive 
the forty cows into an enclosure and milk them. 
Some sixty gallons of milk had then to be strained 
twice, the pails well washed, and the milk put into 
cans, which were half sunk in the water of the " milk- 
house," a wooden building that floated on the stream 
close by. 

After breakfast one man had to drive the herd to 
a pasture a couple of miles away, where they fed 
until they were rounded-up and driven in again for 
the evening milking. During the night the animals 
wandered among the spruces round the house, and at 
first used to keep me awake with the noise of tlu-ir 



ON A DAIRY-FARM 115 

bells. Another man had to send a great part of the 
milk off by the morning train, and went round with 
a cart to supply the hotel and various customers in 
the little town ; while there were cow-houses to clean 
out, and endless pails and cans to be washed and 
then scalded. As far as I could gather, the men had 
only an hour to themselves after the midday meal, 
and there was a good deal to be done before they 
were free after the evening milking. 

Later on, when the weather became sunny, I pro- 
duced my camera, and took snapshots of one and 
all. Fortunately most of my portraits turned out 
well, and gave great pleasure to my sitters, who in 
time got less tongue-tied. 

Usually I was free in the evening about seven 
o'clock, and I often went for a stroll then, as it was 
perfectly light till quite late in fact I have written 
without artificial light at a quarter to ten. Kind 
Mrs. Brown warned me that I might find some of 
the men " forward " if I walked alone, but I had no 
cause for alarm in this respect, and, as a rule, Kitty 
would accompany me, chattering volubly the whole 
time. 

As I was treated with such consideration by my 
employer, I felt that I ought to do something in my 
turn, and my conscience smote me for appropriating 



n6 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

the whole of one room with a big double-bed, while 
the entire family slept in the other. Accordingly I 
did great violence to my feelings, and offered to share 
my couch with Kitty I On the second night Mrs. 
Brown carried her in fast asleep, and deposited her at 
the foot of my bed ; but it was a most unpleasant 
experience, as the little girl fidgeted and kicked me 
the whole night through, woke up in the darkness, 
wondered where she was, and was terrified. I had 
only the shortest snatches of sleep, and felt half dead 
with fatigue next morning, finding it a great effort to 
get down by seven o'clock to make the breakfast. 
Fortunately for me, the child had suffered just as 
much as I had done, and was quite ill from her bad 
night, so that there was no question of having her 
as a room-mate again, and my conscience was appe. 

Certainly Canadian air, as a rule, is most invigorating ; 
and I worked sometimes from half-past six to halt- 
past four without a pause (barring meals), and did 
not feel the slightest fatigue. But personally I could 
not have borne to have lived my whole life in this 
way, so much housework and so littl. ivl,i.\.ui<.n ; 
and if I found the life monotonous in lovely summer 
weather, what would it have been in tho winter, with 
the house probably over-heat, d, th windows hardly 
ever opened, and the minimum of outdoor exercise ? 



ON A DAIRY-FARM 117 

The personal washing of the entire family here, and 
on most farms that I visited, was performed in an 
enamel basin in the kitchen, and faces and hands dried 
on a roller-towel, hung on the door, I being the only 
member of the household who had a jug and basin in 
my room, which I supplemented by my folding india- 
rubber bath. I used to go upstairs at intervals to 
wash my hands ; though my kindly " missus " begged 
me to avail myself of the kitchen basin and towel 
instead, apologising for the griminess of the latter, 
as the children always had such dirty hands ! She 
seemed surprised when I declined her offer ! 

Sunday was just like any other day, as the meals had 
to be at the same hours, the cows had to be milked 
and driven to pasture, and milk and cream taken 
round to customers. I urged Mrs. Brown to attend 
church and leave me in charge of the one-o'clock 
dinner, and I myself went to the service in the even- 
ing. The clergyman was respected by one and all, 
and the quietest of the hired men said to me, when 
I asked whether he knew him, " Oh, he's the right 
sort ! He says that people needn't go crazy about 
religion." 

It always seemed to me that I got through very 
little in the morning, though I was down at seven 
o'clock. Breakfast would be ready by eight ; but 



n8 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

often the men did not get in till half an hour later, 
and the porridge, bacon, toast, and eggs had to be 
kept hot for them. 

Mr. Brown and two of the men would appear first ; 
then, about nine o'clock, the man who had driven the 
cows to their pasture would turn up, and often ate 
his meal in solitary state. I would bring in the food 
that had been kept warm, and would venture on a 
remark or two as I carried plates and dishes out to 
the kitchen to wash them, or brought them into the 
dining-room to pack them away in a cupboard. He 
usually answered with a simple " Yes " or " No," 
and Mrs. Brown said that the reason of his terseness 
was that he got chaffed by the other men about coming 
in alone and being served by the new home-h< lp. 
Often it was ten o'clock before all was cleared away 
and I could start off on my housemaid's work. 

The two boys were rather a trial to me, as they 
were in and out of the kitchen all day long, drinking 
water at frequent intervals, with the dipper, out of 
the pails. The habit prevails throughout Canad 
using the tin dipper as a drinking-cup. The men, 
after drinking, toss away the rest of the water, but 
the children, unless my eye were on them, would 
drink and put what they did not finish back into th- 
bucket. Kitty, an intelligent child, began the rudi- 



ON A DAIRY-FARM 119 

ments of the three R's in my spare moments, and got 
on quite nicely ; but the boys, who never left the 
enclosure, seemed to be in mischief every few minutes, 
as an outlet to their bubbling-over energies. There 
were so many " dont's " in their lives that I had 
involuntary sympathy for them in spite of the 
way they bothered me. 

(1) The fence bordering the railway track must 

never be crossed. 

(2) The creek by the milk-house (the most tempt- 

ing spot in the whole domain), must never be 
approached. 

(3) The pump must not be touched. 

(4) They must not play in the wheat-shed. 

(5) They must not chase the hens. 

To this long list I added a few " dont's " of my 
own as to teasing the dog and keeping grasshoppers 
and toads imprisoned in their hot little hands. 

It really was quite a responsibility when Mr. and 
Mrs. Brown went away once for a few hours, and left 
me in sole charge of their active family. There were 
fearful roars from the youngest, who had somehow 
or other mounted on to the edge of the soft-water 
barrel, and had then lost his balance and fallen heavily 
to the ground. Hardly had I ascertained that he had 
no limbs broken, when yells from Joe announced that 



120 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

he had hit his own finger with his father's hammer 
in place of a nail ; and later on little Tom was dragged 
up to me by the two elder children, as he had made 
off to seek his mother, and was found in the very 
of creeping under the forbidden fence. I thought tlu-y 
were very quiet after this, and felt cross when I found 
that they had emptied the pails I had just filled, and 
were using the water to make mud-pies in the sandy 
soil outside; and later on, \vlxn I went to refill the 
buckets, I discovered that they had "primed" tlu 
pump with sand, which forced me to fling away a 
good deal of water before it would run clean. Cer- 
tainly I do not altogether disagree with a lady by 
whom I sat one night in a hotel, and who said to me, 
" Never go anywhere where there are children they 
are the very devil ! " 

I was with the Browns on Coronation Day, and to 
mark the event I gave " Coronation " post cards all 
round at breakfast. Mr. Brown said that h< thought 
he ought to run up a flag to show his loyalty, and of 
course I applauded the idea warmly, but nothing 
was done we were all far too busy. It was washing- 
day for us women, and directly we had cleared away 
breakfast and had swept the rooms, we began. 
Brown rocking the " cradle," and I turning the wrii 
She did not mak as toilsome a business of the 



ON A DAIRY-FARM 121 

whole operation as I found prevailed elsewhere in 
Canada, and we got the family washing all hung out 
to dry soon after midday. On the other hand, it was 
by no means as snowy white as when I saw it done 
by other housewives, though probably the sand that 
got into everything may have been the cause of this. 
Certainly I have never been in a place where so much 
sweeping was required, every breath of wind seeming 
to cover the kitchen floor with sand in spite of all 
our care. 

Mrs. Brown had had a hard life since her girlhood, 
and, though a comparatively young woman, looked 
far older than her years, worn out with ceaseless work. 
Like the great majority of Canadian women, she was 
extraordinarily quick and capable, and, as I told 
her, would have concocted a cake and put it in the 
oven, and perhaps baked it, before I had collected the 
materials to make mine. But the Demon of Work 
had got her in its clutches, as it seems to get so 
many Canadian women, and she could not rest or 
take things easily. 

She had been for four years on a ranch completely 
bare of crops, as it was a cattle-range and she said 
that the great expanse got on her nerves, and she 
hated it, save when in the spring the ground was 
starred with myriads of tiny flowers. Her husband 



122 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

and the other men were off with the cattle during the 
greater part of the day, and she told me that without 
her children she thought that she would have gone mad. 
In summer the heat was great, and the mosquitoes 
were so bad that she hardly ever left the house, but 
lived behind the wire screens, which were in front of 
all the doors and windows ; and she often watched 
her husband riding off, looking as if he and his horse 
were in a mist, so dense was the cloud of these pesti- 
lent little insects. The men all wore veils and gloves, 
and covered their horses as much as possible with 
sacking. The poor cattle, however hungry they 
might be, dared not feed when the air was still, but 
lay in the barns to get refuge from the mosquitoes, 
waiting there until a breeze sprung up, when tlu-y 
would hurry out to the pasture. Sometimes the 
winters were terrible, so severe that the cattle died 
on the ranges, and she was kept indoors for weeks at 
a time. Mr. Brown, most fortunately, had a i 
store of hay, and once fed his sheep, over two thou- 
sand in number, daily, and he and his partner had a 
snow-plough that tossed away the snow, and enabled 
the animals to feed on the grass underneath. They 
got to understand the purpose of this plough very 
soon, and the whole flock would follow it in a strag- 
gling line, perhaps a mile long, browsing as they went. 



ON A DAIRY-FARM 123 

Canadian as she was, Mrs. Brown had ever a good 
word for the English, who, she said, were considered 
to make the kindest husbands of any, in the way of 
helping their wives, though the Canadians were sup- 
posed to give money more freely for household ex- 
penses. Again and again on the prairie an English- 
man would give her a hand with the interminable 
dish-washing, and would sometimes be sneered at by 
the other men for so doing. The rough old Scotchman, 
her husband's partner, would never help her in any 
way, and she quoted to me more than once the remark 
of a Scotchwoman on the prairie, who said to her, 
" My countrymen seem to think that there is no limit 
to a woman's strength." 

Day after day she rose to a round of unending toil, 
and during all the incessant work her three children 
arrived. The second came before his time, and as \ 
a snowstorm was raging, it was impossible to go for 
the doctor ; so she and her husband had to do as best 
they could. Usually the women go into the nearest 
town for their confinements, every hospital in Canada 
having large maternity wards for the purpose ; and 
as all Canadian men are as handy at household 
" chores " as their wives, they can look after them- 
selves and the children very well for a time. 

My employer and her husband were a thoroughly 



124 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

united couple, yet she assured me that had she had 
a vision of what her early married life would be, she 
would never have linked her fortunes with his. 

" I haven't a single good word for the prairie," she 
would say, "and I got to hate the very sight of a 
man when I was there." I was surprised at this, and 
inquired why. 

" Because a man meant preparing a meal. Our 
ranch was on a main trail, and man after man as he 
came along would drop in and ask for food, as a mat tn 
of course, and very seldom did he give me a word of 
thanks for it." 

How horrid ! I should have felt inclined to refuse 
to cook for such ungrateful creatures," I remark- d. 

" Oh, well, I felt like it very often," was her reply ; 
" but if I had done so, we should have got a bad name 
in the district, and I had to think of my husband. It 
was a life of slavery. Just imagine it ! In shearing- 
time I had to cook for fifteen men, and they needed 
five meals a day, and I couldn't get a woman to help 
me for love or money. I was too busy to go and see 
my neighbours the nearest lived four miles off and 
I just got into the way of thinking of nothing but how 
to get through the day's work." 

" Don't you think that tin- nun would have helped 
you if you had asked them ? I -aid. " I met a girl 



ON A DAIRY-FARM 125 

who told me that her husband had a ranch, and that 
she rode half the day and ' jollied the boys/ who did 
her work for her." 

" Yes, there were women in our part who went on 
like that, but," and Mrs. Brown's voice had a tragic 
note, "they could never get free of the prairie as 
we have done. They took their freedom while they 
were there, wasted the time of the hired men, and 
there they will have to stay all their lives," and she 
shuddered at the mere thought of it. 

" But aren't there some women who love the life ? 
In England we hear so much of the ' call of the prairie.' ' 

My mistress looked dubious. " There may be some," 

she conceded, " but I never met them. All my 

^ 

friends hated the loneliness and the lack of amuse- 
ment and the same dull round day after day. Do 
you know, if ever I sat down and wrote, or did some 
sewing, Kitty would come up to me to ask whether 
it were Sunday, so astonished was she to see me rest- 
ing, as on the week-days I was on the ' go ' all the 
time. I have heard since from two or three of our 
% neighbours, and they are all suffering from 'nerves/ -K 
and I myself am worn out and old before my time 
with the life." 

This was true ; but I pointed out to her that now, 
as they were so well off that Mr. Brown need not 



126 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

work at all, she ought to rest every afternoon, or go 
out and see some of her neighbours. But this was 
a counsel of perfection. She saw its wisdom, but 
said sadly that she was so wound up, as it were, that 
she positively had to keep going all day, and that she 
had now lost all desire for social intercourse. And 
this I found to be the case with many Canadian women. 
The habit of work was so deeply ingrained in them 
that they went on when there was no necessity for 
it, and far too often broken health and mental de- 
rangement stop this activity. From the Atlantic to 
the Pacific the women in country districts, as a rule, 
wore far worse than the men, and the monotonous 
work, too much tea, little outdoor exercise, and few 
neighbours or amusements appeared to me to be the 
causes of this. The men have a far better life, though 
the extremes of heat and cold must be very trying. 
They work with other men, and have the animals to 
look after, and, best of all, are in the open air most 
of the day. As Mr. Brown re marked to me when 
talking of their life on the ranch, " The prairie is no 

; ' for a woman." 

The isolation makes men and women shy and 
nervous, and I had an example of this when three 
smartly dressed ladies turned up at the kitchen door 
one wet afternoon, asked to buy eggs, and requested 



ON A DAIRY-FARM 127 

glasses of water. Mrs. Brown had a fit of shyness, 
and her home-help had to give the ladies water and 
tell them where to go, as they wished to interview 
Mr. Brown about supplying them with milk. Poor 
things ! they had to wait a long time in the rain near 
the cow-house before one of the four men summoned 
up sufficient courage to emerge from it and confront 
them. Mrs. Brown chaffed them about their cow- 
ardice when we were all sitting at tea afterwards, 
and her husband turned to me and explained the 
matter thus, " You see, Miss Sykes, those ladies were 
real * toney ' folk. They weren't in our class, and 
so we didn't feel comfortable with them." 

They were all quite " comfortable " with me, 
but this state of things was nearly destroyed one 
day, when in the course of conversation at table I 
carelessly dropped the information that I spoke French. 
There instantly ensued an uneasy silence, and the 
faces of the grown-ups wore a look almost of dismay, 
until I explained that owing to the nearness of Eng- 
land to France this accomplishment was naturally far 
commoner than it would be in Western Canada. 

This leads me on to make a few diffident remarks ' 
on the subject of class distinctions in the Dominion. 
It struck me again and again that the difference 
between England and Canada in this respect was 



128 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

c/,4A* 1*4 <*- i *^ 

that England acknowledged these distinctions, and 
Canada pretended to ignore them. In the big towns, 
where I had introductions, things seemed to be very 
much as they are in the Old Country; but on the 
prairie, and in small towns, where everyone is "on 
the make," all are on an equality, and one realises 
that one is in a land developed by the pluck and 
energy of self-made men and women. It is a kind 
of paradise for the labouring classes, and, as a working 
woman remarked later on, "I call upon people 1 
who would not have taken any notice of me in Eng- 
land." Culture and refinement, art and literature. 
are not much wanted as yet. The ideal side of lift 
is left out; the material side is often too much in 
evidence, as money is the criterion of success, and a 
man wins respect according as he " makes good." 

All this is inevitable in a new country, a land full 
of such splendid opportunities and possibilities that 
even a traveller feels exhilarated by the atmosphere of 
optimism, and I longed again and again for Briti-h 
women with high ideals to come out and do th-i: 
in building up the Emj 

At last tin tim came for me to leave Mrs. Br'wn, 
and though I had only engaged myself to her for a 
fortnight, yet I had a sense that I was deserting lu-r, 
so often had she said th.it my presence made the 



ON A DAIRY-FARM 129 

work a pleasure to her instead of a toil. All were 
sorry to say good-bye to me, and though the three 
men had an access of shyness as I shook hands with 
them, they managed to stammer out good wishes for 
my success. Mr. Brown invited me to stay as a 
guest at any future date, and Mrs. Brown came to 
see me off at the train, the tears in her eyes as we 
embraced at parting. 

" You have been a good ' missus ' to me ! " I ex- 
claimed gratefully. 

" I have only treated you as I should like anyone 
to treat me," was her reply, but it was typical of 
the whole woman, and I knew that I should have to 
travel far before I met her like again. 

"All aboard!" called out the conductor, and we 
exchanged a last hurried handclasp as I took my 
seat, and was borne off to seek another situation in 
another province. 



CHAPTER VII 

FROM CALGARY TO THE PACIFIC 

WHEN the rolling downs round Calgary are left behind, 
the traveller enters a region of foothills, and then 
comes upon the glorious peaks of the Rockies, my 
journey in this enchanted region always remaining 
in my mind as more of the nature of a wonderful 
dream than a reality. A few points stand out from 
a vision of snowy peaks, great glaciers, headlong 
streams, and foaming waterfalls. I remember an 
evening at Banff, for example, when I stood on the 
bridge over the Bow River, watching a sunset of in- 
describable loveliness. As I turned away, my eyes 
met those of a woman who was gazing as I was, and 
at the same moment we said to one another, " How 
beautiful it is ! " 

" Have you seen the falls ? " she inquired, and on my 
negative she offered to guide me to the spot through 
the pine-woods to where, after a stretch of rapids, 
the river hurls itself finely down a rocky desa-nt . 
My acquaintance, a school-teacher on her holiday, 
an impassioned love of nature, and the peaks 



FROM CALGARY TO THE PACIFIC 131 

round Banff were all personalities to her, her voice 
becoming touched with emotion as she pointed out 
the lovely Cascade Mountain, its crest wreathed in 
fleecy rosy clouds. Another memory of Banff is my 
visit to the herd of buffalo in the National Park, and 
I had a distinct pang of apprehension when my com- 
panion and I found ourselves close to the great animals, 
which were feeding quietly among the short scrub, 
apparently quite unconscious of the tourists. They 
came towards us, browsing as they went, and 
a man, armed with a camera, snapped a big bull 
that came up close to him, and passed, munching 
away unconcernedly the whole time. Having read 
in my youth of the wild fury that was said to possess 
the herds of buffalo and incite them to mad charges, 
I trusted that nothing would occur to irritate these 
animals, as there was no shelter of any kind where 
we were. 

I stopped at Laggan in order to have a glimpse of 
Lake Louise, with its wonderful blue-green water, a 
vision of perfect beauty, and here I fell in with a couple 
of school-teachers. One in her twenties, frank, free, 
and full of joie de vivre, interested me by her recital 
of how she had made her way. She had been a nurse- 
maid in order to get money to pay for her college fees, 
had been a waitress twice, and this holiday was the 



i 3 2 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

result of many an economy. Did I like her dress ? 
She had made it all herself; and I wavered miser- 
ably between truth and charity as I regarded the 
skin-tight black sateen robe, with low-cut neck and 
elbow-sleeves, curiously out of place in this mountain 
resort, where everyone wore tweeds. 

The girl loved her work, and was proud of her 
influence over the children. She told me of one poor 
jt little Galician boy who knew not a word of English, 
and was mocked at by the whole class for his ignorance. 
The child's misery aroused his tea h-r's pity, and she 
laid her hand kindly on his shoulder, and from that 
moment he adored her as a goddess, worked like a 
slave at his lessons, and one day, with an immense 
pride, brought her a sparrow that he had killed. She 
grasped at once that this was a great achievement 
for the boy, and instead of reproving him for cruelty, 
she accepted the dead bird, and thanked him for the 
gift. 

On one occasion she noticed that another of her 
pupils had the throat of his red flannel shirt fast 
with a nail ! She offered to sew a button on, and 
then to her horror discovered that the mother had 
stitched the child up in las shirt for the winter! So 
she used her influence to get him bath- d, .md actually 
made underlinen for him, and washed it herself at 



FROM CALGARY TO THE PACIFIC 133 

intervals. As she chatted on, my admiration for 
her grew, for I realised that this one girl was uncon- 
sciously sowing seeds of chivalry, courtesy, and the 
love of goodness, which would go far to counteract 
the influence of many a miserable and squalid home. 

When I left Lake Louise and got into the " char-a- 
banc" to take me the two and a half miles downhill 
to the station, I was amused at a quaint American 
lady, who told me that she was bored to death with 
a three months' trip of sightseeing. " Nothing gives 
me the faintest pleasure now," she said, " but I should 
hate to miss anything." 

She went on to say that she knew that I was English 
by my accent, and that when she was in London she 
had picked up the English mode of speech " in fact 
it came quite naturally to me, and was not an affecta- 
tion." 

This reminded me of an American I knew, who 
told me that he could hardly understand me on first 
acquaintance, because my " English accent was so 
strong." Later on in my tour I found myself at a 
hotel table with Canadians and Americans, and one 
of the latter insisted that the English all spoke with 
an incorrect accent, and that Americans and all 
foreigners had the correct one. To prove this state- 
ment, she began by saying that our language was 



134 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

based on Latin. To this I firmly demurred, but she 
carried the table with her by remarking triumphantly, 
" Why do they teach Latin in the schools, th< -n ? 
Of course it is because English is derived from it." 
Anxious to enlighten my ignorance, she demanded, 
" Aren't the French, Italian, and Spanish languages 
based on Latin ? " and when I agreed to this, she 
clinched her argument with the following : " Well, 
when French, Italians, and Spaniards learn English, 
they always speak it with the same accent as we 
Americans do (I have often taken them for Americans 
myself), and as they are Latin races, of course they 
know the right accent for a language based on Latin." 
It was useless to remark that in all likelihood the 
foreigners she had come across had learnt English in 
the land of the Stars and Stripes, so I was obliged to 
subside unconvinced. 

Golden was another of my stopping-places, and 
here I hoped to find work in the newly opened-up 
Columbia Valley, but was advised to go further to 
some big centre, as the valley was reported to be 
colonised for the most part by bachelors. 

"If you have a little money, don't let on about 

.lid my kindly informant, " for someone or othrr 

will be sure to get it out of you if you do. We 

call that class ' daylight hi^hw.iym.-n ' h -r. -." Conse- 



FROM CALGARY TO THE PACIFIC 135 

quently I only spent a night in the beautifully situ- 
ated little town, and in the afternoon walked along 
the " track " to a splendid canyon through which the 
Columbia River rushes. The hotel proprietor, who in- 
terested himself in my doings, warned me to be care- 
ful, as the thunder of the water in the narrow gorge 
would completely drown the sound of any approaching 
train ; and owing to this my walk was not an unmixed 
pleasure, as I was continually on the alert for danger. 
The hotel manager saw me off when I left, pointing 
out to me two men who were about to get a free railway 
ride by sitting in between the cars when the train came 
up. He said that he had land in the Columbia Valley, 
for which he had paid fifteen hundred dollars, and 
it was now worth as many thousand. He had tried 
to farm it himself, but found the life so " lonesome " 
that he came into the town ; but he had no intention 
of selling out, as he predicted a great future for the 
valley, which, he said, was beginning to attract a good 
class of settlers. 

An American lady chatted to me as we came 
from Golden, and somewhat got on my nerves, be- 
cause at the sight of every rushing stream or graceful 
waterfall she exclaimed, " What a dreadful waste 
of water-power ! " She was also greatly adverse to 
foreign missions, and remarked, " I'd never give a cent 



136 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

to them. The good God created the h.-athm as they 
are, and can take care of them it is just foolishness 
on our part to try and alter their ways." This I 
could not allow to pass, and I rather opened her eyes 
by giving her some idea of what her position would 
be had she been born a Mohammedan woman, for 
example. 

Glacier was my last halt in the Rockies, and it 
seemed to me as if the scenery reached a climax of 
wild grandeur here ; the panorama was so majestic and 
stupendous, and the huge glacier, that comes down to 
the pines, and appears to overhang the hotel, was 
a wonderful sight. 

It was a superb day, and the moment my small 
belongings were deposited, I set out to walk to the 
ice, along a trail with little plank bridges at intervals 
laid across the rushing torrent, soon reaching tin- 
boulder-strewn moraine, across which I stumbled to 
the ice itself, and sat down to enjoy the wonderful 
blue of the crevasses, and to gaze at th stately out- 
lin- of Sir Donald, th Mat t.i horn of the Rocki-s. 
An ice-cold stream emerged from beneath the gl 
and a brown-clad lady, her brown hair dripping, 

bronzed face wreathed in smiles, and a i: 
exultation in her eyes, told me that she had phi; 
her head and feet into the chilly water, and was only 






FROM CALGARY TO THE PACIFIC 137 

grieved that she was unable to yield herself more 
completely to the torrent. 

As I reluctantly returned to the hotel I was for- 
tunate enough to run across my American lady 
traveller for the third time, and also found another 
author, an Englishwoman to whom I had a letter 
of introduction, and whom I had been most anxious 
to meet, feeling that her knowledge and advice would 
be of much assistance to me. It was very pleasant to 
see friends after having been for so long with strangers, 
and I was sorry to be unable to spare more than one 
perfect day to the many charms of Glacier. 

Again I was in the train ; the passengers all stood 
up to see the marvellous Loop, where the line makes 
a kind of figure of 8, and a little later we got out 
to get a view of the fine Albert Canyon, various people 
asking me how I thought the Rockies compared with 
the Alps. It seemed to me that the pine-forests, 
the rushing torrents, and countless waterfalls were 
much alike; but the Rockies are more terrifying in 
their grandeur, for though they have comparatively 
little snow on their peaks in the height of summer, 
yet there are no long grassy slopes gemmed with 
myriads of tiny flowers, no tinkling cow-bells, no 
goats, and no chalets, all of which give such a happy 
charm to the Swiss mountains. 



138 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

One of my fellow-travellers told me of some of the 
difficulties that had to be overcome before the great 
railway bored its way through the giant barrier of 
the Rockies. At one point it was necessary to climb 
the face of a rock, and so perilous was the under- 
taking that man after man refused the task, until 
a Chinaman offered to go up ; and not only did he 
reach the indicated niche, but he actually stayed for 
two or three days on his giddy perch until the work 
was accomplished. 

Certainly the C.P.R. by linking the East with the 
West, and thus opening up the enormous continent, 
has done a great work, and in her turn the Dominion 
is repaying the debt in a manner worthy of the colossal 
enterprise. 

