The Grand Oriental Hotel, Colombo

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The Grand Oriental Hotel
Colombo
July 2nd 1900

Dearest Tommie

Oh, what a day we’re ‘aving and oh so cheap, or rather it is dear at the price. You will see we are down here in the centre of civilisation again, although we did not in the least intend to come. Money was wanted and Mr Vandort was coming down for it, but at the last minute they wired from the office to say they would prefer George to come as they wanted to see him about something. So off we started gaily on Friday morning at 6.30 in the launch. We came along very well till we got about 7 miles from Negombo, then we found the water very low and we kept sticking and sticking. We first got stuck in a lagoon and a lot of boatmen shoved and hauled us off, then a little further on we got aground again and finally when we got into the canal again, we found it quite hopeless as the water was dreadfully low and the boat stuck fast. Luckily we were near a little village and the men there said the water would rise in about 2 hours but we could not possibly stick there and wait on the chance of getting off, as it was 11 o’clock and frightfully hot.

So out we got, bag and baggage, and we managed to get a little bullock cart, on the floor of which I sat, enthroned and surrounded by our luggage, with my feet hanging out the end. There was no room for George so he had to walk nearly 3 miles to another village where we got a bigger cart and we finally go to Negombo at 1 o’clock. We had left the boat in the charge of Jeremiah and the boy who had come up to see his family. George sent someone down to help bring up the boat when the water rose. It arrived about 5 o’clock in a most grievous plight as it had sprung a leak and was 3 inches deep in water. The Boy’s expression was killing; it was so lachrymose. I don’t think he will ever want to come in the boat again. Of course we had to stay the night at Negombo and come on in the coach on Saturday morning. The launch will have to come up here and be thoroughly repaired. It has always let in water a little and George thinks it had been strained somewhere, then getting stuck so badly has finished it off.

I thought when we really got here safe and sound that our troubles were over, but alas, no. We got here about 10.30 and George went off to the office to see Mr Horner. He also found that the man from london, Mr Clarke, has arrived and will very likely come back with us tomorrow. After tiffin we went to Mount Lavinia to get a sea blow but it was rather hot. We had tea there and got back about 7. I think the train journey is the nicest part as it runs along quite close to the sea and is deliciously breezy. It is almost too close to the sea for safety as in some places it comes within an inch or two of the line and George thinks they will have to move it farther back soon.

Well we had dinner and went peaceably to bed, but at 4 o’clock George woke up and was awfully bad. It began with diarrhoea and then sickness thrown in, first one and then the other. At 7 o’clock he was horribly bad. He shook as if he had the ague and was a sort of grey colour. I was frightened and thought he was in for fever so I sent off for the doctor. There is one who lives in the hotel but he is away just now so I sent for Dr Thomas, the man George went to about his boils. It was rather funny. George saw him and brought him to see me in the hotel on Saturday. He is a very nice man. He lives some way off and he sent back an answer to say he could not come for an hour or two as he was obliged to go a long way in the opposite direction but he told me to give George a dose of Chlorodyne. I did not get his answer till nearly 10 so if George had not got better before then, I should have been in a fright. However about 8 the pain began to get better and he left off being sick. Poor boy, he did have the most awful pain, it simply doubled him up. I began to have awful visions of dysentery and cholera. I got him some arrowroot and he went to sleep for a little while, quite worn out. When the doctor came, he said it was very likely caused by the change of air and sleeping in the wind with his bed close to the window.

Horekelly air is very dry, and here it is damp, and although it was perfectly still and very close when we went to bed, about 2 o’clock a little breeze springs up and being fast asleep, it gave him a chill. Also he had one or two iced drinks, which of course he is not used to, and they may have upset his tummy. His temperature was just over 100 so he had to keep in bed all day and exist on slops. They do all those sorts of things very nicely here. They sent up delicious chicken broth and corn flour and arrowroot. He felt very done up all day and did not want to get up a bit till the evening when he began to feel better and got up to sit in a long chair to have his dinner. I stayed up with him all day and in the afternoon went dead asleep, you see, I had been on the go since 4 o’clock.

Mr Marshall came to see me after tea and we had a nice little chat. Then I read to George till dinner time and again till he went to bed. What I did not like much was having my meals in solitary state in the dining room. I felt quite conspicuous as there are very few people in the hotel just now and you get so much attention it is quite embarrassing. It is very difficult for me to remember that I am a married woman and can do things and be more important than I was before. I don’t feel any different.

George is much better this morning. He slept like a top and has had a very good breakfast and has now gone to the office. He is going to see the doctor presently; he is coming here at 12 o’clock. It was so funny. The doctor was chaffing him on Sat morning saying how well he looked and that he supposed it was because he had me to look after him. He said that sleeping in a draught was not likely to affect me as I have not been out long enough. It is not until you have been out some time that you are likely to get chills.

3.30
The doctor came just now and I wanted to talk to him before he saw George. I told him about his getting thin and losing so much weight and he has recommended cod liver oil and malt so I got a big bottle of Kepler and am going to dose him. The doctor says he has to give it to a lot of people to fatten them up as one takes so little of that sort of thing out here. The doctor says one must not think too much about getting thin as the climate always takes you one way or the other, there is no happy medium, but at the same time he thinks George’s weight is a little too small for his size. I also talked to him about my constipation and he said it’s caused by taking so little exercise and is difficult to avoid. But he says Cascara can’t hurt me and is very good to take and if I find it does not do me much good, he will send me some dinner pills.

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I have quite forgotten about the parcel. It arrived all right on Wednesday and I am most delighted with the contents and thank you and Mother ever so much for them. The dressing gown stuff is sweet and I shall make a blouse of it as well. The silk is just the very thing I wanted as I can make an evening blouse to wear with my alpaca skirt. I have not had one to wear with it before.

The book I am revelling in. It is awfully nice. What a pity you did not read it before you sent it. I am glad to have the clubs; they will be such good exercise. Altogether that parcel was most satisfactory.

We are off tomorrow by the coach at 7 o’clock and shan’t get home till past 5, a most hateful journey. I hope the launch will soon be mended. Mr Clarke is coming down on Wednesday. I am glad he is not coming with us as his room is not ready and it would have been tiresome doing it when he had come.

We are going out for a little walk after tea so adieu.

Lots of love to all
from Mab

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