A Little Town and a Little Girl

New Neighbours

As I first remember it, James’ Bay district had many fields and plenty of wooded land left, but houses began to creep nearer and nearer to ours and the fields were being cut up into town lots. I was very sorry when Bishop Cridge’s big, wild field opposite us was sold. The Bishop’s house sat back in a little bit of wood with an orchard and two fields. His driveway curved and had laurels and little bushes of yellow roses all the way up. We children used to play “ladies” in the Bishop’s wild field with his three little girls. Being the youngest of the six children I could never be a “lady”—I had always to be “bad child”, while the play mothers fed me on green gooseberries, wild and very sour.

The Bishop’s house was built some time after Father’s. The street was very narrow and in that one long block from Toronto to Simcoe Street there was only his house and ours. Father gave a good strip of his land to make the street wider; so the City named it Carr Street after Father. Carr Street would have joined Birdcage Walk if Mrs. McConnell’s cow farm had not stood in the way, and Birdcage Walk would have been Government Street if the James’ Bay Bridge had not been there to get people over the mud flats. After many years Government Street swallowed them all—James’ Bay Bridge, Carr Street and Birdcage Walk—and went straight out to Dallas Road.

One day when we were playing “ladies” in the Bishop’s field and I, the “baby”, was being hidden in the bushes from the ferocious wild beast which ate children but which was really the Bishop’s gentle cow “Colie”, some men climbed over the fence. They had instruments on three legs which they set beside the road and squinted through. They came right into our mock-orange parlour and our gooseberry-bush dining-room. They swept the tin cans which had furnished our kitchen from our own particular log and sat down upon it and wrote in little books. They even tore pickets off the fence. The cow was taken to another enclosure, wagons dumped lumber and bricks all over the field. Soon real houses stood on top of our pretend ones, real ladies smacked real babies and pushed prams right on top of where our fun had been, and Mother was sending us across to ask if the new neighbour would like pots of tea or anything till her own stove was up.


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This work (The Book of Small by Emily Carr) is free of known copyright restrictions.