At Sicamous Junction (aptly nicknamed Mosqui- 
tomous !) I left the main line, and went down the 
Okanagan Valley. Enderby, Armstrong, and Vernon 
are all pretty little towns, situated in lovely scenery, 
near beautiful lakes, and surrounded by wooded 
hills, in which live bears and deer. My object was 
to find out whether fruit-farming is a suitable nj* -n- 
ing for the average outdoor woman, and the almost 
universal consensus of opinion was that it was not. 
Could women do the necessary ploughing ? The 
spraying was a horribly dirty operation ; and 



FROM CALGARY TO THE PACIFIC 139 

though they might prune, pluck, and pack their 
fruit, yet it would be practically impossible for 
them to run a fruit-ranch without hired help. This 
appeared to be exorbitantly dear, as I was informed 
that a competent man would require 10 a month, 
with his board and lodging thrown in, and that a 
Chinaman demanded 8s. a day for a long job, and 
los. for a short one. 

Fruit-ranching, I was told, needs careful and 
continuous attention, except for a couple of months 
during the winter, and really only pays if done on a 
large scale. A man by constant labour, i.e. working 
from 6 A.M. to 6 P.M. with the aid of scientific know- 
ledge, can make a competence out of a ten-acre plot, 
but fruit-growing on less would be starvation. One 
acquaintance, who had been eighteeen years in Canada, 
said that he had never made a single cent out of his 
orchard, and that in his district all the peach trees 
were being cut down, as so many had succumbed 
to the frosts, and the fruit was invariably tart in 
flavour. The cost of planted land in the Okanagan 
is high, so greatly has this valley been " boomed," and 
more than one man told me he would be thankful to 
sell his ranch if he could get the price he gave, and ^ 
would then buy land in Ontario for about a quarter 
of the money, labour there being cheap in proportion. 



140 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

In the Vernon district there were plenty of charming 
ranches, but I found on inquiry that they wrrc often 
the property of people who had private means, and 
therefore were not dependent on their labour for a 
livelihood in fact only one man was quoted to me 
as having made a fortune in fruit, and I discovered 
that he had bought his land very cheaply before the 
" boom," and had sold the greater part of it at a 
high rate. I must also confess that Canadians were 
critical of the English fruit-growers, as they say that 
they spend many a working hour in playing temu\ 
and by no means come up to the dour ideal of " all 
work and no play." 

A North-country man who drove me to th 
Coldstream ranch, with its acres and acres of beauti- 
fully tended apple trees, told me that he had been 
three years in the Dominion, had turned his hand 
to many occupations, and hoped to start fruit-fanning 
soon on his own land. "'Making good' in Can 
means lots of hard work,*' he remarked, " and I 
often think that too much is made of the successes, 
for I never hear anyone talk about tlu hundreds of 
failures who have k-it th- country. I have come 
across men from public schools and the Universr 
who are just day-labourers hen-, and n. \ r will be 



FROM CALGARY TO THE PACIFIC 141 

"Would you care to go back to the Old Country, 
then ? " I inquired. 

" Certainly not, except on a visit to see my people. 
There is work and to spare here for all who can do it. 
It is not like England, where every man is ready to 
cut another man's throat, just to get his job." 

Again and again cases were brought to my notice 
of the folly of paying premiums to farmers to teach 
fruit-farming, or indeed anything else, to British 
youths, as every strong, handy lad is well worth his 
board and lodging; however inexperienced he may 
be. A public-school man told me of a school-friend 
of his, whose relatives had paid a Canadian farmer 
to teach him all about fruit-farming. He found on 
his arrival that there was no ranch, only a small 
orchard ; he had to sleep in a shack on the floor, 
wrapped in his own rugs, no bedding of any kind 
being provided; he was not well fed, and the family 
hardly spoke to him. Another word of warning, 
given me by many, was never to buy land in Canada 
without seeing it, and never to risk money in any of 
the various fruit-growing Companies that are so widely 
advertised in England. 

Certainly this long valley, with its lake scenery, is 
most lovely, and I was delighted with its profusion 
of wild flowers. Lupin everywhere, three or four 



142 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

kinds of clover, yellow daisies with velvety brown 
centres, corn-cockles, tall mulleins, and forget-me-nots ; 
but not a single buttercup or daisy lifted their familiar 
little faces to the blazing sunshine. Masses of small 
mauve asters mingled with vetch, pink mallow, and 
the rose flush of the willow-herb, while in the wooded 
parts syringa bushes were in full bloom, their gusts 
of perfume overpowering the delicate sweetness of 
countless pink wild roses. The birds were singing 
lustily, and orioles and blue birds flew about, making 
lovely flashes of colour in fact the whole place was 
a kind of Earthly Paradise, serpent and all, for I was 
told to beware of rattlesnakes in the long grass. 

From the Okanagan I made my way to Vancouver, 
a very hot journey. On leaving Sicamous we seeml 
to be hours in going round the vast and lonely Shuswap 
Lake, with its great arms; then came the Thompson 
River, flowing between high flat-topped sand-cliffs, 
an arid region with a stony soil. As we passed 
through Kamloops we were told that it was 105 
degrees in the shade that day, and this I could 
w 11 believe. Then came a stretch of gloomy 
desolate count ry, until we reached the Fraser River, 
with gloriously wild scenery, here and tlu'iv the water 
swirling and foaming at the foot of stupendous gorges. 

The trains went slowly when they followed the 






FROM CALGARY TO THE PACIFIC 143 

windings of the rivers, and the lines were laid in huge 
curves. At these points the outer rails were higher 
than the inner, in order to prevent derailing, so that 
sometimes we seemed to be tipping over, in a way that 
made a few of the passengers quite unwell. 

At some parts the shaking was violent, and on 
one occasion I was flung forward and bruised con- 
siderably, being informed by a fellow-traveller that one 
of his friends had had a limb broken from this cause. 

When the thirsty-looking Dry Belt was left behind 
, we ran into a beautiful land of mountain and lake, 
river and marsh ; but it was also a land where the 
mosquito was a curse, and I pitied the railwaymen at 
Mission Junction, who were all wearing blue gauze veils 
and gloves. The horrible little insects invaded the train 
here, and for the rest of the journey the passengers 
were in a state of irritation bordering on fury. 

Before this invasion, I had become friendly with 
some of my fellow-travellers. One pleasant Canadian 
was interested in the object of my tour, and said that 
Englishwomen were usually much liked in Canada, 
but that he could not recommend the life of a home- 
help to anyone brought up as a lady. " The life is 
that of a drudge," he said, " and the woman who 
undertakes it becomes a drudge," and I agreed with 
him. He complained that Englishmen were often 



144 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

most unadaptable, saying that once he gave an English 
clerk in his office a letter to copy. The document had 
the word waggon spelt d FAmericaine with one g, and 
not only did the man spell it in the copy with two g's, 
but he actually corrected the word in his empk 
letter. My companion also told me that a firm known 
to him had got some excellent millers out from 
England, but, as they entirely refused to adopt 
Canadian methods, they had to be dismissed. A 
Canadian editor said much the same thing, amusing 
me with an anecdote of an English waiter, who, when 
reproved for not conforming to some Canadian custom, 
retorted, " As you all belong to us, you ought to do as 
we please ! " 1 

This acquaintance considered that Canada \\MS 
greatly in need of culture, as the main, if not the sole, 
subject of conversation was the " almighty dollar," 
and he thought that an influx of educated British 
women with high ideals would do much to raise many 
a standard. 

Though personally I met with nothing but kind- 
ness from the day I landed to the day I left the 
Dominion, yet I sometimes came across members of 

;cctl that Canadians were apt to classify the Britisher into 
Scotch, Irish or English, frequently reserving their approval for the 
fut -named. 



FROM CALGARY TO THE PACIFIC 145 

the party who talk of " Canada for the Canadians," 
and speak of the British race as effete. To this I 
always had the same answer. I agreed promptly 
that we English must be effete, and I judged this to be 
so from the fact that we have possessed ourselves of, 
and continue to rule, one-fifth of the whole world ! 
Of course the refusal to ratify the Reciprocity Agree- 
ment showed that an overwhelming majority in 
Canada dreaded the very suspicion of a problematic 
annexation by America in the future ; but the influx 
of Americans and foreigners is so great, that every 
British woman, worthy of the name, who settles in 
the Dominion is, as it were, a standard of Empire, 
and if, as is probable, she marries, she will train her 
children to love the Union Jack. 
And so 

" We rode the iron stallions down to drink 
Through the canons to the waters of the West ! " 

and at last reached big, bustling, prosperous Vancouver, 
with its fine town hall and handsome public buildings, 
its good shops and comfortable hotels, and it was 
impossible to believe that this beautifully situated 
city was twenty-five years ago a mass of burnt wooden 
shacks. I found myself in luxury at Glencoe Lodge, 
served by picturesquely clad Chinese, and sent out 
my letters of introduction, my new acquaintances 



146 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

being, as everywhere, most kind, interesting them- 
selves in the objects of my mission, and in many 
cases giving me valuable information. It seemed 
wonderful to me to be living beside the Pacific Ocean, 
to reach which I had travelled some 3500 miles from 
Quebec, and I never ceased admiring the splendid 
scenery, the island-dotted sea, ranges of beautiful 
peaks, and masses of giant pines silhouetted against 
a deep blue July sky. Stanley Park, about a thou- 
sand acres in extent, and lapped by the sea, was a 
superb playground for the city, and I duly visited 
the mighty trees that rose straight as arrows, one 
huge pine being 222 feet in height, and a veteran 
cedar measuring 47 feet in girth. I was warned, 
more than once, never to go off the main roads, as 
modern highwaymen, intent on plunder, are said to 
lurk in the alluring-looking by-paths. 

I spent one afternoon in a visit to the Grand 
Canyon, a ferry, tramway, and motor conveying my 
friend and me to a glorious gorge, which might well 
have been in the heart of the Rockies, so remote did 
it seem from all civilisation ; I also went out to Point 
Grey, the beautiful peninsula now being laid out as 
a suburb of Vancouver, and was motored one day 
to South Vancouver, our drive being a series of jolts 
and bumps on the roughest of roads. Here the chanvd 






, FROM CALGARY TO THE PACIFIC 147 

stumps of lofty pines looked pitiable objects among 
the bracken and willow-herb, and the frame-built 
houses being erected in all directions seemed a sorry 
exchange for the primeval forest. Mighty roots had 
been heaved up and were standing right out of the 
ground, and here and there were great fragments of 
trees, shattered and broken with dynamite ; tram lines 
and water pipes were being laid down with astonishing 
celerity, men and horses working with a will, and the stir 
and life that accompanied this task of evolving order 
out of what seemed chaos, was most inspiring, and 
reminded me of Service's lines in The Younger Son : 

" And where Vancouver's shaggy ramparts frown, 
When the sunlight threads the pine gloom he is fighting might 

and main 
To clinch the rivets of an Empire down." 

From Vancouver I made the four hours' steamer 
trip to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, a 
most beautiful journey, landlocked most of the way, 
past a splendid coast line and myriads of rocky 
islands. The difference between Victoria and 
Vancouver was striking. The one all bustle and 
progress, the other quiet, if not sleepy ; the one so 
spick and span, with crowds of people in the streets, 
up-to-date shops, and expensively dressed women 
whirling about in motors ; the other with certainly 



148 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

some fine erections, such as the Parliament buildings, 
but many shabby residences and untidy corners in 
the streets, English goods in the shops, English harness 
on the horses, and with a curiously home-like air as of 
an English country town. In the Vancouver post office 
there were about six pigeon-holes labelled with dif- 
ferent letters of the alphabet for the delivery of leti 
and I had always to stand one of a long line before 
that marked R-Z, but here in Victoria there were 
only two, and I had hardly ever to wait ; here at the 
newspaper office, where I had sent an advertisement 
offering myself as home-help on a chicken ranch, a 
boy took a few letters out of a drawer and lok-<l 
through them to see if any were marked with my 
number, very different from the Winnipeg and Calgary 
offices, where each advertiser had his or her particular 
box ; in Vancouver I had to beware of trams and 
motors as I crossed the road, but here the streets 
seemed half empty in comparison. Everyone falls 
in love with Victoria, that city of pretty homes and 
beautiful gardens, and I saw plenty of elderly people . 
so conspicuous by their absence on the prairie ; while on 
Sunday, at the Cathedral service, the old ladies appc 
in bonnets and mantles of unmistakable English 
style, taking my thoughts to my own country church 
so far away. 



FROM CALGARY TO THE PACIFIC 149 

As usual, all to whom I had introductions were 
anxious to help me, and I was taken various motor 
drives in different parts of the lovely island that is, 
as yet, not fully explored. We drove through forests, 
had exquisite peeps of sea, lake, and mountain, passed 
by chicken farms and fruit-ranches, and admired 
the charming residences in and about Victoria. 
These invariably have beautiful gardens, their velvet 
lawns and riotous masses of flowers giving a 
thoroughly home-like feeling, while the great grey 
boulders, that cropped out constantly from the soil, 
were often covered with ivy, or turned into fascinating 
rock-gardens. 

One afternoon I was taken on the Observation 
Car, a great institution, to see the well-laid-out parks 
among many other things, and we also visited Esqui- 
malt Harbour, where the cruiser Rainbow is the only 
reminder of the Pacific fleet that formerly lay in the 
fine harbour. 

In old days Victoria had been a Crown Colony, a 
lady, whose grandfather had played a great part in the 
past, telling me that in those bygone times sailing 
ships that went by way of Cape Horn, brought letters 
and parcels to the settlers only once a year. 

Later on the mails came by way of San Francisco 
and took a month, and it was a great event when 



150 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

the Canadian Pacific Line linked Quebec with Van- 
couver, surmounting the tremendous barrier of the 
Rockies, and bringing the East into touch with the 
West. 

Partly owing to this long isolation, and probably 
due in great measure to the splendid climate, the 
Crown officials used frequently to settle down for 
life on Vancouver Island, which in some respects is 
plus loyalists que Ic roi. 

During my stay I made a flying visit up to lovely 
Duncans, an English colony in the interior, situated 
in the midst of most romantic scenery. Grouse, quail, 
partridge, and pheasant appeared to be in profusion, 
and I was told that there were deer innumerable in the 
pine woods, also bear, panthers, and wolves, while 
trout abounded in the streams, making the island a 
perfect hunter's paradise. Here all seemed to do 
their nun work with the aid of lady-helps, who had, 
I was assured, a pleasant life, as they were made one 
of the family, belonged to the tennis club, and were 
always taken to the frequent winter dances. I tried 
to get a post as a " temporary " on the island, in order 
to judge of this by practiral < xj>erience, but I failed 
to do so, as I could only promise to stay for a month, 
and my would-be employer not unnaturally wanted 
permanency. 



FROM CALGARY TO THE PACIFIC 151 

The climate is magnificent, rather warmer than 
in the south of England, but never unpleasantly 
hot ; it is said to rain usually at night, a most con- 
venient proceeding, the winters are short and pleasant, 
and the good roads never impassable. In parts it 
is much like the Austrian Tyrol, with wild chasms, 
pines, and bracken, and it was curious to come upon 
groups of Indians in such scenery, a queer-looking 
race, more akin to the Japanese than to the Redskin 
of the Continent. The Indian reserves comprise some 
of the best land in the island, and Canada has treated 
her aborigines so well that she has never had an 
Indian war. 

And now it was time to turn my face Eastwards, 
and I had a keen regret at bidding farewell to the far 
West and beautiful British Columbia, but I felt that 
my experiences would be incomplete unless I could 
obtain further glimpses of life on chicken ranch or 
prairie farm. 



CHAPTER VIII 

LIFE ON A CHICKEN RANCH IN BRITISH COLUMBIA 

POULTRY-FARMING is constantly mentioned as being 
a good opening for educated women wishing to < 
tli.-ir livelihood in Canada, and while I was in the 
Dominion I was lucky enough to become the guest 
for ten days of a young English couple who were 
running a chicken ranch. 

Mr. and Mrs. Bent, as I shall call them, wen- lull 
of enthusiasm, and were working their farm on approved 
up-to-date methods, so I felt that I could not 1 
come to a better place for information. 

The ranrh was situated not far from Vancouver, 
was a nine-acre clearing in the midst of the lovely 
primeval forest, where spruce, hemlock, cedar, fir, and 
pine raised their lofty heads, alas, all too soon to be 
turned into unsightly bl.uk. iud stumps, one of tin- 
signs of the progress of civilisation about here. 

My host, accompanied by a friendly bull-t< rri- -r, 
in.-t ni. at the electric tram which conn. > t> tin- vi 
with Vancouver and New Westmin>t.-i. and drove 
me to his pretty bungalow. At first my hostess wantrd 



LIFE ON A CHICKEN RANCH 153 

to treat me as a guest, but I had not served my 
apprenticeship as a home-help for nothing, and 
insisted on sharing the work, beginning by lending 
a hand with the evening meal, after which we all 
three sallied forth to put dozens of young Leghorn 
pullets to bed. 

These tiresome birds were in the habit of roosting 
anywhere but in the right places, and would have 
fallen a prey to rats, minks, or racoons had they not 
been looked after. Night after night we " bedded 
down " the fowls, and I enjoyed the work when it 
was fine, and the moon and stars were shining in 
a sky of purple velvet. But one evening it was 
raining hard, and we had to make our rounds clad 
in waterproofs, giving me some idea of what the work 
would be like during the winter. 

Though early in August, it was quite dark, and 
as the ground had only lately been cleared of the big 
firs, it was full of holes and inequalities. Here and 
there were stumps not yet rooted up, or bits of lumber, 
or a long hose-pipe like a snake, and worst of all, many 
of the tree-roots were twisted into big loops. I caught 
my foot in one of these once and nearly fell headlong, 
but luckily saved myself for I was clasping three 
pullets at the moment ! There were also stones in 
abundance, nasty snags, and small patches of bracken 



154 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

in unexpected places, so, if possible, I was always the 
bearer of the little lantern, and Mrs. Bent assured me 
that she had had many a bad tumble before she had 
learnt to know the ground. 

First a round of the " brooders " would be made 
to see that the lamps were all lit and working pro- 
perly, and that most of the tiny chickens were safely 
housed. Then one or two motherly old hens, sitting 
on the ground with a score apiece of little white 
balls tucked under their wings, would be visited and 
enclosed in small wire-netting pens, over which 
mackintosh would be drawn to keep them safe from 
rain or animal. This done, we would betake ourselves 
to the fowl-pens, where dozens of heedless pullets h.ul 
to be picked up from the sandy ground dotted with 
fronds of bracken, that concealed many a hole from 
the unwary, and put into sacks. These I would 
hold open, and when all were collected, we would 
carry the sleepy birds carefully and put them into the 
various boxes prepared for their reception. These 
young Leghorns were particularly fond of roosting 
on the floor of the big barn, a dangerous spot, as the 
grain kept there attracted so many rats, and the birds 
were most difficult to catch, except with a net that 
both Mr. and Mrs. Bent wielded with great skill. 
Even with the net it was a lengthy process, as they 



LIFE ON A CHICKEN RANCH 155 

seemed to be gifted with almost superhuman agility, 
so one evening the fiat went forth that their wings 
must be clipped. I held bird after bird, while husband 
and wife cut the feathers of the right wing until some 
two hundred lusty pullets were operated upon and 
deposited in the sacks, the chase and capture afford- 
ing us quite an exciting hour's sport. 

My host was trying to get his stock up to a thousand 
birds, and calculated that a good hen laid about two 
hundred eggs per annum, and ought to be worth 
eight shillings a year to her owner. He kept Leg- 
horns for the most part, as being the best breed for 
laying, getting 2s. a dozen in Vancouver for his eggs 
during the summer, and in winter 35. to 45., while 
table-fowls were profitable, and his cockerels found 
a ready sale at the hotels as " roasters." x There 
were, however, a good many drawbacks, hawks and rats 
being constant enemies to the chickens. Mr. Bent 
shot several of the former, as the old hens always 
warned him of their approach by uttering a curious 
cry; but the rats were more difficult to circumvent 
as they worked by night, and on one occasion killed 
over fifty chickens, hiding the corpses in a little drain 
to which the victims were traced by their feathers. 

1 In 1912 fowls fed for table fetched 35 c. (is. 5rf.) the pound, 



14 roasters " the same, and spring chickens were as much as 45 c. (is. 
the pound. 



156 



A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 



Many pullets were foolish enough to dispute the meal 
with the pigs, that soon acquired a taste for fowl, and 
got in the habit of snapping up and devouring any 
unwary birds that perched on their troughs. 

It is considered a good average if fifty per cent, 
of the chickens reach maturity, for they die so easily, 
poor little things, in spite of every care. If one of 
them hurts its foot and it bleeds, the others all rush 
upon it and peck at the wound, the blood seeming to 
excite them to a kind of passion. They are troubled 
by various diseases, to prevent some of which tin -ir 
drinking water is specially doctored, and they must 
be carefully guarded from damp and cold. 

My host was emphatically a " man ot his hands," 
and I never ceased admiring his energy. He built his 
hen-houses, his barn, and his stables, and carted gi 
beams of wood from the trees he had lelled, to saw them 
up into logs for the greedy kitchen-stove with the help 
of a little wood-cutting engine, and ground up bones 
for his fowls with another implement. He cleaned 
out ln> h-n -houses every other day, dug up and disin- 
fected the runs, and a ek drove his waggon into 
New Westminster, to return laden with sacks of grain, 
bones, chicken-food, and so on for his big family. 

Every Friday he went into Vancouver to sell his 
this necessitating an early start. They were 



LIFE ON A CHICKEN RANCH 157 

beautifully packed, free from every speck of dirt, 
and carefully graded as to colour brown, buff, cream, 
and white all in separate boxes. Whilst I was at the 
ranch I used to wash the eggs for market, Mr. Bent 
being most particular as to their appearance, and 
often I was obliged to have recourse to Dutch 
Cleanser to remove any stains that would not yield 
to ordinary water, as if left, they would mark the 
white albumen within the egg. 

Besides the fowls, my host had to feed and water 
his pigs twice a day, and of course look after his 
faithful horse. Throughout my tour I heard again 
and again what "paying " animals pigs were, and in 
this case they were useful in other ways, for they 
cleared the ground, rooting up the bracken in their 
enclosure, which had, however, to be strongly fenced 
to keep them from rampaging in the garden. This 
latter was a boon to the housekeeper, for it produced 
peas, cabbages, lettuces, beans, vegetable marrows, 
and rhubarb, not to speak of sweet peas and migno- 
nette, and one day I observed my host at the tiresome 
task of tieing up and staking many dozens of sturdy 
tomato plants : he would blow up a tree at any odd 
time, and usually had a bonfire going in which to 
burn old tree-roots and rubbish. 

Mrs. Bent was almost as fully occupied as her 



158 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

husband. Her house was beautifully clean and well 
kept, her stove brightly polished, and she had to 
prepare four meals a day, afternoon- tea being in- 
cluded in their menu, and also make her own br< 
Once a week she scrubbed out her large kitchen and 
pantry (probably she will have recourse to covering 
the floor with linoleum later on, or painting it), on 
Monday she did the household wash, and Tuesday 
was ironing-day. 

Most women would consider that her house gave 
her occupation and to spare, especially as she was 
dainty in her table appointments and always had 
flowers in the pretty living room, but she did almost 
as much on the ranch as her husband. The stock 
had to be fed, and needed water at frequent intervals, 
this being mixed with a few grains of permanganate 
of potash as a disinfectant, and clover had to be 
gathered daily at some little distance from the house 
to provide green food for the hens which were shut up 
in runs. The fowls were fed three times a day, twin- 
with grain, and their "balanced ration" (a mixture 
of grain, meal, powdered green food and ground- up 
bone), was given them in the evening, while the 
chickens required five meals. She also washed and 
packed the eggs for market, put the chickens into 
" brooders " for the night, and lit the lamps to keep 



LIFE ON A CHICKEN RANCH 159 

their shelters up to the right temperature, and on 
occasion she would chop up logs to feed the insatiable 
stove, wielding an axe with skill, and making me 
feel ashamed that I never got much beyond splitting 
up kindling wood with this weapon, so dangerous in 
unaccustomed hands. 

Though she never grumbled, yet to me her life 
seemed lacking in relaxation. She and her husband 
could not leave the ranch together, unluckily she 
had no congenial neighbours close at hand (they 
were of the English labouring type), and as her 
chief friends lived at a distance, she did not care to 
go and see them by herself in fact, I believe that 
during my visit she went farther afield than she had 
done since her marriage. 

To balance this, she was young and full of hope, 
there was the possibility that people of her own class 
might settle near them later on, and more than all, 
the encouraging sense that she and her husband were 
making their way in the world together, and that 
their efforts had every prospect of being crowned 
with success. 

During my visit in August I was full of praise 
of the fine climate, though I felt absurdly slack and 
sleepy at first, as I had come so lately from the tonic 
air farther east. But my hostess had another tale 



160 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

to tell of the winter with its rainy season, to which, 
according to one Englishwoman whom I met, it takes 
three years to become accustomed. When the ground 
was covered with snow she used to struggle to UK 
creek for water, scrambling down a slippery path 
to the stream with her pails, and she had to tend In T 
incubators and chickens in deluges of rain and seas of 
slush. But now the Bents have the luxury of water 
laid on in their bungalow, and the palatial hen-house 
and runs which Mr. Bent was building during my visit. 
will save those evening rambles after recalcitrant fowls. 
One day, when my host had gone off to the t.wn 
for fodder, we women had to catch a hundred or so of 
pullets that had got into the barn and deposit tin -ni 
in pens. Although this was after their wings had 
been clipped, yet the birds were active as mice on 
tlu-ir feet, and both of us were quite exhausted when 
we had at last cornered and caught all of them, putting 
about a dozen at a time carefully into sacks which 
we carried off to empty into the pens. After this 
came the feeding and watering of th< cntii 
and during this occupation we became Middmlv 
aware that a big sow had broken loose and was coming 
towards us. Both of us. I contr^ it, were trnitied, 
as these animals were reputed to be tierce, and 
were alone on th- pratttofc H-- \\vver, it ran up 



LIFE ON A CHICKEN RANCH 161 

to the enclosures where were the boar and various 
sows and piglets, and Mrs. Bent conceived the bright 
idea of driving it into an outhouse, as if allowed to 
wander it would assuredly root up the potato patch, 
not to speak of devastating the cabbages and cauli- 
flowers. Accordingly we hurriedly pulled all the 
sacks of grain and bran out of this building, and my 
hostess put a pail of pig-wash on the threshold. As 
soon as the sow reappeared, we rather nervously 
headed it towards this place, and to our joy, attracted 
by the bucket, it went three parts inside the door, 
whereupon Mrs. Bent boldly advanced and gave it 
a resounding thwack with her stick on its hind 
quarters. Any decent animal would have started 
forward in a fright, but this creature turned sharply 
round and rushed out, while we fled precipitately to 
the house ! I kept an eye on the vagrant from the 
back-door, while my hostess went to the front and 
produced somewhat discordant sounds on a trumpet 
in order to call the nearest neighbour to her assistance ; 
but as no one came she ran to his house, and returned 
shortly, accompanied by Mr. Gray, armed with a big 
stick. I had not thought much of this neighbour 
before, but when I saw how the sow " minded " him 
(it had treated us with the utmost contempt !), and 
how skilfully he herded it at last into its enclosure, 



162 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

my opinion of him rose by leaps and bounds. The 
animal had got out by rolling a log aside, and 
women helped at piling up stones and a tree-trunk 
against this, feeling very brave as soon as the truant 
was safely inside. Mr. Gray explained that he had 
heard the braying of the trumpet, but as he knew that 
Mrs. Bent had a friend with her, he imagined that 
she was giving me a lesson on that instrument, hence 
his delay in coming to the rescue ! 

