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Mary Slessor: Letters 21–30

Letter no. 21

3rd November 1905

Miss Slessor here asks Commissioner Partridge to arbitrate in a dispute over which court a certain workman should be summoned to.

Ikot Obong
3rd Novr 1905

Dear Mr Partridge

The Chiefs of Ikot Obong have brought bearer & his summons to me, clamouring that Oyo does not have Jurisdiction in this town of Aka Mbiakpan. This town is working on the road here, Ekandem P.C. corroborates this, that you have always sent to that town for the work men, & your police always go there with your orders.

So I send him on to you, with his "Book" [Note 1] that you may settle it.

Kind regards

M M Slessor

The boy states that the reason he has not gone to the Court is He told them from the first he wd. go to Ikot Okpene or Itu, but not to Oyo. It was *not* a "Brushie" [Note 2] who delivered the summons. It was the Plaintiff in the summons. MMS

Editorial Note:

  1. Book. Probably a local term for an official statement or document
  2. Brushie. Probably someone living rough, in the bush, etc
Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1998
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998

Letter no. 22

26th November 1905

A note enclosing a summons; about collection of her mail; and a complaint about farming land.

(Envelope addressed to:)
C Partridge Esqu
(Address on fold of the letter is to)
C Partridge Esq
Okop Edi

26th Nov 1905

Dear Mr Partridge

Here with the summons you spoke of to Chas Coco. Is this right? The boy will bring my mail, if any, & save you trouble. I trust your home news is good.

Kind regards
M MSlessor

I forgot to say those men at the Okop Edi beach were here one day, saying, that the place Mr Russell asks them to go back to, is too near the boundary with *Use* for farming.

M MSlessor

11 o/c A.M. Mails received many thanks. I sent the boy early to the beach with enclosed but he did not find you.
Thanks again

Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1998
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998

Letter no. 23

3rd December 1905

Miss Slessor apologises for her absence from home when needed by the Court and regrets that Mr Partridge has to travel continuously around the country. She informs him of a private settlement of a dispute and tells of being chased from a village at gunpoint because the previous day she had accompanied a policeman there to make an arrest.

(Envelope addressed to:)
C Partridge Esqr.
Ikot Okpene
Ikot Obong
3rd Dec. 05

Dear Mr Partridge

Your note from [Munefa?] to hand. Thanks for your trouble in letting me know that Mr Fosbery is to pass. I have no excuse whatever for being from home, specially as these are the two days the Court needs me. Im only sorry for your having to tramp about incessantly like this. How *can* you do your "scribing"?

Kindest regards,
Yours sincerely
M M Slessor

P.S. Your letter to Aro Chuku was not at its destination till the whole lot of men connected with the palaver came from Akain Obio - other side of the Creek - in order to get the palaver settled *informally* in my house, so Mytton wont be bothered after all, as the new husband - the owner of the girl asks me to give a decision & he will abide by it. *All* their people from Atan Cross River came, they are old friends. Of course it is *not* *Court* palaver. I'm glad for the sake of *both* husbands & for the girl.


Akpan Akpa Uta Udo Ekon

We saw Udo Afia Umo Afia, who lifted a matcheat [Note 1] & said, "Oh, it was you who walked with a policeman yesterday to seek some one, & today you are here again. Are you walking to eat the ground?" & he called his people with the "Cooe" call of the Country. We ran at once, for he held his gun at us. We had answered, we are on the path, we are not in any body's house,". When he showed his gun at us, we ran.

[This note was included with the letter of 3/12/05]

Editorial Note:

  1. Matcheat = machete/matchet, a broad heavy knife
Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1998
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998

Letter no. 24

10th December 1905

Miss Slessor queries whether the bearer can take his case to his local court at Okpo, rather than to Aro Chuku.

(Back of envelope addressed to:)
C Partridge Esq
Ikot Okpene
(Letter written on front of envelope)
10th Dec '05

On my way to Church

Sorry to trouble you, but must this man take his palaver to Aro Chuku, as he belongs to Okpo, & the woman who seeks Divorce belongs to himself?

It is an awful *Humbug* all for the want to *minding* a simple law.

