Letter #87

Porters, the plantation house English visits, is on the coast to the north of Bridgetown. It is now a luxury holiday villa. 

‘Cuffum’ is a local name for the tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) a large freshwater fish found in tropical and sub-tropical regions on both sides of the Atlantic.

Barbados 28th Sept 37

You will be satisfied my dear Kate of my perfect restoration to health and activity when you understand from this report of myself that I have just returned to Shot Hall after a most charming ride on horseback of 9 miles, starting at six this morning and dismounting at ½ past 8 to breakfast in the Gallery already described to you by Mrs Read. On my return after an absence of two days I am happy to add that the whole ménage is prospering, pets well and hens laying. I must now go regularly thro my tale. On tuesday 26th inst I availed myself of a long and friendly invitation from Mr James Alleyne of Cokses or Coxes to pass a few days. Col Tyler was to have taken me there, or rather I was to furnish one horse & he the second to a Pheaton & thus travel together, but unfortunately my merry friend was taken ill in so much that he thought it prudent to remain at home, having experienced a tendency of some what like a rush of blood to his head. Well, on tuesday being left to my own resources, which as a blessing rarely forsake me, I mounted Fritz, sent my carpet bag by the Genl’s ADCs, and put my first flunky Phillip on the Black long tail. Off we went with a delightful breeze but most boiling sun reflected from the bright blue sea, the road passing the whole way for the 9 miles close to it. However, after a short time it became cool and I travelled away about 2 thirds of the distance going quietly along when the two ADCs, Bates & Whittingham overtook me in a sort of a one horse 4 wheeled kill horse machine, full dress ready for dinner, screeching from the back as passing, ‘You will be late, you will be late’. The tables soon turned: ‘Fritz my boy, this won’t do, the road is now soft and flat, but I know well that Coxes is on a hill, and that a steep one, which that vile 4 wheel cannot mount like you & I. Let us make way my dear little fellow, we’ll shew these Aids the way up to the Hall door yet.’ No spur was necessary, the bridle slack & Fritz took the hint. Off we flew at a brisk canter, poor Phillip trying to hold his horse in and himself on, soon reached the anticipated hill and a hill it was in truth, overtook the Redcoats, one walking & their horse crawling. ‘You’ll be late boys, you’ll be late, shall the soup be served for you?’ Mr Alleyne as a good house prettily situated, very cool, but I recd a warm reception with many lamentations that Col Tyler was not of the party. His family consists of two pleasing daughters. He is a brother of Mr Charles Alleyne, Porter, which family I have been several times to visit, the introduction was thro Mrs Naghten in that packet of letters sent from Crawfton. I arrived in good time, dressed, and on descending to the Drawing room, found my old Porter acquaintances, the ADCs, a daughter of Dr Sanders from Demerara, a Man and his wife named Eversley, the party being added to afterwards by several residents. It went off gayly enough with the wind up of music & singing in several of the songs that reminded me of my dear Girls. I chanted away & almost forgot that I was in the West Indies in place of Wickham until a wretch of a Mosquitto sung out of tune close to my forehead & destroyed the delusion. I killed him in revenge. Yesterday Wed was passed as most morning are with a party in the house, only in this hot climate the men lounge first in a huge chair, then on a sopha, yawn until lunchtime awake. A little worsted work for the matrons or such like, a piece of music or two with an occasional ditty from the young ladies, some jokes, fish the pond for Carfums or Cuffums, all of which my friend Capt Tait will explain. This having been unsuccessful, I took a sketch & worked away at the front of the [word missing] so long as I felt retired, but soon the expected parties drove up for dinner and I started to dress for Do. On my arrival in the ring there were Mr & Mrs this, Mr & Miss the other, many of whom I had met before but so truly uninteresting that I forget their names. A Mr Austin, a clergyman, that Sir’s me very, as Charles would say, a Mr & Miss Strachan I know formed a portion, for the Divine & I deferred or rather had a long argument respecting the success of the poor laws in Ireland, & much astonished he was to find I knew more of facts in that country than he had obtained in a tour recently made for information. I at last let them know that I was on its survey. The dinner & the evening passed much the same as the day before, some of the gents playing chess, chatting and sitting round the instrument. Mrs Eversley had a pet spaniel, certainly very handsome, & Miss Caroline or her sister 2 sweet cats & a kitten, all perfectly inoffensive animals that troubled no person, but Mrs E was decided from the first that her dog was to eat the cats or the cats put out his lovely eyes, greatly to my amusement, all of which brought her into notice and caused the most alarming anxiety in all parties. The chess people had gathered several around them in the inner drawing room, the ladies intent on some drawings, their work or the noisy wind up of an Italian air then in progress all in raptures, the windows of both room to the ground & communicating with a covered Gallery or veranda when a most piercing cry filled the room resembling a cat under the grand piano. Away went Mrs Eversly after her dog, away went Miss Caroline & Miss Elizabeth & away went the chess men for in the bustle they knew not what had happened. The husbands saw their wives running and wives saw their husbands. Mr Alleyne saw his daughter make a run, so he & the Uncle did the same. They found some fun going on, set up a gay lark & run in every direction, Mrs & Mr E after him. At last, almost expended with laughter, I saw Mrs E labouring under the weight of her great dog retreating to her ladies maid, but the cats must have been devour for none were to be found. Someone must have made the squeal so much resembling a cat – don’t you think so, my children? Never was a languid WI party so revived or in such confusion. I quited this agreeable family at six & find myself renovated as it were by the ride. No coat arrived – I suspect that rascally boot maker is the cause. Still my dear Kit, I thank you for your kind thought. Tomorrow I go to Mr Critchlow’s for a day or two as the Estimates for all the stations are now dispatched for England. All your questions have been anticipated & replied to