He cheerfully informed us that a convict had 

broken loose from the penal establishment not far 

from here, and had begged for food from houses 

near to his; but this news left us calm, for when 

you have little or nothing to lose, a possible 

highwayman is not of much account. A Canadian 

told me that most women conceal their cash in tlu-ir 

stockings, and that some years ago, when a train was 

held up by bandits, every woman was forced to take off 

her hose, which the men carried away. " Only one girl 

saved her money," went on my informant, " and where 

do you think she had hidden it ? Why, in her ' rats ' ! " 

I must explain that the term " rats " is used for artificial 

hair, and at Calgary I heard an itinerant preacher 

urging the female portion of his audience to " fling 

away tin -ir ' rats * " as savouring of worldly vanity, much 

as Savonarola might have done in Florence long ago. 



LIFE ON A CHICKEN RANCH 163 

It was rather thrilling to feel that all round the 
chicken ranch lay the great pine woods in which 
bears wander. As a rule they do people no harm, 
Bruin usually making off if he spies a human being, 
but if he stands his ground it is not wise to dispute 
the road with him unless the wayfarer be armed. 
On Mr. Bent's ranch was a creek with a dam that 
supplied water to the house, and here bears had been 
seen. This I could well believe, as the stream seemed 
to be in the heart of the primeval forest, and could 
only be approached by scrambling down a steep path 
through trees, the ground being always damp and 
boggy, and long " weepers " of moss hanging from 
the firs. 

Across the water was a natural bridge, formed of 
the trunk of a huge cedar, once a giant of the woods, 
and from the moss and soil collected on its enormous 
girth, trees were growing actually sturdy trees. It 
was an eerie spot, the silence brooding over it was quite 
uncanny, and the huge firs that rose on all sides made 
a soft twilight, the sun being only visible when I 
gazed far up to where it glinted through their boughs. 
I was shown the difference between pine and spruce, 
cedar and hemlock, the latter tree always having 
drooping leaders however high it may grow. The 
cedar is the best of all, as its beautiful red wood will 



164 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

last for a century, and I saw Douglas pines shooting 
to a height of 150 to 200 feet, and was informed that 
300 feet is the limit that is reached by these giants. 
They are now being laid low with a ruthlessness that 
went to my heart, alders springing up to replace 
these splendid monarchs of the forest, and the " fire 
weed" (willow herb), so called because it springs 
up whenever burning has taken place, appearing on 
the ground in great rose-hued patches. At intervals 
one heard the sound of blasting, a sign that some hu^ 

was being upheaved by the power of dynamit* 
roots torn out of the ground, and all the valuable 
timber made into bonfires. This seei ipp illing 

waste, and "progress" here apparently meant 
of charred stumps. Yet it could not be helped, and 
there was something exhilarating in this wrestle of 
man with Nature in the wilderness, this effort of 
pun>* human beings to cut out a home for themselves 
in the vast forest, to wrench the soil from the grasp 
of the great trees and to force it to yield a livelihood. 
The pioneer, with his pluck, energy, and endur; 
always aroused my sympathy, and my hope that a 
man, such as my host, who had gone through the 
storm and stress, might reap the n ward. 

A forest fire must be an awful though splendid 
sight, and one evening Mrs. Bent and I were startled 



LIFE ON A CHICKEN RANCH 165 

by observing a red glare behind the firs that shut 
in the ranch on all sides. We heard the crackling 
as the flames burnt up the wood, and shivered at the 
thought that if they came towards us there would be 
no possibility of saving the stock or the bungalow, and 
that in all probability we should have some difficulty 
in escaping ourselves, so rapidly do the flames leap 
from tree to tree. A man, who had been " burnt 
out " himself, told me that his house was a mass 
of charred timbers in twenty minutes, and that 
it had been impossible to save any of his household 
gods from the flames. It was a lovely night and 
the full moon was riding in a purple sky, but the 
broad rosy flush in the east had something menacing 
about it, the crackle of the flames making me 
think of some great beast of prey lapping up 
the blood of one victim while it lusted for more 
and yet more food. It was a relief when a couple 
of men, who had business with Mr. Bent, assured us 
that the fire was merely a huge bonfire of waste wood, 
and yet when I went to bed, I could not refrain from 
thinking how awful a fate it would be to be caught in 
a big forest fire, such as had taken place in Ontario 
that same summer. On these occasions the great 
firs blaze like monster torches, and in the summer 
drought, or if a wind be blowing, the conflagration 



166 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

cannot be checked by human agency, but springs, a 
veritable demon of destruction, across wide open 
spaces to reach its prey, the tall, straight, resinous 
pines. 

A woman, who had been driven from her home 
by one of these terrible visitations, told me that though 
she and her husband saved themselves by tim.-ly 
flight, yet they lost all they had in the world and 
had to begin life again ; and their nearest neighbours, 
a family of nine in number, were surrounded, and 
perished in the flames. 

But let us turn to a lighter subject, illustrating 
one of the experiences of the housekeeper in Canada. 
It was a day when Mr. Bent was in Vancouver, and 
my hostess and I set to work to scrub out the kitchen 
and pantry. Of course I took my share of the house- 
work during my visit, and I confess that it filled me 
with pride when Mrs. Bent praised my culinary and 
other efforts, wondering how it was that I had learnt 
to do so many things in the Canadian manner. I did 
not betray that I had already been a home-help more 
than once, and had not altogether wasted my oppor- 
tunities in fact I only gave myself away once in Can 
and then the temptation was irresistible. It was 
in this manner. A Canadian had talked to me in tin- 
train, and, as usual, I tried to interest my travelling 



LIFE ON A CHICKEN RANCH 167 

companion in the objects of my journey. " Well, I 
should say that if you want to gain real, first-hand 
information, you ought to take a post as a home-help 
yourself," was his comment, and I shall never forget 
his look of astonishment when I answered calmly, 

" Yesterday I left my third post as home-help, 
and am now on my way to look for fresh work." 

But I have wandered from my point. Mrs. Bent 
and I had breakfasted at seven o'clock that morning, 
and after the wash-up and the usual feeding and 
watering of the fowls, we set-to at our scrubbing, the 
many pantry-shelves and cupboards being cleansed 
at the same time. At last all was done, it was past 
eleven, and we intended to have a rest from our labours 
and partake of a bread-and-butter-and-jam lunch an 
hour later in order to save us the bother of cooking, 
when suddenly visitors turned up quite unexpectedly. 
A lunch had to be got together somehow. A tongue 
was opened (what a stand-by these are in out-of-the- 
way places !), eggs were scrambled, and a batch of 
scones made as soon as we could get the stove, which 
we had allowed to go out, lit and heated. I remember 
that after this meal had been discussed and the 
crockery and cutlery had been washed, I slipped off 
to my room for a little siesta, and to my horrified 
surprise knew nothing further till afternoon-tea- 



168 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

time, when I reappeared much refreshed, but 
rather guilty at having given Mrs. Bent no help with 
the entertainment of her guests. 

One day I was driven into New Westminster, the 
oldest settlement in British Columbia, the inhabitant s 
of which say that it ought to have been chosen for 
the capital of the province, as it is finely situated on 
the Fraser River, with miles of water frontage. Ac- 
cording to the story, Victoria on Vancouver Island 
was selected because a meeting was being held tli.-iv 
at the time, and of course, at that date, the big, rich, 
progressive Vancouver of to-day was merely a little 
himber town of no account. We reached the city by 
a hilly road with plenty of loose stones lying about, 
and Mrs. Bent had to drive with care when we came 
to a dangerous place where the tram and railway lines 
inrt. We passed sawmills, with their huge piles of 
stacked-up lumber, a big machine factory, a salmon- 
canning works, to which we saw men carrying en- i - 
mous fish, and across the river was visible the largest 
nill in the world: the broad main ifc 
ty of good shops and some handsome build i: 
but it had none of tli stir and bustle that so 
icterises its mushroom rival Van 

I was very sorry when the time ramc for me to 
leave the Bents and as I got into the waggon t> 



LIFE ON A CHICKEN RANCH 169 

Mr. Bent, and drove off to an accompaniment of 
squeaks and squeals from a couple of small pigs con- 
fined in a packing-case behind us, I felt that this 
was the close of a pleasant episode in my Canadian 
tour. It had left me with the conviction that poultry- \ 
farming would be a profitable undertaking for active 
women with a little capital, who would work in partner- 
ship. They must be capable, all-round girls, accus- 
tomed to make the best of things, and, of course, 
properly trained for the work. Let no elderly woman, 
who has looked after the fowls in England with a boy 
under her to do all the rough work, think that she 
will " make good " in the Dominion, unless she is ex* 
ceptionally vigorous and adaptable. Canada is the 
Land of Youth and Hope. Everyone seems to have a 
sense of the great openings and possibilities there are 
in the country, and this helps the new-comers to tide 
over many a rough bit ; but the life is not an easy one 
in many ways, and the hardships would be intolerable 
to a middle-aged woman wedded to English comforts. 
The work on a chicken ranch is constant, and outside 
distractions would be few, for girls must be prepared 
to do everything themselves, as hired help is most 
expensive and would eat up all their profits. 

A Canadian authority on poultry-farming said that 
this industry, to be really paying, should be carried 



170 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

on in connection with a farm, because then the birds 
could be fed with much that would otherwise be 
thrown away. It would be a good plan for a girl, 
who had had some experience in England, to go for 
a course of poultry-raising, either at Guelph College in 
Ontario, if she intended to settle east of the Rockies, 
or at Pullman College in Washington, U.S.A., if British 
Columbia were her goal. At present the demand for 
poultry and eggs far exceeds the supply, and this 
pleasant state of things for the producer will probably 
increase with the population. 



CHAPTER IX 

MY THIRD POSITION AS HOME-HELP 

THE neighbourhood to which I now betook myself 
was supposed to be one that afforded great openings 
for the home-help, and I felt sure that I should speedily 
find a post. 

s As usual, I went to insert my advertisement in the 
newspaper, and when the editor heard my errand he 
gave me an address to which to write, and pointed 
out a situation that might suit me in last week's issue. 
Would I take a place where there were many children ? 
Remembering how tired I had got of the perpetual 
clamour of the juvenile Browns in my last post, I 
frankly confessed that I preferred their absence to 
their presence. With that he looked at me with the 
most reproachful face, and without a ghost of a smile 
exclaimed, " And you a jvoman I " ^ 

I should like to have inquired whether he had any 
of his own ! 

I was put into touch with a lady who, I was told, 
might possibly help me to get what I wanted, and she 
kindly gave me an interview. She said that she had 



172 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

spoken to two or three of her friends about my case, 
but that I must not dream of being treated as one of 
the family in this district, and must have my nv.ils 
apart, and so on. 

I answered that I had heard that lady-helps were 
much in request in the neighbourhood, but thi> sh- 
denied emphatically. " They are only wanted on the 
prairie or in lonely places, but here we have our own 
friends, and wish to have our family life to ourselves.*' 
I quite saw the matter from her point of view, as I 
should much dislike to have an unknown stran^ 
part of my home circle, but all the same my h< -art 
sank as she continued, " Of course, if you got on 
really well with your mistress, she might relax li r 
rule and admit you to a partial intercourse in time, but, 
believe me, you will be far happier if you will tak a 
situation as a general servant." and with that she 
dismissed me. 

I felt absurdly depressed as I walk but, as 

li id happened again and again during my jounx \ , 
an unexpected piece of kindness came to rherr m< up. 
A ramshack; MI by a donkey, .ml 

with a ladder sticking out behind, rattled along the 
road, and in it sat an old man an "I suppose 

I wouldn't care to a- ; <id the 

J hu. 



MY THIRD POSITION AS HOME-HELP 173 

" Indeed, I should be very grateful for one," was 
my reply, and I scrambled awkwardly enough into 
what is known as a " democrat." The old man had 
come, in his youth, from a part of England that I 
knew, and inquired most kindly as to my business in 
. the neighbourhood. He urged me to call at every 
ranch in the district and offer my services ; but 
though I did not feel equal to doing this, his spon- 
taneous sympathy was most cheering, and by the time 

had extricated myself from his funny little trap 
my forlorn feeling had quite vanished. 

An English woman whom I shall call Mrs. Down ton, 
appeared to engage my services, and I asked for details 
of the work. She wished me to do all the cooking 
and cleaning of the house, and look after her children 
on two afternoons of the week. Could I have a room 
to myself, an hour or two off during the afternoon, 
and should I be treated as one of the family ? I asked. 
She agreed to all these conditions, but her whole 
manner was that of a superior to one vastly her 
inferior, and I saw at once that I was " up against " 
the English " caste " system. 

As I had been "one of the family," almost more 
than I wished, elsewhere, I wondered how it would 
feel to be treated as a menial, and I prudently offered 
my services for just a week if she cared to accept 



174 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

them for so short a period. As she was hard up for 
help at the time she agreed, and offered me wages 
at the rate of fifteen dollars (3) a month. 

The time of my arrival coincided with the depar- 
ture of the last "girl," and the leave-taking between 
mistress and maid was anything but cordial. Mrs. 
Downton then led me into the kitchen, and, pointing 
to a paper fastened to the door, said, " Here are my 
rules for the work of each day," and showed me my 
room, comfortable save for the lack of a chair or any 
place to put my things, except a few nails on the door, 
and told me to prepare supper as soon as I had taken 
off my hat and jacket. 

This was eaten at seven o'clock in the dining- 
room, and, in my capacity as lady-help, I sat at table 
with the husband and wife and the " man," a depressed 
youth, who never opened his lips. As Mr. Downton, 
kind and pleasant from first to last, was conversation- 
ally inclined, I quite forgot my inferior position, 
and chatted away during the meal, though I had 
1 had rather a blow as I entered the room. ^jPoes 
she eat with us ? " had been the remark <>f M 
Tom, the elder hope of the family, and he stared 
at me, greatly surprised, as I took my pla 

I cleared away after supper, and during the washing- 
up Mrs. Downton looked into the kitchen and asked 



MY THIRD POSITION AS HOME-HELP 175 

very stiffly whether I would care to sit with them 
in the drawing-room. I politely declined this honour, 
and immediately my employer's manner became less 
glacial, so great was her relief, poor woman, and 
indeed I could sympathise with her. This was the 
first and last occasion that I was invited to enter 
the family circle, save at meal-time. 

Next morning I was in the kitchen by half-past 
five to start preparing the breakfast. To my relief 
the stove behaved well, and I lit it with no trouble 
(here, as in many parts of Canada, only wood was 
used), and set about cooking porridge and bacon, 
making toast and laying the table. All was ready 
by half -past six, and the family assembled. 

When I got into the dining-room (I was always 
a little late, as I had to wash my hands and remove 
my apron after dishing-up) everyone was eating 
busily and there was no chair for me. I straightway 
forgot that I was a home-help, and was greatly 
annoyed at the discourtesy of the men. " May I 
have a seat, please ? " I asked in a tone that brought 
them to their feet in a second, and Mr. Downton 
rushed into another room to supply my need ! 

When breakfast was cleared away, I started on 
my daily round of sweeping. Carpets had to be 
cleaned with one implement, the linoleum and matting 



176 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

had a special broom, and the rooms with only bare 
boards another. Then all the skirting had to be 
wiped round with a dry cloth, and it was in vain th;it 
I begged leave to use a damp one, as the dust m 
flitted from one place to settle in another. Alt* r 
this operation I was told to do the bedroom-, and 
when they were finished it was time to peel pota 
for dinner and supper, and to begin preparing Un- 
substantial midday meal. 

That over, and the washing-up accomplished, I 
made a cake and blancmange for supper, and, ; 
was now four o'clock, I was allowed my freedom f<>i 
an hour and a half. A good part of this pre< 
time was occupied with my toilet (it was \vrv cursory 
in the mornings), and then I rested as I had a " crick " 
in my back. A friend was expected to Mipp-r that 
evening, so we had soup, fish, m< t. .m.l iweets, and I 
had to change the plates, bring in the dishes, and \\ 
up the fish plates to do duty fT th<> pudding cor. 
as the crockery ran short. 

My fellow-hireling and I were left entirely out 
of the conversation not that my employ 
in the least unkind, it was merely that \ 
dependents and thrivl".iv did not c..unt. 

During my stay I met a homc-lnlp who spoke 
( nth .lly o( thr way in which IKT cmpl 



MY THIRD POSITION AS HOME-HELP 177 

treated her, but on inquiry I found that the lady 
was a Canadian, and therefore had not the British 
" caste " ideas. My acquaintance assured me that 
she would not have been treated as well as she was in 
any other household in that district, and said that 
she would dissuade all girls from coming to this 
particular neighbourhood as lady-helps, and I quite 
agreed with her. 

Certainly the English do not always appear to under- 
stand the home-help in the way that the Canadians do, 
the reason being that she is not a British institution. 

A girl I met, who was acting in that capacity to 
an English family in another part of the Dominion, 
told me that not only was she cook, parlour-maid, 
and housemaid combined, but that she had actually 
to wait upon the children's nurse, a woman socially 
much her inferior. 

The master of the house came home for week-ends, 
and during his spare time used to chop up a quantity 
of wood which he imagined would last until his return. 
As it only held out for three or four days, my poor 
friend was reduced to " grovelling about " for fuel, 
as she expressed it, before preparing any meal, and 
not only had she to cook and serve the usual three 
meals a day, but this family insisted on having a 

substantial afternoon tea with cakes and scones. 

M 



178 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

The lady of the house gave her no help in any 
way, very unlike most Canadians, and she was sure 
that had she stayed on for any length of time In -r 
health would have broken down, and she herself 
would have lost all care for her personal appearance. 
The poor girl looked perfectly worn out when I met 
her, and said that she wished she could send her 
experiences to some magazine, in order to warn prls 
against going as home-helps unless their posts were 
carefully selected for them. 

She had come out from England full of hope, 
and had imagined that her work would have been 
varied with social distractions, such as tennis, driving, 
or dances. Certainly, as there are ten men to <>n 
woman west of Winnipeg, she was not unreasonabl. 
in her expectation of some amusement, but, unluckily 
she was thoroughly disappointed, and the Dominion 
had no charms for her. 

The Canadian air is so bracing that I rolled out 
of bed at five o'clock every morning without much 
effort ; and though I was certainly tired in the evening 
(Mrs. Downton's place was considered in the neighbour- 
hood to be a hard one), yet I slept so well that it did 
not matter. The " man/* who worked on the farm, 
brought in wood and water every morning and emptied 
a kerosene can, which served as a receptacle for 



MY THIRD POSITION AS HOME-HELP 179 

kitchen refuse. He slept in a tent near the house, 
and it was surprising how neat and clean he always 
looked in spite of a good deal of hard work. He and 
I, of course, became friendly at once, " a fellow- 
feeling . . ." and I was also sorry for him, as he 
seemed so depressed and shy. 

I generally exchanged a few words with him 
while I stirred the porridge or fried the bacon for 
breakfast, and one morning he told me that he was going 
to try his luck elsewhere, and asked whether I were 
staying on. When I answered in the negative, he said 
fervently, " Oh, I was sure that this place would never 
suit you ! " but I let the remark pass, as I did not want 
to discuss our joint employers in their own kitchen. 

On Saturday I had to work my hardest, as not 
only were there special cleaning operations, but I 
had to cook everything for dinner and supper in 
order to devote myself to the baby during the after- 
noon when the Downtons went off to a party. 

All instructions as to baby's bottles, his undressing 
and putting to bed were given to me, and I hoped 
to have a peaceful time reading and writing in the 
verandah, with the child sleeping in his " pram." 

This programme, however, was by no means 
carried out. Baby was easily amused as I washed 
and put away the dinner things, but when the time 



i8o A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

came for him to take his first bottle, there ensued 
frantic struggles, yells apparently of fury, and an 
unmistakable determination not to imbibe his milk 
and barley-water. Feeling that I was somehow in 
fault, I warmed the bottle again and again, and only 
after a weary hour with much rocking of the peram- 
bulator did he condescend to take some nourishment. 
This incident had spoilt his temper, so my ideas of 
reading or writing were quite dissipated, and I had 
to soothe his screams as best I could. 

\\ith the second bottle there ensued the sam- 
scene as the first, and in the middle of it all little Tom 
came howling to me to say that the two dogs \v--rv 
killing a sweet little kitten that had been a real joy 
to me in the kitchen. Baby and bottle were de- 
serted, and I rushed after the boy to the spot, to find 
the " man " already there and driving the dogs off, 
but, alas, it was too late. Tom had set the dogs 
and again on one or other of the cats in spite of all 
that his parents and I could say, and now I tu 
upon him and "spoke my mind," only wishing that 
I could have whipped him soundly for his cruelty. 
I think, however, that th sight of poor kitty lying 
dead made a far gr. at r impression than anything 
I could say, for though a miM-hi.-vous boy, he was 
hk able in many ways. 



MY THIRD POSITION AS HOME-HELP 181 

Baby's yells made me hasten back to my charge, 
who had to be rocked and carried about until it was 
time to put him and Tom to bed, giving the latter 
his supper. 

It was a great relief when my youngest charge 
finally dropped off to sleep, and when Mrs. Downton 
returned she discovered that she had put no sugar 
into his bottles, this omission amply accounting for his 
trying conduct. She was full of sympathy for her 
" poor darling," but had none for the home-help, who 
had passed a most harassing afternoon in consequence 
of her mistress's negligence. I wonder if that editor 
who reproved me had ever been in charge of an 
enraged baby ? 

On Sunday, the Day of Rest, though there was no 
possibility of going to church, I hoped to have part 
of the afternoon to myself, according to the arrange- 
ment when I was engaged, and I felt decidedly " put 
upon " as the servants say, when Mrs. Downton asked 
me to look after baby again, as she and her husband 
had another party on hand. She had the grace to 
apologise, but I replied, somewhat contemptuously I 
fear, "As I am only here for a week I will do any- 
thing you please, but if I were staying on I should 
certainly make conditions with you." My employer 
was a woman constitutionally unable to see things 



182 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

from any point of view but her own, and I felt that 
any girl who went to her as a lady-help would have a 
dreary existence, all work and no play. There 
guests invited to dinner twice during the week I 
was there, and though it did not matter to me, who 
was only playing a part, yet I could imagine some girl, 
every whit as well bred as her employer, washing up 
in the kitchen, and always debarred from the talk 
and laughter going on in the drawing-room. It 
would not be of much benefit to the help to know 
that dances and other kinds of social distractions took 
place, for Mrs. Downton would probably never diva in 
of letting her have a share of any amusement. 

When I arrived in her house a lady was staying 
there for two or three days, and apparently would 
have departed without any leave-taking if her ho 
had not appeared somewhat unexpectedly. " 
you going off ? " the latter inquiivd. " Yes, good- 
bye," was the laconic answer, and 1 felt that my own 
farewell would be much aiti-r tin- sam< p att m 

Up to now I had never done tin washing of all the 
dishes and pots and pans alone. It is tin u>ual 
kindly Canadian custom to share it, the hme -help 
doing the washing and the mi>tiv>- the drying. II 
1 had to wash up everything after each of the three 

1>, and I found it a very monotonous 



MY THIRD POSITION AS HOME-HELP 183 

and sympathised with the lady who asked another in 
the railway carriage, " Have you a great antipathy 
to washing ? " the ensuing conversation revealing that 
it was not the cleansing of the person, but that of 
pots and pans to which she was alluding. Here, be- 
sides the usual greasy saucepans and frying-pans, 
were the pots in which the remains of baby's food 
turned to a gluey mass unless they were washed at 
once. My hands got ingrained with dirt, and my 
rubber gloves had played me false by tearing them- 
selves somehow or other into ribbons, and my house- 
maid's gloves were useless for the wash-up. I shivered 
to look at my nails, which had got extremely brittle, 
besides being dirty, and from the first I was never 
free of a burn somewhere or other, and feared that one 
on my arm, where I brushed an almost red-hot stove- 
pipe, and another on the back of my hand, caused by 
steam from a big kettle, would remain as mementoes 
of my Canadian tour to the end of my days I 

One morning I was rather pluming myself on having 
done the breakfast extra well, as I had made soda 
scones and fried the bacon to a turn ; but pride 
had a fall, for the porridge was salt as brine. I had, 
with gross carelessness, shaken in salt from the bag 
instead of ^measuring it, and I felt terribly ashamed 
of myself for ruining the pi&ce de resistance of the meal. 



184 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

To do them justice, my victims behaved most kindly, 
Mr. Downton merely asking me to taste my own 
share, and laughing when he saw my face of disi 
and Mrs. Downton saying that she had burnt the 
porridge more than once. 

As my week drew to its close my mistress got more 
and more friendly, and I felt sorry for her, as I saw 
that in many ways her life was a hard one. 

One evening she had an accident, which soft, 
my heart towards her considerably. She was going 
with some food down into the cellar, which was D 
as larder and dairy, when a cracked step, that hail 
always made me nervous, suddenly broke right across, 
and she and the pudding were precipitated to tin- 
bottom. Fortunately no bones were broken, th 
the poor thinn was much bruised and shaken, 
vellously plucky about her mishap. 

She had not heard of anyone to replace me, ami 
d.iy whetht-r 1 kin-w of any agency to which 
she could apply for another lady-help. I t- Id h< r 
bluntly that her plan- was only suitable for a gei 
servant, but I could not help sympathising with hei 
longing to get some one to whom she could coi. 
h r children, as she was badly in need of a hoh 

on-taut round of monotonous \\-nik beginning to 
t.-ll upon 




MY THIRD POSITION AS HOME-HELP 185 

But, sorry as I was for her, yet I could not meet 
her half-way when she unbent, because I felt that any 
penniless girl, who had gone to her under the impres- 
sion that she was to be treated as one of the family, 
would have had a rude awakening when she realised 
that she would never see anyone or be taken any- 
where. 

I had a small triumph on the last day, when she 
offered me something over and above my wages, be- 

use I had been " so good and kind and such a stand- 
y." Though I refused the extra money, yet I was 
gratified, and would have liked to have said some- 
thing nice to her as we shook hands at parting ; but 
before me rose a vision of the lot that she would mete 
out to any girl who might come to her as lady-help, 
and I hardened my heart and made my farewells cold 
and formal, though it went against the grain to do so. 



CHAPTER X 

A VISIT TO AN ALBERTA FARM 

SOME English friends of mine, whom I will name 
Gibson, were starting their married life on a prairie 
farm, and had warmly invited me to pay them a 
visit during my tour in Canada. 

To reach them I had to rise at an unearthly hour, 
and as my Calgary hotel declined to provide break- 
fast, I had to get some food at a restaurant close to 
the station. 

It was curious to be the only woman among a crowd 
of men, who were eating with true Canadian velocity, 
many seated on high revolving chairs at a count IT. 
My hurried meal of as much coffee and bread and 
butter as I could consume only came to fivepence, and 
I was soon in the train, crossing the prairie, with view> 
of the Rockies in tin- distance, the great peaks looking 
queerly shortened and unimpressive when seen cut off 
above the far horizon. 

It was a hot day towards the end of August, and the 
train stopped for a quarter of an hour at each little 
station on this branch line, spinning the journey out 



A VISIT TO AN ALBERTA FARM 187 

to an abnormal length before we drew up at my 
destination, merely a few frame houses on either side 
of a short street, and the usual white-painted wooden 
hotel. Young Mr. Gibson and a big deerhound met 
me with the buggy, and when my bag and hold-all 
were packed in behind, we started off on our nine-mile 
drive across the prairie by a good track, which we 
left now and again and took to the grass when we 
came to mud-holes. By and by we saw many acres 
of waving grain wheat, oats, and barley but all in 
sore need of the ripening sunshine. An undue amount 
of rain had fallen during the year, and as a consequence 
the hopes of the farmers in this district were almost at 
zero. 

