"An Intimate Picture of Wilfred Campbell"

by Faith L. Malloch


 

Chapter III


How One of The Poetís dreams came true

I knew how this dream came true, at least in part, for we live our dreams mostly in the spirit and seldom realize them from a worldly standpoint. I went with my father on his third tour to England and Scotland. I was very young and inexperienced in those days, so I hope I may be forgiven for quoting the letters I wrote to my mother at the time, for sometimes things are better told through the medium of a fresh and impressionable mind. It was the great dream of my fatherís life to go and live in England, and be so situated there that he could in some way be of use to the mother country. Consequently he was always imagining some sort of means by which this might be accomplished. Some times, he would go back to the church and talk to the people from the pulpit, again he would run for Parliament and help his country that way, but neither seemed quite up to his ideal, which was a joint rule of the country by church and state. These were all dreams of a visionary world, but in them the poet lived and never gave up his hope. For the people whom he considered were traitors to their country he had no use what ever.

So you see when we sailed, my father and I, down the St. Lawrence to the sea on that wonderful day in June, it was with a great shining hope in our hearts. The poet thought that the world, especially Britain, still held people such as the ancient heroes of old who had lived and died for their country. To get in touch with these was the first step, and he was well armed with letters of introduction to people of power in the church and state. In a great many ways he was not disappointed in his people and though there never seemed to be a practical solution to his ideas, there was always the hope that the future might provide one. Thus the poet lived in his faith and vision.

On the 7th. of June 1906 we sailed on the "Virginian" of the Old Allan Line and in those days she was considered quite a fine ship. I shall never forget my first sight of the St. Lawrence river as we travelled down it to the sea. The weather was so fine that we were able to appreciate it in all its beauty and grandeur. My father was as happy as a boy in his enjoyment of it all under such cosy circumstances. The ship was a most wonderful experience to me, for I had never been on one before. When I descended to my state-room, which was down below deck, I had the most extraordinary feeling of being caged in the heart of the earth, and the rumblings of the shipís engines were the throbbings of her interior.

There were two other people from Ottawa on board, The Rev. Mr. and Mrs. MacKay. Mr. MacKay was so bright and amusing. My poor father was dreadfully seasick, and would not stay inside but paced the deck with his face buried in his cap and turned up coat collar. As the poet passed us sitting in our chairs Mr. MacKay called out "Stay, poet, stay and tarry here awhile" as he scribbled it on the back of his wifeís novel that she was reading. He made the poet answer (who really ignored him) ["]I canít, I canít, I must away and do another mile.["] It was amazing how quickly my father recovered, and made so many friends on the boat. He had such a good colour after, and looked so young that we were taken for brother and sister at times.

Here are some extracts from a letter I wrote to my mother from the ship and others written later:ó

"We have an exceptionally nice passenger list, and the Montreal people are charming, especially Lady Drummond. She is extremely kind, in fact so much so that her maid Margaret seems to think everybody is imposing on her and walks up and down keeping one eye on Lady Drummondís unoccupied deck chair. As Lady Drummond is not very well she does not appear on deck very often, but if anyone dare to make use of her chair, they are immediately dethroned by the watchful Margaret announcing, "That is Lady Drummondís chair."

                                                                                               London
                                                                                    June 15th./06.

"Dear Mamma:Ė
     Liverpool appeared gradually through a dirty fog, on a dull damp morning about eight oíclock, and we were feeling rather sad at parting with our friends on the ship, but I could not help seeing as I knew papa did too, through and beyond that fog to a London bathed in a glory of things to be. Some people would say we had on our rose tinted glasses. I was quite ill on Saturday and Sunday and papa was ill from Saturday till Tuesday, but we had a perfectly splendid time just the same. The Montreal people were so nice. Lady Drummond with her sister Miss Parker and Mr. Robertson Dean Moyse his wife and son, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Handyside and their daughter. Lady Drummond introduced herself and said she had special recommendations of papa from Lord Grey. Dean Moyse is a professor at McGill. Papa took quite a fancy to him. He and papa walked up and down the decks arguing and discussing things. You would hear their voices quite distinctly as they paced up and down. Dean Moyes is a fine looking man, and he wore a tweed cap with ear flaps that hung loose and fluttered in the wind in a most amusing fashion.
     Madam Albani the singer was on board too with Mr. Archdeacon, but she only appeared the last two days before we got to Liverpool. She asked me to spend a Sunday with her at her London house. We arrived in Liverpool this morning, and came ashore at 8:30. There was a special train to London for the passengers from the Virginian. I was sorry to say my good-bye to Lady Drummond and I do so hope I shall see her again. There are times in our lives when we meet people who draw us like rays of sunshine, in whose presence we feel a warm and happy glow; people who understand and sympathise, who have such a curve to their lips, and a smile about their eyes that denotes the possibility of a laugh so brave, true and tender, that in it we hear a call to God for Mercy on those who have no vision to see the quaint humour of things and have false values of life. Lady Drummond is like that only I am not sure about her always seeing the humour in things.
     The Hon. Colin Campbell and his wife from Winnipeg shared our compartment to London, and told us of some good lodgings to go to near the station. I shall never forget the noise and bustle of Euston station with its rattle of milk cans, the rumblings and whistleings of trains, and its general commotion."

