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Bonus chapter 3: The ocean escape

All passengers were to be checked in on board by eight o’clock in the morning on the day of sailing. Henry and his family were at the gates at seven thirty with bags in hand. They were ready for the big adventure to begin. Henry was nervous nonetheless. He was sure that on the trip to the Teutonic’s dock, he had observed one of the Tower gang’s members hanging around a nearby street corner. He felt confident, though, that they hadn’t been spotted, but it was cause for concern in any event. The Bruce family hurried onto the ship and out of sight of anyone down below on the docks. They were given their cabin number by the purser and would stay behind the closed cabin door until they were out at sea. At two o’clock in the afternoon, as advertised, the ship pulled away from the dock at Liverpool. Before long the huge ship was clearing the harbour shipping lanes on its way to the open Atlantic.

The day couldn’t have been nicer. The sun was shining and even though it was cold, as most days in December are, the cabin was surprisingly warm and comfortable. The sea was fairly calm and the new passengers could hear the sound of seagulls following the ship. Winifred and Roland had been told what was happening. Emma had made it sound like it was a planned event, a chance at a new beginning and had made no mention of the trouble that their father was in. They were told of the new land where they were moving to and what they could expect once they got there. The two kids were excited about all that they had been told. For now, though, they wanted to get out of the cabin and start exploring the ship. After the ship had been an hour at sea, they were allowed to do just that.

The police that day conducted several raids in the early morning hours on residences where the Tower Gang members were known to live. Of course, they were looking for Tony or ‘Leather Gloves’. He had been on their watch list since the interviews with some of the prostitutes in the area of Whitechapel. The girls had related that a gang member had been extorting them and had described him. The plan had worked in that the gang was so preoccupied with the police that the last people on their minds were the Bruce family. This was a major lesson for Henry.

Never again would he put his family’s lives in jeopardy. He was a changed man and would give up any type of betting in the future.

Emma and Henry took a tour of the ship to find out where all the amenities were. There were two dining areas, one for first class and one for the steerage passengers. Also of interest was the sick bay for medical treatment, the library, laundry and some facilities and playrooms for children. Information pamphlets were also given out to instruct everyone what to do if an emergency should arise. They outlined where the lifejackets were kept and what lifeboat their cabin was assigned to, their steward’s name and what services they could expect.

All passengers were assured of the safe sailing record of the Teutonic and the experience of the captain and crew. The captain was Henry Parsell R. N. R. who was a man of fifty-six years old having spent most of his life at sea.

At last, the family could relax and start to make plans for their future. Over the next few days, Emma and Henry were able to discuss what they would like to do once they were settled in Toronto. Emma was adamant about the children going to school if at all possible. This had been impossible in London as the cost of an education was far too great for the Bruce’s to afford, but they thought maybe things would be different in Canada.

Before leaving London, Henry had had a talk with his father George. He told him what had happened. George was concerned, but understood and offered any assistance that he could give. George was able to then tell Henry of his uncle Thomas which was of great help. Thomas was also a tanner by trade. According to George, Thomas had worked in a hotel when he first moved to Toronto, someplace called the Gladstone Hotel. George was certain that Thomas could either find Henry a job as a tanner or at least get him a job in the Hotel.

Emma had aspirations of her own. If the children could be enrolled in school that would leave Emma free to get a job of her own, something she had never had. Young girls in London had only one opportunity at work, which was to be a live in maid with another family. Now that Emma was starting this new life, she hoped she could maybe work in a store, bakery, or some other kind of interesting work. In any event, at last, the future held promise. She had also heard that land and in particular houses were cheaper in Canada. Maybe, just maybe, she and Henry could afford a house in a few years, which was something she had always wanted.

Emma and Henry had lost two children in London due to the Flu epidemic, which had been devastating for both of them. The mortality rate in London was terrible to say the least. One in five babies died within the first year of life. Although, they had been blessed with two beautiful children, Emma always regretted not having had one more. Maybe Canada would be a healthier place to have children. Emma wasn’t getting any younger, at thirty-five years of age, the time for having children was quickly coming to an end.

Henry made a point of getting to know some of the other men in steerage. He was interested in knowing what lay ahead in Halifax and then Toronto. This whole situation had been thrust upon the Bruce family in such a short time that it was only now that Henry realized how little he knew about Canada let alone Toronto. Usually a man who is moving his family such a long distance has done his due diligence on the new location. The only thing that he was sure of was that Canada was a British colony with a similar type of government so they would speak English and would have the same religious beliefs. These facts put Henry at ease and confidant that he and Emma had made the right decision to move there.

He had heard that Canada was a very big country and cold. He, therefore, had many questions that he needed answers for such as how far it was from Halifax to Toronto? How would they get to Toronto and how long would it take? Where could they stay in Halifax? So many questions… Before leaving London, Henry had written a letter to his uncle Thomas. In the letter he had explained the circumstances in which he and Emma now found themselves. He explained that they were on their way so could not wait for a return letter and had no idea when they would get to Toronto. He asked if it would be all right if they contacted him when they got there. He explained that he would need to get a job preferably in his trade as a tanner.