Several neat, little four-roomed houses were dotted 
about, and at last we drew up at the one belonging 
to my host, with a tent beside it, making an extra 
apartment, and I was warmly welcomed by his charm- 
ing wife. 

I was introduced to the team of fine Percheron greys, 
to the pretty mare which had conveyed me from the 
station, the Hereford cow, the pigs, turkeys, and fowls, 
and last, but by no means least, to two fascinating 
fox-terriers, and felt that it would be my own fault 
if I did not enjoy my visit to the full in such pleasant 
company. With characteristic energy, Mr. Gibson 



i88 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

had turned one of the rooms in his bandbox of a house 
x into a store, and already the goods, bought at a vvh< -lr- 
sale shop in Calgary, were paying a handsome per- 
centage, and at all hours people dropped in to buy 
bacon, canned foods, and many of the necessaries of 
life, which they could obtain here at the same |ri<v 
as in the store of the little town nine miles away. 

It was an amusement to me to serve occa.-i.n;illy 
behind the counter, and I found that the custom* i> 
were scrupulously honest, boys, for instance, wh<> 
came to buy sweets, watching the scales as I weighed, 
in order to check me directly I had put in tin- i 
amount. They would then offer me their pure] 
of candy, saying, "Won't you have some?" with 
the most engaging courtesy, and then, donning their 
caps, they would swing out of the rim ml in-aint 
their ponies with the high-peaked Mexican saddles. 

The kitchen, though small, was a miracle ui 
ness, and I never ceased admiring the manner in 
which Mrs. Gibson packed away all h r JMIH md 
crockery, as tidily and in as small a space as t li- 
on board ship. 

The house \v i with wire-netting dx.r> and 

windows, but in >pit- ! .ill precaution* it was im- 
possible to exclude the flies, which, in conjunction 
with th- mosquitoes, UN a perfect pest on the prairie. 



A VISIT TO AN ALBERTA FARM 189 

During the summer months these insects hold high 
carnival, and no human, or rather Canadian invention, 
appears able to cope with them. Indoors the flies 
must be fought with incessantly. The horrible, sticky 
" tanglefoot " papers assisted in the crusade. At one 
place we shut all the doors and windows and sprayed 
the whole place with insect powder, but the result 
was disappointing ; and we often tried to darken the 
house, and " shoo " out the invaders by means of 
waving cloths or fly- whisks. But the flies were always 
masters of the situation, owing to the fact that the 
door of the house opened directly into the kitchen, 
so that everyone entering was accompanied by a 
battalion of these small nuisances. Outside the mos- 
quitoes were extremely active just before rain, and 
settled on my face and hands, biting viciously, if I 
ventured forth unprotected by a gauze veil. The poor 
cow used to retreat to the barn in order to escape 
from them ; and though Mr. Gibson made a " smudge " 
for his horses (a kind of bonfire constructed to give out 
clouds of smoke), yet the tortured animals were driven 
nearly mad one day, and tore about the field, kicking 
up their heels in vain attempts to escape their tor- 
mentors. Mr. Blake, a young Englishman, who was 
engaged in a fencing contract for the Company that 
had organised the farms in this district, told me that 



A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

on one occasion he had had a terrible experience with 
mosquitoes. He was riding through a thinly popu- 
lated district, and the insects rose in swarms, settling 
on him and his horse, neither man nor beast being 
protected in any way. The torture of the innunn T- 
able bites was quite indescribable, and both nearly 
went mad with pain, the horse galloping along blindly. 
Fortunately Mr. Blake came across a lonely farm, and 
he rushed into the house without ceremony to implore 
relief. The woman gave him a paste of baking powd r 
to smear over the bites, and provided him with a \ il 
and gloves, helping him to cover his horse with old 
sacks, and he rode on his way with a badly swollen 
face and neck. He said that he was thankful to 1 
escaped so easily, as an acquaintance, who was obliged 
to spend the night in the open, got blood-poisoning 
from this cause, and hovered between life and death 
for some time after he reached UK hospital. 

Such experiences are not likely to occur to any 
woman, and, moreover, the mosquitoes decrease ap- 
preciably as soon as land is opened up to cultivation. 

On my first ev-nin^ at th- tarm I was given a lesson 

in milking the cow, luckily a very quiet animal, as I 

that my amatmi t fforts must have worried her 

considerably at first. She behaved, however, with 

exemplary patience, yielding her milk willingly to my 



A VISIT TO AN ALBERTA FARM 191 

inexperienced fingers, and only once did she nearly 
kick over the bucket. But, indeed, this was hardly 
her fault, as the house-cat, which always took a great 
interest in the milking operations, had on this occasion 
suddenly leapt upon her back, startling her violently ! 
My hostess told me that she and her husband had 
had a terrible time in getting to their farm in March. 
They had set off from a town sixteen miles away, 
Mr. Gibson driving his greys in the waggon, that was 
loaded with their household goods, when a snowstorm 
came on and they were nearly lost on the prairie. 
She said that it was almost by a miracle that they 
found a track that led them to a farm, where they 
were obliged to stay until the snow allowed them to 
proceed. When they reached their own house at 
last, they found it bitterly cold work camping in an 
unused dwelling, and it took them some time to haul 
the rest of their belongings sixteen miles across the 
snow to their new residence. Unfortunately, the water 
in the well was so bad that both got ill from using 
it, and though the Company had promised to bore 
another well, yet during my visit in August the job 
had not yet been put in hand, and all the water had to 
be carried from a neighbouring farm, Mr. Gibson filling 
two big barrels at a time, which we used for ourselves 
and the animals with a certain amount of economy. 



192 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

On the morning after my arrival I was awak< -nrd by 
the sound of loud talking, and found th.it 1 had si. -pi 
till the abnormally late hour (on a prairie farm, at all 
events) of seven o*clock. It was pouring with rain, 
sheets of water descending, and the vast grey 
all around looked rather depressing. While I 
hastily dressing, Mrs. Gibson knocked at my door 
to say that she was called away to a poor neighbour 
who was just about to become a mother, and her 
husband was putting the mare into the buggy in 
to drive her over. Neither of them had had any 
breakfast, but of course I promised that coffee, por- 
ridge, toast, and bacon should be ready wln-n th.-v 
came back. It was such a pleasure to feel that I 
could be of some use, and when they return* d. wrt 
and hungry, about nine o'clock, they were d< -lighted 
to find a hot meal awaiting tln-m in a tidy kit< li n. 
Shortly after breakfast the fanner r. 
Mrs. Gibson, who had had nursing to go 

again U) hi- wilr, and my hostess put on her divided 
riding-skirt, and was wrapped up in a long yell\v 
her," tiring a wonll.-n < ap on to h r h-ad. Thru 
she mounted Nan- v ,m<! d off to her work ot 

mercy in the pouring rain, and it was five o'clock in 
tlir altrrnoon bx-ioiv >hr cam lurk, very tired with 
all that shr had gone through. '1 hough ti 



A VISIT TO AN ALBERTA FARM 193 

rain and to spare coming down from the heavens that 
morning, yet my host had to go off with his team to haul 
water, and I found that I had plenty to do with washing 
up the breakfast things and getting dinner ready. I 
made rissoles from some remains of beef, serving 
them with a sauce, which I looked upon as rather 
an achievement; mashed potatoes, a salad, a sub- 
stantial pudding, and coffee completed the repast, 
which Mr. Gibson and I much appreciated when he 
came in from his work. 

As Mrs. Gibson went off daily after breakfast to 
play the good Samaritan, my " home-help " experiences 
came in most usefully, and I felt proud at being able 
to assist my hostess, who otherwise would have been 
decidedly overworked. 

It was surprising how much I found to do in the 
little house, but the preparing of meals and the wash- 
ing up afterwards, the scalding of the many parts of 
the separator, the sweeping and cleaning of the rooms, 
the laundry-work, and so on, all took time. Of course 
I was not nearly as quick as my hostess, nor did I 
know where to lay my hand on everything, not having 
had, as yet, half enough of the " practice that 
makes perfect " ; and I felt, by no means for the 
first time, how invaluable a course in some English 
training college would have been to me during my tour. 

N 



194 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

In Great Britain people do not always appreciate the 
incessant work incumbent on all women who run a 
household unaided on a prairie farm or a ranch, but 
I believe that an experience such as the following is 
extremely rare. A girl came from a comfortable 
English home to a brother who was ranching in 
Alberta, and on board her smart clothes aroused 
the attention of an acquaintance of mine. This lady 
knew the owners of a neighbouring ranch and made 
a few inquiries as to the brother and his residence. 
"Poor girl!" was the reply. " She little knows 
that young Roberts lives in a perfect hovel. He 
does nothing all day long but loaf round with a 
gun, and he is so terribly lazy that he doesn't cvm 
trouble to cook his porridge, but eats the oatmeal 
raw!" 

Has he horses ? " asked my informant, " because 
Miss Roberts tells me that she has brought out a 
brand new habit." 

"Yes, he has two horses, but so far he h 
broken them in, and they run wild more r 
less." 

I was not surprised to hear that Miss Roberts' 

visit to her brother was of the shortest duration, and 

ir that for the rest of her days she will drpict 

ranch life in Canada as a terrible- God-forsaken exist- 



A VISIT TO AN ALBERTA FARM 195 

ence, and will do her utmost to dissuade any girl 
from trying it. 

On the other hand, I travelled home with another 
English girl, who had also been ranching with a 
brother, and in her own words was " just crazy " to 
return to the prairie. 

" But a girl must be prepared for shocks if 
she goes out to Canada," she remarked; and on my 
inquiry as to what kind of " shock " she was alluding 
to, she said, 

"Oh, think of it ! A man will come in with a great 
mass of raw meat, and just dump it down in the 
kitchen, and very likely say that he has no time to 
cut it up at present, but will come in later. That 
sort of thing is terribly trying to the nerves just at 
first." 

Personally I thought that I should not complain 
of ranch life if no worse " shocks " were to be appre- 
hended than this. 

Now and again we had our excitements. One 
evening a badger ran past, and Mr. Gibson raced after 
it, calling to his wife to bring up his rook-rifle, but 
the animal got off scot free. It is supposed to make 
away with the fowls, as do the coyotes, which the 
big deerhound would wildly chase if he sighted them 
on the prairie, and he was particularly quick in 



196 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

pouncing upon unwary gophers, the little creatures 
taking too heavy a toll of the wheat for the farmer 
to regard them with a favourable eye. 

On Sunday, the Day of Rest, we all got up late 
and sat talking over our breakfast, but none of us 
were in good spirits, as there had been a hard frost 
during the night (it was only August 27th), and the 
Gibsons feared for their crops. The day was superb, 
and merely to breathe in the air gave me a feeling 
of exultation that I was alive, but the fact remain* l 
that though so far the wheat and oats were spa 
yet the potatoes must be dug up at once, losing ]>< -i ! 
a third of their marketable value, as they had not 
nearly reached maturity. And as the grain was by 
no means ripe, if these frosts continued there would be 
no harvest this year for my friends. 

Perhaps it was a good thing that Mrs. Gibson had 
to go off to her patient, so that all of us were busy until 
a late dinner, after which we bumped across thi j.niirif 
in the waggon to have tea with some nice neighbours. 

Here the men discussed the burning question of 
"frosted" crops, but we shook off the fet-lin: 
depression that was hanging over us, and Mr. Gibson 
and his neighbour arranged to go off to the coal-mine 
with thrir t-ams in order to get that necessary of life 
for th<-ir respective households. 

It svas a fcri-at uiuh-i taking a^ the mine wa^> thirty- 



A VISIT TO AN ALBERTA FARM 197 

eight miles off, involving an absence of at least two 
days, and in wet weather the trail to it was practically 
impassable. Mrs. Gibson and I packed up a goodly 
supply of food for her husband. We made sand- 
wiches of beef and potted shrimp paste ; bread, 
butter, salt, tea, sugar, oranges, canned fruit, slices 
of meat, cake, matches, and cigarettes were all thought 
of, as well as water, knife, fork, spoon, plate and cup, 
soap and towels. At last everything was ready, and 
both of us felt a little depressed as the big greys passed 
out of the gate along the winding trail in the wake 
of the neighbour's team. It was a perfect evening, 
and that night the Northern Lights were wonderfully 
brilliant, forming a great arc and streaming across 
the sky like search-lights, throbbing and pulsating as 
they changed their form. I sat outside until it was 
time to go to bed, working busily at turning a bowl 
of cream into butter by means of an egg-whisk, rather 
a lengthy operation, and listening to the howl of the 
coyote, which is much akin to the heartrending yell 
of the jackal of the East. 

Next day we were short of water, but relied on the 
good services of Mr. Blake and his team, our spirits 
being somewhat dashed when we learnt that the 
aforesaid horses had wandered off over the prairie 
and were nowhere to be found. Their master would 
have given his folks at home a decided shock if they 



198 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

had seen him in working kit as I did at our first meet- 
ing. He was carrying a couple of pails, and his mud- 
encrusted boots, his trousers of the baggiest Canadian 
cut, his shirt in need of the wash-tub, and an old cow- 
boy hat jammed on to a mass of fair hair that no 
barber had touched for many a month, concealed 
from my eyes the English gentleman that lay beneath, 
until he removed his hat and spoke. When we got 
frinidly I took a snapshot of him in this costume 
to amuse his mother in the Old Country or would 
it make her sigh ? He was only twenty-two, and 
was a proof of the openings that Canada offers to tin- 
man with brains and ready hands. He had depended 
solely on his own exertions from the day he had lam led, 
had done any work that offered its* If, was ii"\v 
"making good money," and would probably soon 
be taking up a big fencing contract with a gang of 
men under him. 

But to return to the water question. The day 
was hot, and the mare, the cow, and tin- poultry 
up to the house for drink, and Mrs. Gibson pun 
a bucket from the well, thinking that i* -ih .i\* tin- 
animals might stave off tin ir craving with it. It 
was yellow with a scum u|><>n it, and though the cow 
came up to it twice, sniffing loudly, yet sin- ti: 
away in di^u>t, ln-r example- lx-ing fnllnwed by the 
mare and even the hens. Mr. P.lake apj>cared at this 



A VISIT TO AN ALBERTA FARM 199 

crisis, saying that he was about to draw water for us 
from a certain stream on a farm close by, and we 
tipped the well produce down a deep badger-hole 
that acted the part of a kitchen sink to the establish- 
ment, and carrying pails and jugs followed in his wake. 
There were two barbed-wire fences between us and 
our goal, and in my haste I did not flatten myself 
out sufficiently as I wriggled under them, my error 
resulting in disastrous consequences to my dress. We 
got water and to spare for all our stock, and filled 
every receptacle in the house as well, and on the 
day after, Mr. Gibson and his greys were sighted 
at some distance off, and soon were with us, both 
master and horses looking tired and travel-stained, 
but so glad to be at home again. My hostess and I 
had surpassed ourselves with our culinary efforts, and 
the midday meal was a great success. 

I felt as if I were leaving a bit of England when I 
said good-bye to all my friends, the human beings and 
the animals, and it was with much regret that I heard 
later from Mrs. Gibson that their wheat had been 
" frosted," and that they were giving up the farm and 
seeking their fortune elsewhere. It seemed hard that 
this was the result of their first year of married life, 
but both husband and wife are optimists, and have 
made a fresh start in a locality where apparently the 
crops are never ruined by " Jack Frost." 



CHAPTER XI 

AT WORK IN A TOWN 

IT was a bright morning early in September \vh n I 
was deposited on the platform of a prairie town very 
much "on the make," and as I made my way out of 
the station, carrying my " grip," building was going 
on in all directions, and there was an atmosphci 
movement and progress around me. The lit* --giving air 
blew across hundreds of miles of land, cither golden 
with grain or waiting for the plough of the settler, an 
air that tempts those who breathe it to dare the 
apparently impossible, and to accomplish such feats 
as throwing railway lines across mighty chains of 
mountains. As a man once said to me, " You can't 
get the ' blues * on the prairie," and though I do not 
altogether agree with him as regards the women, 
there is much truth in it for th< m, -n. 

By this time I knew that I could always earn my 
bread in the Dominion, and th< knowledge gave in- 
a pleasing s< ; ;:id j* -iul-n< < -. v TV different from 

my earlier feeling of helplessness, and as a first step 
in seeking \v<>rk I ;isk-d my way t> th.- V.\\ .< \. 



AT WORK IN A TOWN 201 

Hostel. I was soon being interviewed by a most 
kindly Secretary, and said that I wanted a post in the 
town as home-help, but that I could not claim to be 
very experienced. This remark she paid no attention 
to whatever, as I heard her say through the telephone 
to a lady who needed a " girl," that " a most capable 
and competent Englishwoman had just come into the 
hostel ! " 

The lady wished to engage my services then and 
there, but I thought it better to have a personal 
interview, and offered to go and see her, finding my 
way with some difficulty to her home in a new resi- 
dential quarter, where nice-looking wooden houses 
were being run up in all directions on the prairie. 

Mrs. Madden, as I will dub her, was a pretty little 
woman, and had been only three days in her new 
home. She was an embodiment of nervous activity, 
as are so many in this country, but, according to her 
own account, a bad cook, and she hoped that I would 
take that part of the work off her shoulders. 

I began on the subject of wages, and asked for 
twenty dollars (4) a month. To this she demurred, 
saying, that as all the heavy washing went to a laundry, 
she could only give fifteen (3). As I was always 
handicapped in my hunt for work by my inability to 
stay any length of time in a post, and was naturally 



202 A HOME HELP IN CANADA 

anxious to be fair to my employers, I seized on this as 
a good excuse for leaving at the end of a fortnight. 
Accordingly I said that I considered I was worth twenty 
dollars a month, but would stay with her at fifteen 
for a couple of weeks as a " temporary," if she cared 
to take me on those terms. 

So great was the demand for domestic labour, and 
so scanty was the supply in that district, that *h.- 
closed with me at once, refused to let me return to 
the Y.W.C.A. for my belongings, but " 'phoned " to 
the station for an express agent to bring them, and 
set me to work in removing paint from the glass-doors 
of various cabinets. 

The house was well planned and airy, with a good 
living-room, dining-room, and kitchen on the ground- 
floor, three bedrooms above, and underneath the 
building a large cellar lit by a window. Here was the 
furnace to heat the house in wint.-r. .m<l here wood, 
coal, and stores were kept. No w 1 as yet been 

laid on, and men came round in a tank-cart at intei 
to fill a big cistern by the back-door, while there was 
a receptacle for rain-water in the cellar. This, at 
present, *M n.-.irly empty, and we had to use all tin- 
water with the utmost care, as, owing to the dry 
summer, the. town was short of this necessity of life. 
My mistress told me that what there was was so had 



AT WORK IN A TOWN 203 

that typhoid was a frequent visitor here, and the 
newspapers warned the residents to boil the water 
even for washing purposes. 

I saw from the first moment that I was not to be 
" one of the family " in any way, and very soon Mrs. 
Madden asked me my Christian name, wishing to call 
me by it/' as they do the servants in England ! " For 
a moment I was taken aback, as hitherto I had always 
been addressed as Miss Sykes ; and feeling that I really 
could not submit to being ordered about by my real 
name, I answered, " Please call me Ellen," and from 
morning till night that name resounded from bedroom 
to basement. 

As there was no servant's room in the house, I was 

it into the prettily furnished guest-chamber, she 
and I dragging a big carpet upstairs, which we laid 
on the floor with much effort ; and then curtains and 
a bedspread were brought, and I was housed in luxury. 

After this it was time to get supper ready scones, 
tinned shrimps, done up with a white sauce and served 
on biscuits, a fruit-salad, and tea. I laid the dining- 
room table for two, and wondered whether I was to 
partake of my meals in the kitchen, as I had heard 
that home-helps in the towns were usually required 
to do so. Of course I said nothing, but awaited 
developments, and Mrs. Madden, who was a curious 



204 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

mixture of kindness coupled with a desire to get 
the last cent's worth of work out of anyone wlim 
she employed, came into the kitchen and said, " I 
don't like to think of you eating your meals in here, 
so you may have them in tin- dining-room when we 
have finished." I thanked her, and she ordered break- 
fast to be ready at " half-past seven o'clock sharp " on 
the morrow, and went off to feed with her husband. 

Thus began a decidedly lonely fortnight, though 
my mistress worked along with me in the mornings, 
and soon gave me various interesting confidences 
about herself and her relatives ; but tin- master <>f the 
establishment never addressed a word to me, save 
that occasionally he would come into the kitchen - 
to intimate that he wished breakfast to be sci 
without delay. Mrs. Madden's great friend, who 
came daily to the house with her nice little boy, and 
spent hours there, used to enter by the kitrhen door, 
sweeping past me with a cold unseeing gaze, and 
the only really rude Canadian that I encountered on 
all my travels. I used to think sometime* that a 
British girl would have been wretched, as, barring 
my own mistress, I spoke to hardly anyone, save 
perhaps to exchange a "good-day " with the ti\i 
men's boys. It reminded me of a picture in Punch 
years ago, in win. h a \\V>t Knd young lady is in- 



AT WORK IN A TOWN 205 

structing some factory girls how to behave in society. 
She is telling them that no lady ever speaks to a man 
unless he is introduced to her, and one of them re- 
marks, " Yes, miss, we know it, and we've always 
felt so sorry for you ! " 

The town itself was not interesting, save as a mani- 
festation of Canadian energy, but here and elsewhere 
I was struck by the practical drinking-fountains. 
Unlike those in England, none of them had the un- 
hygienic arrangement of a drinking-cup, but by press- 
ing a metal ring the water bubbled up out of a pedestal, 
ending in a kind of vase, and could be drunk without 
fear of infection. 

Occasionally I would take snapshots of any specially 
fine team working on the prairie round the town, and 
the owners were always anxious to " pose " for me, 
and sometimes begged for copies of their portraits. 
One man asked for four prints of his horses ; but when 
I laughingly replied that I could only afford to give 
him one, he said earnestly, " Oh, you shan't be the 
loser. I'll pay up honest whatever you ask. " Having, 
however, no mind to enter into commercial dealings 
with this chance acquaintance, I compromised with a 
gift of two photos, which I duly despatched to an 
address that he gave me. 

On my first morning I was in the kitchen at half- 



206 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

past six, and soon had porridge, toast, and coffee under 
way. The meal was laid as elaborately as in any 
English household with an embroidered table-centre, on 
which were flowers or a plant, and a good many small 
silver salt- and pepper-pots, and, what I greatly dis- 
liked, a little silver bell. This is what happened one 
day as I waited in the kitchen, not daring to go up- 
stairs to make the beds and tidy the rooms. Tin kit 1 
tinkle I tinkle 1 I passed into the pantry and pushed 
open the swing-door into the dining-room. ** Ellen, 
have you made any more toast ? " my mistress 
asked, and I answered in the affirmative, returning with 
what I had prepared for my own meal, and then 
retired. 

Tinkle ! tinkle ! tinkle ! again resounded. This was 
to show me the remains of what looked like grub> in 
the porridge 1 I had told Mrs. Madden that the oat- 
meal was musty, but she had paid n< heed to my 
words until brought up short, as it wort, with dis- 
agreeable facts. Tinklr ! tinkle ! tinkle ! A.uain 1 
entered the dining-room, to be ordered to bring some 
hot water Id the coffee. We usually had tln> when 
Mr. Madden was at home, a ; from the 

eternal tea, and he told his wife to learn fi< -in me how 
to mtk it, as my brew was the best he had ever 
drunk in a private house. My simple recipe was to 



AT WORK IN A TOWN 207 

put plenty of coffee into the pot, many Canadians only 
using the same quantity that they would if making 
tea, and I always added a pinch of salt to bring out 
the flavour. 

Tinkle ! tinkle ! tinkle ! This was the fourth time, 
and I felt slightly ruffled. " Ellen, Mr. Madden has 
a fancy for a couple of eggs. Mind you boil them very 
lightly." 

In a few moments the eggs were cooked and brought 
into the dining-room, and I again retired, only to hear 
an enraged and prolonged roulade of tinkling. What 
could it be this time ? I hastened in, to hear in irate 
tones from my mistress, " Ellen, you have boiled those 
eggs too hard. You must do some more. Get the 
sand-glass and take them out of the saucepan the very 
second that the last grain of sand has run through." 
This I did, and a lull ensued, during which I made 
myself some toast for my own breakfast. 

At first I was supposed to pour fresh water on to 
the tea-leaves that had been drained by the Maddens, 
who usually sat some time over their meals ; but I 
soon rebelled, saying that I did not wish to start 
" Canadian indigestion." Mrs. Madden tried to com- 
promise by showing me a packet of cooking soda, and 
telling me to partake of it if I felt any pangs. On 
this point, however, I stood firm, saying that my aim 



208 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

was prevention, not cure, and was allowed to make 
a fresh brew of tea for myself at each meal ! 

The house needed many finishing touches, and the 
day after my arrival I was set to work at waxing the 
floor of the hall and large living-room. The hard 
wood was covered with dirty marks left by the work- 
men, and I was provided with a tin of polishing 
and various rags, and was instructed to rub out the 
stains, working hard at them with the tips of my 
fingers. To encourage me, Mrs. Madden said that 
had made extremely slow progress with the \\ rk on 
the previous day, and had hurt her naiK badly. This 
I quite believed after a few moments, and asked for 
a scrubbing-brush. Though my mistress was 
that it would be of no use, I said that I should like to 
try it, and to her surprise it answered admirably. I 
made capital progress, went up several pegs in her 
esteem, and was proud to have given a tip to the 
omniscient Canadian woman ! 

In our agreement I was to have some time to my 
every afternoon, but as my mistress had a larp t. a- 
party on my second day, I was let off for an hour be 
tin- one o'clock repast, and called at th- Y.W.C.A. to 
thank the Secretary for helping me to find w.-rk, and 
from her surprised pleasure I inferred that not many 
had the grace to follow my example. She 



AT WORK IN A TOWN 209 

anxious for me to become an amateur nurse -to an 
invalid, as that post was to be had with high pay, and 
was good enough to say that my appearance was 
in my favour. I said that I should greatly dislike 
nursing, but should be glad to hear of a temporary 
job on the prairie in a fortnight's time. She gladly 
agreed to help me, but thought that I was very mis- 
guided to refuse the nursing post, saying that it would 
have been a social rise for me as well as giving me 
increased wages. 

One of the drawbacks of my new situation was 
the constant hunting for wood to feed the stove, as 
no coal was used at first. When the house was built, 
all the odds and ends of " lumber " were thrown in 
a great heap into the basement, and from here I had 
to pick out short lengths. I would also go searching 
round the house on the same errand, and often had 
to make an expedition during the preparation of a 
meal, so quickly were these thin bits of wood burnt 
up. Later on, some sacks of coal arrived, and things 
were easier, though I had to break up the huge blocks 
with an axe before I could use them. After her tea- 
party, at which I had waited, and carried in relays 
of thin bread and butter, my mistress instructed me 
to prepare a curious sort of " resurrection pie " for 
supper. Layers of biscuit-crumbs, tomato, tinned 



210 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

Indian corn, cold sliced potatoes, and pieces of hard 
boiled egg, were put into a fire-proof dish that was 
placed in the oven, and wanned through ; and Mr. 
Madden arrived hungry from his office to sit down 
to this unsubstantial repast, the meals in this estab- 
lishment being often of a Barmecide character. 

