Letter from Mabel, 21st December 1899

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SS Rome
Thursday, December 21st

My dearest Mother

Not much longer to wait now, but the days do crawl. I can’t a bit realise that I am going to see George in three days. I suppose it will dawn on me soon and I shall be wildly excited by the time Sunday comes. I had a letter from George at Aden and also one from Maggie. She is coming to Colombo on the Friday to do some shopping and then she and Mr Bois and George and I will all go up by the 7 o’clock train on Xmas morning and we shall arrive at their house in nice time for dinner. It seems rather a shame to cut up their Xmas day, but she is awfully kind and does not seem to mind.

Mr Haines bought me such lovely feathers at Aden with his share of the prize money. Wasn’t it nice of him? There are four bunches, one of white, three of natural. The only drawback is that they are all quite straight and flat. I don’t know whether I shall be able to get them curled at Colombo. The Captain says they are worth the money he gave for them. I am going to send some home to Amy when I am sending a parcel. They might come in for something or other.

We all felt very sad on Monday when all our various soldier boys left us. We had quite an affecting parting. Mr Renny got quite chokey. He and I have been such chums. There is hardly anybody nice of the male sex left except Mr Haines. The first officer Mr Bruce is an awfully nice man, and the doctor and purser are both jolly fellows, quite youthful specimens. I don’t know any of the other officers except the fifth. He looks after the library and we have great fun with him.

There are two very nice Australian girls, Miss Way and Miss Stirling. The latter is most comic and we never know what she is going to say next. We played cricket yesterday and the day before, mixed teams, and it is rather good fun. I have proved the champion bat, much to my amazement. I made 24 on Monday and got too excited for words.

Maggie said in her letter that she thought we should be married on Wednesday the 27th. It does seem close now and I can’t quite believe it. I have a dreadful sinking sort of feeling every now and then when I begin to think how far I am away although generally I only feel as if I were just staying away for a time. I think when I get on shore I shall begin to take it in more. Life on board is so messed up somehow that one’s thoughts won’t flow properly. And we are all so terribly lazy, it is quite dreadful.

I shall be very glad to get on shore and have a more comfortable bed. Mine is like lying on wood, it is so hard ad lumpy. My bones quite ached at first. Both the bed and the pillows are stuffed with horse hair, so you can imagine what it is like.

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Tuesday, December 26th

Well, Mother dear, here I am safe and sound and in a state of excitement too great for words. It is so lovely seeing George again and he has not altered a bit, just a scrap thinner, that is all. We had a most awful time landing on Monday night. We did not get in till past nine and it was simply pouring with rain, thundering and lightening as well. George and Mr Bois came to fetch me. It was too wet for Maggie especially as it was so late. We managed to get my big trunk all right but I had to go down in the pelting rain to pick it out. We finally got on shore about eleven o’clock and got to the Bois house at 11.30. I had put on my clean blue print and it was absolutely filthy when I arrived. We came up here by the seven o’clock yesterday morning and got here about 5 o’clock. It is three quarters of an hour’s drive from the station. This is a jolly house and all the furniture and everything is perfect.

We are going to be married tomorrow at one o’clock, quite quietly I am thankful to say. Then we are going to stay up here for about a fortnight. George has taken a little house a few miles away. It is called ‘Elephant’s Nook’, why I can’t imagine. We went over to see it this morning and it is a dear little place, quite hidden away. George’s ‘boy’ has come up to this house and will take charge and look after everything, so I shall not have anything at all to do with the housekeeping, unless he suggests anything I don’t like. He was there this morning and filled me with awe and admiration. I know I shall be dreadfully frightened of him.

I have just been unpacking and looking at my clothes and they all look satisfactory, so be sure you let Kate know as it will ease her mind. My hats are also all right, the feathers hardly a scrap out of curl. I am wearing my check coat and skirt here as it is quite cool enough for it. I am going off in my white alpaca tomorrow.

It was quite affecting saying goodbye to the Captain and everybody on Monday. I had the chief and fourth officers and Purser to see me off, nearly all the passengers had gone. Mr Bois had a special launch so we did not go with the others, and we were so late because of my box. I was the only one who got any heavy luggage. It was so delicious! Mr Bois passed the box with the silver teapot inside it through customs as a Christmas pudding, wasn’t it cute? He did not know what was in it so said the first thing that came into his head.

Well, I must say goodbye now. Thank you and everybody for the calendars and cards. We were very delighted to have them. We drank to ‘absent friends’ last night at dinner. All the children sat up for it. Gwinnie is such a duck, tell Lottie she is simply sweet. I will write next mail and tell you everything. I feel too topsy turvy today to think much. Maggie has got another wedding cake. We could not possibly get more.

Goodbye, kisses and love to everybody, from Mab.

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