Saturday, March 26, 2011

Old Mrs. Wallen 2

“My father spoiled me—he gave a ball always on my birthday and of course I came to it with him. He hired a large room and decorated it himself with cocoa-nut branches and flowers. He also took me to a Ball at Government House. He was fond of dancing and would keep it up all night. My mother never cared for balls. She had four servants and kept her home beautifully clean and neat. She would take a walk in the evenings sometimes. My father went sometimes to play whist with Parson Newman and his two daughters and at other times Mr. Court came to play blackgammon and cribbage with him. Lady Selina, the Governor’s daughter, invited me to spend the day with her. She was only about 16. I dined there with the Governor and his Secretary. The man servant was sent to bring me home. I was very much excited. Lady Selina gave me a smelling bottle. Mr. Court had been teasing me and wanted to see it. I would not let him and spoke very rudely. My mother led me out of the room and into hers and in the dark, which I was always afraid of, said she was much vexed with my behaviour and I must apologise to Mr. Court. I was being obstinate and would not although she locked me in her room until I was sent to bed and she said I was not to be forgiven until I did. I was very miserable and dreaded having to go to Mr. Court’s house to ask forgiveness. I went, however, and when I told Mr. Court what had brought me he said it was all his fault, he had teased me. We kissed and made friends, and I returned happy. My father also had a sugar plantation in partnership with Mr. Burt called the Whatten Whatten, when one was in town the other looked after the Plantation but of course had an overseer. Mr. B. was my god-father. When he died after I returned to England he left his share in the property to his little girl and to me, but my father said would not let me have it. He said it was little enough for his daughter who was left an orphan. A French lady, a great friend of my mother’s, died leaving her as guardian to her only living child, a girl. There was one of the finest sugar estates left for her. My mother took her to our house for some time, but decided the best thing to do was to send her to England to be educated. Her black nurse, a faithful servant of the mother, was sent to attend her and she was placed under Mrs. Aston’s care, to place her at school and to see to all her wants. Having only one son, Mrs. Aston became much attached to the girl—when she was ten died—became very delicate, was so religious she died very happily. I was sent for a few days before her death to see her. I was at Mrs. Fellow’s school at the time. She made her will and left the Estate half to Mrs. Aston and the other half between my mother and her nurse who was living in Martinique. The girl’s uncle and aunt, Jenner, by name, also owned a Plantation, disputed her right to make a will. My father had to employ a lawyer and had a great deal of trouble over it. Mr. Aston shared the expenses, then it was thrown into Chancery which cost a great deal of money but it was eventually decided she had a right to make a will and each one got their share—much less from the expenses. After my sister went to St. Vincent I attended a day school. My lunch was sent on a tray every day, and a jug of Madiera and water. The cake woman called every day at the school for me to choose what I liked and as I passed my grandmother’s she always had sweets of some sort for me, so when we dined at six o’clock my father was quite distressed because I eat scarcely anything and made me have a glass of Madiera, but my mother knew it was my Grandma giving me cakes although she was told not to do so. She spoiled me as much as my father. When I was about 12 we heard that my sister was engaged to be married to Robert Busche and we were requested to go to St. Vincent at once. My Father engaged a sloop to take us, the only way of going among the islands in those days. My mother and I suffered dreadfully. I was so weak when we landed I could not walk—had to be carried to my aunt’s house. As my father could not remain long the marriage took place soon. My aunt and uncle provided everything, and my aunt Margery and Captain Odell were married the same evening. At my aunt’s house there were no strangers. The judge’s daughter, Miss Wylie, was married to Busche’s nephew, John Beresford, so they were at the wedding. George Power was of course there. Busche, when my parents returned to Dominica, wished me to be left with them, and my sister wd. teach me. But there was not much learning, my sister had to visit and entertain, so a good many days I was at my aunt’s and had my little cousins to play with. My cousin Clarissa was so kind, and there were officers and young men at the house every day—but my aunt was very strict. I was called for her, and she thought it her duty to reprove me continually for tearing my dresses etc. On the other hand Busche spoiled me as much as my father. As they were going to a ball he wanted to know what I was going to wear. My sister said I was too young to go, he insisted that I should and that a dress be made for me. Then they gave a ball at Xmas—there was a man-o-war in the Bay and Sir Charles