Next day I had the fatiguing task of washing out 
the rooms upstairs, no light work for me, and whirh 
started a backache that lasted the whole time that I 
stayed with Mrs. Madden, and after the midday wa>h- 
up I asked for a couple of hours to myself as I t-lt 
extremely tired, the effects of a morning on my knees 
in company with the wash-pail, When thus was 
granted, I inquired whether my mistress were not 
going to have a rest herself, as she had been on tin- 
" go " the whole time, hammering up curtains, work- 
ing at her sewing-machine, and so on. " Oh dear no, 
she never did such a thing," and there was more th.m 

;nge of contempt in her voice. She n< -v -r could 
sit still if she felt that therv was anything to be d 
and was, in that respect, like her mother. As >! 
went on to say that this lady \v.is a martyr to a t. mbl. 
form of indigestion that prevented her from eating 

lie were ever agitated, and that M-nt her to bed 
and into the hands of the doctor for weeks at 
time, I " forgot my place," as the servants say, 



AT WORK IN A TOWN 211 

told my mistress to take warning, or she might be in 
the same plight before long. 

Later on, when I was plucking and preparing a 
couple of wild ducks, I was amused to observe the deep 
interest that Mrs. Madden took in my operations. 
She said that the friend who had shot these had sent 
her a brace the year before, but that as neither she nor 
her " girl " knew how to deal with them she had buried 
them ! " But," she said with pride, " I know that 
they have to be cleaned. I am not like a friend of 
mine who cooked them with everything inside ! " 
Yet, though her culinary skill was small, she was a 
notable housewife in other respects, and would detect 
in a moment any deficiency in my work. On one 
occasion, when I was cleaning all the rooms on the 
ground floor, and had worked, as I imagined, most 
conscientiously, her eagle eye discovered that I had 
omitted to dust the rungs of the dining-room chairs. 

As a rule, I had finished my work about half-past 
three or four, but even when I got upstairs I had to 
make my bed and tidy my room, then change my 
dress, so sometimes it happened that I could not get 
out till five o'clock, and had to walk my hardest if I 
went to the Post Office for letters, as I had to be back 
by six. Often I would make for a retired part of the 
prairie, and rest in the sunshine, until it was time to 



212 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

return to the " House of Bondage," as I whimsically 
called it. Before I went to bed I always cleared 
out the stove, threw away tin ashes, and laid the 
fire ready for the morning ; then I had to wipe the 
stove all over with a special cloth, wash the kitrhm 
table, sweep the dove-grey painted floor, and lastly 
put the empty milk bottles between the b i. k door and 
the wire-screen, with a ticket to denote the amount 
needed on the morrow. Usually I stepped out upon 
the prairie to drink in a few full breaths, and to 1 
a look at the harvest moon riding like a shield of 
burnished gold on a purple velvet sky, before I en pt 
upstairs to bed. 

Saturday is, of course, always a day of cleaning 
up everywhere, but as the kitchen of this house had 
not been touched since the workmen vacated it, I 
had my work cut out in scrubbing the floor of this 
room, together with the pantry, and the steps and 
passage leading to the back door. Scrub away as 
1 might, it seemed impossible to get the light ( 
flooring clean, until I used a patent soap that cleai 
like magii-, though probably it was not the best thing 
in the world for the paint. My back ached badly 
when this task was through, but Mrs. Madden did 
not allow me to rest for a moment, sending me to 
wipe down the staircase. " Be careful to do the corners 



AT WORE IN A TOWN 213 

of the steps, and pass the cloth between each rung 
of the banisters, Ellen," was her injunction, but she 
called me off in the middle of the work, as it was high 
time to light the stove again, to peel and cook 
potatoes, get the steak ready, and put the Sunday 
roast into the oven. 

Though my mistress was nice to me in her way, 
and likeable, yet she was a born " hustler," and wanted 
everything to be done at top-speed, never allowing 
sufficient time for the preparation of the midday 
meal, for example, which always had to be got ready 
" full steam ahead." When I was working away at one 
task, she would rush in to urge me to hasten in order 
to begin on something else in fact, she entirely lacked 
the element of repose. She did her best to hurry me 
over my meals, but I remonstrated, saying that I 
positively must be allowed fifteen or twenty minutes 
in which to eat them quietly, and she had to give in. 

When I went, later, to see the Secretary of the 
Y.W.C.A. about another post, she asked me to tell 
her in confidence my opinion of Mrs. Madden as an 
employer ; and I said, that though kind, she was such 
a taskmistress that she would have no mercy on 
anyone slow or delicate, and I felt that her situation 
was only suited to a robust girl, blessed with .a phleg- 
matic temperament. 



214 A HOMTMIFT.P IX r. \\.\D.\ 

At last Sunday arrived, but it was by no m TU 
Day of Rest to the home-help. As there were to be 
an afternoon tea-party and a late dinner-party, I 
asked whether I could go to morning church ; but 
my employers did not get down to breakfast till t -n 
o'clock (of course I had my breakfast in the kitc.h.-n 
on this occasion before they appeared), it was im- 
possible for me to reach the church until th 
was more than half done. A young man, who acted 
as verger, beckoned me to a chair beside his. just inside- 
the door, took my parasol from me, and found me the 
place in a hymn-book ; and on the following Sin 

n I made my appearance even later, ii 1 me 

with a reproachful smile, when I again sank int< the 
same seat. The congregation was composed mostly 
of men, and these seemed to be nearly all of th< sh"j>- 
keeping and labouring classes. There was not an old 
man to be seen among them, and they looked thin, 
eager-eyed, and restless, as if they never slept their 
fill ; and this I can well believe. labour fn-in 

the iir>t glint of dawn to the last ray of daylight during 
tin- summer months. The winter comes as a merciful 
period of hibernation, when, as a farmer said to in- -, 
M \Ve all lie abed." 

Directly I got back from church I was set to dust 
the stairs, to polish the mirrors, clean the Mhvr, and 
so on; and it was after three o'clock that I was able 



AT WORK IN A TOWN 215 

to partake 'of a meal of potatoes and beans, washed 
down with a cup of tea. All our efforts were concen- 
trated on the tea- and supper-parties, and I cut relays 
of lettuce sandwiches for the former, and made a 
trifle, among other things, for the latter. The guests 
came about eight o'clock, and certainly Mrs. Madden 's 
dinner-table, which she laid herself, looked charming, 
with its embroidered cloths, a big bowl of flowers, 
pretty china, silver, and cut-glass. I waited on the 
guests, changed the plates, and ate " snacks " of food 
myself in the kitchen in the intervals of washing up. 
It was a long and wearisome job to wash and dry and 
put away everything ; and when that was done at last 
I must lay the fire for the morrow, wipe the stove, and 
sweep out the kitchen. It was past eleven o'clock 
when I went to bed, thoroughly tired out, and 
wishing that something might occur to prevent Mr. 
Madden requiring his breakfast at half-past seven 
next day. 

Whilst in Canada I acquired the useful accomplish- 
ment of being able to call myself at any hour, and 
consequently was never late with the breakfast. But 
my slumbers were by no means as profound as they 
usually are indeed, I often woke up two or three 
times during the night, so anxious was I not to over- 
sleep myself and owing to this I seldom felt really 
rested, and when I was at any hotel between my posts 



216 A HOME HELP IN CANADA 

I would " sleep the clock round " to make up. An 
alarum clock would have been a help, but, as it was, 
the prairie air took away all fatigue when I was up 
and doing, and I will now jot down from my diary 
what I did on a " full " day. 

I had breakfast ready by half-past seven, and when 
the things were washed up and put away, Mrs. Maddm, 
who loved all household ** chores " save cooking, 
began to wash up a month's personal clothing. Th< 
I was not allowed to take my share of this, yet I was 
kept fully employed in running up and down the si 
basement stairs with pails of water, cracking up big 
blocks of coal to fill the coal-box, and making up a 
hot fire from its contents. In the intervals I had t> 
wipe over all the woodwork of the dining-room, wax 
and polish the staircase, also make a "layer " cak . 
By this time the clothes were ready to hang out on 
the line, and before I had finished fastening thrm up 
with pegs, I must peel the potatoes, put the nu at and 
pudding into the oven, and lay the lunch -table. Ti 
was a special cloth for each meal, and after tl. 
everything was cleared away, and a plant or a bowl 
of flowers placed on the polished table. On this par- 
ticular day, when the lunch (I got none till half-past 
one), was disposed of, and the washing-pan and table 
scoured, I had to wash the kitchen floor, as a giv.u 
deal of c.-al-dust had got sprinkled about (how often 



AT WORK IN A TOWN 217 

did I wish that the aforesaid floor had not been of so 
delicate a grey that it showed every mark !), and 
bring in all the clothes, dry by this time, as a high 
wind was blowing. It was nearly five o'clock before 
I had done my room, changed my working dress, and 
was ready to enjoy my one hour " off " during that 
day. Throughout Canada the home-help is always 
free after she has cleared away supper and tidied up the 
kitchen, and I felt decidedly " put upon " later on when 
my mistress, before going forth to spend the evening 
with friends, told me to ice the cake that I had made, 
and also to sprinkle the big basketful of clothes, and 
roll them up tightly in readiness for the morrow's 
ironing. I made no remark, though I was both tired 
and cross ; but after I had operated upon seventy-five 
articles, not counting handkerchiefs and such little 
things, my anger rose, and when I got upstairs after a 
day's work that had lasted from half -past six in the 
morning to half-past ten at night, and during which 
I had really only had an hour to myself, I de- 
termined to have " words with the missus " on the 
morrow 1 

Accordingly, after breakfast next day, I laid the 
matter before her. She said that a general servant 
must expect to have lots to do. 

I answered that I was a home-help, and as such was 
in a different category. 



2i8 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

She instantly changed her ground at this, and de- 
manded if she had ever treated me as she would treat 
a general servant ? She had met m< half-way. 
considered, and had she ever ne to work in the 

evening until now ? 

I answered to the last question, " No; but what has 
occurred once may happen again." 

Upon this our discussion ended, but I found that I 
had improved my position by standing up f<>r my 
;hts." Mrs. Madden volunteered to help me with 
tin midday wash-up, asked me to have a cup of 
afternoon tea, and offered to give me a ticket for a 
Conservative meeting that evening (she and I were 
both keenly interested in the Reciprocity qm-stinn), 
and during the rest of my stay behaved far more 
considerately to me. Mentioning Reciprocity reminds 
me of an Englishman who came to the house with 
groceries while I was there. Mrs. Madden, \\h> 
in the kitchen, remarked on the Conservative b 
he wore in his button-hole. " I should just think I 
am for the Conservat i- said. "It is Pro I 

that has turned me and ever so many of my rn 
nut nf Britain, and I say," and his tone was furious, 
" that every Enjjli^hm.in who votes for Reciprocity 
1 t. lx- ham 

Mr. Madden had been from home for a couple of 



AT WORK IN A TOWN 219 

days, and I had done up a dish of fried potatoes and 
eggs for Mrs. Madden and myself for supper. The fire 
was just going out, and I was waiting for my mistress 
to vacate the dining-room in my favour, when the 
telephone bell rang loudly. Mrs. Madden went to 
hear the message, and returned with a glad face to 
say that her husband was coming back unexpectedly, 
and would be at the house in half anjiour's time. I 
have sometimes read in a novel (not one written by 
a domestic, if any such exists), that "master's" home- 
coming is a source of unmixed pleasure to his servants, 
who joyously rush to and fro at their mistress's bid- 
ding to have everything in order against his return. 
Ellen, I fear, was no faithful handmaid of this type. 
She had been working hard all day, had had nothing 
since her dinner, and now would probably be deprived 
of her supper for an indefinite period. The stove had 
to be made up a process that involved descents into 
the cellar for coal and wood bacon had to be sliced 
and fried, eggs poached, toast made, water boiled for 
a fresh brew of tea, and so on. She felt rather gloomy, 
but things took on a brighter hue when her mistress 
said that she had better have her meal at once in the 
kitchen, after which she was ready to receive 
" master " and his orders for an extra early breakfast 
with equanimity ! 

There were several houses in course of construction 



220 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

in this suburb of the rapidly-growing prairie town, 
and Mrs. Madden viewed with a covetous eye the solid 
little blocks of wood that were left scattered round 
them when the workmen went home. Twice she 
asked me in the politest way whether I would accom- 
pany her at night to one or other of these residences, 
and we carried a big sack, which we filled with < -In inks 
of wood, just the right size to feed the stove, and 
which saved me from many a hunt in tin* a-llar. My 
conscience, however, was by no means easy on these 
expeditions, though there was a sense of adventure 
as we stumbled along in the starlight, picking our 
way as best we could among the holes and uneven 
places on the short grass. Mrs. Madden had rnn.ukfd 
that all these bits of wood that tin- builders rejected 
were really the property of the owner of the house, 
and would finally be deposited in his basement, as 
they had been in ours ; and her excuse for taking 
th.-m was that she was quite sun- that others had 
annexed her blocks of wood, but I did not consider 
this at all a convincing reason. She nearly came to 
grief one evening, as she boldly went inside one of these 
h. i It-built residences, and in the darkness could not 
see that the room was only partially floored, and >h< 
just saved herself by her extraordinary quickness, 
from falling through a hole into the basement below, .t 
fall that probably would have resulted in a In "ken 



AT WORK IN A TOWN 221 

Though I was only a fortnight in Mrs. Madden's 
employ, yet the time seemed very long, and it was 
with a feeling of joyful relief that I woke up on the 
morning of my last day in her service. I had had 
while with her a sensation of being utterly friendless, 
such as I had not had anywhere else in Canada, and 
when a lady in the town asked me through the tele- 
phone whether I would take a situation with her, I 
felt that one post in Newton had been quite enough. 
It had left me with a tiresome backache, and on the 
last day I had acquired many bruises by falling head- 
long down the staircase, on which I had expended 
much wax and " elbow grease " in polishing, and which 
in consequence had become a most dangerous highway. 

My parting with Mrs. Madden was friendly, for I 
saw that from her point of view she had treated me 
well. She knew that I was going the next day to a 
farm on the prairie, and offered to put me up if I came 
back through the town ; or, if I did not require a bed, 
she said that she would be delighted to give me a 
meal. With a kindly wish for my future success we 
parted, and I turned my back on her pretty house 
with very much the same feeling as if I had just escaped 
out of a prison, eating my supper that evening with 
the delightful consciousness that it would not be in- 
terrupted by any tinkling silver bell ! 



CHAPTER XII 

OPENINGS IN CANADA FOR EDUCATED WOMEN 

THERE is work and to spare for the right type of 
woman one who is robust, adaptable, and thoroughly 
trained in some calling that is needed in a new country. 
Very few on the wrong side of forty ought to try their 
fortune across the Atlantic, because they are, as it 
were, in the British groove, and will find it almost 
impossible to fit into an entirely new environment. 
Let me quote the words of a Canadian lady who has 
done a great work for the English girl in the Dominion. 
" Canada," she writes, " is essentially a country for 
the young and strong, both mentally and physically, 
as the cnideness of many things out here an- only 
sources of amusement and provocative of 
energy to overcome them to the buoyancy of the 
young ; but to the woman turned forty, they are 
burdens." 

I hear often that British girls are not strong enough 
for the life in Canada, but I do not hold at all with this 
opinion. Young women who are experts at tennis, 
hockey, or golf will do well there, if they will only lit 



OPENINGS FOR EDUCATED WOMEN 223 

themselves beforehand for the different existence that 
they will have to lead. 

If a girl has a comfortable post in Great Britain and 
an assured future, perhaps she had better stay in the Old 
Country ; and she who has spent her whole time in 
playing games will be sadly disillusioned if she thinks 
that her amateurish efforts will pass muster in a land 
that has no use for the inefficient. There are hun- 
dreds of girls at the present day who are living in 
country parsonages, or whose fathers are retired 
officers, professional or business men. What prospect 
is there for many of these when the head of the family 
passes away ? Far too often a poverty-stricken future 
awaits them. Some, for lack of anything better, may 
fill the already overstocked profession of governess, 
which reminds me that a few days before I sent this 
book to press, a friend told me that in answer to her 
advertisement for a nursery-governess she had between 
seventy to eighty replies ! 

Some of the girls that sent her those letters may 
possibly end their days as pensioners of some charitable 
society, or even and the cases are more numerous 
than is usually believed in the workhouse. 

Surely it would be better to stave off such a fate 
while a girl is young, and can be trained for some pro- 
fession that will ensure her a comfortable livelihood 



224 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

and the opportunity of laying by for old age ? If 
she has that dash of pluck and the pioneer spirit in 
which our race has never been lacking, she will make 
light of the hardships and discomforts inseparable from 
life in a new country. 

Her reward will be a wider outlook and more. 
opportunities of "making good," than she would 
probably have found in England, and after a time 
she will share the legitimate pride of all Canadians 
in this splendid part of the Empire. As a British 
woman of this type said to me in Victoria, " I could 
never go home again for good because everything 
seems so poverty-stricken in England in comparison 
with Canada. Out h- m all make our way, and 

there isn't such a thing as a beggar in the country." 

But whatever she undertakes, a girl mu>t not think 
of coming out to the Dominion without a know- 
ledge of cooking, washing, and so on, this l> 
absolutely necessary in a country whn .nly livr 
per cent, of thr \\. >mn have servants. She mu>t 
also be smait in aj.j.raranrr, as that will trll .qieatly 
in her favour wh n .-. kiiiK w>ik. An Engli>h 1. 
living in a big Canadian town, t<>M UK th.it sin- always 
kn w her own country-women by tin ir ill-hung sk 
their badly-cut bl>iix-> f with a i^aj> 1- -jit and 

:id then llj aj.j 



OPENINGS FOR EDUCATED WOMEN 225 

in strong contrast to the Canadian working woman 
in her well-starched "waist," or neat cotton dress. 
British girls make a great mistake when they think 
that " anything will do " for an office. 

HOME-HELPS 

The one calling in which a girl can get immediate 
employment is that of home-help, but I fear that 
this occupation has not always been presented in 
its true light. The mere words " Golden West " 
teem with allurement, and there is a charm in the 
idea of helping with the pioneer work of a new country. 
Before I went to Canada I gathered from the litera- 
ture treating of this subject, that I should probably 
have riding or driving in the afternoons and that 
there would be some social intercourse among the 
neighbours, many of whom would be of my own class. 
Nothing, or hardly anything, of this fell to my lot 
in the five situations that I filled during the summer, 
and maid-of-all-work as I was, I should have been 
too tired to have enjoyed such distractions had I had 
the chance of them. Canada is certainly the paradise 
of the labouring classes, but the girl who goes by the 
name of " lady " in the British Isles will find that her 
culture is little if at all appreciated by her employers. 
I also found that in the towns the home-help was treated 



226 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

v merely as a servant, and was not in any way made 
one of the family, even in the case of an Ei 
clergyman's daughter, who was acting as nurse to 
some children. 

One of my mistresses told me that her former 
companion, a nice-looking girl, usually played the part 
of a wall-flower at the winter dances, and I was 
astonished when she accounted for this by saying 
that the men looked down upon her because she was 
a home-help ; and later on, a lady confided to me that 
she had filled this position before her marriage, and 
begged me not to mention the fact. 

Personally, I was treated almost as a guest wlu n 
on the farms, but in two of my situations I was m; 
to feel that I filled an inferior position, none of 
visitors of either sex who came to the house 
any notice of me, and, as a rule, I had to work fi 
m- 'ruing till night without any time to cultivate 
mind, and often without the privacy which is usualh 
so priceless a possession to the educated woman. 
Of course, owing to my lack of training, I did not get 
through my work quickly, and it must also be re- 
in* mbered that the life is gi -ally simplified. N 
think that my experience would be corroboral 
by the majority of hnme-helps throughout 
Dominion, but, as exceptions prove the rule, I bdi< 





OPENINGS FOR EDUCATED WOMEN 227 

that on Vancouver Island, and in a few other places, 
a woman may become a home-help without degene- 
rating into a drudge, and will have the opportunity 
of mixing on equal terms with her own class. In 
support of this I will quote the words of a lady who 
worked in that capacity on the Island for over a year. 
She says : " If real ladies come here, and are young 
and capable, willing to learn and ready to begin at 
ten to twelve dollars a month (2 to 2, 8s.), they will 
have a really good time, as there is a large Anglo- 
Indian society here, and the girls are invited to all 
the dances, picnics, and lawn-tennis. The idea is 
for everyone to live a happy, healthy, outdoor life, 
and, as Chinese servants demand exorbitant wages, 
the residents are delighted to get lady-helps to assist 
them, but they do not want ill-educated and un- 
trained girls to enter their home-circles." 

The following concerns two applicants of the 
Colonial Intelligence League, who went to Western 
Canada as home-helps : 

"June 1912. 

"We have been very fortunate in getting posts 
at once. . . . 

" We are going to do the cooking and the dining- 
room. There are only three meals a day, and as there 
is no meat or fish, the establishment being conducted on 



228 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

strict vegetarian principles, there will be no really dirty 
work. 

"The house is heated with central heating, and 
there is electric light everywhere. The cook's sahiry 
is $35 a month (7), and the one who undertakes 
the dining-room work will get $20 a month (4). 

" We think ourselves extremely fortunate in getting 
posts so quickly, and also to be with gentlefolk. We 
must and will do our best to keep them. . . . 

"It is a great pity that more of the upper classes do 
not come out. There are certainly openings for all." 



With the last words of the letter I am in complete 
agreement, but unless a girl is really fond of domestic 
work I should advise her to take the post of home- 
help merely as a stepping-stone to something better, 
which is certain to turn up if she be compeU-nt. 

Let us now discuss some of the other openings 
in Canada that might mm< n<l themselves to a 
capable and energetic woman. 

In every case, save that of home-help, the demand 
for which is never ending, a woman nught to have 
sufficient money to keep herself until she finds suit 
work. 

Teaching in the Government Elementary Schools 
offers a fair prospect to a girl, who is already qualified 



OPENINGS FOR EDUCATED WOMEN 229 

in England, or who would be ready to go through a 
training in Canada, and details can be obtained from 
the office of the Board of Education at Whitehall. 

The demand for teachers throughout the whole 
Dominion far exceeds the supply, and the Deputy 
Minister of Education for Alberta informed me that 
he could give posts to some two hundred girls annually 
in that one province, and had entered into an agree- 
ment with our Board of Education, by which certain 
British certificates held by girls would enable the 
possessors to start teaching at once in the Dominion, 
gaining their Canadian certificate later. But they 
would be wise to go through a six weeks' course; 
planned by the Minister, this entailing no expense 
save their board and lodging and a few books. 

The minimum salary is 125 per annum, but I 
have lately read a budget of letters from English 
girls, all in their first posts, and in each case the salary 
was 132, and they were paying 3, 4$. a month for 
their keep. Several of the letters said that the pros- 
pects for teachers were far better in Canada than 
at home, and certainly the social position is a good 
one in the country, all the farms competing for the 
honour of boarding the teachers. 

The following is taken from the letter of one of the 
girls helped by the Colonial Intelligence League : 



230 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

" Winter of '1911. 

" The authorities were exceedingly kind, and had 
I not been in communication with you " (the repre- 
sentative of the League in British Columbia), "would 
have interested themselves in me, and found me a 
post. . . . 

" Everybody on the island is exceedingly pleasant, 
and does everything possible to make my life happy. 
There are eight children in the school, between the 
ages of six and fourteen years, which makes the tea h- 
ing a little complicated, but one soon gets used to it. 
I am very fortunate to have got a post like this. . . . 
I am boarding in a most comfortable house, and am 
well looked after 

Of course there are drawbacks. An English girl, 
accustomed to plenty of friends at home, ma}- find 
living on a lonely farm rather trying, for in many cases 
there is no social li; VXT. Her pupils may be 

under a dozen, and of all ages, but, as a rule, she will 
find that they ' lit, and eager to learn. 

never staying away from school if they can help it. 
They may also consist of half a dozen nation 
and >h- will have th- >pl ndid work of turning them 
into loyal nti/rns <t tin- Km; 

Behind the neat schoolhouse, over which the L'ni"ii 



OPENINGS FOR EDUCATED WOMEN 231 

Jack flies, there will most likely be a stable, for pro- 
bably some of the children have to ride or drive long 
distances, the Government, I was told, providing a 
horse for the teacher if she has to board far from her 
work. One Canadian ex-teacher told me that she had 
had to drive five miles to her school in all weathers, 
only passing two houses on her way; "but," she 
added with a laugh, " I had the best social position 
in the district, and the pick of all the husbands ! " 

If the British girl " wins her spurs " in the country, 
she will, in time, be eligible for a town school, with 
higher pay, or she may find a position in one of the 
Secondary Schools. In passing, it is well to note that 
as all classes send their children to be educated at the 
Government Schools, there is practically no demand 
for governesses in the Dominion. 

Nursing is another good opening for a girl who has 
qualifications for this profession. But by this I 
do not mean that nurses who have received their 
training in England should come out. Unless these 
latter possess a three years' General Hospital certificate, 
they will not be admitted into the Canadian Nursing 
Association ; and as the methods in use in the Do- 
minion are in various instances different from those 
in vogue in Britain, it is not to be wondered at that 
Canadian doctors prefer to employ Canadian-trained 



232 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

nurses. This, at least, was the case in Winnipeg, 
Edmonton, and Calgary during my tour. But t 
is a great demand for probationers, between the ages 
of twenty-two and thirty-four. The work is hud 
during the three years' course, but the girls are w< 11 
looked after, carefully nursed if ill, and their future is 
assured when the training is over 4 to 6 a w.-.-k 
being given for private cases. 

I cannot do better than quote from a letter sent 
to me by an English girl who has gone through 
one of the big hospitals in th :id has lately 

married a Canadian doctor. 

" The nurses serve two months as probationers, and 
then have an entrance exam. If this is satisfactorily 
passed, and the Lady Superint. -ndont considers the 
girl likely to make a good nurse, she is rr<vi\vd into 
the training school, signing a paper to the effect that 
she will stay three years, unless prevented by illness. 
. . . Hoard, lodging, and laundry are all provi 
We had a verv m< Home, with a large reception-room 
and library, and each class was allowed to ent itain 
one night a week from eight o'clock to t.-n 
on special occasions we wer pvn Lit- leave till 
tw.-lve o'clock. As for oth.-r detractions, the day 
nurses were off duty at 7.30 P.M., and could go when- 



OPENINGS FOR EDUCATED WOMEN 233 

they liked, provided they were in by 10 P.M., when 
the Home was locked up. But the training is a hard 
one, and social distractions after twelve hours' hard 
work do not appeal to you as much as your bed ! 

" The training is an excellent one in every branch. 
The hospital is very loyal to its graduates, and the 
Lady Superintendent finds them posts when they first 
leave the school. ... I consider that nurses are 
better treated in Canada than in England, and it is 
the Land of Opportunity for young people who are 
willing to work, but it will only spell disaster to those 
who go expecting to get something for nothing." 

These last words ought to be taken to heart by 
every girl who thinks of trying her fortune in the 
Dominion. 

Stenographers (i.e. shorthand writers and typists). 
These are in demand throughout Western Canada, the 
salaries ranging from 8 to 20 a month ; but as 
Canadian girls go in much for this profession, with the 
result that it is overstocked with indifferent typists, 
the British woman must be thoroughly competent in 
order to succeed. More than one man, however, told 
me that he would take an English in preference to a 
Canadian stenographer, as the former was, as a rule, 
better educated all round, and could write a letter 



234 A HOME-HFLP IN CANADA 

from notes and take an intelligent interest in the 
details of the business. 

This letter from an applicant of the Colonial Intelli- 
gence League, who has tried her fate in Western 
Canada, is full of encouragement to the efficient : 

"June 1912. 

