Letter #29

The mention of Mr Mudie cannot refer to Mudie’s Select Library; it was not launched until 1842. Another Mudie, George, a social reformer and publisher of popular literature, was active at this time.

The description of the snake matches the St Lucia boa, boa constrictor orophias.

26th Feby 35

How is this my dear Kate? – two packets have arrived and no letters. The 8 day mail Boat will be here the day after tomorrow, but to gain time and write myself into better spirits, I have determined to commence in the hope that after a good grumble a few of my gloomy thoughts may dispel, but in truth I have been & still feel exceedingly miserable, yet I cannot for a moment suppose you would, unless yourself ill, delay giving me the earliest information, good or bad. That you have written I can hardly doubt. This is my only consolation, and that your dispatches have been detained or some vile private hand has taken them to Demerara. Be it as it may, I shall have no peace of mind until I again receive your letters regularly. Unwilling as I feel to despond, yet I cannot divest myself of the idea that some mischance has occurred, and that you think it right to withhold the intelligence until the final result is decided. Thus I must remain in a state of restlessness & doubt for a fortnight longer, our packet not being due before the 8th March, when I sincerely trust that some good news will repay me after all my anxiety. For the first time since I came out, I now find it labor to write. Nothing has passed worth relating, nor can I find the spirit to compose a chatty letter. For health, thank God, I never was better, and the time flies as quickly as it is possible, considering that it has been passed on the summit of Morne Fortuné. I seldom descend except to obtain a bird or two to stuff, when I start into the woods and make for the sea. There is so little that’s interesting among the Castries people, I rarely take the trouble to call on any. The Govr has invited me to dinner for saturday next, the dressing, however, & difficulty of transport to his place becomes a monstrous trouble & a great expenditure of one’s red coat & Epaulettes. My stile is so disagreeable that I will mount my new horse – a ride may improve it. He turns out even better than I expected and is something quite beyond the usual stamp of quadrupeds in these Islands – a bay with a long tail. The children would have been amused to see me making a false foretop for him, some rogue having cut it off as the Immigrants served our horses on the passage from Dublin. My establishment has also been encreased by a white terrier. He sleeps in my bedroom & never loses sight of me – up to all kinds of mischief. His name is Toby, formerly the property of a Sergt in our Department who drank hard & died whilst I was at Demerara. Feby 26th Ther 74 in my room. On returning to St Lucia, I found another of the pets departed – my tortoiseshell puss was reported by Alexander defunct. However, she was of a dissatisfied disposition and frequently in disgrace. Annie & Isabella’s collars, which I have in good keeping, will answer for one the Postmaster has promised me. I rode down the Mountain to Castries, bought a few articles for breakfast in the housekeeping way, and returned late to dress for dinner, meeting Mjr Clerke 76 and Mrs C, widow of the late Col who was a brother of the present Comd Officer 76th Regt, Mr & Mrs Kennedy, already noted in one of my letters, the former from Inverness, Mrs Cockcroft, Mrs Mjr Clerke & a Miss Ireland, the former party riding, all the others walking. The single lady is a daughter of a Lt Ireland who died recently in Dominica; he left a family of 6 or 7 children & without a sous. The officers have found it necessary to subscribe to get them a passage home. Can you fancy? I made up my mind and actually called last tuesday on all these people. Major C, his wife & sister in Law are well enough, as are the Kennedys without the squatting children of the field officers’ menage. They might be some society, notwithstanding their being Canadian women, not Mrs Kennedy, but the Adjt’s wife, a good looking vulgar Irish woman of low degree with dirty rooms & Do children, cannot be tolerated, in fact it is too wearisome to enter into any second rate society in so sultry a climate. It must be something rather piquant – so rare here – that I prefer my cottage & the Mess. Just at present the weather is delightfully cool & so long as you remain without exertion you enjoy comparative comfort, but I shall always ramble & feel unsettled until I join my family. You are aware that there is an alteration in the periods for the Packets’ departure from Falmouth. The Bags are now made up 1st & 15th Jany, 1st & 15th Feby and so on in London. The Camden arrived at St Lucia on the 4th Feby, the Reynard 19 Feby, the first making the passage in 32, the latter in 33 days, but they are allowed under the present arrangement 31 days from Falmouth. Before I quitted Barbados, Capt  Redman had written to Capt Tait stating his having the command of a fine vessel and his intention of sailing about 3 weeks after the departure of the Packet that conveyed the letters. If he did so, I expect my troubles will soon end and that he has by this time arrived with the wished for package & history of what you have all been engaged in since the 16th Decr. Fred and Augustus have left you ere this. If the younger is as fortunate in the Academy as the Ensign has been, we shall have them as Lts both in a very short time. All I apprehend is a reduction of the Cadets. You were perfectly right to have Augustus home – he cannot for the future see to much of it. Old Fred now knows the value of you all and will experience that feeling more keenly every year he is absent. How has Mr Mudie shewn? ‘His forte, his taste, his pleasure, and has been from his earliest youth, & who is always delighted when he can get a mind to