Mabel: Killer, Photographer, Spendthrift.

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Madampe

August 20th 1900

Dearest Tommie*

You and mother are the poor old cripples with your rheumatism or neuralgia. I should be inclined to think yours is the latter. Have you taken any of that neuralgia tonic? I should think it would very likely do you good, at any rate I should give it a trial. You certainly ought to adopt some stringent measures to get rid of it. Suffering like that is beyond a joke. Tell Mother she ought to eat as much as she can and I think she ought to have a little whisky either with her dinner or supper. I think she needs it once a day at least. I do hope to hear in your next letter that you are both better.

I like the sound of your silver frame very much but I should certainly choose somebody better looking than that frightful thing of me to put in it. I have not got a frame for your photo but I have stuck it up on a ledge and I shall see it gradually fade away before my eyes. I think it is awfully good of you and of the children too, Elsie particularly, she does look a pretty little thing. But you must have your photograph taken properly because I have not got a decent one of you at all and I want one badly.

By the way, George sent off the bottle with the scorpion etc. last week. I hope it will arrive all right. Don’t be disappointed at the size of the box but it had to be packed very carefully because of the spirit. I hope Mother won’t be frightened of the contents. There are quite a lot of things – a big scorpion, and a tiny one, a tiny centipede, a sort of grasshopper, a small green lizard, like the one that went up my legs, a big lizard that lies about in the sun, and a little snake that George found crawling across the compound. We don’t know its name but it is harmless. I think the scorpion is the most loathsome.

We are so cross. I have been taking a lot of photos lately, especially to send Mother, little views inside and outside the house and lots of the canal, and comic ones of the pups sitting in flowerpots and things and two of the owl we caught and all sorts of things. There were nearly 4 dozen altogether and we sent them to be developed the other day and the man has just sent them back developed, but he says none of them are worth printing, and they aren’t, most of the films have not got anything on them at all and the others only blurred smudges. It is all the fault of the beastly people we bought the films off. They had ‘to be developed by July 1st’ on them so we wrote and told them that and asked them to send us some fresh ones but they wrote back that it didn’t matter and that we should find those quite all right. And now they have turned out to be no good at all, I do feel mad. And the worst of it is that we have got to pay 8 rupees for having them developed, that is 10/6, all for nothing. Of course we shan’t pay for the films themselves. I think they are 6 rupees for 4 rolls. I want George to send them the bill for the developing as well. You might ask sometime or other how much small Kodak films are in England. I wonder if we have to pay much more.

I have just killed one of those tiny scorpions. It was walking on the window ledge so I put a letter weight on him and now the ants are busy carrying him off to their larder. They are capital scavengers.

George and I went for quite a long walk yesterday afternoon after tea. It was fairly cool and there was  nice breeze. We went to some deserted paddy (rice) fields. They are just grassy fields divided by little banks to walk on. When the ground is being irrigated, at certain times the paddy has to be kept almost under water or it won’t grow properly. We got into the very marshy place and had to jump from one tuft of grass to another. We hoped to find some butterflies but it was too late for them, they had all gone to bed. But I got some flowers. There are very few actual flowering plants here, most of them are only green things.

I was nearly forgetting to tell you that we have dismissed our Boy and he went on Sunday. We came to the conclusion we were paying too much for wages, 744 rupees a year which is £37.4 and it seems quite ridiculous for only we two. If we had felt we were getting our money’s worth, it would not have mattered so much, but we weren’t. The Boy had got very lazy and did not look after things at all well and he was really getting R22.50 a month for doing almost nothing as I believe Solomon did most of the cooking. What annoyed us was that he had got very slovenly in his dress lately, wore dirty white coats and would bring up early tea in a dirty yellow sort of flannel coat. I think he thought he was a fixture here and so didn’t take any trouble but he went a little too far. We are really glad of an excuse to get rid of him without exactly being angry with him. George did not like parting with him as he has had him ever since he has been out here and he has some very good qualities. He is very honest and truthful which is a very great thing out here but he is certainly lazy.If he had managed with Solomon it would have been all right but he started another cooly and that was too much. Those two had R10 each a month and the bath cooly R4 so that mounted it up to R46.50 a month. We hope Solomon will stay on as cook with wages of R12.50 or 13, but George hasn’t spoken with him yet as the Boy only went yesterday. Then we shall get a young House Boy for R12.50 or R15 and at any rate we shall save a few rupees a month and feel we are getting more for our money. We really have to pay more wages here than we would in Colombo as they don’t like coming to such an out of the way place.

2.30

George says he is certain Kodak films are much cheaper in England. so if they are a good deal cheaper will you get me 4 rolls. They keep them in airtight tins out here, each with 4 rolls. I expect they do at home too, but if not they ought to be sent in a tin sealed up so that no light can get to them. I’ll send you the label of an old tin for the size etc. But they must be fresh ones that have not got to be developed in too short a time or they will be bad before I can get them done.

I don’t think I have anything else to tell you so ‘Adoo’.

Much love to everybody

from Mab

*Mab’s sister, Amy Gibson.

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