"It appears that the agent of the Company sold last week all the trees on our streets to a party for firewood. Mr. Pemberton, Police Commissioner, at the request of some property holders, cut down the two oaks at the corner of Government and Yates Street, but it was no sooner done than Dr. Tuzo presented a bill to him for twenty dollars, ten dollars each. Opposite Mr. Adams' property on Douglas and View Streets, Mr. Adams forbid the parties, but in his absence they were felled. He then claimed the trees, as they were intersected every way by his property. But Dr. Tuzo threatened him with five hundred dollars damages, assuring him that the trees belonged to the Company. Up Fort Street a number of oaks have been felled. Aside from the vandalism which would sell and cut down a single tree for a few paltry dollars, where it was no obstruction to travel, but an ornament to the street—the act of itself is a foul wrong—unwarrantable and without a particle of right to support it, either in law or equity. We cannot well conceive how that the agents of the Company could do such a scurvy trick—such an act of vandalism—except that they have been influenced to do so by a resident San Francisco landshark. Selling the trees therefore may be to maintain color of title to the streets. But that will prove useless. Viewing the townsite as their private property, when they sold they forever conveyed away their claim to the streets. But the townsite is not private property, although it has unjustifiably been so claimed from the first settlement of the Colony. As private property the Company have no claim to it which will stand the test of law or equity. It is to all intents and purposes in the same condition as the lands of Cowichan, Nootka or Cape Scott; and the funds derived from the sale as justly belong to the Territorial revenues of the Colony. Taking then the townsite to be like other lands, subject to the conditions of the grant, (which we will hereafter prove) we find that one of the conditions says: 'That the said Company shall (for the purposes of colonization) dispose of all lands hereby granted to them, at a reasonable price, except as much thereof as may be required for public purposes.' The streets are used for public purposes—and for that reason the Company have no more right to them, nor the trees, than anyone else. Their act of felling trees on the public streets, and their intimation, deserves the strongest mark of public censure—and merits the attention of the proper authorities.
"Besides if our connection with the Hudson's Bay Company is not speedily ended we may expect many more such trumped-up claims as their claim to the streets, which they will want us to pay for."
I think my pioneer friends will now agree with me that enough evidence has been furnished to prove my contention that View Street was originally intended to reach from Wharf Street to Cook Street, and farther if necessary.
BISHOP CRIDGE'S CHRISTMAS STORY.
Some years ago the Colonist requested several "old timers" to write for the Christmas number a description of Christmas as it was observed in the early days in this city.
The following were those who wrote: The Venerable Bishop Cridge, Hon. Dr. Helmcken, Hon. D. W. Higgins, and the author of these reminiscences. I was so much interested myself in these stories (as I am in all Christmas stories), I decided, with the consent of the writers, to reproduce them in my book; not only as interesting, but as very instructive, describing, as they do, life in the pioneer days of the colony.
[Portrait: Rev. Edward Cridge, 1859.]
In essaying to write an account of my first Christmas at Victoria, I am met at the beginning with the inconvenient fact that I kept no journal, my only written records relating simply to my ministry or to things purely personal or domestic. What I write, therefore, is not a history, seeking materials from any and all sources of information, nor a biography, dealing with the writer's proper business in life, but a narrative of incidents occurring to memory, interesting to the reader only because they refer to the early history of our beloved city.
Another thing has to be considered, namely, that as, after fifty years and more, the remembered incidents of a particular day or season would occupy but a few lines to relate, such a season may properly be regarded in relation to things going before and things following after.
In this view, my memory carries me back to a very happy day, April 1, 1855, when the good sailing ship Margius of Bute, chartered by the Hudson's Bay Company to bring its freight and passengers, including myself as chaplain and district minister of Victoria, my wife and servants, to this far-off island, calling at Honolulu by the way, cast anchor off Clover Point, so terminating a voyage of about six months' duration from London. The next day, having moved to the inner harbor, we made our first acquaintance with several Victorians, who came on board to give us and our compagnons de voyage a cordial welcome. That same morning we received an invitation from His Excellency Governor Douglas to luncheon, who also sent a boat to take us ashore; the boatman was good John Spelde, concerning whom I curiously remember my wife telling me that her domestic, Mary Ann Herbert, referred to him later in the day as the "man with the fingers," he having lost three of those members in the firing of a salute on some ceremonial occasion.
After the luncheon, never to be forgotten for the cordial welcome of His Excellency and Mrs. Douglas and their interesting family, not to say the delicious salmon and other delicacies after shipboard fare, we were conducted to the Fort, which was to be our temporary abode till the Parsonage, which then began to be built, should be finished. I have no recollection of the impression produced on my mind as we entered by the south gate the large square fenced in by tall palisades and frowning bastions, only I am certain I had no fear of being imprisoned in this stronghold of the great Adventurers; on the contrary, I distinctly remember that as, proceeding past the central bell-tower to our rooms, on the north side, east of the main entrance, we entered the spacious, though empty, apartments destined for our reception, my wife fairly danced for joy at our release from the long and tedious confinement on shipboard. The very emptiness of the rooms was a charm. It was the new home to which from her mother's house in London only a few days before sailing together to the other end of the world, I had brought her, and what bride does not joy to see her work awaiting her, though the house be empty and bare! With the help of our two servants, and local carpenters, supplies from the Company's stores, and our ample outfit, she soon effected a transformation.
I remember also, something of the evening and night of that first day; the tea and fresh milk and bread and butter; and how, when settling ourselves to sleep for the night, we saw a large white rat crossing the stovepipe which ran through our bedroom from the great Canadian stove in the sitting-room. It is curious how trifling things cleave to the memory, while the monotonous things of everyday life, which are our proper business, give no signal.
The next morning I was introduced to several officers and cadets of the company messing at the Port: W. J. Macdonald, now our well-known representative in the Senate; B. W. Sangster, Farquhar, Mackay, Newton, Sangster (Sangster's Plains Postmaster), also to Chief Factor Finlaison, who lived in a house in the southwest corner of the Port; and Dr. Helmcken, now, for reasons of state, the Hon. J. S. Helmcken, residing with his wife in the house which he still occupies; later J. D. Pemberton, who returned from England, bringing his sister, Miss Pemberton.
Looking back now to my first Sunday service, I have no recollection of it as distinguished from other similar services to follow. From my written records only I find that the text of my sermon on the occasion was, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature," and that I referred in the conclusion to the Crimean War just ended; but there is pictured in my memory the figure of a man coming past the bell-tower with a prayer book under his arm, "going to church." Him I was afterwards to know as good John Dutnall, a dear and faithful friend to me as long as he lived.
The church services were held in the messroom. There was no instrument and no organized choir. Of those whose voices contributed to this part of divine worship I think only Mrs. W. J. Macdonald survives.
As to my first Christmas Day, which this year ('55) fell on a Tuesday, I can remember nothing of it as distinguished from other Christmas Days to follow (more than fifty in number); but my records say that my text was, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men." But where we dined, what we had for dinner, or how we spent the day, my wife might have told, but I cannot. I know that we spent many Christmas evenings at the Governor's very pleasantly, and this may have been, and probably was, one of them. I remember that one New Year's Eve there was a violent snowstorm, which hindered me from holding a service at Craigflower, as I had intended, but my records show what I do not in the least remember, that I preached at Craigflower on New Year's Day. I also remember that by Christmas Day we had moved into the Parsonage, and that my two sisters, who had arrived at Esquimalt from England, a week before, were with us on that day. I remember a good deal about the Parsonage in those early days. It was almost in the country. As it was at first unfenced, my wife was often afraid at noises. One night we heard a scraping, and she was sure that someone was breaking into the house. I tried to persuade her that burglars did not announce their presence in that open fashion. However, to reassure her, I reconnoitred, and found it was only an old sow rubbing her back against an old shed nearby.
The Parsonage ground was all wild, but the soil good, and as it was my future home, the task of trying to make it a worthy appendage of the district church was a pleasant one. My servant, James Ravey, was a good gardener, but rather more inclined to the useful than the ornamental. When my wife wanted to enlist his interest in flower gardening, he remarked that the flowers he had liked best were cauliflowers. However, she had her way, he nothing loath. Dr. Helmcken liberally supplied us with a variety of flowers from his well-kept garden, among which I remember daisies—not the wee, modest, crimson-tipped flowers, but variegated beauties, gorgeous through ages of culture. There was not a wild daisy in the country; but now they are spreading everywhere, as if when left alone they preferred their natural state. The Governor also took a kindly interest in the work, offering valuable hints as to the planting of fruit trees, etc. Mr. Work, of Hillside, also sent me a fine lot of young ornamental trees, which flourished well. A good gardening book was loaned me of the company—a long loan, I think, as I have possession of it still.
