Giant of the Bible


The Days of my Life

I little thought when I returned from Lake Rosseau what a change was about to come over my life, but the most important events of our lives are often those least expected. It had been arranged that I should stay in Toronto for a few days on my way home, and when I got to Lady Robinson's ever hospitable home I found that I was to go from there to stay for a week at my cousin Mrs. William Cayley's house on Beverley Street. Their family was a large one, necessitating a large staff of servants, and the housekeeping was undertaken by Mrs. Cayley's youngest daughter Sophie, of whom I have spoken before. She found the work arduous and her father had suggested a housekeeper. This suggestion had been carried out but it was not a success. As Dora passed through Toronto she saw Sophie, who told her of their difficulties, and she was moved to ask if I would not be of use in the emergency. Mrs. Cayley, still smarting from the trial her housekeeper had been, said it would be useless, as I would "only flirt with her boys", so when I arrived in Toronto I found awaiting me the ordeal of going to "The Home" -- as the house of the Hon. William Cayley was called -- for a week of probation.
I felt it a terrible trial. I barely knew them and after our simple home this fine establishment with its nine servants seemed overpowering. Lady Robinson, in the kindness of her heart, did a little "fixing up" of my person, and I think it must have been at that time that Sarah Bennett was deputed to send down my best dress. Lady Robinson saw that my pigtail was duly arranged on top of my head and purchased for me a very large tortoise shell back comb. I felt as if the days of my childhood were indeed over, though I remember kind Mrs. Cockshutt saying I "never was a child". A good many of the family were away, so the visit was not quite as terrible as I expected. We had, I remember, a small dinner party and I had to go in to dinner on the arm of Mrs. Cayley's brother, Mr. John Boulton.
I must confess that it was a happy day to me when I got safely back to Brantford and my mother. Nothing further had been said of my living at "The Home", so I settled down to teach the very few children who returned to our school. All the older ones had gone to the new Presbyterian College. It was about two weeks after this, I think, when a letter came from Sophie begging me to come at once. "Do not mind clothes," she said, "I will see to all that." (I believe Mrs. Cayley had said I "did not know how to flirt".) And so I went, feeling very small and shy and frightened.
The journey, which is short and easy now, was a trying one at that time. You went on a branch line of the Grand Trunk Railway to Harrisburg, waited there indefinitely, then took a train for Hamilton, and after another wait a train for Toronto arrived. The station, now called the Old Union Station, was not yet built, but there was a small building somewhere in that neighbourhood where I disembarked and there Sophie and her sister Mrs. Glascott met me and brought me up in a cab to their house. I can feel myself now sitting at lunch at that big table, so filled with people, watching with envy the boys drinking ginger beer but too shy to accept it when offered me.
Now I may as well go over the inmates of my new home. First of course was the Hon. William Cayley, a tall stout bald-headed old gentleman, the soul of kindness and hospitality. Mrs. Cayley was a little lady with a quick decided manner, of whom I was very much afraid, but she was always very kind to me. The eldest daughter Harriet was married to Mr. James Cartwright and living in Napanee, but the second, Minnie, was at her father's house with her husband and five little children. The two eldest were girls of seven and eight, Ethel and Amy. Then came Willie of six, little Philip just three, and Arthur, a baby. Two others, a boy and girl were with their father's people in Ireland. Mrs Cayley's youngest daughter was Sophie. She was about twenty-five. and a very serious earnest-minded Christian. She had left the Church of England some time before, as had both her sisters.The two youngest sons were also at home, Hugh and Arthur, boys of just my own age and soon great friends.
