Letter #52

Not dated at head, but begun on 14 March 1836 at Demerara. 

Powis is the local name for the black curassow, crax alector, see letter 58. 

Cuba, a Spanish colony, had abolished trading in slaves in 1818, but slavery had not been abolished, and newly captured slaves were still being delivered there illegally. The proposed deal was to transfer some of these newly captured slaves to British colonies, where they would be employed as apprentices. 

Rain, raining torrents my dear Kate since yesterday from 9 oclock, and added to the high tides, gives the effect of a deluge around us. This with the pest of sand flies, the only living torments that appear to enjoy such weather, stinging one almost to madness, will not allow of my giving you a letter after my own taste by the good ship Caesar which I understand is to sail this evening or by tomorrow’s tide – I hope the latter, for on observing the decided wet day in getting from underneath my superb Mosquito net, dispatched my breakfast, fed the black cat, Toby, Tickle the monkey, & Parrot Lt Haning gave me, I, seated at my desk, resolved not to move until your letter was completed. Then to my utter disgust I laid hands on the duty book in order to clear the table & recollected that I was President of a District Court Martial and the hour arrived, muttering to myself, ‘This is always the case in this vile Garrison’. I hurried on my dress, mounted Fritz, cloaked up and piping hot, found the Court waiting there. I have been fixed all the morning and notwithstanding my health & spirits are excellent, I am as cross as it is possible to be. However, this will not be of long duration, for your letter and those of my dear Wickham party now lay before the produce of the two last Packets, one having reached Demerara on Sunday 6th Inst and another came in yesterday morning after a passage of 21 days to Barbados – what think you of that? Thus I have all your charming letters up to the 14 Feb, and greatly delighted I am to have confirmed that you are all in health & comparatively happy. Sir F Mulcaster franked that packet of letters directed to Demerara. They usually came under cover to Sir C Smith, of whom by the bye I have not heard since he went to Jamaica. Notwithstanding the vile order about enclosing private correspondence &c, I shall try once more & send this to Wells without any qualms of conscience as to defrauding the Revenue. It will be a greater vexation to those abroad than in home stations & undoubtedly the Government ought to second every possible facility of correspondence between their officers and those they are forced to leave behind. It is now fair to reckon that 2 years of transportation have passed over – the 11th of the present month was the date I drove Katy & Miss Parker to Gosport and with a heavy heart stepped into the boat. It was a lovely morning – oh how miserable I felt! The very thought causes the most wretched reflections. Now it will be fair to be looking towards home & my whole system seems to be inspired with new life & soul for the time passed beyond conception on your side the Atlantic. This climate, probably from there being no perceptible change of season to a person not actually making observation, the months fly so rapidly past that were I not to keep a journal my mind would be perfectly bewildered. On the 6th,   Sunday, early in the morning, I saw T Naghten making his way up the Avenue for his breakfast. He had walked from the further end of the Town, about a mile & ½, the exertion of all others he requires. I laughed heartily at him for I knew he had taken the shine out of Mr Johnson’s horse & that the consequence was he was forced to walk. However, soon after breakfast we saw the signal for a Packet, and from that moment never seated ourselves for several hours until the letters were put into our hands. There was several interesting allusions in Mrs Naghten’s letter to your replies & of course I read all from my budget that could please my companion – the end was that we chatted so long after dinner that my companion found he would be shut out & I put him to bed in a Buck Indian Hammock with the Ordnance flag to cover him, both laughing as it were that we told the same years. He is a good humoured young fellow & I have no doubt of his getting on well. His raptures when reading his mother’s letters were to me a perfect treat for any emotion or energy in these Colonies is a rarity. One day I rode down to Johnson’s store & made Tom serve me with a Tin case of Salmon, paying him a Guilder less than its price, galloping off with it. They have booked him for the guilder, causing a good joke at Tom’s expense. Poor Trig – well, I do hope as you have him again that he may live until I return. Rest assured that some of your neighbours who knew he was a good dog walked him off for the shooting season. That is undoubtedly the case, and as it terminates it has been thought policy to let you know where he could be recovered. The Dr would rather not keep him or pay the tax. His exercise must have been of service & probably added some years to his career. Tell the pr Fop & Flush that Toby who is a white terrier and exceedingly sagacious, having lost his friend Moses the monkey, has made acquaintance with the black cat, & altho a torment to all others he allows this to lay on him & tumble in all directions over him. Wherever Toby is sleeping the cat is laying asleep upon him full length. It is remarkable to see such an extraordinary attachment. The Parrot, to my