So the garden, though nothing to boast of in the artistic point of view, yielded abundance of fruit.
[Portrait: Bishop and Mrs. Cridge.]
But if it were pleasant to get into the Parsonage, it by no means follows that life in the Fort was dreary; on the contrary, some of our happiest hours were spent there. Besides my satisfaction with the present and hopes for the future, coupled with the companionship of one who had full possession of my heart and life, we were forming and cementing friendships which were to endure for many a long year. Not only this—there were pleasant musical and social evenings. There were voices and instruments; Mrs. Mouat, with the piano brought out with her from England; Mr. Augustus Pemberton, lately arrived from Ireland with his flute; Mr. B. W. Pearse, with his violin; I did what I could with my 'cello, the instrument my father had and played when a boy.
It was also during those early days that we, my wife and I, had our first experience of the Governor's delightful riding parties on Saturday afternoons, when the officers of the Company and friends, their wives and daughters, rode merrily across the country unimpeded by gates or bars. I remember the first, when my wife, who did not ride, had her first drive in the Governor's carriage—a homemade vehicle, without springs, as befitted the times and the place; our destination was Cadboro Bay, which we reached by a trail which, beginning near the Fort, lay all through open country without a house or field till we arrived at the Company's farm at that beautiful spot; and though I cannot remember what we did there on that day, I remember well that on many another day I had to send man and horse there for meat for my family.
On another occasion our ride lying along the Saanich trail, when near the North Dairy farm the Governor called a halt; a man stepped out and fired up into a tree and a grouse fell dead; he reloaded and fired up into the same tree again and another grouse fell dead. I, if no one else in the party, was astonished at conduct so different from that of birds in civilized countries. Whether it was the proper time for grouse-shooting I know not, for I have no record of the date, nor, indeed, of the occurrence. Perhaps the Natural History Society might be able to explain why the second bird behaved as it did. I think it was in the same ride that another halt was called, it being reported that a bear was in a thicket near the trail. All listened and looked, and when I remarked to the Governor that I thought I heard the creature roar, His Excellency said, "Bears do not roar!" I believe he was right, for though we read in both versions of the Bible, "We all roar like bears," I have reason to believe that the translation is incorrect, besides believing also that the man whose life is largely spent in the wilds is more likely to be right on such a point than the scholar in his study. Perhaps the Natural History Society may throw some light on this question also: "Do bears roar?"
In those early days there were frequently several men-of-war in Esquimalt harbor at once. Being the only Protestant clergyman then in the Island, I often visited them and had much pleasant intercourse with the officers. But my memory serves me little as to particulars. I find the following entries:
"Aug. 28, '55.—Attended a prayer meeting on board H. M. S. Trincomalee."
"Sept. 9, '55.—Trincomalee sailed and President arrived."
"Oct. 28, '55.—The Reverend Holme, Chaplain of H. M. S. President, preached for me in the afternoon at the Fort."
"Aug. 11, '55.—H. M. S. Monarch arrived."
"Sept. 14, '56.—Mr. Green, Chaplain of the Monarch, preached for me in the afternoon;" also "on Sept. 21." These last two sermons were preached in the district church (called "Christ Church," after my church in London), it having been opened and divine service held therein the month before.
"Aug. 30, '56.—The Governor went in the Trincomalee to Cowichan to demand the Indian who had lately shot a white man." The wounded man was brought to the Fort, where I visited him. He recovered and was sent away to be safe from the Indians' vengeance. The Indian who shot him was delivered up by his tribe, was tried and executed in their presence.
"Aug. 21, '56.—Held a prayer meeting at the Parsonage, with Mr. Cook, the gunner, and Mr. Price, midshipman, both of the Trincomalee.
"Aug. 24, '56.—Held a prayer meeting with Mr. Cook, of the Trincomalee, in the Craigflower school-room."
From the above records it would appear that the Trincomalee was in these waters over a year at this period. I think her presence had to do with the Russian war. It was after Admiral Price shot himself on account of some error he had committed in the war. I remember the Governor saying to me one day, that he had received instructions from the Home Government to build a hospital at Esquimalt for some wounded sailors expected down from Petrapolowski, but had not been told where the money was to come from. The hospital was built, however, but I do not remember that any wounded were brought; but I remember visiting afterwards a sick Victorian, who died there. The present naval hospital is, I believe, the one I refer to.
About this time I remember an American ship-of-war coming with a United States Commissioner on board to settle with Governor Douglas the boundary between the British and American territories on the mainland, and his attending divine service in the district church, and my including the United States President in the church prayers.
I remember also my wife's inviting Lieutenant Parry, of one of H. M. ships, to stay a few days with us at our rooms in the Fort, he being in delicate health and having just heard of the death of his father, Sir Edward Parry, the celebrated Arctic navigator and explorer.
As the latter died in July, 1835, the visit referred to would be shortly after this. I have still the gold pencil case he gave me as a memento of his visit. He died not long afterwards, and I had some correspondence in reference to the sorrowful event with Bishop Parry (his brother, I think).
I remember also, though the names escape me, the captain of one of the ships telling me a thrilling story of his recently finding the remains of a Captain Gardiner and his party, who had been starved to death on some shore in the neighborhood of Cape Horn, a tragedy which caused widespread interest and pity at the time.
At this time there were no local newspapers. Mails were received from England once a fortnight, fetched by canoe from the American side; ships from England once a year. The opening of the annual box from friends there was an exciting event to my wife. The Otter (Capt. Mouat) was occasionally sent to San Francisco for requisites. In the same vessel I remember our going with Governor Douglas to San Juan Island, then in possession of the British, and Mr. Griffin, the Company's officer in charge there, presenting my wife with a beautiful fawn, which we brought back with us.
I know not what the population of Victoria might be at that time, though I think two hundred would be the outside; the population on the whole island being about six hundred. You could, I think, count the houses on each of the four principal streets—Government, Fort, Yates, Johnson—on the fingers on one hand. I only remember three on James Bay side, to reach which, there being no bridge to connect with Government Street, you had to go round by where the Church of Our Lord now stands.
For reasons which will presently appear, I regard the Christmas season of 1855 as the ending of a first chapter of the very remarkable history of this province of British Columbia, to be followed by another in the ensuing year destined to include events which the most far-seeing at the time could not possibly have imagined. I write simply as an observer, included, indeed, in the great movement, but not, strictly speaking, a working part of it. A time was coming, as we now know, when a flood of people was suddenly to overflow our city, sweeping onward to and over the mainland like a tidal wave from the great ocean of life; but whether it was by some fortunate chance decree of an overruling Providence, it did not come till the city was better than of old and prepared to deal with it.
The time had now come when the dual government—the imperium in imperio—was to cease, and the people to stand in direct relation to the sovereign. Influenced, as we have reason to believe, by complaints of the settlers, it was decided by the Home authorities to grant them a free constitution after the English model, so far as popular representation was concerned. And so it came to pass that within eight months after Christmas, 1855, the newly-elected representatives of the people were, in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, called together by the Governor in a room within the Fort, and by him, with counsel and prayer, commended to the long-coveted duties of legislation. Thus was a small shoot of an Empire unsurpassed for the freedom of its subjects well and truly planted in the western shore of the vast possessions of Great Britain, this side of the provinces in the East, and now did the people, rejoicing in their freedom, begin to look for expansion and progress. But with what hope? What was the prospect of their reaching the conditions which we see to-day?
[Portrait: Bishop Cridge.]
Looking at the more than twenty years it had taken to reach their present population of six hundred souls; looking at the inaccessibility of the Island to all but a few adventurous or wealthy immigrants; allowing also full force to the new attraction of a land whose people enjoyed the privilege of self-government; I think the most sanguine in that day could not have expected such a result as we see to-day in a less period than centuries to come. To us who know what brought it to pass; to us who know that the real efficient cause of the marvelous effect was the strongest passion and incentive to adventure that ever actuated the mind of man, it all seems natural and easy; but to the six hundred in 1856 it would have seemed a dream. At the same time it must, I think, be admitted that such a sudden inrush must have endangered, if not the independence, at least the peace and order of the community on which it fell. For what, we may ask, might have been the consequence if the cry of gold for the picking up had been raised earlier, in the time, say, of the dual government, when, as is well known, the people were discontented with a government which, excellent as it confessedly was for the times, had its own profit first of all to be considered, instead of coming, as it did, to a people which, rejoicing in its newly-found freedom, was not to be reckoned on for favoring any schemes of wildness or riot? I do not suggest any danger of invasion or overthrow of the government when hundreds of thousands of gold-seekers from the neighboring country filled the streets of our little city; England's far-reaching arm sufficed to cope with that; but I do suggest danger to law and order afterwards. For this the presence of warships in Esquimalt harbor could afford but slight remedy. The remedy must be in the people themselves and in the administration of law. A little leaven leavens a great lump, but in this case the leaven of discontent being removed, the lump remained uncontaminated. That this was how order was restored will appear from what followed after the suppression of the disorder which broke out among the miners at the beginning.