" I was only a week here when I started work as 
stenographer at $55 a month (11), with the promise 
of $60 to $65 later on (12 to 13). . . . 

" Of course there is a great deal that I have to 
learn, as Canadian business methods are very different 
to those at home ; but in about a month, I think, I 
shall have grasped these, and then I have been told 
by various business men here that I shall have no 
difficulty in getting $75 a month (15). 

" There is a large demand for experienced steno- 
graphers here. Any girl of average ability would 
have no difficulty in getting a situation here within a 
week of her arrival." 



Journalism did not stiik me as a wry 
opening save for a few who have special gifts for that 
calling. I met one English girl who had supj 
herself entirely for six \var> a> a j"Uinah>t, but she 
told me that every now and a^ain she had been out 
if wrk, and had had a hard tin. rlu-r ^a\v me 



OPENINGS FOR EDUCATED WOMEN 235 

the details of a day's work, which partly consisted in 
constantly telephoning to hospitals and fire-stations 
in order to report all accidents and fires, and also 
running a " Personal and Social " column, reviewing 
books, music, and the drama. The hours were long, 
the strain continuous, and the average salary of the 
rank and file was only about 10 a month, which seems 
little enough when the printer, who sets up the type, 
is often paid at the rate of i a day ! 

Dress also is a considerable item, as the journalist 
is expected to mingle with the guests at social func- 
tions, in order to describe the toilettes there dis- 
played ; but one acquaintance told me that this part 
of her work was so distasteful to her that she was 
accustomed to mount into a gallery and make her 
observations with the aid of opera-glasses. 

Dressmaking and millinery are most profitable pro- 
fessions for the expert, and from Toronto to Van- 
couver I heard complaints as to the dearth of skilled 
couturier es , 

A lady, lately come from British Columbia, told me 
thatshe had paid between 13 and 14 for a perfectly 
plain though well-cut coat and skirt in which to 
travel to England ; she could not get a passable 
"knockabout" hat under 3; and she assured me 
that 20 was a usual price to pay for an evening 



236 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

dress by no means out of the ordinary run. I noticed 
that, in the Western towns, really smart hats \\vu 
priced 5 to 10, and I reluctantly paid over 3 for a 
headgear that I could have got for 12s. gd. in any of 
the Kensington High Street shops, and when 1 1< 
at straw shapes with an eye to trimming a hat myself, 
I found that i was a usual price. These figures only 
apply to Canada west of Winnipeg, and relate to the 
year 1911. 

All the shops give high salaries t< divssmakris and 
milliners, as they fear that they may start business 
for themselves, thus en trim- th< in.nk t as rivals. 
But I should advise no woman to risk her capital in 
this way for several months. If she does not care to 
work in a shop, she can get 8s. to 105. a day and her 
meals by going out to make blouses and cotton dresses, 
or she can advertise saying that .she will take in work 
at home, and, if quick and clever, she will in all j : 
bility get far more orders than >he can cope with. 

Waitresses at good hotels expect to earn about 8 

;i"Mth, in< ludini; their tips, and are lodged and 

boarded; but as this is a favourite calling for the 

i Canadian, the British girl must be particulaily 

k and ea |able if >he is to 

1 m.-t an Englishwoman who \va^ starting a restau- 
rant in a Western eity, ..ml begged her to employ 



OPENINGS FOR EDUCATED WOMEN 237 

educated British women as waitresses. But this 
she declined to do, on the ground that they were 
too slow, and that only a few days before she had 
been inquiring about some compatriots who had been 
working in a Canadian cafe, and the answer was, 
" Oh, we fired them all out ; they were no good, as 
they couldn't hustle." Certainly a Canadian waitress, 
when I asked her how she remembered all the orders 
she had to take, gave me much the same idea. "Sure, 
it's c hustle ' that does it. At first I used to say all 
my orders over and over 6 roasts, 4 mashed, 5 corns, 
and so on and one had to be pretty quick in picking 
up the dishes in the kitchen, I can tell you ; it was 
more like a baseball match than anything else with 
all of us calling out at the same moment. But it is 
often the men who are tiresome, and Heaven help the 
man who can't order properly ! " 

" What do you do then ? " I asked. 

" Oh, we bring him something to eat, and then 
there's a row ; but one must make up one's mind to 
that," and she shrugged her shoulders philosophically. 
On the other hand, I came across British girls who 
were getting on well in the C.P.R. summer hotels and 
the Hudson Bay Stores tea-rooms. 

Factories, shops, &c. At Toronto the "white- 
wear " factories (i.e. blouses and underlinen), offer i 



238 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

a week to start with, rising to 2 or even 4, the 
surroundings are clean and airy, and the hours ei^ht 
and a half daily. Shop assistants have shorter hours 
than in England, but I should only recommend edu- 
cated women to take up these callings until they found 
more congenial work. 

Manicure, hairdressing, and face-massage are cer- 
tainly profitable when practised in the towns, and 
several English girls whom I questioned told me how 
much better they were doing in Canada than they 
could possibly do at home, and those that had been 
a year or so in the country said that they could 
easily start a lucrative business for themselves had 
they sufficient capital. 

" Were you obliged to wait some time before you 
got employment ? " I ;^k< d women in different towns, 
and the answer was invariably the same. 

" Oh no, I went to the shop with my references, and 
they took me on then and there. You see they 
always afraid that a girl will s-t up for herself in 
opposition to them." But in spitt . f this I should 
not recommend a woman to have these professions 
as the only string to her bow, nor should she depend 
on playing or singing at the C.P.R. hotels during 
the season, or at restaurants during the meal-tn 
though possibly she may find employment for these 






OPENINGS FOR EDUCATED WOMEN 239 

talents, or even succeed with acting, photography, or 
painting, after she has learnt the ways of the country. 

If two or three capable women with some capital 
could join and start a boarding or a " rooming " house, 
the venture, if well managed, would be a profitable 
one, the usual plan being to put down 80 to 100 at 
first, and pay off the rest by monthly instalments. 

Hundreds of men are obliged to live in hotels in 
Western Canada, and many would much prefer a 
boarding-house, where they would pay according to 
accommodation. In a " rooming " house no meals 
are provided, but hot and cold water and electric 
light, with steam-heat in winter, are supplied to each 
room. 

Restaurants and tea-shops are also lucrative ; but 
women, I was told, should serve in a smart, up-to-date 
American cafe before starting on any venture of their 
own in the Dominion, in order to get le dernier cri 
in the decoration of their rooms, the arrangement of 
their wares, and the newest mechanical contrivances 
to assist them in their work. In all these cases it is 
imperative that the girls should be able to do the 
entire work of boarding-house or restaurant them- 
selves, as hired help of any kind is uncertain, and, if 
efficient, is costly. 

Only the other day an Englishwoman discussed with 



240 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

me her idea of starting a boarding-house in Can 
with the aid of servants that she would bring out with 
her from England. " Could you manage the cooking 
and cleaning yourself, supposing your maids got 
married or left you from any cause ? " I asked ; and, 
as I expected, her astonished answer was in the 
negative. 

There are many openings for the woman fond of 
an outdoor life, and if she has capital she could start 
small fruit, vegetable, or flower-raising (in 1911 straw- 
berries in the West were 8J<f. a lb., cauliflowers is., 
cabbages 5^., tiny bunches of carrots and turnips 5</., 
while a dozen roses fetched 45., arum lilies 45. a bloom 
and violets is. a bunch, all this at the height of tin- 
season ; while tomatoes or mushrooms raised unl-r 
glass realised high prices in Vancouver). I was told 
more than once that the tending of small town gardens, 
or landscape gardening, or bulb- and serd-rai>ing, 
would be lucrative tailings, while bcc-kccping is ii"t 
to be despised as a side-industry in a clover dMri t. 

Poultry-farming is another pursuit fitted for women, 
and at Vancouver eggs fetch 2d. when the fowls are 
Dg I In ir best, and 3<f. to ^d. during tin winter. 

Girls, however, must be j to do all the work 

themselves, bbing labourer and the handy-boy 

are prai tk.ilK n< : .ada. 



OPENINGS FOR EDUCATED WOMEN 241 

Again and again it was pointed out to me that 
women ought to take up dairy-work, as there is plenty 
of pasture in British Columbia, and at the present 
time Canada imports much of her butter from New 
Zealand. 

But I should strongly dissuade a woman from laying 
out capital in any of the above callings until she has 
been some time in the country. She might, as I have 
said before, take a course at the Agricultural College 
of Pullman, Washington State, America, if she in- 
tended to settle in British Columbia, or one at Guelph 
College, Ontario, should she elect to start in the East. 
Failing this, she could get employment in some market- 
garden or chicken ranch in order to gain the practical 
experience that will be invaluable to her later on. I 
should certainly not advise anyone to act in the way 
that one Englishwoman whom I met contemplated 
doing. She wished to buy a chicken ranch and start 
working it, having had only one month's training at 
an English agricultural college and no previous ex- 
perience. She admitted that her equipment was 
scanty, but said that she was advertising for some one 
with the requisite knowledge to enter into partnership 
with her by no means a safe proceeding in a new 
country such as the Dominion. I think, however, 
that my remark that if she put her trust in strangers 



242 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

she would probably gain experience at th- pa mini 
cost of losing her capital made her reflect somewliat. 

To sum up, though I do not affirm for a moment 
that women will make their " fortunes " by goin^ in 
for any of the above openings, yet they will gain their 
living, and will be able to look forward to old age 
without apprehension, especially if tiny invest in the 
Government Annuity Scheme, by which tin -y can get 
120 per annum after fifty-five. 

It is also no exaggeration to say that the judicious 
investment of savings in a country that otters surh 
large return for capital as does the Dominion, 
possibly result in real affluence. 

This chapter may not unfittingly be concluded with 
the words of a distinguished Canadian journalist, 
words that gave me much food for thought : " In the 
Dominion/' she remarked, " we consider that there is 
something wrong about a woman it she cannot earn 
h. i own livelihood." 



en a 
may 

L-,f I, 



CHAPTER XIII 

ON THE PRAIRIE DURING THE HARVEST 

IT was the latter half of September when I got into 
the train that was to convey me to my fifth post as 
home-help in the province of Saskatchewan, shortened 
to Sask, the other provinces in which I had taken 
situations being known respectively as Man, Alta, 
and B.C. (Manitoba, Alberta, and British Columbia). 
On either side, as far as eye could see, the prairie was 
covered with stocks of golden corn glittering in the 
sunlight, and representing the food of many thousands. 
There it was, the sign manual, as it were, of the pros- 
perity of this magnificent country, the wheat just wait- 
ing to be taken to the threshing machines. After that 
it would be hauled to the huge grey elevators, that in 
their turn would hand it over to the railway, which 
would pour its precious freight into the holds of many 
a vessel crossing from this New World to the Old. It 
was a bumper harvest, though in other parts of Canada 
the crops had been " frosted," and I was not surprised 
that various of my fellow-travellers ejaculated, " That's 

great ! " as they gazed from the windows of the car. 

343 



244 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

I was about to enter upon my last situation, and 
had given as an excuse for its temporary nature, that 
I was now leaving Canada and returning to my own 
country. I had felt that my experiences would be 
incomplete unless I were on the prairie during the 
busy season of harvesting, and that over, I intended 
to fling aside my working dress and aprons for good. 
The position of home-help had not appealed to m . 
Though I had experienced much kindness from some 
of my employers, and though by this time I was by 
no means incompetent, yet I felt it would be an aw ml 
fate to pass my days in cooking and dish-washing, 
sweeping and scrubbing, having practically no time 
to cultivate my mind or to care for my appear- 

| ance in fact, to sink to the level of a hous< h>ld 

\drudge. 

The Canadian women often evoked my warmest 

admiration. My fourth mistress, for example, was a 

perfect miracle of activity. I have seen her do the 

weekly wash in the morning, have a guest to lunch, 

after which she might go for a ride or play golf, getting 

moon-tea for herself and anv trends and in the 

ning have a bridge-party, or sally forth, . 

attired, to some friend's house. She was alw.i\s neat, 

and could on occasion look as if she had just come 

out of a fashion plate, and added singing and playing 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 245 

to her list of accomplishments. But it must be 
noted that she was quite young ; and I remarked that 
the older women by no means rejoiced in household 
" chores," and I often heard them lament that they 
were unable to have many outside interests, so tired 
did they become with the day's toil. 

If Englishwomen come out to the Dominion they 
most emphatically ought to come young. An elderly 
lady with whom I travelled one day told me that she 
and her husband and family had all gone out to Canada 
to live on a ranch, and that though the younger 
generation loved the life, yet the change from her 
British ways had nearly killed her. After little 
over a year she had had a serious nervous collapse, 
and when I met her she was leaving the ranch for 
probably six months. " I have heard people in 
England talk about the ' call of the prairie ! ' " she 
said, " but I never could see any charm in it, and I 
only felt that I was the ' prisoner of the prairie/ caught 
and helpless and never able to escape. I had always 
loved music and sketching, and though I could turn 
my hand to household work, yet it was intolerable 
to have to do it day after day, and to find no time 
or opportunity for the things I cared about. I could 
not play, as we had no piano, and as for trying to 
sketch the prairie " and she shivered at the bare 



246 A HOMKHKI.P IN CANAPA 

idea. This talk ("ninm.-.l m- in my conviction that 
the middle-aged should not come out to Canada, as 
they can seldom adapt th< in^-lvrs t-> an environment 
so totally different to tint t< whidi they were accus- 
tomed in the British Isles. 

But I must IT turn to my own expcrit i It 

was early in the afternoon wh< n I alighted at a little 
town (a village we should call it in England), composed 
of one strap Meet of wooden houses with a 

or two, a grey-painted " lumber " hotel, an<l 
tlu- usual display of gaudily painted agricultural im- 
].! ments. 

I had had an interview with tin- daughter of my 
new employer, and she had said that I should be 
met h'iv. as th- farm lay some dozen miles from 
th station. But no one took any no tin- of m.-. 
though I placed my "grip " in Mich a m.mnrr that 
my name, painted on it, was in full view. Tlu little 
crowd on the platform dwindled away, and still I 

waited, and n< ar in-- ll 1 a dark man rlad in 

dirty blue overalls. At last lie addn ,1 me. and 
inquired whether I was expecting Mr. M 
to meet me. I said that I was, and not unnaturally 
jumped to the conclusion that my qu 

ot the laim hands. 

"1 have little j.>b on at the blacksmith's.' lie 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 247 

continued, in a pleasant voice, " but if you don't 
mind waiting here for half an hour I will come and 
fetch you with the buggy." 

Of course I agreed to this, and within the time 
he mentioned a ramshackle vehicle with a pair of 
good horses made its appearance. I was helped in, 
a dubious-looking rug disposed across my knees, 
and my acquaintance took the reins, while a couple 
of rather seedy-looking men got in behind. These 
were to help with the harvesting, and we started off, 
crossing the prairie by a road that must be almost 
impassable in winter, as it was composed of the thick 
black loam that produces these wonderful " bumper " 
harvests. After a while I asked my driver how near 
we were to the Mackenzies' farm, and was decidedly 
taken aback when he answered that we were not 
going there at all. 

" Then where arc we going ? " I demanded. 

" Oh, the Mackenzies' ' girl ' has settled to stay on, /v 
and, as Mr. Mackenzie's sister wants one, we thought 
you had better go there it's all in the family." 

I was not best pleased at being handed about 
in this way from house to house like a parcel, but 
apparently there was no help for it. 

"And what is the name of Mr. Mackenzie's 
sister ? " I asked, somewhat stiffly. 



2 4 8 



A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 



x "Oh, she is called Anderson that i> my n 

and he smiled shyly. 

The truth began to dawn upon me. " Are you 
.Mr. Anderson ? " I demanded of th ni n whom I 
I had taken from the first to be a farm labouivr, 
and when he replied in the affirmative, I wondeivd 
what kind of a household was that of whn h he 
the head. 

" My wife was a dressmaker and wants to sew 
day, but her sister-in-law is with us, and she would 
do a good bit if her baby weren't generally cross." 

My heart sank. My experience of babies h id not 
been happy so l 

"Have you any rhildivn ? " and I meanly h 
for an answer in the negative. 

"We have three, but only Daisy is at hom 
day, the other two go to school." 

Three children (I knew that they would be 

!.-). and a baby! Well. I was in for it. and nm-t 
do the best I could. I felt from tin- fir>t mment 
that he address d ni- . that the farmer was kindly, 
but I could not be sure of his wife, and my fate for 
the next fortnight lay in her hands. Seeing that 1 
was interested in the crops, he told me wh.v 
on his 640-acre section. Wheat was the great stand-by, 
and the most profitable, but flax, oats, and bailey 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 249 

were by no means to be despised. To my surprise 
the flax was grown entirely for the oil in its seeds, 
and the fibre was not used at all. The whole district 
was parcelled out into farms, and in many cases huge 
barns were in course of erection, a sure sign of pros- 
perity. Mr. Anderson said that he had bought his 
land five years ago at less than twenty dollars an 
acre, and that now it was worth fifty ; that he had 
paid off the borrowed capital with which he had 
started his venture, and that now he intended to 
enlarge his house, and might take a trip to England 
with his family during the winter. The mosquitoes, 
he said, used to be a real curse at first, but they had 
decreased appreciably owing to the land having been 
brought into cultivation, and he found the weeds far 
more trying than the insistent gnat, as his exertions 
in keeping his own land clean were often rendered 
useless owing to the carelessness of his neighbours. 

On our way we passed a long stretch of unfilled 
prairie, flat as a billiard- table, and this had been pur- 
chased by some American speculator, who refused to 
sell, but let his land lie fallow, an act equivalent almost 
to a crime in the eyes of the farmers of the district. 

It got colder as the time went on, and I wondered 
when we should reach our destination. At last we 
came to a small wooden house with various barns and 



25o A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

outhouses near it, a well with a lofty wind-wheel, and 
a general untidy look that was far from inviting. Not 
a word did my driver say, but I concluded that we had 
arrived, as a fair-hair* <1 woman wearing glasses came 
up to the buggy, shook hands with me and asked me 
to enter the house. She told me later that her husband 
had feared to be too explicit when he met in. lirst. lot 
I should refuse to go with him if I had grasped that 
I was not being conveyed to the Mackenzie*' farm! 
When Mrs. Anderson led me inside, my practised eye 
noted that the slip of a kitrh. n was very clean and 
n-at. but it M-mird terribly small when a sister-in-law, 
Mrs. Mackenzie, rame forward, holding a sickly baby 
of some eight months in her arms, and three children, 
aged ten, eight, and five respectively, crowded round 
the new-corn 

"This is Maggie, who Bleeps with vu." said Mis. 
Anderson, as I shook hands with her eldest h< 
and the announreni'-nt was a n,d >h.ck. N-c.. 
when I liad Ixvn ( -n^.i^eil bv tli- Other Macki-r./. 
I had stipulated, as I did invariably, that I >h"uld 
have a room to myself. I expect that 1 looked ratlin 
disconccr I inquired whether I had a separate 

bed, but as thr answer was in the affirmative, I felt 
that matters might have been far worse, and folio 
Maggie up a narrow, wooden staircase hung with 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 251 

many old clothes, through a narrow room in the pitch 
of the roof, to a second that lay beyond it. Here I 
found two pallets with a space between them, just 
enough to accommodate a chair, on which stood a 
jug and basin (welcome sight !). I found later that 
the mattress was merely a cotton-padded quilt, and, 
until I learnt how to manage them, my bed-clothes 
invariably slid off during the night. There was a 
chest-of-drawers, crammed with garments, and many 
dresses hanging behind it ; and I was given a couple 
of pegs and half the top of the drawers to use as a 
dressing-table. But as I had only a bag and hold-all, 
my wardrobe was by no means extensive, and this 
scanty accommodation sufficed. 

I took off my coat and hat, put on a navy-blue 
blouse-apron, and descended, to find Mrs. Mackenzie 
sprinkling and folding up the clothes in readiness for 
the morrow's ironing ; and when Mrs. Anderson looked 
into the kitchen a moment later, she said, in tones of 
pleased surprise, " Begun to work already ? " and 
both women admired my " dandy " apron and wanted 
to take its pattern. Later on I peeled and boiled 
potatoes and fried steak for supper, and was helped 
to lay the table in the dining-room. At half-past six 
Mr. Anderson and two taciturn hired men made their 
appearance, and we sat down, a party of nine ten, if 



252 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

the baby on its mother's lap be included and had a 
substantial meal, which I enjoyed, as I had had no- 
thing since an early midday lunch. Maggie helped m<- 

with the wash-up, but, as her mother prophet,-,! truly, 
>he w..uld not continue to do so for long ; and as soon 
he things were packed away on the dresser-shelves, 
(it always seemed marvellous to m< h>w they could 
ever be stowed into the limited spao ). 1 w- nt up to 
bed, as I was obliged to be in the kitchen at tiv, o'clock 
every morning to prepare breakfast, this bnn- tin- 
only nval that I got ready without assistance. 

Everyone was most kind to me during my time .it 
the farm, but there were certainly some drawb 
to my new post. One was my room-companion, who 
was a terribly restless sleeper, often leaping about in 
bed during her slumbers and talking loudly. She had, 
moreover, a rooted objection to the open window, 
but on this point I was firm as adamant. Tin- tl:: 
door, guiltless of any handle, burst open during the 
first niuht. and next .lav I had to invent a primitive 
fastening with stnn- and nails in order to secun 
privacy. As there was the thim utiti. n 

tween my room and that occupied by Mrs. Mackenzie, 
I was kept awake frequently by her poor baby, who 
would sometimes cry for an hour at a time, givim 

| ycll>. SOCT] i both mother 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 253 

and child, yet I felt a good deal of sympathy for 
myself when I had to turn out morning after morning 
at half-past four after a disturbed night. It was 
quite dark before the dawn, and I lit a lamp by which 
to make my hurried toilette, and, carrying it, would 
pass through the outer room and down the narrow 
staircase into the kitchen. The kindly farmer would 
often light the fire for me ; and as he brought in a 
pail of water the last thing at night, I had not to go 
to the well, and need only go outside in order to empty 
yesterday's ashes on to the ash-heap near at hand. 
If it were a porridge morning, I would fill the kettle 
and saucepan with water and set them to boil, while 
I pushed open the swing-door between kitchen and 
dining-room, propping it back with a brick, and carry- 
ing in plates, cups and saucers, knives, spoons, forks, 
and so on, to lay the table for nine people. As there 
was no tray in the establishment, everything had to 
be carried by hand, and I moved as noiselessly as 
possible, as Master Billy lay slumbering on the sofa, 
and in the room beyond, only separated by a curtain 
from the dining-room, was the rest of the family. 

When the table was laid I had to descend into the 
Egyptian darkness of the basement, pulling up a trap- 
door and going down a breakneck staircase. Mrs. 
Anderson said that the man who had designed this 



254 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

knew nothing about his business, and she was cer- 
tainly right. The steps were all placed at unequal 
distances, making it most easy to lose one's footing, 
and various members of the family had had miraculous 
escapes of sudden death at one time or another. 
Maggie had fallen headlong, but had been caught and 
held suspended by a foot, and another child had been 
unconscious after a tumble from top to bottom. I 
my horror, I myself nearly caused an accident by 
carelessly leaving the trap-door open on my second 
morning, for one of the hired men, going to get a milk- 
pail, did not observe the abyss, and only saved him- 
self from falling in by a timely leap. 

The cellar was used as a dairy, larder, and store- 
room, so I had to bring up bread, butter, milk, and 
bacon from its depths. As soon as I had got my 
burdens safely into the kitchen, (I always put tin- lamp 
on the top step in order to light me during my umk r- 
ground groping), it was high tim to ^-t about tin- 
breakfast proper. The porridge would be >tinv<l into 
the big saucepan, bacon would be slio-d mt< 
frying-pan, (I was obliged to parboil it first with milk 
and then fry it, as it was too salt), the j*>tatoes from 
last night had to be sliced and frit .1 up with a little 
dripping, and lastly, coffee and a pinch of salt put into 
the big enamel pot, which I filled up with boilii 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 255 

and set upon the stove, now hot. As only coal was 
used in this part of the prairie, it was comparatively 
little trouble to keep the fire going all day ; but it 
was not so easy to start it in the first place, and I 
always poured a little paraffin-oil on the bits of paper 
and kindling wood, using great caution, as a farmer's 
wife had told me of women whose faces had been 
terribly burnt by this practice. 

About twenty minutes to six the farmer would 
come in with pails of milk fresh from the cow, and 
when he had stumbled down into the cellar with these, 
he would perform his ablutions in a small tin basin, 
which, in company with two water-pails, stood on a 
low cupboard in the kitchen. After he had dried his 
face and hands on a roller-towel hanging on the door, 
and had combed his hair with the aid of a tarnished 
little mirror, he would stand on the steps outside 
and yell the word " Breakfast ! " in stentorian tones. 
This would promptly bring the two hired men, who 
did their wash just outside the door, but their drying 
and hair-combing inside. (I don't think I ever saw 
any man use a hair-brush all the time that I was 
in Canada.) 

By now I would be serving out plates of porridge 
to master and men, carrying in the bacon and potatoes, 
and also, what I forgot to mention, toast browned in 



256 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

the oven. The establishment did not boast of one 
of the excellent wire toasting implements which I 
saw in other places, and once I forgot this particular 
" chore," and burnt the bread to a cinder. 

Mrs. Anderson and the elder children would begin 
to make their appearance, and Mrs. Mackenzie, K 
ing her baby, would descend into the kitrln-n. All 
washed in a very sketchy way in the little enam< 1 
basin, using the same towel, and were soon seated at 
the breakfast-table. Everyone ate as if engaged on 
a wager, never speaking a word, save perhaps to a>k 
for something to be passed to them ami. directly they 
had finished, would help themselves to toothp: 
the men flinging out of the room and tramping off to 
their work. 

To prepare a breakfast such as I have described 
was not altogether a light task, but when it came to 
having pancakes nearly every morning, my heart almost 
failed me. Mrs. Anderson, luckily, was one of the 
kindliest of employers, and got up early twice to help 
m-- with their prep.-: ind before I left I made 

them as well as my mistress. On a "pane 
morning 1 was in the kit. h< k I 

had to make a batter "1 ll<>ur. buttermilk. fre>h milk, 
and eggs, boating it up while the big girdle-iron 
getting hot upon the stove. Bacon was being 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 257 

pared during this operation, and a syrup of brown 
sugar and water was being boiled up. When the 
batter was ready I would pour a couple of spoonfuls 
at intervals on the girdle-iron, which I had first smeared 
with dripping, smoothing the mixture into small 
rounds ; and as soon as bubbles rose, it was time to 
turn them over. Each cake was turned twice, and I 
had to make enough to fill three or four plates, piled 
high. The disagreeable part of the work was the smoke 
that rose from the dripping on the hot girdle-iron, and 
that, in spite of open door and window, used to make 
my eyes smart and stream with involuntary tears. As 
soon as the pancakes were done (they ought to be 
eaten quite hot), everyone took them in haste, put 
fried bacon upon them, and poured syrup over, eating 
this strange mixture with the utmost relish. Being 
always anxious to "do at Rome as Rome does," I 
followed their example, and was surprised to find how 
good the food tasted. Certainly getting up at half- 
past four (there are no cups of early morning tea on 
the prairie in Canada !), and working at high pressure 
until six, would have given me an appetite for nearly 
any kind of food, and I have no ambition to introduce 
this menu at our own breakfast-table in England. 
As a reward for my early rising I was often the 

spectator of the most glorious sunrises that I have 

R 



258 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

ever seen ; but of course I could only enjoy them in 
hurried snatches from the kitchen window, and had 
better luck with the sunsets, as they occurred at a 
time when there was usually a lull in the day's work. 