Brisbane was requested to bring some of the officers with him. When he arrived he said to me “I have brought a middy to dance with you,” and he introduced me to a boy about twelve—but I danced with a midshipman of 16, Henry Seagrum and was quite smitten. He admired my hair and asked me to give him a bit so I cut off a piece and gave it. Next day all the officers that called teased me dreadfully. My cousin (Clarissa) had a great many offers, and the Colonel of the 1st proposed to her at a ball. She did not make him understand that she would not have him, and he wrote to ask my uncle’s consent. Cla said she wd. not have him and he pestered her so that she went to Dominica to stay with my mother until the regiment left St. Vincent. I got a letter from my mother to say Tom Court and his sister were going to England, and he sent me a lovely cat-coral necklace and I was to write and thank him, which I did, and enclosed a lock of my hair as a keepsake. Next letter my mother urged me to write to ask my father to let me go to England to school as it was such a good opportunity to go with the Courts. This I did, and my Father came to St. Vincent for me. At once my father got me ready. Besides the Courts, Mrs. Paul was a passenger. Her daughter was married to Captain Best, one of the officers at Dominica. When my father took me on board there were a good many gentlemen. The day we sailed—the ship was called “Eulina Grove,” a new one, and considered a very fine vessel. I heard one of the gentlemen say he didn’t like her, she was too narrow for her length and very little wd. send her right over. Our Capt. Holder was a good seaman, but a vulgar man. We encountered a dreadful gale, the head-lights were put up, and a lamp lit in the cabin. Mrs. Paul and Miss Court were crying and praying. I kept thinking what I heard the gentleman say, however I did not cry but tried to cheer up the others as I had been so often at sea. I was accustomed to the noise on deck, and not sick as they were. By morning the gale was over, and we had good weather until we landed at Dover. Mrs. Paul, Miss Court and myself slept there that night and went by coach next morning to London. Tom Court went on with the ship to London. Arrived there, Miss Court took a hacking coach at once to place me at Miss Babington’s school where my cousin Mary Jane was still at school. Miss Court went in with me to tell Miss B. that I was to learn of all the masters, to sleep with my cousin (or otherwise there is an extra charge)—to give me a shilling a week pocket money and was to remain at the school during the holidays unless I was invited by my friends, and Mr. Constable would settle the bills. Miss Court wished me good-bye and said she would write to me, which she did only once. I was told by Miss Babington that tea wd. be sent to me, as it was over in the schoolroom, and that after I had had it she wd. take me there. I was left then alone. I did not cry but felt so desolate and my cousin was away for her holidays. It was Easter time. A small cup of tea and bread and butter was brought me. When Miss B. came for me she took me to the schoolroom to the governess Miss Harvey, and gave her directions about me. Then as soon as I was finished I was left among the girls (many did not go home, some even came from Scotland). They crowded round me. One said, hoe fair you are, was not your mother black? I felt indignant. Then another, “What lovely hair you have, will you let me paper it tonight?” “No!” said another, “she will be in the room with me, and I am going to do it.” And for several nights it was done for me, and then I was left to do it the best way I could for myself. Another question was, “How much money have you got?” My father had given me four guineas. My cousin returned in about a week, a pretty, sweet-tempered girl, and we were great friends and very happy together. I had a music-master twice a week, English master, a Quaker that taught us writing, arithmetic and astronomy, a French dancing master once a week, and every Friday evening Mr. Jenkins came in his carriage and we went through exercises, taught to walk and dance the minuet and gavotte and some evenings we dressed in evening dress and a tray was handed round with a small glass of negus and one bun for each; that was a treat we looked forward to. I had not long been at the school when the girls informed me the Miss Babingtons were giving up the school and Miss Rawling had purchased it, and they were going to buy a present for the Babingtons and asked me if I would like to join. They said the big girls were giving 10/- each and the little ones 5/-. As I wished to be considered a big girl of course I gave 10/-. A young gentleman I knew in Dominica called to see me, a Mr. Dampier. He said he had received great kindness from my mother and my father had lent him a little money and he would not let him repay it. He brought me a handsome rosewood desk and a seal of amethysts set in gold that had three sides and Catherine on it. His sisters had often sent handsome presents to my mother for her kindness to their brother. All the girls had to examine the desk and the seal, but when I wanted the seal it was gone…”

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