M MSlessor

Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1998
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998

Letter no. 25

22nd December 1905

Miss Slessor is expecting the arrival of Mr Partridge at the Court, but warns him to bring a well armed escort for there is no courthouse at Ikot Obon as yet.

Ikot Obon
22nd Dec 1905

Dear Mr. Partridge

Your note of above date to hand. Thanks.

I shall be expecting you & shall try to have the names I know ready. I sent on 3 prisoners today, but kept back all papers, as I fancied you would make several detours on your way with your "Releif" .

I trust you are not too tired for the journey across after all the giving up, & packing.

You had better bring a "Maxim" [Note 1] & some blunderbusses, for there is no Court House yet.

I have declined to discuss the subject, or even give an answer on any allusion to it. They are exasperating, specially, as there is so much excuse over it.

Kind regards & thanks for all papers. Yours Sincerely

M M Slessor

Editorial Note:

  1. Maxim-gun. The first fully automatic water-cooled machine gun, designed in 1844 by Hiram Maxim
Transcription By: Mrs. G. Mann, 1996.
Data Entered By: Mrs G. Mann, 1996

Letter no. 26

25th December 1905

Miss Slessor wishes Mr. Partridge a Happy Christmas, a good voyage, and a glad time on leave with his folks. Her postscript tells of £30.0.0 deposited on behalf of the Ikot Obon people, and an appeal in court which she does not hold out much hope for. She looks forward to his return.

(Address on envelope to)

C Partridge Esqr.
District Commissioner
The Consulate
Duke Town
(Postmarked Calabar Dec. 28th 1905)
Ikot Obon
25th Decr. 1905

Dear Mr Partridge

I wish you a very very good time, with all the seasons greetings.

I sent down a note to the beach after you were gone, & am afraid Sawyer may not send it on before you go away. I wish the C.M. [Note 1] had brought it back. I had not thought of your going, & just turned it into an open envelope thinking you wd. get it at once. It was on the top of the plum pudding - which has turned out lovely.

I have no Xmas Card to send, but think you will like the Almanac I have sent on.
You might hang it in your Cabin

I thank you for all your kindness to me, & for the cheerful helpful friendship which has gladdened the last years journeys. God bless & guide & keep you through all the years on before. I hope you will have a good voyage, & a glad time with your home folks, & I do trust you will be back again to Ikot Obong & Ikot Okpene for next Xmas.

I am yours most sincerely
M M Slessor

Messrs Brooke & Mansfield came up this morning. I had a proper fight with the former, but we parted good friends. I gave £30 " " over to be deposited on behalf of Ikot Obong. Theres no more word of the appeal. It will not have a leg to stand on, as we hold him at *his* *own* *price*. He may get a fine now. It is a CoCo man, the CoCo man who was to get the flogging for the "sauce" he gave the Court, is grovelling on his hands & knees all the time, saying, "it is the house that makes him mad, as they throw every dirty thing on to him when they cant get a way out.

tata MMS

Editorial Note:

  1. C.M. = Court Messenger
Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1998
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998

Letter no. 27

24th February 1906

In this long letter Miss Slessor explains why she has taken so long to reply to his last letter [she has been busy and suffered recurrent bouts of fever all through January] and, after joking with him about its contents, goes on to give a full report of Court Cases, the progress of road works, railway surveying, river and creek dredging, and the building of a new hopsital. There is much news of their many friends and acquaintances. The first baptismal service had been held at Itu, and the first twins had been born alive though living for only two days. She is delighted with two books she believes he has sent her ["Halbeck", by Mrs Henry Ward and "Mill on the Floss", by George Eliot], and is pleased at the Liberal victory in the general election.

Ikot Obon

24th Feb. 1906

Dear Mr Partridge

Had anyone hinted that February wd almost have gone before I wrote to you, I should have said a few straight words, & yet!! here it is. My, but the days do fly! This Court *is* a shop, & not an hour of respite, not even on my way to service on Sundays. And yet, if it weren't I shd be sorry, for it is better they come direct to myself, even to ask about their summons, as to whether it has been delivered, or whether they should go & ask, & so make sure, & etc etc than that they went to policemen, or to any other body who might make mischief. But it is a silly people, & a trial to patience, & I'm so tired as a rule, that all my good resolutions, made daily, to write a lot at night are put one side at sight of my sofa & a book. I had fever right on 3 or 4 times a week, all through January, & I have only twice been able to walk to Church this year. But last Saturday I took quite a turn for the better, & am now just myself again.