Before I left England, a lady who had been travelling 
in Canada amused the guests at a tea-party by nar- 
rating that she had astonished her host and hostess 
of one night (who, by the way, were living in primitive 
style and doing all their own work), by asking f 
morning bath. " None of us ever wash till four 
o'clock," was the answer to her demand an answer 
that made us laugh, but which came home to me 
during my experiences as a " help," as it was the hour 
at which I usually made my own toilette. 

Sometimes I wondered whether the farmer class < 
" washed " at all, as I understood the word, and on 
one occasion an agreeable travelling companion horri- 
fied me by saying, " When I 'bached ' I never washed 
my clothes just wore them till they fell into ra 
Upon an exclamation from me he amended his state- 
ment by saying, " Well, if I happened to bathe I 
would sometimes go in in my shirt, and then hang it 
out to dry in the sun." 

Certainly ** baching " sometimes means a good deal 
of dirt, and, as a woman once remarked to me of nun 
living alone, " Scrape out the porridge-pot ? Not 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 259 

they. They let the dogs lick it clean to save them- 
selves the trouble. I'm not talking through my hat 
it's bare facts I'm telling you." 

During my stay at the Andersons' the harvest season 
was in full swing. All farming folk were at work during 
every hour of daylight, and I was most anxious to see 
something of the operations by which the sheaves of 
corn were pitched into the " separators " and came 
out in streams of grain. Though there was a good 
deal of talk about the snapshots that I was to take 
with my camera, it all came to nothing, so fully occu- 
pied were we. I was surprised to hear that if winter 
came on before all the grain was threshed, it would 
be left lying under the snow until the spring, when 
it would not be much the worse for this long exposure. 

The threshing machines were all around us, and 
Mr. Anderson and his brother-in-law had a big gang 
of men and various teams to haul the wheat to the 
threshers. On this occasion the men had their own 
cook and " caboose," in which they fed and slept ; but 
Mr. Anderson had to provide half their food, and took 
milk, meat, flour, sugar, potatoes, and so on, to supply 
their needs. During the previous season Mrs. Anderson 
and her sister-in-law had undertaken the cooking 
themselves, and probably it was the enormous amount 
of work involved that had knocked my mistress up, 



26o A HMMK-HELP IN CANADA 

and had made the doctor Ml her to rest as murh as 
possible ; but this command she obeyed very im- 
perfectly, her times of " repose " being spent chiefly 
at the treadle sewing-machii 

During my stay in Canada I heard a good deal about 
farming for women, and how they ought to take up 
homesteads, therefore I was in invited to come across 
the young daughters of a neighbouring i -.\h> 

acted as hired men to their father. Mrs. Anderson 
said that they rode wonderfully, could hand 1 
better than most men, drive the "binders," and do 
the whole work of a farm; but she o>nMdned that 
the life they led was unsuitable for a woman, and was 
unfitting these girls for becoming wives and mothers 
in the future in fact, the feeling of the country-side was 
strongly against their father. For my own part, the 
more I saw of faun life the less I considered it to be 
a suitable opening for educated girls, save in excep- 
:\al cases and for exceptional women. 
On the morning of September 2yd I noticed 
frost-flowers on my window-panes as I dressed, and 
on opening the kiteh.-n door to throw away the ashes 
of the stove, I found that tin- wholr world was wra; 
in snow, and looking indescribably grey and dreary. 
Accordingly after breakfast I donned my rubbers, 
(no one understands what you mean if you call them 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 261 

galoshes), and made journeys to the coal-house to 
fill the scuttle and to the well to get water. This 
was always an easy matter when there was a wind, 
as I had only to pull down a handle to set the wind- 
wheel in motion, and then hang the buckets on to the 
pump and let them fill. When the sun got up the 
snow melted away, leaving the rich black loam, which 
makes all the farmers so prosperous, in such a sticky 
condition that I had to scrape it off with a knife from 
my foot-gear before I could enter the house, and the 
kitchen linoleum, which it was my daily task to wash 
after the midday meal, was in a terrible mess from the 
mud left by the men and the children. 

I found my new mistress most easy to get on with. 
She never fussed or " hustled "me, and usually had a 
word of praise for my culinary operations. " I enjoy 
everything you cook, you do it all so daintily," was 
one comment that filled me with pride, and put me 
on my mettle to do yet better. She liked me to make 
English dishes, confessing that she had got tired of 
her own cooking and had little appetite for it, and, 
as she was very intelligent, we soon got to discuss all 
sorts of subjects if we were working together at bottling 
plums and peaches for the winter, or making pickles, 
and she expressed her wonder that I did not qualify 
for a school-teacher. The sister-in-law, a happy-go- 






262 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

lucky Irishwoman, whose favourite expression was 
" For land's sake," was equally agreeable, but failed to 
understand how any woman could come out to Canada 
and not wish to marry and settle down in the country, 
and it was useless to assure her that I had no sn< h 
intention. She tried to encourage me by saying that 
the farmers in this district did not care for young 
girls, as they considered that the older women made 
much better housekeepers ! 

" Now there is my sister," she began one day, "an 
was waitress at the hotel in Bridgewater, and the lady 
who employed her said she would make Mary 
quainted with a smart young man who was doing \\vll 
as a butcher. But my sister told her not to trouble, 
as she cared for no man and did not want to marry 
at all. However, when Edwin called with the nx at 
next day, the lady shouted for Mary, who came 
quite innocent like into the kit-hm, and was i 
acquainted with him th-n and there. He used to 
ask to see her when he drove his cart to the hotel, and 
one day he invited her to go for a drive with him. 
She said she wouldn't go alone, so Edwin says, ' Bring 
any girl you choose/ and he was so nice about it 
that next time sh- w.-nt alone with him. And now 
they are married, and have a house with the ' 
and a ' phone,' and Edwin looks so well dressed and 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 263 

is that particular about the way he folds his clothes 
(he is English and they always have so much style !). 
He is full of his jokes, and has lots of friends, so they 
see a good bit of company, and he makes my sister 
keep in with the newest fashions " and Mrs. Mackenzie 
gave a sigh, for her husband was not " making good " 
at present, and she was leading a " mean " life as she 
expressed it. He had earned a livelihood by cutting 
down and selling the valuable timber on his ranch 
in the West, but a terrible forest fire had burnt the 
fine trees to the ground, and had driven him and his 
family forth to begin life afresh. 

During my visit at the farm he was earning the 
high wage of five dollars (i) a day as " separator " 
of a big gang of threshers, but when there was a spell 
of rainy weather all operations had perforce to stop, 
and he came to stay with his wife, receiving no pay 
for the days he was not working, though the farmer 
who employed him would have to feed the men and 
the teams of horses. It was a hard life when the 
men were in full work, as they began at five o'clock, 
and if the gang had to move on to another part of 
the neighbourhood, they would often not be in bed 
till midnight. Though one man affirmed that thresh- 
ing was to him as the " call of the wild," it seemed a 
very exhausting pursuit, and Mr. Mackenzie was 



264 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

always dead-tired when he came to see his wife, and 
spent most of his time in bed. I certainly sympathised 
with him, for I never got my full quantum of 
while in the service of Mrs. Anderson, and hat.-d 
/ getting up at half-past four, though the splendid nil- 
warded off fatigue when I had once begun my labours. 
Monday was an extra busy day, as the we.-kly 
wash had to be done as soon as the breakfast things 
\\vre cleared, and the dining-room and kitchen - 
out. Mrs. Anderson and I would drag the heavy 
washing-machine out of the coal-house into the k-n 
air, and the boiler, full of soft water, was already 
on the stove with a cake of soap sliced into it. My 
special duty was to work the machine, whieh I did by 
pushing a handle to and fro, in order to make the 
clothes revolve in the soap-suds with whieh the big 
tub was filled. I had to do this for ten minutes to 
! ^arnv-nts. then pass them through the 
wrin^.T. alter whieh I took them into the kit 
to be put into the boiler on the stove. From 
they were soused in a tub of cold <iuezed 

through the wringer, and then dipped into blu< \ 
and wrung out for the third time. Certainly tin- 
lm n 1. ., hite when we hun^ it up <>n tin- 

long lin-s, and I < ii)<>v d working out of doors, though 
tli wind was cold ,11, d tli- MIH ^a\v littl warmth 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 265 

here at the end of September. When the last con- 
signments, terribly stained overalls, shirts, and socks 
belonging to the men, had been rocked in the water 
(they had to be put into the machine twice), and 
had been wrung and rinsed and wrung again, I felt 
almost as if my arms had been torn out of their sockets. 
We used to work from seven o'clock till half-past 
eleven, and then had a rush to get a midday meal of 
fried ham and eggs and the inevitable potatoes 
ready. After dinner the washing-machine was rinsed 
out and dragged back to the coal-house, there to 
rest for another week, and the wringer and washing- 
board went to keep it company. When a very high 
wind was blowing we were obliged to take down the 
clothes from the lines lest they should get torn, and 
I always had to wash over the kitchen floor before I 
could get upstairs at half-past two or three o'clock 
for a badly needed rest. At four o'clock I was down 
again, sprinkling and folding up the clothes in pre- 
paration for the morrow's ironing, after which there 
were scones and buns to be made for the half-past 
six supper. 

I have a theory that one reason for the small 
amount of crime in Canada is that everyone works 
so hard. Satan, according to the rhyme of our child- 
hood, occupies himself especially with the idle, and 



266 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

as practically everyone is busy in the Dominion, 
and there is no drink to be had on the farms, all the 
world behaves as it should. 

Of course there are exceptions to this somewhat 
Utopian picture. 

One evening, for example , I had kept supper hot 
for some hours for the hired men, who had gone into 
the town on an errand of hauling grain, and I was 
anxious for them to make their appearance in ordT 
that I might clear the table and go to bed. 

It was a very wet night, and when at last we h 
sounds of arrival the farmer went out to investii 
It was some time before he returned, and then he 
came alone. " Aren't the men coming ? They must 
be soaked, poor fellows!" I exclaimed. "Yes, th -y 
are," was his answer, " but soaked inside" and he 
smiled grimly at his small joke. " I've sent tin -m 
to bed." 

Certainly I hardly ever came across a " loafer " ; 
but though work is good for all, too much of it is not 
so healthy. Much has been written of the charm of 
the prairie, and the air here was like a tonic ; but, as 
I spent nearly all my time indoors, I did not get 
ly enough of it. In fact, I loved going to tlu- \\vll 
for water, and to the coal-house to fill the scuttle, in 
order to drink in deep draughts of air before returning 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 267 

to the hot kitchen, where, as a rule, the windows 
were closed out of deference to the sickly baby. 

Sunday was a day when one " walked as one 
pleased," as Mrs. Mackenzie expressed it. Breakfast 
was an hour later ; but as company descended 
upon us unexpectedly on one Sabbath, and was in- 
vited on the second, the home-help had as busy a 
morning as usual. This was the day on which the 
farmer dipped his entire head into the tin basin in 
the kitchen, and on my first Sunday, about half-past 
ten, while he was shaving and I was peeling potatoes, 
a buggy with a young farmer and his wife and boy 
drove up to the back-door, that was the only entrance 
to the house. They had come to dinner, and threw 
the whole household into a stir of preparation, though 
the lady adjured Mrs. Anderson to make no difference 
in the usual family repast on their account. 

My mistress was worried about making room at the 
table for twelve, and accordingly I proposed that the 
hired men should eat with me in the kitchen. She 
said that even to suggest such a thing to the taciturn 
yokels would offend them mortally, and when a 
farmer's wife of her acquaintance had done it on a 
like occasion, it had been the talk of the whole dis- 
trict. Come what might, the men must be squeezed 
in somehow, though I said that if I had no objection 



268 A HOMIMIELP IN CANADA 

to a meal in the kitchen they could hardly raise any. 
But they were not put to the test, and we man- 
aged all right, tin- "chair" question being settled by 
packing-cases brought up from the cellar. I sallied 
forth to hoe potatoes, mashing them with milk 
butter, and I chopped up a raw cabbage, which made 
an excellent salad with a dressing ; the " roast " was 
big enough for double the number, and Mrs. Anderson 
had busied herself in making " pie " the day before. 

I was helped to lay the table with the best dinner- 
set, and " dished-up," changing the plates between 
the courses, handing round tea and coffee, and serving 
out apple-pie, with a chunk of cheese to eat with 
help, eating my own meal hurriedly in the inU: 
of serving. 

On this particular Sunday I intended to go to tin- 
weekly Methodist service in the little schoolhouse, 
though I was not of that persuasion m\>--lt. 
Anderson wanted me to drive with the children, \vh<> 
had a Sunday-school class beforehand, and 

/ement when I said that I would start an hour 
later and walk. " It is over a mile," she said in 
astonished tones, as if she were speaking of ten ; 
I nt>' ain how seldom Canadians walk, though 

they would think nothing of riding or driving all d 

Hi. took I was to follow was pointed out to me. 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 269 
and as I could see the top of the building across the 
prairie, there was no fear that I should lose my way. 
Accordingly Mrs. Mackenzie and I did the large 
dinner "wash-up" at top speed, and as I was late I 
set off at a brisk pace, which I was told afterwards 
quite surprised the men, who said that they could not 
have kept up with me. The trail led past a farm, 
and here two big collies rushed out, barking furiously, 
and one followed for some distance, sniffing suspiciously 
at my ankles. But, as I went on and pretended 
not to notice, I got past them safely, though I heard 
afterwards that that particular dog had a bad reputa- 
tion for biting people. 

As I got near the schoolhouse, I was over- 
taken by a buggy and team, and the driver leant 
forward and asked me to have a lift. I thanked him, 
but said it was hardly worth while as I was going 
to the service. 

"So am I," he answered; "we might as well go 
together." And I stepped in, imagining that my 
new acquaintance was some prosperous farmer. 

He inquired my business in these parts, and when I 
told him, he said that the Andersons were " fine folk." 
As I was always anxious to get a little information, I 
remarked that I was an educated woman, come out to 
see what openings there were in Canada, but that, as I 



270 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

had no special training for anything, I could only 
take the post of home-help, that led to nowhere. To 
this he agreed, but advised me to qualify for a school- 
teacher or a stenographer, and by this time we had 
reached our destination, and I alighted, while he drove 
round to the back of the building to unhitch his horses. 
When I entered the schoolhouse, with its maps and 
blackboard, and sat down in company with some half- 
dozen men and women on the narrow little seats de- 
signed for the use of children, the Sunday school, con- 
ducted by a farmer, was in full swing, and Maggie, 
with conscious pride, was giving answers to nearly 
every question. Presently the minister made his 
appearance, and opened the service with a hymn, and 
I was surprised to see that he was my driver. He 
gave a most excellent sermon (I was told afterwards 
that he had a great reputation as a preacher), and, 
when the little congregation was about to disperse, 
he shook hands with all of us, saying a few kindly 
words to me. This small incident greatly inter* 
the Anderson family, who considered that I had been 
highly honoured by the notice of the minister in 
fact it gave me a distinct social rise. 

After the service the children " hitched up," and 
four of us packed into the two seats of the buggy, 
Billy, aged eight, driving us in masterly style, urging 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 271 

the horse at full speed along the rough track, and 
trying to race a team just behind us. This boy was 
typical of the youth of Canada. He chopped the 
kindling wood for the house, often helped me to 
carry the heavy pails of water from the well, or 
get the coal, had to turn out the cows daily and 
picket them in the pasture before he went off to school, 
and collected the eggs, that were kept during the 
winter embedded in oats. He could ride any horse 
bareback, and it was fine to see how he scrambled 
up, and managed the big creatures with the utmost 
ease, and as he always had nails in his pockets, and 
was as handy as a man with any little carpentering 
job, he was on the road to " make good " when he 
grew up. Moreover, he was very intelligent, and 
was delighted one evening when I strolled out after 
my day's work and pointed out the various constella- 
tions as they hung like lamps in the sapphire heaven. 
In his turn he bade me observe the great arc of the 
pulsating Northern Lights, and told me that the 
fires I saw in every direction were burning up huge 
masses of wheat-straw, a useless commodity here, 
where only the oat-straw is kept as it is good feed 
for the animals during the winter. 

The speed and ease with which the average 
Canadian woman gets through her work, was partly 



272 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

explained to me when I saw Daisy, aged five, sweep 
out the rooms, iron small .nti l.-s quite nicely, or 
her tiny hand at kneading the bread in short, begin- 
ning at her early age the proverbial "practio that 
makes perfect." 

Unfortunately, all the children were rude and 
mannerless such a contrast to their polite parenN 
and aunt. At meals they shouted their Ion 
for " Meat ! " " Cake ! " or " Sauce ! " (by this latt.-r 
they meant fruit preserved in syrup which we , 
had for supper), and no one reproved them for their 
lack of courtesy. They were also very greedy, ami 
if they considered anything to be " terrible nice " 
or " terrible good," they would take far more on to 
their plates than they could possibly eat, and lit t It- 
Daisy was munching something or other all day long. 
As I was brought up on the principle of " nothing 
between meals," it surprised me to observe their 
frequent visits to the cupboards or cellar to get buns. 
scones, or fruit, and I was sometimes annoyed, as 
would gobble up my chociest efforts in this line, a 
large cake seldom sufficing for more than one i 
owing to their depredations. Indigestion, according 
to the advert i>einent>, and according to what I 1 
and saw, appears to be one of the .staple coinpl 
of the Dominion, and I should think that this ii 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 273 

criminate eating must have much to do with it. If 
the children were not eating they were chewing " gum," 
and this habit prevails throughout the whole country, 
young and old being apparently equally addicted to it. 
At first I imagined that the people were not " through " 
with their meals, as the jaws of hotel managers, whom 
you approached on the question of rooms, were work- 
ing busily, and the habit only added to the impression 
I gained that there is little repose in Canada. The 
nation is a " live wire," as a man expressed it to me, 
and the climate induces a ceaseless energy, though I 
fancy that it must wear people out by over-stimu- 
lating them. 

Certainly I could never have done in England 
half of what I accomplished in Canada; but when I 
reached the Pacific Coast, my energy partially deserted 
me for the time, and I felt as though I could have 
slept all day long. 

Up to now I had experienced for the most part 
superb weather on the prairie, a brilliant sunshine 
that glorified the mean outhouses and touched 
the miles of wheat lying cut on every side with gold, 
and a clear atmosphere in which we could see objects 
distinctly at long distances across the vast plain. 

But suddenly all this was changed, the rain fell 

in torrents, and I had a period of acute discomfort. 

s 



274 A ROM I HI-LP IN CANADA 

It had been a wild night of storm and wind, and when 
I got into the kitchen at five o'clock one morning, 
I found that the coal-scuttle was nearly empty. 
Fortunately, I had carried my rain-coat and nil 
down with me as I left my bedroom, and 1 >allied 
forth to the coal-house that was quite close. The 
ground resembled the day loam on a ploughed 
field in England after several days of run, and I had 
difficulty in keeping on my galoshes even for that 
short distance. After the breakfast wash-up I had to go 
to the well, which was a little distance from the house, 
and as the horses and cows drank from big tubs close 
beside it, the earth was trampled into a regular 
morass, in which my rubbers stuck fast and could 
not be kept on my boots. I staggered back to the 
house with one pail at a time, and, with the aid ol an 
old knife, got rid of some of the mud that I was carry - 
ing on my feet and that felt as heavy as lead. 1 he 
howling wind, the beating rain, and my load all com- 
bined, inad- me thankful to feel that I was only 
playing at being a home-help and was not forced 
to lead the life in reality. Directly I had got my 
pails to the kitchen door and given them to 
Mackenzie, I had another journey in the mud to till 
tin- coal-scuttle (would that it had been bigger !), 
and to procure .salt from a little sack that was kept 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 275 

in the coal-house. Then a longer tramp to the 
clothes-lines to unpeg and bring in a quantity of 
garments that had been left out during the night, 
in the vain hope that, as it had rained the day before, 
it would have been fine the next day. 

After this I returned to the house, which was only 
twenty-eight feet by sixteen, and had the merest slip 
of a kitchen. So small was it that it was hard for 
two people to pass one another in the narrow space 
between the stove and the table, and anyone coming 
from the upstair bedrooms had to open the door at 
the foot of the staircase most cautiously, lest it should 
knock some one, while the doors of the china cupboard, 
if open, would fly in the face of anyone entering the 
kitchen from the dining-room. The window, con- 
trolled by means of a stick, opened the whole top- 
half or not at all, and as everyone objected to the 
rain beating in in wet weather, or complained of 
the cold, or said that the stove would never heat 
properly if the fresh air blew upon it, or believed 
that the puny baby would catch a chill, the net result 
was a stifling atmosphere, and I always felt that we 
were only saved from suffocation by a big crack 
under the outer door ! 

In this room we three women worked during a good 
part of each day ; here the baby sat in her chair with 



276 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

many a scream, in spite of protests on nr 
the unhealthy way in which she was being brought 
up, and here the three children wandered in 
out all day long when it was too wet for them to go 
to school. Every entrance into the house, or exit 
from it, was accompanied by a loud bang of the \\in- 
gauze screen-door; the noise and movement 
perpetual ; and yet, wonderful as it may seem, I 
never heard a cross word exchanged among the grown- 
ups, though the children were very far from following 
the excellent example set them by their rlder>. 

On the particular afternoon about which I am 
writing, I had to remove the stems and cut in halves 
hundreds of crab-apples that Mrs Anderson was ^ 
to make into jelly, and Billy, the nicest of the ju\ 
trio, announced that he would help me. So we got 
to work, and I narrated incidents to him of t 
of Troy, and as many of the adventures of mu h- 
travelled Ulysses as I could remember. M 
volunteered her in order to iM.-n. and Mrs, 

Anderson brought her dressmaking t the dining- 
room table, round \\: were Mtting. At last the 
hero returned to Itha.-a. his laithfnl dog had recog- 
nised its master and died, and w; ses had 
drawn his mighty bow and slain the suitors, I 
for lack of further matter. BilK , \ 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 277 

spellbound, heaved a deep sigh of pleasure, and I felt 
well rewarded when he remarked, " That is just the 
kind of story that I like ! " 

The bad weather made me ask Mrs. Anderson about 
the winter months, and I inquired whether the windows 
were ever opened when the snow lay on the ground. 

" Not when it is very cold, and we often get fifty- 
six degrees of frost." 

A vision rose in my mind of the furnace in the 
dining-room and the stove in the kitchen burning all 
day and several hours of each night, and never a 
breath of fresh air in an atmosphere that would half 
kill me ! 

I asked my employer what social distractions there 
were, as the farms about here were comparatively 
close to one another. She said that in the summer 
there was nothing, as the work of farming went on 
at high pressure from April right into October, and 
there was no time for amusement. In the winter 
there were a few dances, but, as the farms were so 
small and most of the neighbours poor, they had not 
many of these. The chief recreation seemed to be 
" socials " in the schoolhouse. Each woman would 
bring a basket, in which she had put up a dinner for 
two, and her name was inside out of sight. All the 
baskets were held up to auction, and there was much 



278 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

fun as the men bid against one another for th-m. 
Then the winners of each basket found out to whom 
it belonged, and he and she sat at one of UK- uncom- 
fortable little school-desks and ate the food together, 
the money going to some charitable object. 

To vary this, tin- ladies would stand bt-hii. 
and the men bid for these " ghosts," as they called 
them. As women were in the minority, little school- 
girls also acted as " ghosts/' but these stood on boxes, 
as the men would not have cared to buy them had 
they suspected their youth, for " they all want young 
ladies," as Mrs. Anderson expressed it. 

When all the " ghosts " were bought, they emerged 
with numbers pinned on to them, and, bearing their 
baskets, they shared the contents with their pur- 
chasers. The entertainment was concluded with 
music and recitations, and Mrs. Anderson begged me 
to stay on for the winter, as she thought that I might 
lu lp in these diversions. 

Now and again there were tin "surprise" parties 
about which most of us have heard. The woman thus 
md w.is usually inveighled from her home for a 
few hours, and n turn* <1 to find a troop of neighbours 
in possession of the house, and h-r table spread with 
the eatables they had brought. After a hearty meal, 
dancing would take place; but in the kitrln -n, with 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 279 

the stove in full blast, the dancers got far hotter than 
was at all comfortable, and must afterwards drive 
home in a temperature below zero, a dangerous 
proceeding. 

Mrs. Anderson told me that when she gave a party 
at Christmas, some of the guests lost their way in the 
snow while returning to their homes, and during the 
winter the blizzards were so bad that the school had 
to be closed for a month. The silent Mr. Anderson, 
at the mention of the word blizzard, suddenly burst 
into speech, and related how he had got caught in 
one coming home from the town. The air was filled 
with snow, fine as flour, a cruel wind was blowing, 
and about three miles from home he lost his way 
completely. But a dog from a neighbouring farm 
had followed his buggy from the town, and at 
this point the intelligent animal, which appeared to 
grasp the situation, ran on ahead barking to him, 
and running back at intervals as if to direct him. 
The horses appeared to be as much at a loss as the 
farmer, but the latter followed the dog blindly, and 
is sure that he could never have reached his home 
without its aid, and might have perished in the snow. 
These blizzards are terrible ; men have been known 
to lose their way between the house and the barn, and 
have wandered on and on until they have succumbed 



28o A llo.MK-HKLP IN CANADA 

to the cold, and their bodies have not been reco\ 
until the spring sunshine has melted the snow away. 
Mrs. Anderson said that sometimes she could not 1 
tin house for days at a time, and that sin got to 
tin- monotony of the great wastes of snow all around 
her. 

Tastes certainly differ, but for my part i lelt thankful 
that I was not called upon to spend my lile upon a 
Canadian farm. There would be too little " call of 
the prairie " and too much " call of tin- kiu b 
me, too much work and too little relaxation. On 
Tuesdays, for example , I had to iron three to four 
hours on end, and my ba'k > enu-d broken wl. 
had at last smoothed out the extensive family u 
Moreover, every three or four days there was churning 
to be done, and a heavy barrel of cream had to be 
mad t<> i volve by means of a foot-treadle and a 
handle. Once or twice Mrs. Anderson did not trouble 
to get the cream up to the right t< nip. rature before 
she set me to work, and the result NM .ui boor'fl hard 
labour before the little round of glass at one end oi the 
barrel was clear, showing that the butter had lorni. d. 
and on one occasion a swollen knee, win. h made me 
extra nervous in lin^ the breakneck cellar 

steps. To be a home-help on the prairie would, as a 
rule, have little attraction for an educated English- 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 281 

woman, and she would greatly feel the lack of social 
intercourse, the want of books and congenial com- 
panionship, unless she had the good fortune to be 
with people of her own class, in which case it would 
be very different. 

At last the day of my departure arrived, and I was 
glad to be leaving, though I was not ungrateful for all 
the kindness that I had received. As I turned out of 
bed at half-past four, I felt thankful that it was the 
last time that I should have to make pancakes in 
floods of tears ! Mrs. Anderson offered me a dollar 
over and above my wages (I refused it with thanks, 
though highly gratified at this recognition of the 
worth of my services), and she said that she had much 
enjoyed my company and would miss me, while 
Mrs. Mackenzie, to whom I had bequeathed my 
" dandy " aprons and various other extremely shabby 
belongings, presented me with a keepsake of her own 
handiwork, begging me to write to her, and both 
united in hoping that I should get home safely 
to England. At seven o'clock the farmer brought 
his buggy round, my belongings were hoisted in, 
and I was driven off amid warm farewells from 
the women and children. I felt half ashamed of 
myself for feeling so delighted to be leaving them all, 
but the life was by now becoming intolerable to me, 



282 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

and I could hardly have stood another week of it. I 
had felt like a prisoner cooped up in the little house, 
and now I was my own mistress again, and would 
have a room to myself where I could shut the door 
and be quite alone. This seemed the height of 
luxury after enduring such a restless room-mate as 
Maggie had proved herself to be. 