Mr. Augustus F. Pemberton, commissioner of police, was staying at my house when, after he had gone to bed, a message came from the Chief of Police that the town was in an uproar, and that the miners were threatening to take the city. Mr. Pemberton immediately repaired to the Governor's and reported. His Excellency's first impulse was to fix on his sword; but he changed his mind and sent a messenger express to order a gunboat from Esquimalt. Meanwhile Mr. Pemberton went into the city and conferred with the miners till the gunboat arrived, and thus ended the matter.
As I went with Mr. Pemberton to the Governor's house and to the city on this occasion, I write as an eye-witness. I may say that my impression is that there was no serious intention on the part of the miners as a body to take the city by force. I knew too many of them afterwards, of good and peaceable conduct, to think it. But it was well that the disorderly among them should begin their education in English law by this prompt display of force.
I now note a singular condition of things, as conducive to the continuance and perpetuation of the order thus restored. The miners at this time to the number, it was computed, of some ten thousand, were encamped in the open spaces of the city, waiting for the most suitable time for proceeding to the mainland in their search for gold. I do not remember how long the time was that they waited, but it was certainly some weeks. And what I wish emphatically to say is, that this interval afforded them a unique opportunity of learning what British law and order meant. Mr. Pemberton was their teacher. Fearless, untiring and vigilant, he suppressed every disorder as it arose. There was need.
A man was killed in a duel on Church Hill. Thenceforth it was at a man's peril to be found with a revolver on his person, and so the odious practice fell into disuse.
The effect of this practical education in obedience to law on the thousands thus gathered together in one place can easily be imagined. Not only did they become peaceable and orderly, and even friendly, while here, even meeting in a body to hear the Governor's advice as to their movements, but wherever they were scattered abroad on the mainland, lawlessness was a thing unknown among them as a body, and they wrought as if they remembered the Governor's parting words which still seem to sound in my ears: "There is gold in the country, and you are the men to find it!"
Thus I think it is plain that Mr. Pemberton was practically the real exponent of British law and order in that arduous time. We do not forget what is due on the mainland to Matthew Baillie Begbie, Chief Justice, who dealt rigidly with offenders committed for trial before him. His inflexible administration of the law struck terror into the hearts of evildoers. Still less must we forget the man at the helm and master of the ship, His Excellency Governor Douglas, who, by his sagacity, penetration, and godly fear, coupled with his long experience of personal rule over men, ever knew what to do and when to do it.
Thus from Victoria went forth an influence for law and order throughout the land, which will not soon pass away. Our little city has ever been noted as being English in character and law-abiding in conduct. May she remain so. She does well to rejoice and be thankful for the natural beauties which so richly adorn her site. Let her also so continue to follow the right, the good, the loving and the true, that she may for this also be as a city set on a hill whose light cannot be hid.
Regarding, as I do, the six hundred islanders with the patriotic Governor at their head as the real foundation of the things to come in the second chapter of their history, I have written from memory such names as my position enabled me to become acquainted with at that early period, intending to add them to this paper, but space forbids.
And now I should earnestly desire to send my Christmas greetings to the people of Victoria; first to the few dear old friends that remain of the old Fort days, and next to those who have come later, from all of whom I have received kindnesses which God alone can repay. May His blessing rest on all and each one not only of our beloved city, but on the whole of this our Province of British Columbia, for we are all one, as the name imports.
CHRISTMAS REMINISCENCES BY HON. J. S. HELMCKEN.
Hudson Bay Days.
You ask me to give some information as to the observance of Christmas Day in the early days of the Colony, say fifty-five years ago. I may say at once that there were no set forms of celebration in those days, save that the chaplain, Rev. Mr. Staines, held divine service in the mess-room, a hall that served for baptisms, deaths and marriages, also balls and other recreation. At the same time Rev. Father Lamfpet, a missionary Catholic priest, assembled his flock in a shanty, built chiefly by himself and plastered with clay, which had wide cracks in it. This edifice stood on Courtney Street, between Douglas and Government. Of course Christmas Day was a holiday.
[Portrait: Dr. Helmcken.]
In the early days changes came quickly. In 1852 Captain Langford, wife and family arrived. They were in some way connected with the then Governor Blanchard. T. Skinner, Esq., wife and family arrived at the same time. These were British and cultured people. Langford and Skinner were agents of the Puget Sound Company, so with them came a large number of Britishers, to open up and cultivate farms at Colwood, the latter near the now Naval Hospital at Esquimalt. Captain Grant and Captain Cooper were here, and soon came the noble, steadfast laird, Mr. Kenneth McKenzie, wife and family. These brought their customs with them, so of course Christmas observances. It will thus be seen that Christmas and other customs came with the immigrants, and from the planting of that seed, the present Christmas observances have grown. In Scotland and America the day is much more observed than formerly; all did as they pleased—shooting, hunting, fishing and visiting being the chief recreations, and getting as good a dinner as possible, perhaps practise at the Beacon, a barrel riddled with bullets, and standing on a long pole. This beacon was a mark for ships. Another stood near the water to the north. Captain Sangster used to perambulate here, a telescope in hand, watching for the annual Hudson's Bay Company's ship, the signal being two guns.
No waits at night, no chimes, no bells, no Christmas carols, no pianos, in fact no musical instruments of any kind, save the bell of the Fort. On one occasion a dance and supper were determined on, but where was the band? Nothing but Mr. Tod and his fiddle existed. Mr. Tod, a good soul, peace be with him, ever ready to assist, assisted. Mr. Tod had a peculiarity; when playing he would cast off a shoe, and kept time by stamping the resounding floor with his stockinged foot. However, an employee came forth, "I can help you, sirs; give me a sheet of tin." He got it, and in a short time came back with a tin whistle, on which he played admirably. This was the band, and everyone enjoyed the dance and everything else. The band, too, was the orchestra at a night of private theatricals, in which J. D. Pemberton and Joseph McKay were the star actors, whilst the others handed round port, ale, cider, ginger beer, oranges, lemons and nuts—that is to say they would if they had them.
There were no public-houses nor public amusements at this time, turkeys unknown and beef scarce. In fact a rudimentary Christmas festival of a holiday, not holy-day, type.
It may be here remarked that sixty years ago Christmas Day was but little observed in Scotland, and the same may be said of America. In England, however, where it was and is a statute holiday, Christmas was universally celebrated. Essentially it was a children's day and one of family reunions, and in those days when travelling was expensive and tedious, this meant more than it does to-day. The visitors received a joyous welcome, not a sort of empty every-day one. Plum pudding, roast beef, and mince pies and nuts were the order of the day, for beverage various kinds of drinks. Holly and mistletoe and evergreens obtained in nearly every house; in fact it was a joyous day from morn till night. Games of various kinds were played. Toys for children, rudimentary toys and picture books, cheap, and such as the too knowing children of to-day would turn up their little noses at, and my goodness! the fun of the mistletoe and mulberry tree! Spreading of course from British Columbia, but in sober earnest to the immortal Charles Dickens' works, particularly the Pickwick Club and the annual "Christmas Stories."
The holly now, as in England, generally used, is not indigenous, but grown from introduced seed chiefly. The berried holly is now in great demand all along the Pacific shores, and American purchasers are eager to buy it. Curiously, it grows well in Victoria and neighborhood, but fails as it grows south. Mistletoe, a parasite, used of old in the mystic rites of the Druids, does not grow here, but a species thereof comes from the States, which serves its usual purpose, in spite of all moral reformers and the scientific maxims of the dangers of bacteria (bacteria of love) incurred in and by osculation. Who cares about this kind of danger when under the mistletoe at Christmas—the fun and pleasure of obtaining it or at "blindman's buff," and the pretended wish and effort not to be caught. None of this in Victoria in 1850. How soon after?
