George and the Hockey Stick.


Horekelly
16.X.00

Dearest Tommie

Oh, wot a day we’re ‘aving, and ‘ow cheap!

George has been nearly put in jail for manslaughter, only luckily the man is recovering and George didn’t hit him either but some other ruffian. You know I told you in my last letter about the row between the head packer and the sheller who went and annoyed him. A lot of them are jealous of him because he is getting on so well. Well! George and Mr Van Dort went down to the Court House the next afternoon to defend Juanis as the sheller had taken out a case against him for assault. It was adjourned until the 23rd and they thought the matter would drop till then. But in the evening just after dinner, about 8.30, Juanis sent a man to ask George to go over to his house as a lot of these men were abusing him and he wanted George to stop them. When I heard there might be a row, I made him take his hockey stick as I thought it might be some sort of protection and might frighten them.

When George got there he found an excited crowd, but being dark he could not see much who they were. So he took hold of one man by the arm and said, ‘who are you?’ The man said he was the owner of the piece of ground (it was just outside the mill boundary). George let go his arm and turned to speak to Juanis. As he did so, the man gave him a little knock over the head with his hand. Anthony, the watchman, was standing behind George and was so mad with the man for touching the ‘master’ that he gave him a punch with his fist and then Juanis flew at the man and a general row began. They shouted and bellowed. I was nearly frantic with fright as I thought George might get hurt. However, Anthony made him come away directly they began to fight as he said his being there only made things worse.

So he came to the house and sent off for Mr Van Dort and the head man and then hearing that the former had already got there, he went back to the scene of the fray. When he arrived he found that Juanis had been knocked senseless and one of the men on the other side had got a most tremendous blow to the head and was bleeding horrendously.The man was not insensible and both he and his friends declared that George had hit him with his hockey stick and they wanted him taken off to prison then and there. Mr Van Dort who is splendid at managing natives sent George back to the house to be safe and then started trying to pacify them. He had to talk for a good time but at last he managed to calm them down and thee two wounded men were taken off to the hospital. Juanis was not really hurt much, only badly bruised and was able to appear in Court the next day but the doctor said the other man only got there just in time. Another half hour he would have been dead. And yet that man, although he knew he had nearly died, swore the next day that it was George who had hit him.

The head man came to fetch the hockey stick in the morning and they were all very disappointed to find it had not got an iron tip, also that it was not covered with blood. They all went off to the Court House the next morning. George and Mr Van Dort started at 9 o’clock and did not get back till 8. I can’t say I passed a very happy day. The way those men lied in the witness box was enough to turn you blue, the only thing was a great many points in their tales did not tally but they all swore George hit the man. There was only Anthony who could speak for George and they had got hold of him (he is quite young) and so terrified him that he declared he did not go near the place till after the man was hurt. Of course, the magistrate knows that George is speaking the truth and the men are lying but he could not dismiss the case straight away as they would be sure to appeal so it has been sent to the Attorney General to decide and he will either dismiss it or send it to the District Court to be tried again but both the magistrate and George’s proctor think it will be dismissed. George and Mr Van Dort think this is really a put up job directed more against the Company than George personally and they think a man who was dismissed for stealing coconuts some time before we came is really at the bottom of it. When the row began they hoped George and Mr Van Dort would go so that they could mix them up in it.

2 p.m. It is raining hard and thundering. The N.E. Monsoon is on us and it begins to rain a little earlier every day and soon I expect we shall have whole days of it. But it is delicious to have it cool. It is quite chilly early in the morning and the water makes my hands quite cold. We have not taken to a blanket yet although have had it aired all ready. George is writing an account of his adventures to his mother and I have sent one to Kate and also written to Maggie. I am rather sorry the baby is a girl. It would be good for Dudley to have another boy and I hope Gwynie won’t be jealous. Mrs Gillespy said that Mr Bois is rather pleased that it’s a girl as he says he likes girls.

George and all the men have to go to the Court House on the 26th to hear the result of the Attorney General’s decision. If it is all right and the case is dismissed we are going up to the Nuwara Eliya for a fortnight’s holiday. Of course if it has to be tried again, we shall wait till after that but anyhow we shall go away directly it is all settled. We both feel as if we should like a change after all this bother and worry. It rather shook my nerves that night hearing all the bellowing and shouting and then being by myself all the next day was not very cheering as I kept on imagining all sorts of things when George was so late. He wished afterwards I had gone with him to the Court House but it would have been very uncomfortable for me there and besides he was riding my bike as Mr Van Dort’s had come to grief so he had to lend him his.

