sophieduffy

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Letters from Mab

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Veyangoda
January 16th 1900

Dearest Tommie

George is going to write to Mother so I may as well to you. He is telling her all about our going to Horekelly (Hor-re-kelly it is pronounced). It is rather exciting, isn’t it? I am very glad we are going at once rather than settling down here for a few months and then having to move. The packing cases finally arrived yesterday. They have been at the Bois’ bungalow till we came back from honeymoon. We have unpacked the big case, but are only going to open the things we actually want as there is no place to keep them here properly. We should have to get a cupboard made if we were going to stay here so as to keep some things under lock and key. But George says the natives around here are really very honest, and the ‘boy’ is perfectly to be trusted and so I think are the others.

Our household consists of the ‘boy’, he is head factotum and a most important personage, but I am not so frightened of him as I was and I think he is rather scared of me. He speaks and understands English very well, I am thankful to say. Then there is a kitchen coolie, who washes up and sweeps etc, and a small youth whom the boy is training for house-work. He does all odd jobs. There may be another coolie or two – I fancy there is a bath coolie – but I don’t see them and I expect their wages are under a rupee a week. I don’t have any ordering or anything of that sort to do, unless I want things attuned. The boy keeps his weekly bills very well and things are wonderfully cheap. Beef is about 6d a lb and mutton 3d. Fish and poultry are also very cheap but I have not learnt their prices yet.

I had almost forgotten my birthday. Thank you and Mother very much indeed for the book. I have read it already and like it immensely. Also please thank Jack for the diary, I mean to keep it most religiously and thank the aunts very much for their card, it was so jolly getting them all. They came on the 10th or at least we found them when we came home that day from Colombo, so it was just right. George gave me a most sweet moonstone brooch set in silver. My mail has just been sent up from the mill so I must leave this off to read the letters. There are eight. Isn’t it lovely?

Later
I have been enjoying myself wading through my correspondence. Yours is a most lovely long one but, oh, my dear, I don’t like it at all. It is wretched for you and every one, how did they all manage to get ill at once? Poor old Mater, I do feel sad when I think of her. I wonder what has made her rheumatism so bad, it does seem a shame. If only that beast of an Edith had not been such a fool, it would not have taken so much out of her. I do hope she will soon be better and the aunts, poor old things! I wish I could waft you a little of our heat. But it is really not so very bad here. I don’t suffer at all, but of course this is not the hottest time. It will be worse in Feb and March. The worst part of the day is between 1 and 3, then I generally retire to my bedroom, and shed most of my clothes and lie on the sofa and read. It is best not to sleep as you wake up so frightfully hot. At 5 o’clock George and I play tennis or badminton. I am getting quite a dab at the latter. We don’t play for very long, only about three quarters of an hour. I get in an awful state of heat but I always have my bath as soon as I have cooled down which makes me feel considerably better. It is the only exercise I get and it does me a lot of good. Mr Masefield comes over to play too. He is not at all a bad little man. Very fat and very energetic. He is awfully sorry we are going as he can’t bear Mr Harbor who is coming from Horkelly.

One good thing there is that the bungalow is better. It is a two storied one and that is a great preventive of fever. I shall describe it to you when we get there as I don’t know much what is is like now.

Such a dreadful thing happened here yesterday. The Superintendent Mr Poulier, a man about 56, hanged himself in his bungalow quite close to the mill. Mr Masefield found him about 4 o’clock. He went to see where he was as he had not been back since breakfast. George had come home at 4 to have tea with me for a treat and we had just finished when an excited native came to fetch him. Of course he took off at once. They had sent for a doctor but he could do nothing as he had been dead half an hour or more. It was so extraordinary, as I had been over the mill in the morning, and Mr Poulier was so pleased to see me and came all round with George and I, talking and explaining things, and I liked him very much. George and Mr Masefield had to have a row with him a little while ago as he had been getting very slack in his work, and the head office had been complaining. They think this must have preyed on his mind and they also have found out he has been drinking a great deal. His ‘boy’ said he drank a bottle and a half of whiskey yesterday, if so, it must have made him quite mad, I should think. But he was all right when we left him at 11. The mill is not working today and a man from the office in Colombo has come over. George is going to bring him (Mr Norman) back for breakfast. I hope he will be nice. It has rather upset George, as he was fond of the old man and of course it was a shock. We are both glad we are going away.

Wednesday
George has had a holiday today as Mr Poulier was buried this morning. It is very hot this afternoon so we have been reading in our bedroom in a state of ‘dishabille’ and now are going to have tea and wedding cake. It is most delicious. We cut it on Monday night at dinner. I am sending some to a few people, George’s friends and some of the ‘Rome’ boys and girls.

Just had tea and we feel much better. We are going into Colombo tomorrow by the 10.20. We shall have breakfast at the G.O.H, do some shopping, and then go to the Bois to say ‘good-bye’ to Maggie etc.

With much love to all, hoping to hear next mail that all the invalids are better.

Kisses from Mab

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3 thoughts on “Letters from Mab

  1. Thanks for sharing Mab’s adventures.They certainly give a lovely peek into times past. Can’t wait to read the next one Sophie.

  2. So pleased to learn we’re still getting Mab’s letters now she’s arrived & married. What a tremendous insight to that period and culture.
    I just love her voice – when I read these in my head I hear Kitty, one of the innocent young nurses from BBC’s The Crimson Field (did you watch that?). There are no airs and graces she just tells it as she sees it.

  3. Yes, I did watch it. You are right! She does sound very much like Kitty.

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