Oh, the merry days when we were young! Turkeys were rare, but Dr. Trimble had a turkey which he kept on his premises on Broad Street. Daily he and Mrs. Trimble would visit his treasure, who with his fantail erect and feathers vibrating and with a gobble-gobble and proud step would show his pleasure at the meeting, but the doctor and wife, although admiring and loving the proud and handsome bird, had murderous thoughts in their "innards," and declared he would be a splendid bird by Christmas for dinner, so in due course they invited some half dozen friends to eat the turkey on Christmas Day. A few days before Christmas, the doctor and wife, on their daily visit, found the turkey had vanished. Inquiries were made for it, and the invited friends were assiduous in helping to unravel the mystery, and concluded in the end that it had been stolen. They condoled and sympathized with the bereaved, and tried to assuage the grief by telling Trimble and wife that they would give him a dinner on Christmas Day instead! The grief-stricken parties accepted the invitation, as the best thing to be done under the unfortunate circumstances. So on Christmas Day they assembled very jollily. The earlier courses were eaten with fizz, etc. Now comes up the principal dish, which being uncovered displayed a fine cooked turkey. Trimble was a good-natured fellow, so you may easily foretell what followed. Who stole the turkey? The echoes of their laughing, intertwining shadows reply "Who-o-o?"
MY FIRST CHRISTMAS DINNER IN VICTORIA, 1860.
By D. W. H.
"Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."—Matt. 7:7, 8.
On the 22nd day of December, 1860, nearly fifty-three years ago, I sat in the editorial room of the Colonist office on Wharf Street, concocting a leading article. Mr. Amor De Cosmos, the able editor and owner, had contracted a severe cold and was confined to his room at Wilcox's Royal Hotel, so the entire work of writing up the paper for that issue devolved upon me. The office was a rude, one-story affair of wood. It had been erected for a merchant early in 1858, and when he failed or went away the building fell into Mr. De Cosmos' hands. On the 11th December, 1858, Mr. De Cosmos established the Colonist, which has ever since filled a prominent and honorable position in colonial journalism. Our office, as I have remarked, was a rude affair. The accompanying picture will convey a better idea of its appearance than anything I might write. The editorial room was a small space partitioned off from the composing room, which contained also the little hand-press on which the paper was printed. A person who might wish to see the editor was forced to pick his way through a line of stands and cases at which stood the coatless printers who set the type and prepared the forms for the press.
[Portrait: Amor de Cosmos.]
The day was chill and raw. A heavy wind from the south-west stirred the waters of the harbor and hurling itself with fury against the front of the building made the timbers crack and groan as if in paroxysms of pain. A driving rain fell in sheets on the roof and drops of water which leaked through the shingles fell on the editorial table, swelled into little rivulets, and, leaping to the floor, chased each other over the room, making existence therein uncomfortably damp. As I wrote away in spite of these obstacles I was made aware by a shadow that fell across my table of the presence of someone in the doorway. I raised my eyes and there stood a female—a rare object in those days, when women and children were as scarce as hen's teeth, and were hardly ever met upon the streets, much less in an editorial sanctum. I rose to my feet at once, and removing my hat awaited results. In the brief space of time that elapsed before the lady spoke I took her all in. She was a woman of scarcely forty, I thought; of medium height, a brunette, with large coal-black eyes, a pretty mouth—a perfect Cupid's bow—and olive-hued cheeks. She was richly dressed in bright colors with heavy broad stripes and space-encircling hoops after the fashion of the day. When she spoke it was in a rich, well-rounded tone—not with the nasal drawl which we hear so much when across the line, and which some Victoria school-girls and boys seem to delight in imitating in spite of the efforts of their teachers. Taken all in all I sized the lady up as a very presentable person.
Having explained to her, in response to an inquiry, that the editor was ill, she said that she would call again and went away after leaving her card. Two days later, on the 24th of December, the lady came again.
"Is the editor still ill?" she asked.
"Yes; but he will be here in the course of a day or two."
"Ah! well, that is too bad," she said. "My business is of importance and cannot bear delay. But I am told that you will do as well."
I assured the lady that I should be glad to assist her in any way. Thanking me, she began:
"My name is Madame Fabre; my husband, who was French, is dead—died in California. I am a Russian. In Russia I am a princess. (She paused as if to watch the impression her announcement had made.) Here I am a mere nobody—only Madame Fabre. I married my husband in France. We came to California. We had much money and my husband went into quartz mining at Grass Valley. He did not understand the business at all. We lost everything. Then he died (and she drew a lace handkerchief from her reticule, and pressing it to her eyes sighed deeply). Alas! Yes, Emil passed from me and is now, I trust, in heaven. He left me a mountain of debts and one son, Bertrand, a good child, as good as gold, very thoughtful and obedient. May I call him in? He awaits your permission without."
I replied, "Certainly," and stepping to the door she called, "Bertrand! Bertrand! my child, come here, and speak to the gentleman."
I expected to see a boy of five or six years, wearing curls, in short trousers, a beaded jacket and fancy cap, whom I would take on my knee, toy with his curls, ask his name and age and give him a "bit" with which to stuff his youthful stomach with indigestible sweetmeats. Judge my surprise when, preceded by the noise of a heavy tread, a huge youth of about seventeen, bigger and taller than myself, and smoking a cigar, appeared at the opening, and in a deep, gruff voice that a sea captain or a militia commander would have envied, asked:
"Did you call, mamma?"
"Yes, my dear child," she sweetly responded; "I wish to introduce you to this gentleman."
The "child" removed his hat, and I noticed that his hair was cut close to the scalp. Having been duly introduced at my request he sat down in my chair while I took a seat on the edge of the editorial table, which was very rickety and would scarcely bear my weight at the present day.
The parent gazed at her son fondly for a moment and then proceeded:
"Bertrand's fortune was swallowed up in the quartz wreck; but he is very sweet and very patient, and never complains. Poor lad! It was hard upon him, but he forgives all—do you not, dear?"
"Yes," rumbled the "child" from the pit of his stomach; but the expression that flitted across his visage made me think that he would rather have said "No," had he dared.
"That being the case I will now explain the object of my visit. As I have said, we have lost everything—that is to say, our income is so greatly reduced that it is now a matter of not more than $1,000 a month. Upon that meagre sum my dear boy and I contrive to get along by practising the strictest economy consistent with our position in life. Naturally we wish to do better, and then go back to Russia and live with the nobility. Do we not, Bertrand?"
"Yes," rumbled the "child" from his stomach again, as he lighted a fresh cigar.
"Well, now, Mr. H.," the lady went on, "I want an adviser. I ask Pierre Manciot at the French Hotel, and he tells me to see his partner, John Sere; and Mr. Sere tells me to go to the editor of the Colonist. I come here. The editor is ill. I go back to Mr. Sere and he says, see D. W. H.; he will set you all right. So I come to you to tell you what I want."
She paused for a moment to take a newspaper from her reticule and then continued:
"After my husband died and left the debts and this precious child (the "child" gazed abstractedly at the ceiling while he blew rings of smoke from his mouth) we made a grand discovery. Our foreman, working in the mine, strikes rich quartz, covers it up again, and tells no one but me. All the shareholders have gone—what you call 'busted,' I believe? We get hold of many shares cheap, and now I come here to get the rest. An Englishman owns enough shares to give him control—I mean that out of two hundred thousand shares I have got ninety-five thousand, and the rest this Englishman holds. We have traced him through Oregon to this place, and we lose all sign of him here." (Up to this moment I had not been particularly interested in the narration.) She paused, and laying a neatly-gloved hand on my arm proceeded:
"You are a man of affairs."
I modestly intimated that I was nothing of the kind, only a reporter.
"Ah! yes. You cannot deceive me. I see it in your eye, your face, your movements. You are a man of large experience and keen judgment. Your conversation is charming."
As she had spoken for ten minutes without giving me an opportunity to say a word, I could not quite understand how she arrived at an estimate of my conversational powers. However, I felt flattered, but said nothing.
Pressing my arm with her hand, which gave me a warm feeling in the neighborhood of my heart, she went on:
"I come to you as a man of the world. (I made a gesture of dissent, but it was very feeble, for I was already caught in the web.) I rely upon you. I ask you to help me. Bertrand—poor, dear Bertie—has no head for business—he is too young, too confiding—too—too—what you English people call simple—no, too good—too noble—he takes after my family—to know anything about such affairs—so I come to you."
Was it possible that because I was considered unredeemably bad I was selected for this woman's purpose? As I mused, half disposed to get angry, I raised my head and my eyes encountered the burning orbs of the Madame, gazing full into mine. They seemed to bore like gimlets into my very soul. A thrill ran through me like the shock from an electric battery, and in an instant I seemed bound hand and foot to the fortunes of this strange woman. I felt myself being dragged along as the Roman Emperors were wont to draw their captives through the streets of their capital. I fluttered for a few seconds like a bird in the fowler's net and then I gave up. The contest was too unequal. God help me! The eyes had conquered and I lay panting at the feet, as it were, of the conqueror. I have only a hazy recollection of what passed between us after that; but I call to mind that she asked me to insert as an advertisement a paragraph from a Grass Valley newspaper to the effect that the mine (the name of which I forget) was a failure and that shares could be bought for two cents. When she took her leave I promised to call upon her at the hotel. When the "child" extended a cold, clammy hand in farewell I felt like giving him a kick—he looked so grim and ugly and patronizing. I gazed into his eyes sternly and read there deceit, hypocrisy and moral degeneration. How I hated him!