work upon’? Miss Parker’s letter amused me exceedingly, the only fault was being too short. Tell her I have a necklace of red X of beautiful soap beads polished and drilled by the Capt, in fact I shall send you all one if collected before the Lt Col’s rank reaches me. I have ceased being sanguine on this score. The two steps certainly gave me a faint hope but it has passed. Sir C Smith undoubtedly has some thoughts of Malta and I observe a Capt Ward has the temporary Comd – he told me it had been offered to him. Miss Parker, I can suppose, was exceedingly proud of her two pets, they both owe much, very much, to her indefatigable attention to them. I hope the lady was one at the Ball of which I anxiously await your description. If Fred could witness the miseries of Regtl matrimony that I have out here, more particularly where the parties have been Irish on one side, say the lady, he would keep himself as distant from the chance of such a misfortune as I do from a huge serpent brought to me two days since from the Mountains, in length about nine feet and as thick around as a man’s thigh. I gave the man a dollar after his having demanded eight, however I only bought it to induce others to bring me anything living or dead that was remarkable. This serpent is without venom of the Cle boa species. Every officer was at my quarters to see this enormous snake and many others, but among the curious was Dr McCann, Staff Surgeon, a quiz of an old bachelor who on inspecting it was very nearly bitten, for the reptile was much exasperated and with a loud hissing noise darted about 4 or 5 feet of its length at pauvre medico who retreated forthwith. The next that was seen of him was looking out of my window well barricaded standing on a chair, one hand projected with a thick stick & the other held to his eye with his glass. All this will be of little interest to you but those around you may be somewhat amused, and it will point out what trifles we are driven to pursue in a climate where most people find great difficulty in killing time. Mr Hilton has one of the same tribe, not so large. A full grown fowl, in fact one unusually sized, was put into its den this morning alive in the presence of many amateur naturalists. In a moment the serpent seized it by the head and in half an hour or less had gradually drawn the bird without disturbing its feathers into its mouth, which before it took its prey was not more than 2½ inches in width. They are in truth frightful. The one I now describe got loose and found its way into Mr Trevelyan’s room. During the night he heard something moving and got out of bed, when on putting his hand on the dressing table for means to obtain a light, he laid it on the snake. We have had a great laugh at him. Enough on snakes – and I think I hear you exclaim the same. The letters you forward from Gusto are very entertaining and perfectly original – he is a droll fellow and writes to me in the same odd stile. My former letters would have informed you where my Xmas was passed, beating off Tobago in a vessel of 50 tons – how tender I was in all parts after the pummelling, but it was nothing to the upset of the hutch on board the Heroine coming here. It was on deck when in a tremendous sea, either for want of lashing or its breaking away, hutch, Capt, in a sound sleep, compass & helmsman all went in a jumble together. I thought all was over and shut my mouth tight to keep out the water ready for a swim, but when wide awake found all was right. It is now Kitty’s turn – if I can think of anything worth making a continuation of this long letter – if you have little to write about – comes the predicament. I must be perched on the summit of this Mountain with the same faces & no conversation to encounter every day and a long one too, for 6 is my hour generally. Dog Toby is the only esprit fellow of my acquaintance during my rides which he never is absent at – he does all he can to attract attention, much to the displeasure of the old negro women. One day he had a Cow by the tail and then a goat. Cats & hens have no chance – all my scolding or whistling will not stop him. Thus I have many civil speeches to make en route to preserve peace. All is going on quietly in these colonies as far as we can learn. We hear that some pirates are again collecting at Sabu or St Christopher’s from whence a nest were taken some few year back amounting to about 30 odd of whom 28 were hung. Tell Miss Parker that the French call this Island Ste Lucie and we mostly so pronounce it, others call in English St Lucia. Your Quarter Master Genl’s arrangements appear to do you credit & I am happy to learn that the old horse is in such excellent order. How delighted Fred must have been to see him in Fareham on his arrival. I regret that you have any troubles or anxieties in your money affairs but am confident in your good management. All will go on satisfactorily so soon as we have recovered the expenses we were so treacherously put to. Mine in this country will not be so great as heretofore having my horse purchased & remaining for a time stationary will reduce my wants considerably – Demerara is dreadfully extravagant. Before this reaches you I hope your boxes of &c &c will be unpacked & some of the ginger demolished. It is soon the season for Tamarinds when I shall ford some as promised. Adieu my dear Kate, accept my best love and give regards to my Uncle, Mrs H & Aunt OB with MOB. Kiss our dear children for me and remember me most kindly to Miss Parker. I hope Jane is better. God bless you all.

Your afft Fred

I have almost a dread of your next Packet, fearing it may contain intelligence of some sad calamity. Long before you get this I shall be relieved by the certainty one way or the other.

All well my dear Kate 27th Feby, but have not time before the Government Bag closes to write more.

We have had a shock of an earthquake here that frightened all Castries. FE