Letter from Mab

Here is the latest letter from Mabel to her mother back in Croydon.

April 9th/00

My dearest Mother

We are still stewing slowly but surely. I really am beginning to feel quite limp, but it can’t last much longer. Every evening it clouds over and it looks as if it were going to be a tremendous storm and then it slowly clears away again. But one of these evenings it will give the most enormous ‘bust’ and then we shall have plenty of rain for a few days. What makes it worse here is the glare of the sand. Wherever you look on the ground you see nothing but this white sand and it gets most annoying after a time. Of course there is plenty of green because there are such heaps of trees, but it would be so nice to have grass on the ground.

We went for a very jolly trip in the launch yesterday afternoon, starting at 2.30 and getting back at 6.30. We went up the canal and through one big lake then up another bit of canal and halfway across another big lake but that was full of weeds which got twisted round the propellor so we had to stop. We have got oars for the boat when the water is too weedy to steam but it is very hard work and wants strong men. We got nearly as far as Chilan, our nearest town, but we had to turn back as it was getting late and of course it is dark soon after six.

There are man-eating crocodiles in the swampy parts. We have not seen one yet but a man had his hand bitten off yesterday by one at Madampe which is only two miles away. George called me down this morning to see a young crocodile that some boys had caught, such a beastly looking thing, 3 or 4 feet long. They had its mouth propped open with a bit of wood to prevent its snapping. It pretended to be half dead, but Mr Van Boot says they are awfully artful and do it on purpose to put you off your guard. They had a piece of rope tied round its neck and they put it in the canal and let it swim about. If one of them had gone in the water, it would have made for them at once.

The mills are closed this week, they won’t be open till next Monday. The Bhuddists have a big festival at the beginning of the week. It is their New Year, so none of them would come to work, and of course the Roman Catholics would not come at the end of the week so they think it better to close altogether. The people here are all either Bhuddists or Roman Catholics, hardly any Protestants.

George and I have decided not to go away for Easter but to wait and go later on. For one thing it will either be very hot or very wet in Colombo and in either case we should not be able to do much and also staying at an hotel of course is fairly expensive, and although the Orient Co. paid for our actual moving, still there were a good many things we did for ourselves. So with one thing and another there are sone fairly big bills to pay off this month. It will be much nicer to go presently and have a ‘bust’ with a clear conscience. I don’t think it would do either of us much good to go to Colombo now as it is dreadfully hot there and the bedrooms at the G. O. H. would be quite unbearable. Here we always get a breeze however hot it is and when the monsoon bursts the wind will be S.W. and will blow straight from the sea which is only a few miles away.

George will be able to take things easy this week, although I think he wants to do something to the engine. Still he will have plenty of time to lazy about and the rest will do him good as his work is very worrying and he is beginning to get a bit done up with the heat. He has been taking Eno pretty regularly and I am also making him take quinine. I took some this morning as I had a headache. I think I was in the sun too much yesterday although the awning to the boat is very thick and I had my sunshade up as well. The sun is pretty well exactly overhead now at noon and between about 8am and 5pm it is dangerous to be out in it without a thick head covering.

I shan’t be able to get any butterflies until I go to Colombo as I want to get the ‘Killing Bottle’ myself. I don’t like to risk sending for it by post as they are sure to send something wrong.

It will be very horrid having Good Friday and Easter Sunday with no church. I have not heard yet that they are going to have any service. I wish they would but am afraid it is impossible.

Oh, how you would hate the ants and other insects, they are everywhere. I have to wrap the Pomade in wax paper and then it doesn’t keep them out entirely. They would soon eat it all up if they got the chance. I don’t mind them so long as they don’t bite, but there is a very tiny sort that give you nips that quite make you jump. I am a martyr to heat bumps now. They come up all over my hands and arms almost as bad as mosquito bites. I think perhaps it is the iron in the water, and when we get some rain it will be better.

Breakfast is ready and George is rampagious* so I must be off.

Lots of love and kisses to everybody

Your very affectionate daughter


I signed myself Mabel Gibson in two letters the other day. It is very difficult to get out of it.

*Violent and boisterous; unruly. From rampage. Originally Scottish. (Who knew. Not me.)


2 thoughts on “Letter from Mab

  1. Love hearing about Mab’s adventures.She must have been quite courageous to travel to Ceylon at the turn of the century.Thanks for sharing Sophie.Please keep them coming, they are truly delicious to read.

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