“Why do I think so many young Englishmen fail to make good settlers?” he repeated, changing my question a little. “Because, up to a few years ago, the wrong kind of people came. The only young Englishmen who came up to a few years ago were no-goods, who had failed at home. They were the kind of city scrubs who give up a job when it is hard and then run for free meals at the soup kitchen. There aren’t any soup kitchens out here, and when they found they had to work before they could eat, they cleared out and gave the country the blame. Men who are out of work half the time at home get into the habit of depending on charity keeping them. When you are a hundred miles from a railroad town, there isn’t any charity to keep you out here; you have to hustle for yourself. But there is a different class of Englishmen coming now. The men coming now have worked and want to work.”
And yet—at another point a hundred miles from settlement I came on a woman who belonged to that very type that ought never to emigrate. She was a woman picked out of the slums by a charity organization. She had presumably been scrubbed and curried and taught household duties before being shipped in a famous colony to Canada. The colony went to pieces in a deplorable failure on facing its first year of difficulties, but she had married a Canadian frontiersman and remained. She wore all the slum marks—bad teeth, loose-feeble-will in the mouth, furtive whining eyes. She was clean personally and paraded her religion in unctuous phrase; but I need only to tell a Canadian that she had lived in her shanty three years and it was still bare of comfort as a biscuit box, to explain why the Dominion regards this type as unsuitable for pioneering. The American or Canadian wife of a frontiersman would have had skin robes for rugs, biscuit boxes painted for bureaus, and chairs hand-hewn out of rough timber upholstered in cheap prints. But the really amazing thing was the condition of her children. They were fat, rosy, exuberant in health and energy. They were Canadians. In a decade they would begin to fill their place as nation makers. Back in England they would have gone to the human scrap heap in hunger and rags. Ten years of slums would have made them into what their mother was—an unfit; but ten years of Canada was making them into robust humans capable of battling with life and mastering it.