Red ink begins here

before I recd your queries contained in the letter dated 14th Aug. It is very fortunate you did write direct my dear Kate, for I have not yet recd the letters yet that must have been ford to Sir F Mulcaster for the 1 Augst Mail, thus had you acted with your usual discretion I shd not have got any accounts & been in perfect state of wretchedness. I approve of the plan for it will insure my having intelligence from Wickham once a fortnight in place of once a month. Capt Tait shal have a faithful report of Miss Critchlow by the next packet. Mr C I like much. I hear there are grand preparations making for the welcome of Col T & myself nous verrons. I think I shall remain there sunday. You must have lost my letter, my good wife, or your recollection. I wrote you that I had dined with the Bishop – he called in due form upon me. I am on a friendly footing with him, have dined, called several times and like them exceedingly, the lady particularly, indeed both are nice persons. Talked much of the Reids, but did not recollect Mrs Coldrige was a friend of the Crawleys. I will have a chat with her about them the next time I dine there. You are rather harsh in your remarks about Mrs Tyler who has been home more than 12 months. When I was last here her kindness to me was great, notwithstanding her odd manner which much resembled Mrs Broughton. What stuff is this I now come to in your letter? You detect champaign suppers – is it in allusion to some description I gave some twelve months since when I recollect seeing a few men drink that wine at a sort of dispatch supper. It must be so, but it’s a pity to take up your valuable paper sent across the Atlantic with the fertile surmises that follow. Lady Smith must be long since in England. Sir C went to Gib by America. He may have arrived at his command by this time. Do, dear Kate, Cary or [word missing] Flush make me some handsome worked covers for footstools. The table cover you bought me is done for & I want two large gay looking fellows, something new. The price here is shameful of perfect vulgar rubbish. I shall be so disappointed if you do not assist me. The room on the left as you enter the outward Hall I have during the wet days amused myself by fitting up as an Indian armoury – in fact it looks like a museum, there is such a collection in it – by painting a few fancy target &c. I assure you I can even enjoy looking over my own work. Something out of the common way, as lively stuff for sophas, would be most acceptable. As Comd, I have so much intercourse with the Top Sawyer, & Shot Hall being rather a shew place, I want to make the lower appartments look Flash before the English or French Admirals put in here. My personal finery I want before I go round with the General. I would rather make the tour by myself, but expect Sir Stamford will wish me of the party. I wrote to Mr Mundy that his mother & yourself were known to each other. He is not a bad looking fellow, I like him. At present I have an officer 69th here, Lt O’Reilly, he embarks today for home sweet home after being before a Medical Board. His health is much impaired by the climate of Guiana, but the week at Shot Hall has done much for him. By a long letter from Col Monins I find he has only one offr for duty, but the fever is abating. My hay is secure – hurra!. God bless you dear Kate, love to my dear Girls & boys. Have you heard from Fred? Regards to MOB, Mr Hawker & all at Catisfield, Brothers & sisters & believe me dear Kate

Your aff

Fred E