I owe you many thanks for that kind - far too kind, letter you sent just at the time I needed it badly to cheer me up! Never mind though all you say in it misses the mark by a long way, for thats not Mary Slessor on the Pedestal you set up! its a creation of your own, never the less tho I cant lay claim to it, I can aspire to be the sort of being it pictures, & only wish I had a chance to try on yourself. Fancy *Me* helping **You**!! & fancy *my* temper & patience, put alongside of yours!! Still I *can* try, old as I am, & last Court day, I *did* try, & pray too, & I think I *was* more helpful & patient. Wait a bit, when you come back, I *will* try again, if I get the privilege, & perhaps you may then praise.

Mr Mansfield *is* kind, & "sane". I could not have got a better Chief among the lot. I see & hear little of him, as he is kept very busy. He has the "Justice" there just now, & perhaps Mr Fosbery. I am not sure whether the latter passed this week. Mr Brooks has gone, but I have never got that boundary yet, & there are still "Ructions" I had a sheet of paper the size of this one, from Etim Offion of Ikorofion this week anent, Ikot Ayan, from which you appointed a Chief to sit in this Court. I did not answer, but sent it right on to Ikot Okpene. Udo Antias Case made a flash in the pan for a little after you had gone. When the Rd. surveyors sent forward boys to ask for a shed for their forward step, they were held up. Just as the men from Imuks place I told you of were, only he gave them Mbian [Note 1]. They said they were from a distance, going to gather their debt. They lied so glibly, that they were taken to Udo himself in a hut on his land, & after the Mbian he threatened to do all sorts of things if they told of him. This brought the thing to a head. Just as Obori, the Okpo man, had found for me, Where he was living with a mother in law. So Capn Lloyd came, & burned his place & had loot of yams & goat & a cow the first day, without seeing him. Next day they went to a different place near his own, & just missed him, He ran into the bush. But he found it too hot I expect, & sent for the Interpreter, Esien, to come & bring him in. Meanwhile his mother came in, & she expecting they would shoot him, hung on to me, lay on me, hugged me for 4 long hours. I could not get out of her embraces till I was nearly fainting. "Take me, take him," "take me, take him", "We will be your slaves for ever" "[loky?] did he not listen to you long ago, when you called him," etc etc she wailed. He is all I have, *All*, *all* I have" --- till the Chiefs were shedding tears. It was a bad hour for me I tell you, for even Udo Antia is loved by a Mother. What a mighty, what a mysterious thing is mother love! She coveted the chance of dying for him, & she crouched where her eyes devoured him, all the time of the trial, till she was so overcome they had to remove her. The mob which came to the trial, made us defer the sentence till next morning for fear the mothers wailing might upset things. I asked after the crowds had gone, if they were at all hostile to us. No! said my children & my people, they were hungry to hear how the White Man would punish, & to gloat over him, & I think the disappointment at only 2 years, *after* *your* 2 years is general. Eniyon & Ibibio don’t think he is punished enough. He was allowed an audience of his mother, daughter & a slave man, in my presence before he was removed, & they behaved well. I told the mother I should look after her & her affairs, as her son had asked me, & begged her to let him go quietly, her daughter then said to him, "don’t trouble about us. Keep to your work, & keep well, & then come home to us & live quietly & don’t have any more crooked ways." So the old lady comes & embraces me, & gives me a few yams, & tells her troubles & cries, & goes again. His slaves have stolen every thing & run away, & Ibiaku went & burned the only hut the White Man left they say. The latter fact is not yet proved, as I gave it to Mr Mansfield. They brought from Udo's place 8 guns, & his own revolver. He lived in the bush all the time, & had the revolver under his arm sleeping & waking. I believe Mr Mansfields carriers were fired on, on the Oyo road the other day, & we have had two or 3 gun Cases, all however submitting at once. There are lots of guns all over the place. I wish you had been at Udos trial, if only to study Ibibio character. I had to dismiss Ekandem & Ete Eduku long ago they were too ------