* * * * *
The pair had been gone several minutes before I recovered my mental balance and awoke to a realization of the fact that I was a young fool who had sold himself (perhaps to the devil) for a few empty compliments and a peep into the deep well of an artful woman's blazing eyes. I was inwardly cursing my stupidity while pacing up and down the floor of the "den" when I heard a timid knock at the door. In response to my invitation to "come in" a young lady entered. She was pretty and about twenty years of age, fair, with dark blue eyes and light brown hair. A blush suffused her face as she asked for the editor. I returned the usual answer.
"Perhaps you will do for my purpose," she said timidly. "I have here a piece of poetry."
I gasped as I thought, "It's an ode on winter. Oh, Lord!"
"A piece of poetry," she continued, "on Britain's Queen. If you will read it and find it worthy a place in your paper I shall be glad to write more. If it is worth paying for I shall be glad to get anything."
Her hand trembled as she produced the paper.
I thanked her and telling her that I would look it over she withdrew. I could not help contrasting the first with the last visitor. The one had attracted me by her artful and flattering tongue, the skilful use of her beautiful eyes and the pressure of her hand on my coat sleeve; the other by the modesty of her demeanor. The timid shyness with which she presented her poem had caught my fancy. I looked at the piece. It was poor, not but what the sentiment was there and the ideas were good, but they were not well put. As prose it would have been acceptable, but as verse it was impossible and was not worth anything.
* * * * *
The next was Christmas Day. It was my first Christmas in Victoria. Business was suspended. All the stores were closed. At that time in front of every business house there were wooden verandahs or sheds that extended from the fronts of the buildings to the outer edges of the sidewalks. One might walk along any of the down-town streets and be under cover all the way. They were ugly, unsightly constructions and I waged constant warfare against them until I joined the aldermanic board and secured the passage of an ordinance that compelled their removal. Along these verandahs on this particular Christmas morning evergreen boughs were placed and the little town really presented a very pretty and sylvan appearance. After church I went to the office and from the office to the Hotel de France for luncheon. The only other guest in the room was a tall, florid-faced young man somewhat older than myself. He occupied a table on the opposite side of the room. When I gave my order M. Sere remarked, "All the regular boarders but you have gone to luncheon and dinner with their friends. Why not you?"
"Why," I replied, with a quaver in my voice, "the only families that I know are dining with friends of their own, whom I do not know. I feel more homesick to-day than ever before in my life and the idea of eating my Christmas dinner alone fills me with melancholy thoughts."
The man on the other side of the room must have overheard what I said, for he ejaculated:
"There's two of a kind. I'm in a similar fix. I have no friends here—at least with whom I can dine. Suppose we double up?"
"What's that?" I asked.
"Why, let us eat our Christmas dinner together and have a good time. Here's my card and here's a letter of credit on Mr. Pendergast, Wells Fargo's agent, to show that I am not without visible means of support."
The card read, "Mr. George Barclay, Grass Valley."
"Why," I said, "you are from Grass Valley. How strange. I saw two people yesterday—a lady and her 'child'—who claimed to have come from Grass Valley."
"Indeed," he asked; "what are they like?"
"The mother says she is a Russian princess. She calls herself Mme. Fabre and says she is a widow. She is very handsome and intelligent and"—I added with a shudder—"has the loveliest eyes—they bored me through and through."
My new friend faintly smiled and said, "I know them. By and bye, when we get better acquainted, I shall tell you all about them. Meantime, be on your guard."
After luncheon we walked along Government to Yates Street and then to the Colonist shack. And as I placed the key in the lock I saw the young lady who had submitted the poetry walking rapidly towards us. My companion flushed slightly and raising his hat, extended his hand, which the lady accepted with hesitation. They exchanged some words and then the lady addressing me asked, "Was my poem acceptable?"
"To tell you the truth, Miss—Miss—"
"Forbes," she interjected.
"I have not had time to read it carefully." (As a matter of fact I had not bestowed a second thought upon the poem, but was ashamed to acknowledge it.)
"When—oh! when can you decide?" she asked with much earnestness.
"To-morrow, I think"—for I fully intended to decline it.
She seemed deeply disappointed. Her lip quivered as she held down her head and her form trembled with agitation. I could not understand her emotion, but, of course, said nothing to show that I observed it.
"Could you not give me an answer to-day—this afternoon?" the girl urged.
"Yes," I said, "as you seem so very anxious, if you will give me your address I shall take or send an answer before four o'clock. Where do you reside?"
"Do you know Forshay's cottages? They are a long way up Yates Street. We occupy No. 4."
Forshay's cottages were a collection of little cabins that had been erected on a lot at the corner of Cook and Yates Streets. They have long since disappeared. They were of one story and each cottage contained three rooms—a kitchen and two other rooms. I could scarcely imagine a refined person such as the lady before me occupying those miserable quarters; but then, you know, necessity knows no law.
The girl thanked me and Barclay accompanied her to the corner of Yates Street. He seemed to be trying to induce her to do something she did not approve of, for she shook her head with an air of determination and resolve and hurried away.
Barclay came back to the office and said: "I am English myself, but the silliest creature in the world is an Englishman who, having once been well off, finds himself stranded. His pride will not allow him to accept favors. I knew that girl's father and mother in Grass Valley. The old gentleman lost a fortune at quartz mining. His partner, a Mr. Maloney, a Dublin man and graduate of Trinity College, having sunk his own and his wife's money in the mine, poisoned his wife, three children and himself with strychnine three years ago. By the way, I met a Grass Valley man this morning. His name is Robert Homfray, a civil engineer. He tells me he is located here permanently. He and his brother lost a great deal of money in the Grass Valley mines, and we talked over the Maloney tragedy, with the circumstances of which he was familiar, but the strangest part of the story is that three months ago the property was reopened and the very first shot that was fired in the tunnel laid bare a rich vein. Had Maloney fired one more charge he would have been rich. As it was he died a murderer and a suicide. Poor fellow! In a day or two I will tell you more. But let us return to the poetry. What will you do with it?"
"I fear I shall have to reject it."
"No, no," he cried. "Accept it! This morning I went to the home of the family, which consists of Mr. Forbes, who is crippled with rheumatism, his excellent wife, the young lady from whom we have just parted and a little boy of seven. They are in actual want. I offered to lend them money to buy common necessaries and Forbes rejected the offer in language that was insulting. Go immediately to the cottage. Tell the girl that you have accepted the poem and give her this (handing me a twenty-dollar gold piece) as the appraised value of her production. Then return to the Hotel de France and await developments."
* * * * *
I repaired to the cottages. The road was long and muddy. There were neither sidewalks nor streets and it was a difficult matter to navigate the sea of mud that lay between Wharf and Cook Streets. The young lady answered my knock. She almost fainted when I told her the poem had been accepted and that the fee was twenty dollars. I placed the coin in her hand.
"Mamma! Papa!" she cried, and running inside the house I heard her say, "My poem has been accepted and the gentleman from the Colonist office has brought me twenty dollars."
"Thank God!" I heard a woman's voice exclaim. "I never lost faith, for what does Christ say, Ellen, 'Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened.' On this holy day—our Saviour's birthday—we have sought and we have found."
This was followed by a sound as of someone crying, and then the girl flew back to the door.
"Oh! sir," she said, "I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your goodness."
"Not at all," I lied. "You have earned it and you owe me no thanks. I shall be glad to receive and pay for any other contributions you may send." I did not add, though, that they would not be published, although they would be paid for.
A little boy with a troubled face and a pinched look now approached the front door. He was neatly but poorly dressed.
"Oh! Nellie, what is the matter?" he asked anxiously.
"Johnnie," answered Nellie. "I have earned twenty dollars, and we shall have a Christmas dinner, and you shall have a drum, too." As she said this she caught the little fellow in her arms and kissed him and pressed his wan cheek against her own.
"Shall we have a turkey, Nellie?" he asked.
"Yes, dear," she said.
"And a plum pudding, too, with nice sauce that burns when you put a match to it, and shall I have two helpings?" he asked.
"Yes, and you shall set fire to the sauce and have two helpings, Johnnie."