The house was, as I have said, a very large one, but the rooms were all spacious and the two larger bedrooms had each a dressing room, quite as big as an ordinary bedroom today. Furnaces were not the order of the day in 1876 but a huge coal stove in the immense square hall and a second in the back hall were kept going and there were fires in the grates in nearly every room. How pleasant and "homey" the big dining room used to look in the morning, with its bright cheerful fire and the shining brass kettle on the "hob". The tea was made in the dining room and it was one of my duties to make it. I remember Mrs. Cayley instructing me: "Six spoonfuls, and be sure to make it by nine o'clock". A separate room could not be found for me, so Sophie generously shared hers with me-a large square room with two doors, one opening on to the front hall and the other on to the back hall where the nurseries were. A large bow window looked over the garden. The front of the house was right on the street, but the back, where the drawing and dining rooms were situated, looked over the garden. A sloping terrace led you to a beautiful croquet lawn, where Mr. Cayley used to play croquet on sunny afternoons with his old friends Mr. Todd and Mr. Michie and others whose names I have forgotten. At each corner of the lawn was a flower bed, brilliant with verbenas and petunias. To arrange these for the table was one of my duties and one I fear I did not excel in. Behind the lawn were trees and at the northwest corner Mr. Cayley had built a house for his son Frank when he married, and there they lived with the one baby Emma. All the south side of the garden was a shrubbery where the Glascott children played and where occasionally the cow pastured.
What pleasure Mrs. Cayley took in her cow, or perhaps it would be more correct to say out of the milk, which was brought to the store room twice a day and put to stand in large flat milkpans. I do not think "creamers" were thought of then and if they had been I am sure dear Mrs. Cayley would have considered them an abomination. How she enjoyed skimming off the thick yellow cream, putting some in this little jug and some in that; one portion for "Mrs. Frank" and another for "Mrs. John" the wife of her eldest son, who was rector of St. George's church on John Street just round the corner. On Sunday evenings the whole family assembled in the pretty drawing room after church. I can see them now, each in his accustomed place, my grandmother, who was constantly there, on one side of the little centre table and Mr. Cayley on the other. Then the long row of servants filed in and we had prayers, followed by supper.
My duties were very light. I taught the little girls for an hour in the morning, helped Sophie to arrange the dessert and the flowers and kept the elder children in the evening while late dinner was going on. Hugh and Arthur and I had breakfast and "supper" together, at 8:30 am and 6 pm, and many a merry meal we had. Another of my duties was to go occasionally to the wine cellar with Arthur, to fill the little demijohns with port and sherry. It was a slow process, as the wine ran in a very small stream from the cask. but Arthur always borrowed the storeroom keys in preparation and his pockets were well filled with nuts and raisins and apples of which we freely partook.
He was a very dear boy, so kindly and sweet tempered, a very real Christian. We had many grave talks together and I was very fond of him. Hugh was at the university and a clever lad. He seldom talked to anyone, but spent long evenings in study, coming down at 9:30 pm with tousled hair and ink-marked coat to get his evening tea - such a contrast to Arthur in his evening cut-away coat and spotless shirt and tie. I remember Arthur instructing me in the art of sucking cream through a lump of sugar. He was the apple of his mother's eye; she would have given him anything.
But I must not linger over these days, pleasant in so many ways, for I loved the little children and never wearied of caring for them, and Sophie and I were tremendous friends, doing everything together. Many a pleasant drive we had in the little carriage, going to visit some of the poor in the meeting, who lived at a long distance. Not that it was very far to any part of the city. Berkeley street bounded it on the east, the Asylum on the west and Bloor Street on the north.
So the days went quickly by and Christmas came in sight. Oh what preparations went on; the days Sophie and I spent in town examining this and that with a view to presents for the family and servants. Eaton's and Simpson's had not appeared, but Catto had his shop on King Street and at the southeast corner of King and Yonge, where the Canadian Pacific Railway buildings now stand, was a long, low, dimly lighted shop, considered the best dry goods store in Toronto: "Kaye's". It was there Sophie bought the brown merino dress for herself and a navy blue dress for me, which were made exactly alike, with tight-fitting "basques" and long skirts touching the ground, and a little train at the back, looped up during the day. What a trial those long skirts were; how muddy they used to get; no wonder girls rejoice now in their short skirts!