Two days out and the Bruce family had settled in to a regular routine. The first day aboard ship was spent unpacking and becoming aware of their surroundings. Dinner had been pleasant. The family ate a good meal consisting of a form of Shepherd’s Pie made with pork and vegetables. Dessert was a plain vanilla cake. For the adults, there was ale with dinner and coffee or tea with dessert. The children drank milk. The evening was spent in their cabin discussing the day’s events. The children had met other kids going to Canada. After talking with them, they were even more excited about the trip. They had heard stories of the huge amounts of snow that fell every year, and how children in Canada skate on frozen lakes and ponds. This made Henry and Emma wonder if the clothing they had brought with them would be warm enough. They were sure they could afford to buy warmer coats and footwear once getting to Halifax.

Talking to some of the passengers as well, the primary topic of discussion was the mode of transportation to go from Halifax to Toronto. Henry discovered that around 1885, the Canadian Pacific Railway had completed a transcontinental rail system, which went all the way from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. The rail line had apparently been built by blasting through huge rocks — something called the Canadian Shield. These were huge rocks left behind by the last ice age. The other passengers Henry talked with were also unsure of how long the train trip would take. Judging from the distance to be covered, they all agreed that the trip would take at least two to three days to get to Toronto. It would take the travelers up the Atlantic seaboard, along the St. Lawrence waterway for a distance, then to Quebec City and down to Lake Ontario, which it would follow into Toronto. The trip promised to be both beautiful and uncomfortable at the same time. Train rides could be cold and breakdowns were common, but the scenery would be awe-inspiring.

Wildlife apparently was in abundance all along the journey. Animals that the Bruce family had only heard of such as Moose, Black Bear, Porcupine, Coyote, Beaver and Mink not to mention the assortment of birds that would be seen. The snow-covered countryside would be like none other they had ever seen either. As an added bonus, they all spoke about Canada’s clean air. This would be a pleasant change from the polluted air of London. The pollution came from the burning of coal both for industrial and residential purposes. The Bruce family had already noticed the change in the air, how it smelled so good compared to back home.

Emma too talked with the other ladies on board so was told that Canada was backward in a lot of ways, especially, when one is away from the big cities such as Toronto and Montreal, compared to London, but Emma had expected as much. She was told of the abundance of the fruit and vegetables available from local farmers and markets. She was also told that because Canada was a relatively new country the people still had a pioneering mentality, which meant most people were more than willing to help their neighbours.

Most of the ladies that Emma spoke with were going out of the Toronto area, where there was still plenty of good land available for farming. Their husbands were looking at settling land as it was very cheap to buy and a good living could be made there. Henry and Emma had never discussed this possibility, but she thought that maybe it deserved their consideration. In any event, the picture being painted for Emma was one of a beautiful country where food was plentiful and the people kind and helpful. It also sounded as if there would be no dog racing tracks!

“But what about Indians?” Emma asked in a concerned tone.

One of the other ladies answered, “Yes there are Indians, but they aren’t wild like they used to be. They live in the north and really don’t bother anyone.”

The ladies all muttered, “Thank god!” and chuckled.

Emma also learned that Toronto had very good government run schools and universities; there was even a well-known art school that Winifred could attend. Children were required to attend school at least until their sixteenth birthday. Emma also learned of the large department stores in the big cities easily accessible by streetcar. After hearing all this new information, Emma felt good about their new adventure.

While still at sea, Emma had something she had to tell Henry. So she waited until they were alone in their cabin and then told him. She said that a man in first class had made unwanted advances toward her soon after they had got under way from London. He had introduced himself as Sir Edward Cotton of Birmingham. She went on to say that he would confront her whenever he saw that she was alone in the lounge.

Several times he offered to buy her a drink or at least a cup of tea, which Emma refused. He had been persistent, even though, she had made it clear that she was a married woman with two children. To this, he replied that he could do a lot for her artistic endeavours and that he knew people who would pay handsomely for her drawings and or paintings. “After all,” he said, “I am very well placed with very influential friends.” You and I could be really good friends, if you know what I mean. Emma told Henry she was quick to walk the other way if she saw this man coming.

Then she said, “The last time I saw him was yesterday. I was alone in the lounge when he walked in, came over to where I was sitting and started in on me again. He said he couldn’t get me out of his mind and what a lovely face I had and that my body was very nice too. With that the blighter put his hand down the front of my blouse and grabbed me. I jumped up and hit him with the book I had been looking at. I screamed at him and called him every name I could think of. He seemed startled at first and then said did I know who I was talking to. I tried to kick him, but he deflected the blow. Then before walking away, he told me I was just London trash and not worth his attention.”

Henry became furious. He had heard of incidents such as this with the elite class. He determined he had to be careful if he and Emma went to the captain to complain, as it could backfire on them. The word of a first class person would be taken over that of people from steerage class. As if Henry didn’t have enough on his mind… this had to happen. He could not let it go, though, “this aristocratic son of a bitch had to be taught a lesson


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