Letter #14

This letter was despatched on the same day as the previous one; both were carried by the troop ship HMS Atholl. The animals English calls land turtles or land tortoises are what would today be called tortoises. It was common for sailors to hunt them and carry them home to earn some pocket money selling them for soup. Mr Victor was the brother of one of English’s fellow RE officers; he appears to have been living in Portsmouth.

Castries 11th July 34

My Dear Kate

Fancy me seated in a sultry Store office having rode down here as I proposed in my letter under cover to the Inspector Gen, and in which I forgot to state that I should forward by one of the passengers a beautiful Land Tortoise caught by one of my black labourers in an old battery the day before yesterday. He will be a famous pet for the children and when the novelty is over give him away. The poor little fellow is perfectly harmless, will not bite or annoy the bairns in any way. Feed him – if ever he reaches his destination – on fruit, potatoes, peel or other garden stuff. The officers wished me to keep him here to pet after dinner, for he had the range of the whole table yesterday to their great amusement. The Quarter Master of the Royals takes charge of him as I find Mr Robinson is not on board. How I do long for your letters. I am not often gloomy but being so long without any intelligence makes me at time fancy all sorts of misery. The Quarter Master by name Binley has direction to leave the animalee with Mr Victor.

The Agent is about to leave therefore I must conclude. I wonder when we are to meet again.

Believe me
Your aft

Have you done anything about Mr – at Belfast or shall I do it? Your finances I think must be flourishing – a moderate sum will keep me here.

The letter is marked in pencil ‘with a Land Turtle’. In letter 18 English writes:It appears but the other day…that the little tortoise was walking round the Mess table’ – perhaps indicating that Kate had reported its safe arrival.