At Christmas time I went home with Dora, who was on her way back home from Barrie. I was laden with Christmas gifts, which seemed in my eyes very beautiful. Even Mr. Cayley had told Sophie to get me something from him, and she bought me a dear little work basket which I used for years. Dora was in a very poor state of health and mother would not let her go back to Barrie. She had had a very strenuous time there, Mrs. Ardagh being very much depressed, and poor Dora's nerves had suffered. Mother too was glad to have her with her, for my brother had decided to leave the hardware business and go to learn farming in the spring.
The Christmas holidays soon passed and I went back, less reluctantly than at first, though I always felt like a stranger in that big house during the first year. The only events of interest during the winter were lectures by Mr. F. W. Grant on Genesis I and my having the measles. The lectures were wonderful. I well remember how Mrs. Glascott used to come and get a bite in the storeroom and then a cab arrived and we three went off, to listen spellbound. I do not think I ever heard lectures before or since which fascinated me so. The measles were as disagreeable to me as the lectures delightful. They had them at the Rev. John's and I suppose Mrs. John brought them over to the house, where she often came in the evening when the little Glascotts were in bed. As a result I came down with them and was promptly sent over to my grandmother's, who nursed me with great care.
She was living in a large, old-fashioned cottage on John Street with her son, my Uncle Henry and his wife and their one surviving child Charlotte, then about ten years old. I spent three weeks there and got to know my grandmother very much better. How dull the days were. I had neither books nor work and I spent many weary hours counting the pieces in the patchwork hangings which my grandmother had over her windows, or the patterns on the wall. When well enough to be up I still had no occupation and fretted and fumed like a caged animal. My patience, I fear, was of a poor kind. My grandmother used to stay in bed till about 10 am, sipping a cup of tea at intervals. Then she got up and dressed, read a chapter and spent some time tidying her room. About four or five o'clock she went out and seldom returned before eleven or twelve pm. She went to dinner at Judge Hagarty's one evening and to the Grasett's one evening. She also went to other places-the Denison's I expect, for one. She always dined with the Baldwin's on Sunday after church. She was a staunch church woman but not at all High Church and a very real Christian. She loved to give and was never idle a moment, making little work bags, pincushions, etc. to give away. She generally left her friend's houses about ten o'clock, then travelled over to Mr. Cayley's and sat for an hour or two with him, always working. I remember those days I spent with her. She would come in at perhaps eleven and then toast a piece of cheese over the coal fire and we supped together. I got so impatient at last that I went over to the Ord's, who lived close to "The Home", and begged them to take me in till I was considered "safe" to return to my usual occupation. I think this hastened matters somewhat and I soon went back to Beverley Street. I was certainly very impatient and it took many hard lessons before I had even the ordinary patience women are supposed to possess.
I was very restless and ever seeking to live as a Christian and failing. I felt I must give up anything which savoured of the world, and my standard was too high for my faith. I did not understand that one has to grow in grace, and expected to do great things at once. Mrs. Glascott had a very dear friend, Alice Miller, and she used to find great help and inspiration going to see her. I should have liked to have gone to see her, and indeed she invited me, but I was discouraged by Minnie and Sophie from going. I found out later the reason.
So the days went on and the first of April brought "another little April fool", as Hugh said, to the house. It was a sweet baby and Mrs. Glascott took great pleasure in it and so did I. This young lady required a nurse to herself and as little Arthur was still a baby and needed a nurse to look after him the three elder children came to be almost entirely the charge of Sophie and myself. Ethel and Amy slept in two little beds in our room and we looked after them practically altogether. Ethel was a fair delicate child with a thick mane of fair hair. She spent most of her time reading in the drawing room. Amy, also very fair, with short wavy hair, was a very imp of mischief. She seemed to be everywhere, tormenting each member of the family in turn, now insisting on peeling potatoes in the kitchen, then hiding the gardener's tools, then dragging little Philip into some escapade such as blacking his face with coal or helping themselves to sugar from the sideboard. By degrees the family got in the habit of sending her to me. It was "Go to Cousin Fanny" all day long, till at last I was rarely without her, but I never wearied of her. She was the first little child I had ever had to love and my whole heart went out to her and she loved me "frantically" in return. I suppose one's first love of any kind has some peculiar fascination about it and can never be repeated just the same again. I have had to do with many little children since but none ever appealed to me in just the same way (of course I do not include my own children in this statement).
