Letter No. 21
October 23rd, 1865
Per steamer “Iloilo”
My dear Father,
It is some little time since I wrote you last, and I now avail myself of the departure of this constant old steamer to own receipt of your last letter of August, to Robert and myself. It also enclosed one for Leontine, which she has received with satisfaction.
The young Enery (Henry) is going on satisfactorily, and spends his time mostly in sleeping, imbibing, and laughing. Fault is found with him, however, in that he lets the world go on too easily, and doesn’t cry or make a respectable enough row as a well –regulated-minded baby ought. But I am giving far too much prominence I fear to this young person, introducing him “au premier plan.” Let us therefore drop him, figuratively, I mean, for to do so positively would bring down the maternal ire on us.
Things here are proceeding in the usual kind of way. Sugar is being shipped and contracted for; piece goods are being sold, Chinamen dunned into paying up, letters of encouragement, congratulations or condolence written to constituents according as they require spiriting up, or as the results of their consignments call for felicitation or judicious regret.
Our minds are somewhat exercised by the purchase of the concretor by Higgin, which, being an experiment, is a somewhat serious one for us, who are by no means flush of disposable capital for more pressing things. But it may be a success, and we are so used to all manner of risks and perils of this kind that it doesn’t affect our appetite or cause any perceptible diminution in the constant consumption of curry and rice which is supposed to be always going on where tropicalities abound – though in reality I never see it at Tabucan, as our artist there is not equal to it. Robert, it is true, has a faint simulacrum of curry at his 12 o’clock breakfast, but it is not the curry of Lucknow or of Oude. The concretor is coming on the “Eliza,” but as we have not yet got the erecting drawings, we are not sure if it will be possible to have it up for this next season, which would be a drawback as it has to be paid for in a year from date of purchase.
I suppose Mr. Higgin will have been down to see you at Plymouth during this present month, and presume he would like the place and neighbourhood. Now that Ker & Co. are leaving Cebu, there should be more room for Loney, K and Co. on the import line. I suppose you hear all about Cebu doings from Frank, who seems to be a capital correspondent. Our firms come to an end as a partnership at the end of this year, but the idea is to prorogue the present arrangement till the end of next year. When that time is up I don’t know what we shall do exactly. I myself am extremely desirous to leave this place, where I have now been too long, and where one’s life is simply, you might almost say, a blank in many things, after having had so much of it. (Provincial Philippine existence)
I therefore think I must leave at the expiry of next year. By that time we should be quite out of debt, and our property in land and houses is now considerable, there should be enough to divide to allow one to turn towards Europe. But in any case my mind is pretty well made up to leave at the time mentioned, even if pecuniaries should be scant. On this you may be able to give me your advice. Robert will, I think, by that time secure enough to make up his original capital and more (and I think he rather inclines to join Mr. Costeker in something) either here or by living at home, but I do not say this definitely as the time being yet distant and events uncertain it is not much use speculating on these matters. He and Costeker apparently have great faith in the future of Matabang, and occupy and enjoy themselves in planning out schemes for its future prosperity which I think have a fair chance of realization. Though he does not care to allow it, I think Robert has pretty well got over his original dislike of the country and its ways, though he still objects to all manner of Spaniards, (and they – internos – return the compliment). In health I don’t think I ever saw him look better, though of course some effect has been produced by years in this warm climate; and he doesn’t seem impatient to get away. The drawback he feels about going is that his interests might suffer in his absence. Costeker being away at Negros, Higgin from his slightly eccentric style is not exactly the man to leave in charge of matters and things without someone with him. In this point of view it is regrettable that Ross did not join us, as was at one time probable when he thought of leaving Ker & Co. as we should have left our interests in his hands without any misgivings.
But at the end of 1869 I do not think I need allow money considerations to detain me here; as, rather than not leave, I would try to get a decent vice-consulate in Spain. For with this, and what might accrue from L & Co. I could along very well. I do not want to go into business again in England if I can help it – and to leave off work in toto (entirely) is of course a great mistake. From what I saw at Manila while acting Consul there, I think that if I again got well into that groove in a place of some little importance I think I could do some good, and advance perhaps after a time to a fair position, though after a man has been 26 years in the tropics his powers of work do not last far on in life. Anyhow my chief wish now is to leave this place, without sacrificing more than another year to it. Leontine is also very desirous to get away…
Mr. Ricketts writes me that he has got into a paper war with the Government in Manila, that the Captain General (who is said to be very ill) has written him an objectionable letter, and will only consider him on the footing of a “Commercial Agent.” He has refereed his position to Lord Stanley to be more clearly defined. Though an estimable, gentlemanly person, his dislike of Spaniards is so great that they have discerned and resented it, never calling on him or exchanging the usual social amenities of that kind.
In answering one of Mr. Brackenbury’s letters the other day (from Lisbon), I asked him what chance there would be of a Spanish vice-consulate, as he is well up in knowledge of that sort of thing. To tell you the truth, I don’t think there would be much chance, but it is well top keep it in view as a dernier (last) resort, and I by no means dislike the idea – though of course a residence in England would be more desirable for many reasons. However, these are mere speculations as to the future and to be taken as such.
Roberta Maria Josephina continues to be the wonder of the age – at her age- from the maternal point of view. I brought her home this morning a very long sugar cane from a field where they are cutting cane near the house, and there was great cutting and masticating thereupon.
With love from Leontine and self to all, including Aunt Kitty, believe me
Your affectionate son,