Mr Norman, the manager, came up on Thursday and stayed till Sunday. Of course he could not actually do anything but George thought it best to send for him, it is so difficult to explain things in writing. There is a slight chance of our being moved from here soon. I only hope it will come off. But Mr Norman says that the Company would like to get rid of Mr Harton but as his agreement is not up for a year they could do it without paying him six months salary. If they do that they will make George sort of visiting agent to both factories and we shall live either at Veyangoda or Colombo. Mr Van Dort will be in charge here with a responsible fitter for the machinery and George will come down regularly once a month to inspect. Of course this is very vague and they may keep on Mr Harton for his year and then move us but Mr Norman says Mr Harton is doing nothing for his money so they would really save six months salary by letting him go. I suppose we shall know by about Christmas time.

Very many thanks for the films which came all right. They are beautifully fresh aren’t they and might be all right.

I hope Mother’s finger is quite all right. It sounded a nasty place.

George says will you find out the price of sparklers per dozen.

Well, I think I have told you everything. This has been such an exacting week. I have not had time to think much.

Good bye, lots of love and kisses to everybody

from Mab

Anyone for Croquet?

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Madampe
Monday 28th May 1900

Dearest Tommie

Thank you ever so much for the A.C.C.* book. Now I shall be able to think of you on match days and wish I were playing with you. I hope you will be put with Maude, as I always think you get on so well together and she is so nice and safe. I suppose the two Mrs. are to the fore again. Is Ronald still keen on Muriel? I expect that is too much to expect after six months. Who is the latest? By the way, does that sweet youth do anything for his living yet or is he still in the band of loafers. I am so wondering how you got on against Croydon on Wednesday. How I do wish you could have licked them. Write and tell me all about the tournament, won’t you? Who are you going to play with in the Ladies Doubles? I hope Bessie will be nice and keen. Give her my love and tell her she is to buck up.

We have not got the monsoon yet. I’m beginning to think it is afraid and won’t come at all. It has broken in the outer places, so I suppose it must come in time. Last night it was dreadfully close, not an atom of wind. We could not get to sleep for ever so long. In fact I got up and promenaded about the verandah to try and get cool. There is more breeze this morning so it is not quite so oppressive. There are a good many clouds about, but I am afraid they are not rain clouds, so don’t feel very hopeful. Howsomeever I’m quite well, so I suppose I ought not to grumble.

We are having our bathroom attuned, the roof raised, and the room made longer, and also have invested in a new bath. We could not stand the other one any longer. Have I ever told you about it? It was a fixed one made of cement, very long and very narrow, with quite straight sides and a sort of dirty grey colour. George put me off it the very first time by saying it was like a coffin, and so it was. You felt when you were in it as if there ought to be a lid to go on top of you. And the worst of it was that we could never have more than about two inches of water in it as it took pailsful to cover the bottom. Now we have had that broken away and have got an ordinary zinc one, a huge oval tub. Of course we can’t lie down in it but we can have plenty of water and it is quite big enough for comfort and is altogether a great improvement. I could never feel that the other thing was clean somehow.

I am happy I’ve got a cat! It is a sweet little thing, mouse grey, with white front paws. Mr Van Dort sent it to me, his ‘boy’ caught it going after chickens. I don’t expect it has any home, but just lived on what it could pick up. I only had it on Thursday and it was very frightened at first, but has got quite at home now. I think it finds it very blissful having regular food. It was dreadfully thin, just like taking hold of a fish bone, as Jo would say, but it is already much fatter and George makes rude remarks about the tightness of its little tummy. It is too lovely to see it with the dog, we simply split over them. The cat is not a scrap frightened and rubs itself against Gretchen and plays with her tail in the most friendly way. Gretchen’s eyes nearly come out of her head, trying to look at us and the cat at the same time and the resigned expression she puts on is delicious. Cats in Ceylon are aways small and generally thin and leggy but George says this one is as good as any he has seen.

I am very sorry to hear of Mr Parkin’s death, coming so suddenly it must have been a dreadful shock to them. I suppose Maud is in the seventh heaven by this time. I imagine Mrs Gillespy was at Croydon when he arrived, wasn’t she, or is she still at Horwich?

We went out in the launch on Saturday and we got such jolly grass, rather like Pampas only not quite so fluffy. It grows to a tremendous height along the banks of the lagoon, quite 20 ft, and it looks awfully pretty waving about. It is a sort of bamboo and has very thick stems. I have got some standing in the corner of the room, like we put our bulrushes, and it nearly reaches the ceiling.

We have been busy planting things in the flower bed. We haven’t got much to put in yet. George is going to write to Nuwara Eliya and ask what English flowers will grow here. There is a florist there who has things from England. We have a row of arrow root plants, they are rather pretty, a little like Indian corn, only variegated, quite big white patches on the leaves. They throw out a funny sort of root, which is the part you eat. Then we have a few rather sickly begonias the boy brought from Nuwara Eliya, and some ferns, and a few odd things we are not sure of.

I do hope your tea went off all right. I think it is rather mean of the Justicans to give up the Club and forsake you just when I had gone.

I haven’t got much to tell you this week. Your letters are always so brimful of news, mine seems tame after them.

Lots of love and kisses to everybody

from Mab.

*Addiscombe Croquet club