January-October 1859

The Collected Letters, Volume 35


JWC TO HENRY LARKIN ; 15 September 1859; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18590915-JWC-HL-01; CL 35: 203-204


Craigenvilla / Edinr / Thursday [15 September 1859]

My dear Mr Larkin

If my character for sobriety (whatever else) were not “above suspicion”;1 these written documents you are receiving from me might give you room to think!

Certainly I was never so confused in all my life! so needing to be myself taken charge of, instead of taking charge of others whether with four legs or two! Mr C gave me no instructions about that horse beyond ordering it to be sent on board the Princess Royal by my Cousins Groom2—“Anybody at Edinr could tell me anything I wanted to know”!—and my three maiden aunts, living out at Morningside, are as ignorant about Steamers and Horses and “all that sort of things”3 as sucking doves!—and I absolutely have not seen a male creature “to speak to” since I arrived in Edinr! The night before last, I was so bothered in my mind about having to take Charlotte and the dog to Granton, and meet the horse there, and arrange them all on the ship that I awoke for good at four in the morning—frightened by a horrid dream, that my Cousin's respectable old groom had presented himself on the pier at Granton in Hessian boots with tassells! and a cocked hat!!—and not the vestige of a horse!! tho’ the ship was just at the point of sailing— Like Hamlet, “the time,” you see, was “out of joint” for me, and I was “not born to set it right”!4

Nevertheless I found in the waking reality of the case, “old John” all right—looking out for me to show me the horse, quite contentedly looking out of its box in very handsome headgear. I patted his neck, and gave him my blessing, and then paid the “three pounds” demanded for his passage—and thought I had done all that England or Mr Carlyle,—or the horse's self expected of me!5— But—oh horror!—last night—in the middle of “Prayers”—it flashed thro’ me like a knife, that the three pounds was surely not so much as Mr C had paid coming down—and that I should have paid something for food to the poor horse!— Good God! If after all my anxiety and trouble I had left it to be starved!— This idea suggested itself in connection with a-half crown Old John told me he had “paid for hay, and must tell Charlotte about”— At the moment I never thought but the hay had been got at Auchtertool—only during prayers it struck me, the words “Must tell Charlotte about it” indicated the hay to have been got on board—so then the horse's food could not have been included in the —and would half a crown's worth of hay be enough for him?—if not; would Charlotte have the sense to pay for what else he required? Charlotte between ourselves has not improved in sense during her stay in Scotland—“anything but”!— I gave Charlotte thirteen shillings at parting, the most of which, as she preferred taking her provisions with her—(those of the ship being bad she said) I meant her to use at Cheyne Row— I did not wish her to have more money about her than was necessary for she is both very wasteful and very careless of money, her own—and other peoples—then besides, of her own money she must have had, after all her purchases in Edinr, the best part of half a Sovereign left—so surely, surely she would spend what was needed on the poor horse! Do write to me immediately—to Sunny Bank Haddington to put my mind at ease, if possible, on this head— I6 shall get no sleep till I hear the horse is all right at Silvester's Stables, and that heedless little girl with her equally heedless little dog, all right at Cheyne Row. To-day I go into the country to see an old servant, the dear old ‘Betty’7 you must have heard me speak of.— Yours affectionately,