Letter No. 15
June 20th, 1858
My dear Nanny,
Tengo a la vista,[i] as we Spaniards say, your welcome and long missives of Feb. 2nd and March 2nd and 3rd. See how beautifully exact I am in citing dates. It I was only as regular in writing by every mail I should be perfection, and again lift up the voice of thanksgiving for such interesting accounts of things in general. Now I, by way of intense contrast, am about to write you the miserably little note you ever did see. But que faire? will the big black arraez of the “Gras” detain his vessel a moment if I am not ready? and haven’t I got to write to Phillips Mooer and Co. about those 63 bars of Swedish iron; to Ker and Co. about those ginghams at four and two-eighths; to Smith Bell and Co. about printed muslins and to Andres de Zarate concerning those customs duties? Such is the melancholy fact, and these and other horrid subjects act like bullying tares, and choke the timid growth of this unfortunate little letter which strives to get its head out of the heavy mental brushwood of a/c sales and remittances. All very fine says you, but why didn’t you begin earlier or write before? To which I reply when he procrastinates again, punch his head and hit him hard.
My ideas at present are on a wool-gathering excursion and there are not exactly enough of them at home to attend to what I am writing. I am also undergoing an attack of toothache since last night and have been trying some of Gidney’s atalgic or black bottle,” a powerful anodyne for the alleviation of painful teeth – which, having proved powerless to conjure the evil one, creosote has been resorted to, with no effect at present beyond a considerable spluttering and a delightful odour of cold tar. The fiend, however, is just at this moment beginning to yield, hurray! there’s virtue in that stumpy little bottle, and I begin to experience the buoyant sensations of the old familiar ha-ha-cured-in-an-instant individual.
I don’t think I told Father in writing him this morning that the steamer intended for the Iloilo and Manila line left New York on the 1st of March last. Sturgis and some friends took a trial trip in her about New Year’s Day, and he described her as a “perfect beauty” sailing very fast and making 10 knots in tolerably smooth water with ease under steam. So he sailed early in March but comes out under canvas except during calms and headwinds. I haven’t time at present to say much about myself and doings, I think I told you that Domingo and his wife and mother-in-law had gone away to Manila. D. went wrong and I had to part with him. I have in his stead a young man from Manila called Atanacio, a mild good-looking youth, no relation to him of the creed. These is also Martin, a cove who looks after the lamps and sweeps the floors; young Lucas who makes himself useful generally; and young Francisco, the son of an English deserter from a whaler, who got married at one of the pueblos in the interior and left several children. His name was John Last, which in the marriage certificate is translated into “Juan de los Ultimos” by which appellation he was known. The juvenile Francisco was brought to me by his mother and sisters, and sold for $4. That is, they took $4, and left him to work it out in wages, which he is doing at the rate of 6 reales a month. They bought him some clothes with part of the money.
Of the old domestics I formerly mentioned, none are left but the coachman. Cecilio was discovered in the interesting occupation of mixing a lot of mud in the sugar shipped per “Sumbilla” to account for a deficiency in the weight, so I had to discard him; he had previously been picking up such unconsidered trifles as handkerchiefs, etc.
I am getting now to be more of a hermit than ever – I usually feel so disinclined for stirring out of an evening after the heat of the day, the exhausting effect of which I now feel considerably, after so many years of it that I seldom go out at all, and usually turn in at 9 o’clock, a fearfully early hour in this part of the world where everybody turns in after 12 midnight in general. I have in consequence seen very little of Mrs. Carles and her sister, they appear to be all right. I saw Dolores dressed in pink some nights ago at a dance the first time she has been at a thing of the king since Don Emilio’s death. By George! I musn’t forget to say that I am actually likely to get soon a Vice-Consular fee. The owner of the ship going to China with timber wants a certificate of ownership, being desirous of selling her in Hongkong; unfortunately as he is “a friend” I shall probably have to forego the fee.
J.H. soon got over the disappointment about the young mestiza – he goes to visit her frequently. I imagine that the assertion about her being engaged to another was a “pious fraud” on her part to soften the refusal, and I think he is biding his time till matter are more propitious. I tell him he had better let me send him out someone from the Seagirt Isle, which he admits would be preferable, but then this young lady had some money and a good house, and anybody from home would doubtless want money and a house, which is different.
I have come to the end of my string without having said anything worth saying, but never mind will do better next time, with love to everybody
Your very affectionate brother,
[i] I have on hand