"Won't that be nice," he exclaimed gleefully. "But, Nellie, will papa get medicine to make him well again?"
"And mamma—will she get back all the pretty things she sent away to pay the rent with?"
"Hush, Johnnie," said the girl with an apologetic look at me.
"And you, Nellie, will you get back your warm cloak that the man with a long nose took away?"
"Hush, dear," she said. "Go inside now; I wish to speak to this gentleman." She closed the front door and asked me, all the stores being closed, how she would be able to get the materials for the dinner and to redeem her promise to Johnnie.
"Easily enough," said I. "Order it at the Hotel de France. Shall I take down the order?"
"If you will be so kind," she said. "Please order what you think is necessary."
"And I—I have a favor to ask of you."
"What is it?" she inquired eagerly.
"That you will permit me to eat my Christmas dinner with you and the family. I am a waif and stray, alone in the world. I am almost a stranger here. The few acquaintances I have made are dining out and I am at the hotel with Mr. Barclay, whom you know and, I hope, esteem."
"Well," she said, "come by all means."
"And may I bring Mr. Barclay with me? He is very lonely and very miserable. Just think, that on a day like this he has nowhere to go but to an hotel."
She considered a moment before replying; then she said, "No, do not bring him—let him come in while we are at dinner, as if by accident."
I hastened to the Hotel de France and Sere and Manciot soon had a big hamper packed with an abundance of Christmas cheer and on its way upon the back of an Indian to the Forbes house.
I followed and received a warm welcome from the father and mother, who were superior people and gave every evidence of having seen better days. The interior was scrupulously clean, but there was only one chair. A small kitchen stove at which the sick man sat was the only means of warmth. There were no carpets and, if I was not mistaken, the bed coverings were scant. The evidence of extreme poverty was everywhere manifest. I never felt meaner in my life, as I accepted the blessings that belonged to the other man. Mr. Forbes, who was too ill to sit at the table, reclined on a rude lounge near the kitchen stove. Just as dinner was being served there came a knock at the door. It was opened and there stood Barclay.
"I have come," he said, "to ask you to take me in. I cannot eat my dinner alone at the hotel. You have taken my only acquaintance (pointing to me) from me, and if Mr. Forbes will forgive my indiscretion of this morning I shall be thankful."
"That I will," cried the old gentleman from the kitchen. "Come in and let us shake hands and forget our differences."
So Barclay entered and we ate our Christmas dinner in one of the bedrooms. It was laid on the kitchen table, upon which a tablecloth, sent by the thoughtful hosts at the hotel, was spread. There were napkins, a big turkey and claret and champagne, and a real, live, polite little Frenchman to carve and wait. Barclay and I sat on the bed. Mrs. Forbes had the only chair. Johnnie and his sister occupied the hamper. Before eating Mrs. Forbes said grace, in which she again quoted the passage from Scripture with which I began this narration. Oh! for a catchup meal it was the jolliest I ever sat down to, and I enjoyed it, as did all the rest. Little Johnnie got two helpings of turkey and two helpings of pudding and then he was allowed to sip a little champagne when the toasts to the Queen and the father and mother and the young and rising poetess of the family were offered. Then Johnnie was toasted and put to bed in Nellie's room. Next it came my turn to say a few words in response to a sentiment which the old gentleman spoke through the open door from his position in the kitchen, and my response abounded in falsehoods about the budding genius of the daughter of the household. Then I called Barclay to his feet, and he praised me until I felt like getting up and relieving my soul of its weight of guilt, but I didn't, for had I done so the whole affair would have been spoiled.
Barclay and I reached our quarters at the Hotel de France about midnight. We were a pair of thoroughly happy mortals, for had we not, after all, "dined out," and had we not had a royal good time on Christmas Day, 1860?
The morrow was Boxing Day and none of the offices were opened. I saw nothing of the Princess; but I observed Bertie, the sweet "child," as he paid frequent visits to the bar and filled himself to the throttle with brandy and water and rum and gin and bought and paid for and smoked the best cigars at two bits each. As I gazed upon him the desire to give him a kicking grew stronger.
By appointment Barclay and I met in a private room at the hotel, where he unfolded his plans.
"You must have seen," he began, "that Miss Forbes and I are warm friends. Our friendship began six months ago. I proposed to her and was accepted subject to the approval of the father. He refused to give his consent because, having lost his money, he could not give his daughter a dowry. It was in vain I urged that I had sufficient for both. He would listen to nothing that involved an acceptance of assistance from me, and he left for Vancouver Island to try his fortunes here. He fell ill and they have sold or pawned everything of value. The girl was not permitted to bid me good-bye when they left Grass Valley. After their departure the discovery of which I have informed you was made in the Maloney tunnel and as Mr. Forbes has held on to a control of the stock in spite of his adversities, he is now a rich man. I want to marry the girl. As I told you, I proposed when I believed them to be ruined. It is now my duty to acquaint the family with their good fortune and renew my suit. I think I ought to do it to-day. Surely he will not repel me now when I take that news to him, as he did on Christmas morning when I tendered him a loan."
I told him I thought he should impart the good news at once and stand the consequences. He left me for that purpose. As I walked into the dining-room, I saw the dear "child" Bertrand leaning over the bar quaffing a glass of absinthe. When he saw me he gulped down the drink and said:
"Mamma would like to speak to you—she thought you would have called."
I recalled the adventure with the eyes and hesitated. Then I decided to go to room 12 on the second flat and see the thing out. A knock on the door was responded to by a sweet "Come in." Mme. Fabre was seated in an easy chair before a cheerful coal fire.
She arose at once and extended a plump and white hand. As we seated ourselves she flashed those burning eyes upon me and said:
"I am so glad you have come! I do want your advice about my mining venture. In the first place I may tell you that I have found the man who owns the shares. He is here in Victoria with his family. He is desperately poor. A hundred dollars if offered would be a great temptation. I would give more—five hundred if necessary."
"The property you told me of the other day is valuable, is it not?" I asked.
"Yes—that is to say, we think it is. You know that mining is the most uncertain of all ventures. You may imagine you are rich one day and the next you find yourself broke. It was so with my husband. He came home one day and said, 'We are rich'; and the next he said, 'We are poor.' This Maloney mine looks well, but who can be sure? When I came here I thought that if I found the man with the shares I could get them for a song. I may yet, but my dear child tells me that he has seen here a man from Grass Valley named Barclay who is a friend of that shareholder, and," she added, bitterly, "perhaps he has got ahead of me. I must see the man at once and make him an offer. What do you think?"
"I think you might as well save yourself further trouble. By this time the shareholder has been apprised of his good fortune."
"What!" she exclaimed, springing to her feet and transfixing me with her eyes. "Am I, then, too late?"
"Yes," I said, "you are too late. Forbes—that is the man's name—knows of his good fortune and I do not believe he would sell now at any price."
The woman gazed at me with the concentrated hate of a thousand furies. Her great eyes no longer bore an expression of pleading tenderness—they seemed to glint and expand and to shoot fierce flames from their depths. They no longer charmed, they terrified me! How I wished I had left the door open.
"Ah!" she screamed. "I see it all. I have been betrayed—sold out. You have broken my confidence."
"I have done nothing of the kind. I have never repeated to a soul what you told me."
"Then who could have done it?" she exclaimed, bursting into a fit of hysterical tears. "I have come all this way to secure the property and now find that I am too late. Shame! shame!"
"I will tell you. Barclay is really here. He knew of the strike as soon as you did. He is in love with Miss Forbes and followed the family here to tell them the good news. He is with the man at this moment."
"Curse him!" she cried through her set teeth.
I left the woman plunged in a state of deep despair. I told her son that he should go upstairs and attend to his mother, and proceeded to the Forbes cottage. There I found the family in a state of great excitement, for Barclay had told them all and already they were arranging plans for returning to California and taking steps to reopen the property.
Miss Forbes received me with great cordiality and the mother announced that the girl and Barclay were engaged to be married, the father having given his consent at once. The fond mother added that she regretted very much that her daughter would have to abandon her literary career which had begun so auspiciously through my discovery of her latent talent.
I looked at Barclay before I replied. His face was as blank as a piece of white paper. His eyes, however, danced in his head as if he enjoyed my predicament.
"Yes," I finally said, "Mr. Barclay has much to be answerable for. I shall lose a valued contributor. Perhaps," I ventured, "she will still continue to write from California, for she possesses poetical talent of a high order."
"I shall gladly do so," cried the young lady, "and without pay, too. I shall never forget your goodness."
I heard a low chuckling sound behind me. It was Barclay swallowing a laugh.
