Mabel, Mr Clarke, a dead scorpion and some fleas.


July 17th 1900

My dearest Mother

It is only just 9 o’clock. I have had a long morning already as I was up at 6. Mr Clarke has gone away today and he had to start from here at 6.30 to pick up the coach at Madampe. He has been here nearly a week and it has been quite exciting having someone else in the house for so long. I rather dreaded his coming as I thought he would grumble at things and make everyone miserable but he has been awfully nice. Of course he found a lot of things were wrong and has made a good many alterations, but he says that most of the mistakes George has made have been through ignorance and also through not liking to alter things from the way Mr Harbor had been doing them. You see, at Veyangoda, George did not have very much to do with the actual desiccating (that means drying) as Mr Maxfield was mainly responsible for it, but here he is responsible for everything that goes on, as Mr Van Dort has had very little experience. Also Mr Clarke says that Mr Maxfield has been making a lot of mistakes so that a great deal that George has learnt from him has been wrong.

Mr Clarke was a manager of a mill for five years and is very well up in everything. He thinks that things ought to go very well here now that he has told George where he was wrong. He found things very much worse at Veyangoda. Mr Harbor seems to have been sleeping all day and Mr Maxfield had got miserable about things going wrong and took no more interest in his work. I am awfully glad Mr Clarke has been as George has been worrying so over his work lately. The stuff was packed up here looking as he thought quite all right and when it got to London it was rotten, or yellow, or damp, and as he couldn’t find out the reason why, it was beginning to get on his nerves and every letter of complaint that came made him worse.

But Mr Clarke has roused him up and given him so much more confidence in himself. From what Mr Clarke has said to me, I think they have a fairly good opinion of George in London and that is why they sent him here instead of Mr Harbor, as he says that being such an out of the way place and too far from Colombo to get much supervision, they must have someone here they can absolutely trust.

I was rather afraid he might think that being married might make George neglect his work but he told me that he thought it was a very good thing he was married as he could see that having no society of any kind, he would never get his thoughts off his work and would soon get into a morbid condition, while he told me that if I was any good I ought to be able to amuse him and keep him cheerful.

He was rather a beautiful person and said straight out what he thought but I liked him and he has been very nice to me and sent all his spare time with me. He wanted to get off by the P&O Peninsular on Thursday but he does not think he will be able to manage it as that will only give him one clear day in Colombo and he has a good deal to do besides going over once more to Veyangoda. So he will have to wait till the next P&O on the 2nd as he has a return ticket. They want him back in London as he is their buyer or seller or something, and an important person. But you must be quite tired of all this business, it is not very interesting.

I am afraid we shall have to give up all hope of going to Colombo for Race Week as it would be rather silly for George to leave before they have quite got used to all the alterations in the work and things are going quite satisfactorily. It is very difficult to drill new ideas into natives’ minds and is a matter of time. I should not like them in London to think that George did not take enough interest in his work and I’m sure they would think so if he were to leave so soon. Of course it so horribly disappointing and it would have done George good but I think when his mind is more at rest he will soon pick up again and I am so ridiculously well that I can’t pretend I want a change.

I have been studying the almanac and you ought to get this on the 6th or 7th so it will be just in time for your birthday. Many Happy Returns and much love from us and I wish I could give you a big kiss. I am going to send you the scorpion as a birthday present and I hope you will appreciate its beauties. But I am afraid it won’t get off this afternoon as George can’t find a proper thing to pack it in. It must be in spirits of wine or it would arrive in a high condition. He will have more time to see about it in a day or two. He says he has felt very mean all this week wearing his stud every night without having written to thank you both for it. But he really has not had a moment to spare with Mr Clarke always with him and so much to think about, so you must not expect your letter till you see it.

Our plants have not been doing very well and Mr Clarke says it is because they were standing on the cement floor of the veranda which stuck cold to them so now I have had them put on bricks. They don’t look elegant but I hope they will grow better. We have not got very many, mostly ferns, and some big round leafed things of the arum family only no flowers, and some begonias, foliage ones, which do very well in Ceylon. I want to get hold of some good palms but it is rather difficult here. The vegetation is not a bit what I expected it to be like. I thought it would be much more tropical and luxuriant instead of which it is very Englishy. Of course in the jungles and up country it is more like that but on the whole Ceylon is not a fertile island. The teak trees are rather fine just now as they are covered with blossom. They are rather like Spanish Chestnuts, and so is the blossom only it is a pale yellowy green, and as the leaves are very dark green, it shows up awfully well.

You know the Boy went down with us to Colombo and we expected him to come back on the Tuesday that we did. However, he never appeared so we wrote to ask why and it appears he had rheumatism which he said he caught in the boat and he did not return till last Saturday. I enclose a rather beautiful letter which George had from him explaining why he had not come. Luckily Solomon can cook very well otherwise we should have been in a hole with Mr Clarke here. He does not understand much about waiting but he got along very well and was very proud of himself.

Breakfast time, so I must shut up. The puppies are getting on all right but have many fleas so have to be kept at a distance.

Lots of love to all and many kisses for the 8th, from your loving Mab.


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