([A]fter all these years I just have to close my eyes and I am back there again full of excitement, wondering what will happen at the end of our next journey[.])

I remember that boarding house in Upper Woburne Place, Tavistock Square, quite well. Twenty two years have probably made great changes there, but it was my first impression of London and its people. I have been in various other London lodgings since, where one was much more luxurious and private, and never knew necessarily who dwelt there besides oneself, but none of them had the same distinct English tone, or that air of genteel poverty about them. After two days at Mrs. Cís one knew everybody, and eventually their history. She only had a few boarders, and they were permanent Londoners mostly, not tourists like ourselves. We all ate at one large table in the dining-room, and had coffee upstairs in the drawing-room after. Mrs. C. was a clergymanís widow, and she and her daughter were trying to eke out their existence by running this London boarding house. They were rather more like caricatures of the Dickens type, than every day mortals. Mrs. C. was round and fat, and the daughter was tall and thin with a pinched look and spectacles on the end of her red nose. One evening after dinner one of the boarders, a young woman with a sad face, sang for us. She had a beautiful voice, and this was a sort of farewell party, for she was leaving the next day. We were told afterwards that hers was one of those sad cases, where she was the great hope of the family who thought she would one day be a prima donna, and had spent all their money in sending her abroad to study. Alas, even though she had a lovely voice, it was not sufficient for those engagements by which she had hoped to repay her benefactors. She had come all the way from the Southern States. This was told to us by one of the other lodgers, an elderly lady who had a weak looking son living there with her. He was a clerk somewhere in the city, and his mother was so hoping that somebody would give him a lift, that he would never get by his own efforts. All this was hinted at to my father in case he knew anybody of influence who might be persuaded to help the young man. She was a widow who had seen better days, poor dear.

My father had an idea of studying the people, and one night we walked up and down one of those streets where there are fruit stalls, pedlars and street artists who draw wonderful pictures on the pavement. We stopped to talk to some of them. I remember one Russian girl particularly telling us how she came to be in London. The pedlars were trying to sell roasted peanuts, shoe-laces, and every conceivable thing under the sun to people there under the gaslight. It was most interesting, and must have made my father feel that he would like to go farther afield, for the next night he announced that he was going to Petticoat Lane, but had better not take me. There was always a light supper of biscuits and cheese laid on the dining-room table for anybody who was hungry before retiring. My father had been gone sometime, the evening post had arrived, and I was in the dining-room eating biscuits, when the door bell rang. I heard a manís voice in the hall ask for Miss Campbell, then the maid told me that there was a man who wanted to see me. We had only been in London a few days, and so far had not communicated with any of our friends, so it could be no one I knew. I was frightened before I went into the hall, but when the man told me he was from the police station and wanted me to go and identify my father, who was there I was terrified. I had been warned not to go anywhere or have anything to do with strange men so I refused to go, and showed him letters on the table addressed to my father to prove his identity. By this time the landlady was in the hall, she had heard our voices, and the man retired expostulating. After a time a very much shaken and unnerved poet returned quite cured of slumming. It seemed that when he arrived in the dreadful district and started talking to the people and asking questions, some of the men became suspicious and then nasty and crowded round him. My father was frightened and started to run and was chased,óhence the policeman and the police station, where he was asked for his story.