* * * * *
They went away in the course of a few days and we corresponded for a long time; but Mrs. Barclay never fulfilled her promise to cultivate the muse; nor in her several letters did she refer to her poetical gift. Perhaps her husband told her of the pious fraud we practised upon her on Christmas Day, 1860. But whether he did so or not, I have taken the liberty, fifty-three years after the event, of exposing the part I took in the deception and craving forgiveness for my manifold sins and wickednesses on that occasion.
What became of the Russian princess with the pretty manners, the white hands and the enchanting eyes and the sweet "child" Bertie? They were back at Grass Valley almost as soon as Forbes and Barclay got there, and from my correspondence I learned that they shared in the prosperity of the Maloney claim, and that Mme. Fabre and her son returned to Russia to live among her noble kin.
EVOLUTION OF THE SONGHEES.
I often pass through the Songhees Reserve, and the recent controversy respecting the reserve, and the dilapidated state of the former homes of the Indians, induce me to recall the reserve as I knew it first, when it was swarming with "flatheads," men, women and children. The term "flathead" was applied to the Songhees on account of the shape of his head, which was pressed flat with a piece of board strapped to his forehead while he was in a state of infancy.
In this state of bondage, if I may so term it, the "tenass man" (infant) passed his infancy. He was fed, took his sleep, and carried on his mother's back by a strap passing around his mother's forehead; thus he got his fresh air and exercise.
The mother, in fact all the females, chewed gum. I have always credited our American cousins with having originated this beastly practice, but now I suppose the credit for the discovery belongs to the Songhees, who must have taught our friends, and then gave it up themselves. Groups of men may have been seen carving miniature canoes with carved Indians paddling in them, also totem poles and bows and arrows, while three or four Indians would be at work shaping a full-grown canoe which might possibly hold half a dozen Indians. It was very interesting watching them at work and many an hour I have spent watching them when a boy. The women, while their "papooses" were playing about, worked also. Many made fancy articles out of tanned deer hide, embroidered with pearl buttons and beads, moccasins mostly, and for which there was a good sale. They were worn for slippers. I have bought many pairs at fifty cents a pair. The blankets they wore were decorated with rows of pearl beads down the front, red blankets being the favorite color, as they showed off the pearl beads to advantage.
All these articles, as well as many others, such as game, fish and potatoes and fruits, wild, were brought to our doors, and at prices much below what such things could be bought now—grouse, 35c. to 50c. a pair; wild ducks, the same; venison, from 5c. to 8c. a pound by the quarter; potatoes, about 1-1/4c. pound; salmon, 10c. each; wild strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and bilberries, at about 5c. pound. Even "gumstick" for lighting fires was brought to the door at 10c. a bundle. Their cries as they passed the doors might be heard at all hours. "Ah! Culla Culla" (grouse and ducks), "Mowich" (venison), "Oolally" (berries), "Sooke Oysters," "Salmon" and "Cowichan potatoes." These oysters were small but very nice, and for twenty-five cents you would get a bucketful; also the same quantity of clams. "Ick quarter" or "King George" quarter (twenty-five cents), bought almost anything.
All these cheap foods were a godsend to early residents, and at the same time were fresh and wholesome. The men and the young women went out washing by the day, from seven to six o'clock, at fifty cents.
[Portrait: Songhees Reserve.]
The one drawback to them was their dishonesty. Small articles of clothing, towels and handkerchiefs were easily hidden under their clothing, so that a close watch had to be kept, and if suspected, they were searched. The chief of the Songhees tribe was "King Freezey." He might have been seen parading about town in a cast-off naval officer's uniform with cap to match, and he was very proud, as befitted such an august personage. When asked his name, ("ict micaa name") he would reply "Nica name, King Freezey, nica hyas tyee." ("My name is King Freezey; I am a great man.") This king of Songhees, after imbibing too freely of the ardent, was drowned by the capsizing of a canoe in the harbor, and so ended the life of a well-known personage.
That he left descendants is evident, as I see their names amongst those who got $10,000 each from the sale of the reserve. Compare these descendants with their grandparents. The former's native ignorance and simplicity, when their wants were simple and few, with their grandchildren of to-day, who must have everything their brother whites have, to modern houses and furniture, buggies, sewing machines, musical instruments, etc., and not forgetting a bank account, and last, but not least, post office boxes, and one may well wonder at the "evolution of the Songhees." More might be said, but for the present this must suffice.
Indian Burying Grounds.
Islands were favorite burying grounds among the Indians, probably from the protection the surrounding water furnished against the incursions of animals, and coffin islands may be found at different points around the coast. In Victoria harbor and the Arm both Coffin Island and Deadman's Island were used for this purpose within the memory of such old-time residents as Mr. R. T. Williams and Mr. Edgar Fawcett. Mr. Williams, whose memory goes back to the fifties, when he went to school from a shack on Yates Street opposite the site of the present King Edward Hotel, believes Colville Island may also have been used for this purpose as well, but distinctly remembers the trees and scrub on Deadman's Island and the fire on it described in the following account, which is kindly furnished by Mr. Fawcett. Mr. Fawcett writes:
"Like the Egyptians of old, the Indians of this country had professional mourners, that is, they acted as they did in Bible days. The mourners, usually friends or members of the same tribe, assembled as soon as the death was announced, and either inside or outside the house they (mostly women, and old women at that) kept up a monotonous howl for hours, others taking their places when they got tired. In the early sixties an execution of four young Indians took place on Bastion Square for a murder committed on the West Coast. All day and night before the execution took place the women of the tribe squatted on the ground in front of the jail, keeping up the monotonous howl or chant, even up to the time the hangman completed his task. After hanging the prescribed time, the murderers were cut down and handed to their friends, who took them away in their canoes for burial. In the earliest days, I don't think they used the regular coffin; the common practice was to use boxes, and especially trunks. Of course for a man or woman a trunk would be a problem to an undertaker, but the Indian solved the problem easily, as they doubled the body up and made it fit the trunk. For larger bodies a box was made of plank, but I do not remember seeing one made the regulation length of six feet, even for an adult, as they always doubled the knees under. A popular coffin for small people was one of Sam Nesbitt's cracker boxes. He was a well-known manufacturer of soda crackers and pilot bread, whose place of business will be remembered by many old-timers at the corner of Yates and Broad Streets.
"The Indians rarely dug graves for their dead, but hoisted them up in trees, tying them to the branches, or merely laid them on the ground, and piled them up on top of one another. In time they fell into the customs of their white brothers, and got coffins made by the undertaker, and many a time I have seen Indians carrying coffins along Government Street, down to the foot of Johnson, for their reserve."—E. F.
In 1861 Mr. Fawcett with four companions, all school-boys at the time, were bathing on Deadman's Island, and had lit a fire to warm themselves. Broken coffins were lying about, and piles of box coffins and trunks; these were set fire to, and the boys promptly made off to escape the wrath of the Indians, who, in those days, were numbered by hundreds. They made good their escape, and the whole island was swept by the flames—trees, scrub and coffins being burnt up. Since that time the island has remained in its present condition.
The Indians on the Songhees Reserve, also, Mr. Fawcett says, buried at two points on the reserve, but when the smallpox worked such havoc among them, the authorities insisted on the bodies being buried in soil, and when the removal of the Indians was accomplished a special amount was allotted to provide for the removal of the bodies elsewhere.—Editor.
VICTORIA THE NEW AND THE OLD.
I have been asked to tell of some of the changes that have taken place since Victoria, the fairest city of the West, commenced her career, viz., in 1858. I have produced several photos that explain a good deal without my help, but they may require explanation. As my endeavor shall be to give our visiting friends of the Methodist Church an insight into some of the changes in fifty years, I shall in the small space of time allowed me confine myself to events connected with the early history of the Methodist Church in Victoria, as I know them. Although not a member of their body I have claimed many of the founders of the church as my most intimate friends. There were Thomas Trounce and Mrs. Trounce, Edwin Donald and Mrs. Donald, Sheriff McMillan and Mrs. McMillan, Jonathan Bullen and Mrs. Bullen and Father McKay (as he was called by his friends in the church), and Mrs. J. W. Williams and Mrs. Lawrance Goodacre.