It was a lovely morning, and Mr. Anderson drove 
across the short grass of the prairie, keeping clear 
of the road that was like a wet ploughed field, and 
even winding his way in and out among the sheaves 
of corn in order to avoid the trail. I did not quite 
appreciate his tactics until we were forced to cross 
the highway, and in a moment the wheels were cm- 
bedded in the sticky mud, and the poor horse stopped 
in mute protest at having to drag such an unexpected 
weight, but the earth fell off in lumps as soon as we 
got on to the grass again. 

The farmer said that he could not begin " seeding '* 
(i.e. sowing the wheat) until the middle of April, as 
the frost was not out of the ground before then. 
During the winter there were the animals to be 
and always something to be done on the farm when 
the weather was not too bad, while there was gram 
to be hauled if the snow permitted. As we got near 
the little prairie town, fences made their appearance 



ON THE PRAIRIE DURING HARVEST 283 

on either side of us, and we were forced to take to 
the road. We toiled along at a foot's pace, and the 
horse rested at intervals, and though we had driven 
only twelve miles, yet we had taken three solid hours 
in which to reach the station, and should have been 
treble the time if we had not had so many stretches 
of prairie, which helped us greatly. The fanner drove 
me up to the little scarlet-painted depot and handed 
out my belongings, and then we shook hands warmly. 
He was essentially a man of deeds and not of words, 
and had shown me various little kindnesses, beside 
the much appreciated one of lighting the stove in the 
mornings, and I felt that we parted with a mutual 
liking and sympathy. 



CHAPTER XIV 

EASTWARDS AND HOMEWARDS 

MY six months' tour was coming to an end, and I 
was soon to leave the Dominion, poorer in purse 
though richer in experience. Certainly the hotels 
are expensive, and though the best ones are fitted 
up with every luxury, yet you have to look a 
yourself in many ways. For instance, there is a 
telephone in each bedroom, by means of which all 
orders are given. If there is no bathroom attached 
to your bedroom, you " 'phone " for the bell-boy to 
bring you up the key of the public one. No chamber- 
maid carries hot water to you in the mornings and you 
must wake yourself, unless you happen to be leaving 
the hotel by an early train. In that case you mention, 
at the office the night before, the time at win- h you 
wish to be awakened, and at the hour you are roused 
from your slumbers by the telephone bell, that i 
without ceasing until you call down the tube. A 
custom that is pleasanter for the employees than for 
trav -11. rs. is that, in the hotels run Canadian fashion, 
it is impossible to get any food either before or after 



EASTWARDS AND HOMEWARDS 285 

stated hours. Often if I were obliged to make 
an early start I could get no breakfast, and in 
one frequented hotel the doors of the dining-room 
were shut at a quarter to eight o'clock in the evening, 
which caused some hardship during the tourist season 
when all the trains were late, no expostulations being 
of the least avail. A friend came to see me when I 
was staying at one place, and as it was four o'clock 
I asked a waiter to bring tea, and was taken aback 
when a voice called out from the office : "No teas 
are served in this hotel." 

The Western hotels are usually run en pension, 
which entitles the traveller to order as much as he 
chooses from a long menu, the three meals having a 
considerable resemblance to one another, as tea and 
coffee, bread and butter (the latter a pat on a little 
plate), are served at each, and I greatly missed fiesh 
vegetables, the price of the latter rendering them 
almost prohibitive. 

I found that laundry-work was at a premium. My 
under-linen was of the plainest, yet at Vancouver I paid 
eight shillings on one occasion for seven articles that re- 
quired no starching or " getting up," and these prices 
forced me to wash my own handkerchiefs, plastering 
them, when damp, on mirrors or window-panes, a 
method that answered almost as well as ironing 
them. In hotels, where hot and cold water was laid 



286 



A HOM1- HELP IN CANADA 



on in the bedrooms, there were always notices forbid- 
ding the washing of clothes in the marble basins, but 
I fancy that few Canadian worn- n would att.-nd to 
this regulation, and most of them carry about an 
electric iron in order to press out their blouses and 
cotton dresses. Chinamen seem to " run " the majority 
of the laundries out West, but I was told that their 
methods do not commend themselves to all. For 
one thing they are supposed to use the minimum of 
water in their cleansing operations, and for an 
they are said, when ironing, to spray the garm. -nts 
with water ejected from their mouths ! 

As for boot-blacking, I carried a Nugget outfit 
and did my own, as I had no fancy for sitting on the 
high chairs in the " >hine parlours" that seem to be 
frequented by men alone. No one, of course, would 

im of placing his boots outsid. his b- droom door 
at night if he wished to see them a^ain. 

I constantly compared tin- prices of clothes in 
the shops with those in England, and came to the 
conclusion that cotton dresses, blouses, and under- 
clothing were about the same, but that serges, tweeds, 
woollen underwear, and boots were far dearer. An 
English woman, living in Vancouver, said that sh- 
pay 10 for made coat and skirt that 

she could have got for 4 in England, that the boots 
advertised to " trip out " at one and a hail dollars 



EASTWARDS AND HOMEWARDS 287 

had no wear in them, and she pointed out to me that 
such things as newspapers, car fares, reels of cotton, 
pencils, and so on were all 2 \d. in the West instead of 
id. as in the Old Country ; in fact, I became so accus- 
tomed to consider the five-cent bit as the lowest coin 
in circulation, that I was quite puzzled to be given 
copper coins, one or two cents in value, when I got 
east of Winnipeg. 

Though " quick lunches " are advertised at is., yet, 
on the whole, living is dear in the West, a fact to be 
taken into account by girls who may have to wait 
before getting work to their taste. An English lady, 
who earned her livelihood by supplying offices with 
soap and towels, mirrors and whisks, told me that she 
could not be comfortably lodged and boarded at less 
than 8 a month, and often paid fy ; while a friend, 
working as a stenographer, paid 175. a week for her 
room, which was the smallest in the " rooming " 
house, and her expenses came to over fy a month, a 
sum that ate up the lion's share of her salary. She had 
tried going in for cheap meals, but found that she 
must pay is. $d. in order to get decent food ; and she 
invariably made her own breakfast, and did all her 
laundry-work in the marble basin in her room with 
hot and cold water laid on, drying her clothes at the 
window in summer, and on the radiator in winter, and 
ironing them with an electric iron. 



A HOM1MI1-I.P IN CANADA 



Of course things would be much cheaper in Montreal 
or Toronto, but salaries would be lower in proportion. 

These "rooming" houses, owing to the lack of 
women's hostels, are greatly patronised by girls, a "d 
it is a good plan for a couple of friends to share a 
room ; but it is a lonely life for a solitary woman, as 
the tenant is cut off absolutely from the family hie 
of the house. She may not even enter tin kit dun. 
and, as one girl remarked to me, " I might be ill, or 
dead, and no one would think of coming near m< 
perhaps for cl 

It is, moreover, hard to have to go out in all w.-.n 
to the restaurants for meals, and tin- YAV.C.A. in each 
big town is indeed a boon to tin- working woman. 
Being partly supported by rharity, it only charges 
ut fi a week for board and lodging. Its rooms 
'Iw.ivs full, ;ind at meal-time*, it> tabl< \vded 

with girls who come in for their food, and thus get 
ipanionship and probably make friendships. In 
town aft. i t<>\vn I tri.'d in vain to g--t a bed at the 
V.Y. IK! m\ i . tn this \\a> the 

offer of the sitting-room sofa on one occasion. Hut 
this was speedily taken from me owing to tl it- 
arrival of a sickly-looking girl, evidently in tmuM.-, 
upon whidi the matron said, that as I appeared to 
be so strong, would I mind giving up the s>fa and 
getting a lodging < .The women's hostels, 



EASTWARDS AND HOMEWARDS 289 

subsidised by Government, charge about the same 
rates as the Y.W.C.A., but unluckily there are not 
nearly enough of these most useful institutions. 

I was told that if girls would club together, they 
could hire an unfurnished flat with four bedrooms and 
a bathroom at about 7 a month. In this case they 
would buy some second-hand furniture, cook their 
own meals, and could live cheaper than in any board- 
ing-house. But, of course, this plan would be hardly 
practicable for a new-comer. 

I got to know a young Canadian stenographer, who 
used to come in for her meals at a women's hostel, 
and sat next to me at table. Apparently she had a 
very easy time at her office, her employer often order- 
ing in ice-creams, " soft " drinks, and chocolates, of 
which she would partake during business hours ; but, 
despite these attractions, she was hesitating whether 
she would not transfer her services to another office 
belonging to some " real estate " agent, who, she 
assured me, was deeply in love with her. She 
was not quite certain whether this would be a 
desirable arrangement, and in the frankest manner 
asked for my opinion. This I gave in such an un- 
compromising fashion, that it helped to turn the 
balance in the direction that she herself really saw 
was the right one. She and the " chum " who shared 

her room were quite nice girls, and would, I was 

T 



290 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

convinced, steer clear of the dangers that lit- in wait 
for women who earn their livelihood in fact, th 
system of co-education helps girls greatly when they 
go into business. It enables them to compete with 
men, to stand up for themselves, and to value tln-ir 
own work, for in many cases the weaker sex wins all 
the prizes at school, and is far "smarter" than tin 
boys. But an acute observer told me that though 
the sense of comradeship thus engendered was a ^ 
safeguard, yet the system was apt to destroy idealism 
in love and marriage, and in many cases tended to 
make the boys effeminate. 

In Western Canada, where men are so much in the 
majority, girls can easily have a good time, but tin- 
free confidences of my young acquaintances made in. 
wish to protect their admirers. I ivnurkrd that n 
drives lasting for many hours, dinners at hotels, 
th.Mtrical entertainments, and so on were not to be 
got for nothing, and surprised tln-m 1>\ pointing out 
that d-l)t, followed by embe//lrm<-nt, might be- the 
result of these costly outings to their " parti- ular 
irimds," as they called th-m. 

I have been frequently asked concerning the climate 

of Canada, but it is difficult to dogmatise about a 

huge Continent in which thirty United Kingdoms or 

eighteen Germanys could be packed. From all I 

(\, I should judge that British Columbia h 






EASTWARDS AND HOMEWARDS 291 

magnificent climate; Vancouver Island is free of the 
rainy season that visits Vancouver, and the winters 
on the whole Pacific slope are mild, not unlike those 
of Devonshire, I was told. Farther inland there is 
snow and frost, yet the cold is seldom severe, and is 
comparatively short-lived. 

East of the Rockies it is different, and an English- 
man said that, when a new-comer in Alberta, he had 
had his hands and feet frost-bitten, and even his nose 
had not escaped in fact, when working in the open 
during the winter it was necessary to rub the face 
with snow constantly in order to escape this danger. 

The snow lies for several months on end, except in 
the districts visited by the balmy Chinook wind, and 
a woman whom I met in the train told me a pathetic 
tale of a young child who strayed out-of-doors during 
a snowstorm, and, in spite of the frenzied search made 
by its parents, the little body was only found when 
the snow melted in the spring. Here is an extract 
from a letter written by an Englishwoman, a widow, 
farming in North Alberta, dated November 16, 1911 : 

" The weather is Utter for five to seven months of 
the year. In winter I am up at 5.30 A.M., and try 
to get the house above zero, and the food thawed out 
and eatable, and the creatures fed. This year our 
crop was badly frosted, and the prices offered for it 



A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

so low that the expenses are higher than the income 
from it. Our potatoes and crop of garden vegetables 
were frozen in the ground, and are under six inches of 
snow as well, and will only do as pig-feed in the spring. 
" We are told that it pays better to use all our 
frozen grain as feed, and convert it into beef and pork 
and poultry, instead of selling it at such low prices. As 
I write to-day, it is 27 degrees below zero, and a cnirl 
wind blowing, but we must make the best of it." . . . 

Yet, to counterbalance this picture, I heard again 
and again that though the thermometer is low, yet 
the sun, as a rule, shines brilliantly, and the buoyant 
air fills one and all with vitality, new-comers, curiously 
enough, seldom feeling the cold at first, and oft n 
hardly wrapping up until they have been a year or 
two in the country. Indeed, many prefer the cold 
to the somewhat enervating climate on the Pacific 
slope, a Lotus-land where I could have slept a wax- 
half my days. But it is a useful rest cure, for while 
I was at Vancouver I met several ladies who 
come from Alberta, and they said that they got so 
strung up with the hi^'h altitude and the tonic air of 
their own homes that an annual visit to the < 
was imperatively neo-ssary for them. As one lady 
put i: 1 am wound up like a m.rhanical toy, and 
I .an going on and on, and can't stop myself 



EASTWARDS AND HOMEWARDS 293 

if I try I can't even sleep so I come here, and then 
the whole thing runs down of its own accord at once, 
and my nerves get all right again." 

On my way back to the Atlantic I had many an 
interesting talk with fellow-passengers. I was on one 
occasion, in a dining-car in British Columbia, placed 
opposite a young man, who looked like a navvy in his 
costume of an old red jersey and a dark-blue flannel 
shirt. In appearance he was far from being an ideal 
table-companion, but when I ventured on some 
remark I found that I was much mistaken. My 
acquaintance turned out to be a forest surveyor, an 
enthusiastic lover of the romantic scenery through 
which we were passing, and he told me much of the 
lore of the woods, his talk reminding me of The Blazed 
Trail, that fascinating epic of the lumber-trade. He 
was an ardent admirer of the Songs of a Sour-dough, 
and explained how " the wilds where the caribou 
call " had laid their spell upon him, unfitting him for 
the life of towns; and I, in my turn, begged him to 
read Kipling's haunting " Feet of the Young Men." 

Another table-companion, an Englishman in the 
prime of life, interested me by recounting how he had 
" made good " in the Dominion. At first he had 
turned his hand to everything, had been employed in 
road-making, had worked on the railway, and so on. 
But all the time he was keenly noting the possibilities 



294 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

in the country of his adoption, and putting his earnings 
into well-selected building lots tli.it \\vre humanly 
certain to rise in value as the city prospered and ex- 
panded. As a result, he had built up a big business 
by his own unaided exertions, his special " chum " 
in those early days sitting at present in the Dominion 
Parliament. Englishman though he is, he regretfully 
owned that he had tried again and again to employ 
his countrymen in his office, but that he was forced to 
dismiss them owing to their lack of adaptability. In 
fact, so depressed did I become at this almost universal 
charge, that I felt cheered when a Canadian woman 
remarked, " At first, when Englishmen tried to get into 
my husband's office, he used to turn them all down, but 
now he hasn't a single Canadian there." I inquired 
the reason of this, but her answer was not exactly 
encouraging. " Oh, it's just because the Canadians 
won't stay anywhere ; they are always on the lookout 
for something better, but the British want to settle 
down and not be for ever on the hustle." * 

Once when I went into a large church, the Engli>h- 
man employed in looking after it came up with a smile 
to show me its beauties, and soon told me about 

1 These remarks do not apply to the educated Englishwoman w ho, if 
capable, is welcomed everywhere, and my successful compatriot said that 
his head stenographer was ul that class. " She draws 125 dollars a month 
(25), a good salary, but she is worth every cent of the money," was his 
comment upon this lady. 



EASTWARDS AND HOMEWARDS 295 

himself. He said that he had come from a big manu- 
facturing town, lured by the glowing account of the 
well-paid work to be had for the asking in the 
Dominion. At first he was sadly disillusioned, one of 
his worst experiences being the life in a construction 
camp with Armenians of indescribable dirtiness, who did *< 
not know a word of English. After this he was a fire- 
man, and had the ill-luck to be in Toronto at the time 
of the " slump " caused by the American bank failures. 
During that distressing period there were actually 
advertisements in the papers from men offering money 
to anyone who would give them work, and he himself 
was reduced to becoming a dish-washer in a restau- 
rant, which, as he expressed it, was " the limit." 
" Now," he concluded, " I have got into ' Easy Street,' 
and I always give any jobs I can to the English, but 
they won't fit in with the country the Scotch and 
Irish are much better. I give the church cleaning to a 
man who came out with his wife and children and 
didn't know where to turn for a meal, and he's always 
on the grumble. Only the other day I asked his wife 
to help with the big church lunches, and she actually 
refused, as the work would be beneath her ! What 
do you say to that for a woman who was nearly a beggar 
a few months back ? It makes me tired to think of 
her." With the remembrance of his own struggle 
with Fate fresh in his mind, my friend said that he 



296 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

thought that Canada was a far easier hind for a woman 
than for a man, if the former had only pluck. " There 
are any amount of soft jobs for a girl. \Vliy, she can 
always be a waitress ; that's easy enough." 

I did not agree with him in this, for unless a woman 
has plenty of physical strength and a steady nerve, 
she will find Canada a ruthless country, with few help- 
ing hands to aid her. 

As I made my way East I halted for a day or two 
at those prosperous twin-cities. Fort William and 
Port Arthur, situated on beautiful Lake Superior, 
and my Canadian authoress having written about 
to various of her friends, some of the ladies arranged 
a meeting, at which I spoke to them about my work. 
A lady journalist who was : rath-r surprised 

me by saying that what had struck her most on a 
at visit to England was the profound ignorance, 
coupled with indifference, of the British as regarded 
conditions of life in Canada. This attitud< i> a pity, 
and accounts for some of the antagonism that occa- 
sionally crops up. An Englishman, who had 1 
many years in the Dominion, told me that if his 
adian friends sneered at the Briti h. In said that 
the latter were different, owing to the great heritage 

tin \ 1. lr-m l: He hii. 

could not overestimate the intlurn.rth.it Westminster 
Abbey, St. Paul's, or the Tower had had on him as 



EASTWARDS AND HOMEWARDS 297 

a boy, an influence making for culture and the pursuit 
of the ideal. " In my small way," he concluded, 
" I uphold the Flag in the town where I live, and now 
and then am able to do a bit of quiet work for the 
Old Country." He was interested in the idea of 
helping educated women to settle in Canada, grasping 
at once that their presence might become a power 
for good in welding the nations more closely together. 
Certainly Canada is, at least in the West, so new, 
so much on the make, that men are apt to put their 
entire energies into the business of money-making. 
The miles of corn, the great forests, the mineral 
wealth, practically untouched as yet everything so 
vast, opportunities so immense, the splendid climate, 
the very optimism of the race, all seeem to be added 
temptations to materialism. But the women are 
different. Busy as they are, most of them insist on 
having some culture in their lives, and thousands, 
by enrolling themselves as " Daughters of the Empire," 
uphold patriotism, and never allow the Flag to be 
spoken of lightly in their hearing. I was told that 
when the Reciprocity Agreement was the burning 
question of the hour, the women threw themselves 
into politics as never before, because they believed 
that the question was an Imperial one. Throughout 
Canada there are branches of the "Women's Auxil- 

^J 

iary," a society that, as far as I could gather, does 



298 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

the work of many charitable organisations rolled into 
one. When I went to Toronto I had the privily 
of addressing a crowded meeting of this society, 
assembled to discuss missionary matters, the seer 
having most kindly proposed that I should try and 
interest the audience in the objects of my journey, 
if I could do so in the space of five minutes. I did 
my best to explain them, but certainly got more 
information than I gave, as various ladies spoke to 
me afterwards on the subject of openings for educated 
women in the Eastern cities. 

During my visit I went to see the comfortable 
women's hostel, a boon indeed to girls in search of work. 
Two big parties, sent out by the British Women's 
Emigration Society, had just arrived from England, 
the members of which were given board and lod^in^ 
free for twenty-four hours, as the Home has a Go\ . i n- 
ment grant, and the whole house was crowded with 
servant girls and ladies wishing to engage them as 
domestics. How one hoped that all these young 
things would succeed in the Dominion ! As 
girl was suited, she came, often with tears standing 
in her eyes, to bid good-bye to the kind Superintend- nt 
who has done so much for British women in Canada, 

1 I understood that the last link with "Home" 
was now being broken, that laic wells had been said to 
the companions of the long journey, and that th 



EASTWARDS AND HOMEWARDS 299 

was entering on a new life. It lay with her whether 
she was to be a success or a failure, and much would 
depend on whether she were adaptable or not. 

There are few specialists in the domestic line in 
Canada ; a girl will have as a rule to do the work of 
a general servant, and probably be expected to turn 
her hand to odd jobs that do not fall to the lot of even 
the maid-of-all-work in England. Though the wages 
are high, yet the work is hard in proportion, and two 
friends of mine whose servants have left to seek their 
fortunes in the Dominion, have received letters, in 
each of which was the significant phrase " I lived 
like a lady when I was with you and didn't know 
what real work meant." 

I also spent a most interesting day at the Guelph 
Agricultural College, travelling through charming 
scenery, gorgeous in October trappings of gold and 
scarlet. It was very hot ; as usual the windows of the 
crowded carriage were shut, and when I shoved mine up 
from the bottom (none open from the top), I found that 
the catch did not work, the window in consequence 
refusing to stay open. An elderly Canadian farmer 
kindly sacrificed a pencil to act as a prop, and we were 
soon engaged on the Reciprocity question. His ire 
had been strongly aroused by the party that had 
taken "British born" for its election cry, and he 
remarked that, as we all belonged to the same Empire, 



500 A HOME-HELP IN (ANAPA 

such a feeling only caused friction and disruptu 
This was by no means the first time that Canadiai 
had commented to me about this party-cry, so sadly 
at variance with Lord Grey's fine motto : "I live 
in the Empire, but Canada is my Home." 

When my friend left, his place was taken by a man 
as averse to Reciprocity as the other was for it. He 
lived at London, Ontario, where the river Thames 
is crossed by Blackfriars Bridge, and where the streets 
are called by the familiar names of Piccadilly, Regent 
Street, and so on. I was quite sorry when I reached 
the junction where I had to change, and my new 
acquaintance helped me and my belongings out of 
the car, saying, as we shook hands, that he hoped 
to see the original London some day. At Guelph, a 
well-built and prettily situated town, I took a tram 
to the College, set out in its large grounds, and waft 
hospitably received by the wife of the Principal 
(her husband was away for th- day), and by the lady 
President of the Macdonald Institute, where the women 
students reside and are instructed, When I waft 
taken over this latter, and saw the charming rooms 
whir re the students live, the fine dining-hall, gymnasium, 
and public sitting-rooms, I frit that Canadian girls 
owe a MK d bt of gratitude to the generous donor. 
In another building were the class-rooms, and h- 

a laundry equipped with wa^h-tubs and wringers 



EASTWARDS AND HOMEWARDS 301 

worked by electricity, where the water was for ever 
on the boil, and where rows of clothes were hanging 
in hot cupboards to dry them. Such luxury reminded 
me of a recent experience of mine on the prairie, when 
floods of rain had induced us to leave the clothes hanging 
on the line during the night, the result being that they 
were found frozen stiff the next day, and had to be 
washed again to the accompaniment of a piercing wind. 
In this laundry were also wash-tubs and wringers 
such as are in use on every prairie farm, and, 
in the beautifully arranged and spotlessly clean 
kitchens, the batterie de cuisine was just what 
the girls would have at their own homes, every effort 
being made to ensure that the training is thoroughly 
practical. Cards of instruction hung on the walls, 
and I perused the one treating of dish-washing with 
especial interest. Sewing, dressmaking, and millinery 
are taught, in fact everything to make a girl a good 
housekeeper, and I only wished that I could have 
entered for a course myself six months earlier. Later 
on I was taken over the poultry farm and saw the 
dairy- work. This is in the men's part, but women 
are allowed to take a month's course in the rear- 
ing of fowls and the making of butter and cheese. 
Everybody was most kind to the inquiring stranger, 
and I thoroughly enjoyed my day, one of the last 
spent in the Land of the Maple Leaf, for it was 



302 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

well into October and time for me to be returning 
home. 

I had been since the end of April in Canada, and 
had tried never to lose sight of the fact that I 
in the country to investigate what it offered to tin- 
educated British woman, and now I had come to 
certain conclusions which I will sum up shortly. 

The quality that spells success in Canada is efficiency, 
and if that is allied to an energetic, adaptable nature 
possessing some business capacity, its possessor will 
without fail " make good." 

Canadians are so capable themselves that there is 
no room in the country for the amateur, " un>ki!K -d 
labour," save in the kitchen, being even more 
discount here than it is in Great Britain. 

The British woman who comes out wt 11 equipped 
with something that the Dominion needs may very 
likely have to " start in " at the bottom and work h-r 
way up, for she is beginning her life across tin Atlantic 
under entirely different conditions to those that pre- 
vail in the Old Country. But, to counterbalance this. 
the girl who is dependent on her earnings is not looked 
down upon socially, except, perhaps if she be home- 
help in a town. " We despise people out hen- if they 
won't work," were the words of a cultivated Eneji-h 
woman in the Far West, and the bracing climate is of 
marvellous assistance in inducing energy and opti- 
mum. In (in-. it Britain th<-r<- ar million mre 



EASTWARDS AND HOMEWARDS 303 

women than men ; in Canada, west of Winnipeg, I 
am told that there are about a dozen men to every 
woman, therefore the field for feminine work is im- 
mense. Life in the " Golden West " may be devoid 
of many of the comforts that we in the United King- 
dom have come to look upon as necessaries, but it 
offers opportunities that are not to be found in the 
crowded British Isles. In the words of a travelling 
acquaintance, " In England, whenever there is a good 
post, there are hundreds after it, but out here there 
may be only one woman capable of filling it." 

One of the heads of the Emigration Department, in 
speaking about the objects of the League, said of the 
British woman of to-day, " The stock is all right, but 
the training is all wrong," and his words are well 
worth considering. 

But though efficiency is so important, yet character 
perhaps counts for more in Canada than in the British 
Isles ; and the most highly trained girl, if devoid of 
energy and resource, might very possibly go to the 
wall in a land where all must fend for themselves. 

I shall be richly rewarded if this book, in which I \ 
have tried to portray things exactly as I saw them, 
makes some of my sisters realise the importance of 
becoming experts instead of being amateurs ; and 
though I trust that the unfit, such as I was, may be 
discouraged from trying their fortune in the Dominion, 
yet I hope that what I have written may be useful to 






304 A HOME-HELP IN CANADA 

^^ 
the right type of woman, who cannot see her w. 

earning a livelihood and providing for her o'd age ii 
England. In weighing the " pros " and " cons " o 
settling in Canada, she ought to take into ronsi 
tion what kind of a future will probably be h T- it 
remains at home. 

We hear so much talk nowadays about the " 
fluous woman," that surely, rather than be incli 
in that depressing category, it would be well 
girl's while to put up with some discomfort and 
in the Dominion, where she is badly needed, 
where, if of the right type, she will in all lik lilu 
succeed beyond her anticipations. 
> I consider that it is an Imperial work to help 
of a high stamp to seek their fortunes beyond 
seas women who will care for our glorious Flag and 
what it signifies, who will stand for higlu-r id.-als than 
the worship of the " almighty dollar," and who will 
do their part in the land that their brothers are de- 
v loping so splendidly. 

It is not too much to say that a British woman. 
Worthy of her great hen 1 in Mr. Chamlx-rlain's 

unforgettable words, be in very deed a " missi- 
of Em} 



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