In April, 1877, there was a general meeting in Toronto at which Mr. Darby was present. His voice was now so weak that only brothers attended the meetings during the day, though we had some public lectures in the evenings. I think there was one tea for everybody and that was the last time I had the privilege of seeing this devoted servant of Christ.
Soon after the arrival of little Grace it was decided that the Glascotts should all return to Ireland, where Captain Glascott's father had an estate. I think the idea was that he look after it, as his father was growing old. Mr. and Mrs. James Cartwright were moving to Toronto and I think Mr. Cayley handed over the position Captain Glascott had filled to Mr. Cartwright. They spent some time with us at "The Home" and then took a house on Beverley Street while Mr. Cayley was having a house built for them on the southwest corner of his property. Mrs. Cartwright and I were soon great friends. She was very earnest, a most devoted Christian, full of faith and good works.
There was much to do before the Glascotts left and the little carriage was kept busy with shopping and visits. My especial share of the work was to dress three large dolls for Ethel, Amy and Eva, the little sister in Ireland. I was a neat sewer but not a skillful one and it took me many, many hours to get all those clothes made.
During the summer I was off and on at 'Robinson Villa", where mother was keeping house for Fred and Osmond while Lady Robinson and Sir James and the girls went to the mountains and later to the sea, coming home by Saratoga. Dora accompanied them, so mother was a good deal alone unless I came up to stay with her. I always brought Amy and sometimes Philip with me. I remember one evening we had Dolly Ord, who was a year or so older than Amy, to tea. The little girls had tea alone and then played in the garden. When I put Amy to bed she prayed most earnestly that she might not be ill in the night, "for you know, Lord," she added, "that it was Dolly who tempted me to take them". I found on enquiry that the children had helped themselves freely to the new potatoes left from late dinner.
Dr. Ardagh came in one day unexpectedly and declared I was pale and must come to Barrie with him and then on to Muskoka to stay with the Ords. I had been invited but had not expected to go, as there seemed so much to do. However I had a very pleasant week in Barrie and two at Lake Rosseau. Amy cried bitterly when I left but prayed every night that "dear darling Cousin Fanny would come home quite well and as fresh as a daisy".
It was not long after my return that the separation came. It was in September and the house seemed very empty when such a party had gone out of it; Captain and Mrs. Glascott six children and two nurses. I still think of that day when I see the shining horse chestnuts lying on the ground and I go back to that morning when I walked sadly behind the shrubbery, feeling I must be alone where no one could see my tears.
Mother had taken a house on Charles Street during the summer and got her furniture from Brantford, and by this time she was settled in it. Osmond had also come to live with her. Poor Dora seemed now to be quite an invalid. At Saratoga they had consulted a doctor as to which springs they should drink from. He looked at Dora and said she was the one who needed treatment, and strongly recommended her back to be burned. It was nothing of an operation, he said, and would work a marvellous cure. Lady Robinson, at her wit's end to know what to do for the best. at last agreed, but was terribly grieved when she found what a severe ordeal it was. Dora got home with difficulty and for many months was confined most of the time to the sofa. Graham had gone to learn farming in the spring, but was not finding his first venture altogether satisfactory. Later he went for a year to Dr. Kemp's farm near Forrest.
Should you wish to read any more of this fascinating auto-biography follow the link below.
Start Page

Home | Links | Literature