surprise, began to talk about a week since, & does so all day and copies my voice correctly. I am teaching him to say Katy – is that not very interesting? Since I wrote I do not think any thing out of the usual daily occupation of riding, eating & drinking has taken place. Isabella & Annie will be amused to learn that I have a hen sitting on 12 eggs and another somewhere, a stolen one &c &c &c. Moreover I can beat them out of the field in the farming way, having a pr of stray Powis with a nest in my garden. They are handsome birds, as large as the Turkey, black with a beautiful crest of curled feathers, are found in the woods but easily domesticated. The orange trees in my gallery which I reported in progress cut a splendid appearance. Every thing you stick into the ground here grows, & I have been exceedingly busy in that way. With the assistance of my acquaintance, I have made the Engineer’s quarter look gay in the extreme. At this moment it is a question between Toby on the mat and the Parrot who wishes to enter wishing for his breakfast. He has descended from his perch & is tottering in. Puss is under the table and Edward, now doing duty for John Wiltshire, sick, has just said ‘No sugar, Massa’ for which I have given him a blessing. The weather was so hazy that the Caesar could not sail yesterday, thus you will learn that I am well up to this date 16th. I would write to my dear girls, but do not wish to make a large Package until I ascertain that my letters will pass thro our office – from the spirit of the order I fear they will not. If another vacancy were to take place & a brevet follow, I shd be promoted above the reduced pay which the 3 Junior Lt Col receive at once. All this is very fine to anticipate & build in the air, but let me home – that’s what I want. Poor Peake is gone – he has been ill a long time, all my old friends are dropping off. His brother in law I have often told you is here as Secretary & was at St Lucia – we are friends, you are aware. He is about to embark for Barbados on the way to the Havanna where he is going on the part of the Government here, suggest and sanctioned from England, to arrange the transfer of some thousand Negroes to this Colony to be apprenticed as field laborers. This has been commenced in Trinidad with success. It is reported that about 20,000 are disposable. You must understand they are Captured slaves, landed in Cuba by consent of the Spanish Government, in fact by treaty between the two when the former united to abolish slavery, or I believe I should rather express myself, to receive each a portion of the Captured, however, it was with the same view. They are over stocked, we will suppose, & happy to get rid of them. The encrease to the working population here will be of the greatest advantage to the Proprietor, more so as the Apprenticed Negroes become their own masters. Labor at present is very high & in fact cannot be obtain to meet the immense Crops this Country produces. The last season has been wonderful to the Planter & the ensuing it is said will even be better. You appear to being doing the best possible for Augustus. I would willingly avoid the subject of the academy – it is useless regretting. Some vile injustice has been afloat and probably a little carelessness to color it. Your Math Master feels most evidently that he could not advance with August, in fact few men excepting those about the Academy or College find it worth their while to study so far in a course that few pupils require. Gusto shd keep up what he has been taught & treasure it, but let him give his mind to Classics, Italian, German, his french and by all means music if his taste lays that way. Shd he be required to enter one of the learned professions, the former will be absolutely necessary. But now let him shew the world that his abilities have not been appreciated and look forward to something higher than Lt of Engrs or Artillery. His getting an Army Commission shd not be lost sight of by having his name on the list. Mr Ambler has played false & shd feel it yet if I return in the same mind I now am towards him. The last two packets of letters have quite renovated me – you write in spring spirits. On the 17th I am invited to Miss Wilday’s wedding. I have mentioned this family – the second is Ford’s love, all three are nice friendly girls. The former is to wed a fine young man by name of Austin – he has an estate here & well to do in the world. My next letter shd describe the entertainment &c. I feel aware that my letters are stupid, but since the news about Gusto, I never set down without his affair being uppermost & I cannot get on. I have volumes to say to you my dear Kate but must not miss the Caesar. Poor Mr Wilmot – he appears gone wrong in the head. He is an excellent young man but it is to be regretted that he shd be so lost in excess of good feeling – there is a medium. He writes a monstrous deal of rubbish and twaddle & out of place. Regards to my good Aunt OB & Mary and opposite, particularly to my Uncle. Thank Miss P for her letter & with best wishes to her, request she will continue writing. Kate, Cary, Aug – whose writing is improved & must be for it was vile & Flush, Fop – I know not which to love most for their efforts. Fred, I regret to observe, is more frivolous & becoming little better than a commonplace sort of linesman, judging by his letters. A foreign station would be of use to him, much as I shall regret not seeing him. Regards to him when you write & believe me dear Kate

Your afft Fred E