Of the pioneer clergy I well remember Dr. Robson, Dr. Ephraim Evans, Rev. Mr. Pollard and Rev. Mr. Derrick. Of these I best remember Dr. Evans, as having been here so many years with his wife, daughter and son. It will be remembered by old timers the sad story of his son's death by drowning which I will in a few words relate. He was very fond of gunning, and one afternoon in December he went off with his gun to shoot duck from the beach off Beacon Hill, which was the common practice in those days. Having shot one or two and not being able to get them any other way, he stripped off his clothes and swam out after them. This was a very bold thing to do, as the water is so cold there, and especially in December. It is supposed he got the cramps or got caught in the seaweeds where the ducks were shot from, and so was drowned. Not coming home at his usual time, search was made, and having been seen going to Beacon Hill, it was there the searchers found his clothes and gun on the beach that evening. The poor father seemed heart-broken, for he would not leave the spot, but walked up and down all night calling "Edwin! Edwin, my son!" In the morning they recovered the body under the seaweed. Great sympathy was felt for the parents, and I well remember the funeral on a snowy day, and the unusual number of friends who attended the funeral in the old Quadra Street Cemetery. The granite monument is still to be seen there.
In the view of Government Street in the early sixties here produced, may be seen marked with a X Theatre Royal. In this building, which then was used for theatrical productions, concerts and lectures, I heard the Rev. Morley Punshon, then president of the Wesleyan Conference, I think. He lectured on Macaulay, and was reciting from "Lays of Ancient Rome" when the fire bells rang, and in less than five minutes there were only a score or so left of his audience. He stopped an instant, proceeded, but finally stopped for good, saying that it was the first time he had ever had to stop one of his lectures for a fire. But when he was told that it might have been the home of any one of his audience and that it was the custom for citizens generally to assist the firemen (who themselves were volunteers), he continued his lecture to the end, and very interesting it was.
The first Methodist services were held in Judge Pemberton's police court room on Bastion Square until the church on lower Pandora Street was finished. This church was built on the corner of Broad and Pandora on land given by Governor Douglas, and was considered just outside the city (1859), the tall pine trees being much in evidence a couple of blocks away. In order to get to the church you had to pass over a gully with water at the bottom; a sort of trestle sidewalk on stilts was afterward constructed until the gully was filled in. At this date the Methodists had the most pretentious church in the city. The basement was used for Sunday School, prayer meetings and lectures. I must not forget the tea meetings which were given in those days. They were presided over by prominent ladies of the congregation—Mrs. Trounce, Mrs. Donald, Mrs. Bullen, Mrs. McMillan, Mrs. Spencer and Mrs. N. Shakespeare—and the admission to these "tea fights," as they were termed generally, was $1.50, and well patronized they were at that price. I attended many, and I think I can see now the tables spread with good things, and those sitting at them, nearly all of whom have passed away. We were early birds in those days. Entertainments commenced at six o'clock and all over at ten. By the large view of Government Street in 1858 it will be seen how it has progressed. It was not metalled until 1859, and nearly all the buildings were frame. The first brick is now to be seen on the corner of Courtney Street, the "Windsor Hotel." Where the Empress Hotel now stands, and all the land to the south and east, was the upper part of James Bay, and mudflats, and at times not very savory. It was not until late in 1858, or 1859, that a bridge connected the north and south sides of James Bay, people having to walk around the bay eastwards. The population of James Bay District was very sparse. Trails instead of streets ran in all directions. Belleville Street, that is now so thronged with passengers to and from the C.P.R. steamers every day, was not then in existence, for the beach reached to the trees in the front of the Parliament Buildings. Where the new Pemberton block now stands, down to the corner of Government Street, was an orchard and vegetable garden. Across the street where the Five Sisters Block stands was a vacant lot with a log hut in the rear where the Hudson's Bay Company baked bread for the citizens, four-pound loaves being twenty-five cents, and very good it was. From Mr. Harry Glide, who arrived in Victoria in 1856, and has lived near the Outer Wharf for fifty-four years, I have learned much of the condition of things previous to the inrush from California in 1858-1859. He says all James Bay District was covered with fir trees and all the land from the mouth of the harbor along Dallas Road to Beacon Hill was "Beckly Farm." He says there were quite a number of Cherokee Indians here, who came from their native place to the coast of British Columbia for work; most of them were over six feet and strongly built. It seems strange that they should have travelled so far from their homes for work. There were also many Kanakas here who came on vessels from Honolulu at odd times. They formed a small colony and located on Humboldt Street, then called Kanaka Row. I can remember them in 1859, one family attending Christ Church regularly. There are many buried in Old Quadra Street Cemetery. The first sheets of the Colonist were printed on the Hudson's Bay Company's wharf in a large shed or warehouse, and later on the paper moved to Wharf Street to about where the Macdonald Block now stands. This was fifty-two years ago, and our visiting friends can draw a comparison with what it then was, a small double sheet, to its Sunday issue of to-day, with its many illustrations. For the information of our visiting friends I might say that the Hudson's Bay Fort shown in the view of "Government Street in 1858," enclosed the two blocks running south from the corner of Bastion (the brass plate on the corner will show this) to the corner of Courtney and westwards to Wharf Street. In this fort all hands took shelter at night at the date of its erection. In 1858 and for years later, the fort bell rang at six o'clock in the morning, when the gates at the east and west ends were opened, and at six o'clock in the evening they were closed. There were two large general stores, and many storehouses and barns inside, and at the stores you could buy anything from a needle to an anchor, from a gallon of molasses to the silk for a dress. I might say a deal more, but it might not interest those for whom this sketch is written. As it is, there are many repetitions of what I have already written in the Colonist and Times during the last six years.
The Metropolitan Methodist Church.
To-day, February 13th, the Metropolitan Methodist Church celebrates the fifty-third anniversary of its foundation as a congregation. It was exactly fifty-three years ago yesterday that the first Methodist missionaries, sent out by the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Canada, then part of the English Wesleyan conference, landed in Victoria. They were Rev. Dr. Ephraim Evans, his wife and family; Rev. Arthur Browning, Rev. Ebenezer Robson and Rev. Edward White, who also brought his family, one of his little sons being Rev. Dr. White, to-day Superintendent of Methodist Missions in this province. Rev. Dr. Robson was married shortly after his arrival. Of the gallant little party who faced the hardships of the then comparatively little known West with such tranquility and courage, all have now passed to their rest, Dr. Robson, the last survivor, dying less than a year ago in Vancouver.
The missionaries were received by Mr. John T. Pidwell, father-in-law of Mr. D. W. Higgins, and entertained in his home until they could secure permanent quarters. The following Sunday, February 13, service was held for the first time in the courthouse, and Rev. Dr. Robson subsequently went on to Nanaimo, where he found Cornelius Bryant, a young schoolmaster, who enjoyed the distinction of being the first member of the Methodist Church to set foot in British Columbia. He afterwards entered the Methodist ministry and died a few years ago. Rev. Edward White was quartered in New Westminster, where he established Methodism, and Rev. Mr. Browning, after acting as evangelist at different coast points, became the pioneer Methodist missionary in the Cariboo country.
During the following August the corner-stone of the first Methodist church in Victoria was laid. The building was situated at the corner of Broad and Pandora Streets, and was afterwards known as the Pandora Street Methodist Church. The stone was laid by Governor Douglas, and the building was dedicated the following May. Its usefulness was considerably lessened, however, by the building of the Metropolitan Methodist Church in 1890, which claims the honor of being the mother church of Methodism in the province, as, though the Pandora Street edifice was built first, it was not used for church purposes alone. The first pastor of the Metropolitan Church congregation was Dr. Evans, who was assisted by Rev. Dr. Robson, Rev. Arthur Browning and Rev. D. V. Lucas and Rev. Coverdale Watson (whose widow is now living in Vancouver), who acted as pastor for two separate terms.
Of the pioneers of Methodism, the following families were prominent and whom I counted among my friends: The Trounces and Donalds we had known in California; Sheriff McMillan and family, Captain McCulloch, Mr. and Mrs. T. S. Bone, Mr. and Mrs. Humber, Mr. and Mrs. Norris, Alderman Kinsman, and Father McKay, as he was affectionately termed by his intimate friends. All these have gone to their rest. Of those who are still with us, hale and hearty, are Mrs. Bullen, Mrs. Capt. McCulloch, Mr. and Mrs. David Spencer, Mr. and Mrs. N. Shakespeare, Mrs. Carne, Mrs. Branch, Mr. and Mrs. Pendray, Mrs. John Kinsman, Isaac Walsh, and others I cannot remember. I have attended many tea meetings held in the basement of the old church, presided over by these pioneer ladies.
For this digital transcription, illustrations have been repositioned and page numbers in the table of illustrations have been omitted.
Minor punctuation errors have been emended without notice.
Corrections to original printed text:
Page Original Correction
7 Recolections Recollections 39 Johnston Street Johnson Street 79 1558. 1858. 108 Pfizenmeyer Pfitzenmayer 180 abroad aboard 256 peacable peaceable 291 Courtenay Courtney 292 Courtenay Courtney