Letters from Mabel to her sister

My dearest Tommie*

It was simply too lovely getting all your letters on Thursday. They comforted me tremendously although at the same time they made me dreadfully homesick. In fact everyone was more or less depressed that day. What with home letters and the influx of new people we were all fractious. We have come to the conclusion that decidedly all the best people come on board at London. Some of the others are awful bounders.

The girl in my cabin, Miss Dick Lander, and her father are the only decent ones. She is a dear little thing and I get on very well with her. The French counts and countesses are awfully droll and they can hardly talk a word of English. There is one awful woman whom we have christened the ‘Fine Animal’. She is large with very languishing eyes and a complexion which never varies and sits out on the deck after dinner, smoking.

Do you remember us noticing the honourable Mr Justice Webb and wondering if he were a relation of Will Webb? Well, it was so funny. He was brought up to me one day to be introduced and it appears that a relation of the Gillespys told him that I was going out in Rome and asked him to speak to me. The aggravating part is that he can’t remember who it was that told him. He thinks it was a Mrs Watts or a Colonel Campbell somebody or other. He is no relation of the Australian Webbs. He is very nice but apparently spends all his time in the Smoking room.

It was very jolly going through the Straits of Messina yesterday. It was rather windy and the sea rougher than we have had it yet. There were a good many empty places at meals but I struggled nobly through them all. The Captain says I am a capital sailor. I very often go for a walk up and down the deck with him before dinner.

We had waffles for breakfast today. Most delicious. Don’t you remember them in ‘What Katy did at School’? They are sort of pancakey things with golden syrup.

We have just had a service in the saloon. I am in the choir and have quite croaked myself hoarse. There is rather a nice little Australian parson on board. We had the hymn ‘For those at Sea’. I kept wondering last Sunday whether you would have it. This afternoon I think we are going into the Second Class for a short service.

This morning the sailors all paraded on deck for inspection. They were all dressed up in their best clothes, white cotton sort of garments and the most swell turbans.

It is getting much warmer now. They have put up double awnings but one can still wear a flannel shirt and a jacket sitting on deck. We are going to start sports on Monday and are also going to have a dance in the evening if it is smooth enough. I have gone in for nearly everything although I can’t play a bit. Deck Quoits, Deck Billiards, Egg and Spoon and Thread the Needle – in that, you have to enter with a man and Mr Haines (the nice Irishman) has asked me.

I am going to hang out my black frock on Monday. I have been wearing the yellow up to now. Nobody dresses very much.

I have been asleep nearly all the time since lunch. I don’t enjoy Sundays’s lunch at all. I want roast beef and baked potatoes instead of all the messy things they give you. In fact I am sick of all the meals, everything is so made up.


I find I can’t write much. It makes my head feel so funny after a very few minutes. The stewardess says it often affects people like that. I don”t think I ever felt so lazy in all my life. I suppose it is the effect of having nothing to do.

It is quite hot today. It seems so ridiculous that it is December. I know I shan’t feel a bit like Xmas. I shall think of you eating lovely beef and horseradish sauce while I expect I shall have messy curries and things. I don’t know whether the sea air is too strong or what but I have not felt hungry much since I came on board, except at tea time of course.

Next time I write I will be able to tell you all about the sports and the dance. I do hope they are going to be nice. I must finish this up today as we are getting into Port Said at nine o’clock tomorrow. Mr Couts is leaving at Port Said. We are so sorry as he is very nice, awfully like Charlie Davies, just the same sort of mouth and he says he is very shy though you would never think so.

Mind you all have a good time at Christmas. I am very glad that I shall only just have seen George by then as I shan’t have had time to think much of being away from everybody. I am already thinking of what a lovely Xmas we will have when we have come home again.

Tell Maud to cheer up. Time does go, although it crawls.

Heaps of love to all, from Mab

*Nickname for Mabel’s sister, Amy.



3 thoughts on “Letters from Mabel to her sister

  1. Come on Mabel, don’t be shy & tell us about the ‘awful bounders’!
    Keep wondering if a romance is brewing with the Captain, but then remember this is real life and not fiction…

  2. Yes, I want to know more about the bounders too. And the droll French counts and countesses, even if they don’t speak English. As for the Captain, Mabel is engaged to George who she is going out to marry in Ceylon. But I reckon he has taken a shine to our Mabel. I like to think he is a father figure as she has lost her dad. But it does get lonely at sea…

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