I don’t know what I was to say here. I was interrupted. The Road was all cut a month ago past here, & last time I was carried down to Itu - a fortnight ago, to the first Baptismal service at Itu, I had not to get up the hills at all. There are gangs at work every bit all along, & one could get along the whole way on the new road in various stages of completeness. The paid labour has transformed the thing & one can see now what is being done, & the surveyors are kept at it like navvies. A White foreman has come, & they have now a large compound on the top of the hill second from Ikot Obon, with office, a clerks house & all. A lovely house & a lovely site, so the old shed is bare & black, & Mr Rosario is away on beyond Udo Antias place, the road runs through his town. It is a big responsibility, the having of 600 men without wife or home on the road. Theres a big work on [E-nd?] from Itu, below the rest house the embankment is wonderful already, & the Railway surveyors are gone further up & further round. They purpose taking my old road by [---?] Obio going out at the Creek by the small oil market. Ikot Obon is its old prevaricating lazy self, but the Robing Room is there waiting for the Robes, & we are comfortably housed. The policemen & male prisoners are staying there. 2 rooms of the policemens houses are up, but we were helping with mats for the camp, & they payed us well. I'm through my second Summons Book & well on with my third, & my second evidence book is almost full. We have a good lot of money in hand, & I think we get along fairly well. They behave much better, & only one Chief - & he as goodlooking as most, & clean, - Udo Ekandem of Ntan, - has had to be expelled for bad conduct. Calabar is becoming more scarce as the old Itu Cases are disposed of, & I'm glad as they rile me. Charles CoCo seemed surprised at getting off with costs of 12/- [Note 2] only in the old ladys Case, he behaved admirably, & sent his respects. John sent a summons to a lad of their house in Duke Town, in a Case he had held over at Itu Court for 2 years, & the boy got into trouble for impertinence to the Court, & his lounging chair & patent leather foot gear & velvet suit gave way to a dirty cloth, & lying prone on the ground before me every day. Then the heads of the house Etim Offron from Itu came up, & the boy let it all out, that they made him the scapegoat, & he knew nothing of the matter, & the head of the house brought the two women with him before the Case was tried, & gave them up. I felt like taking John up for fraud & man snatching -!!! Well, let them go. I'm now trying to get in their debts from Ibibio & warning Ibibio not to receive any more trade goods from them, but to go straight to the shop at Okop Edi. They are doing well there. I cant tell you properly their returns, but he buys over 7 tons of kernels from women alone over the counter on a market morning. The Efiks are sitting in branches all up the road intercepting the market people but that will cease too in time I expect.

I have only sent 2 men from the road yet to Ikot Okpene. I keep as much in touch with all of them as I can & will try to visit their Camps on Sunday, & make friends with them. Mr Smith has gone home, Mr Darby is away seeking a site for a sanatarium in the Ekoi, among the [Bumby?] Hills, 2,000 feet high. My dear laddie Mr Maxwell is back, but not in good health Im sorry to say. He is doing office work, as he is not fit to rough it this term. I trust he will pull up soon & be about by next trip. Still, he is not an ideal administrator, as I have told you. He is like myself, to nervous, & impatient. But he is a good boy, & a clean, straight clever lad, a lad to *love* & cherish. I had a letter from Mr Dyer, who is not ill pleased with his post, but is longing for the old friends & people he did so much good work among. Mytton seems to do well, & he is a courteous correspondent. The Robertsons are getting a fine place. A new White Carpenter has come out to build the Hospital. He came up one day, but wont let his wife come till the roads are made. She is a nice woman, as quiet as he is loud, & as plodding as he is unreliable.

I do not know whether I shall stay here. Ive sent home word that Mr Rankin shd. take over the Station & work it properly, & I should move farther on. If so, wd. you advise me to go toward Ikot Okpene, or nearer the Inokon side. I wish you wd tell me, in case it happens I move. I have only got the sanction of the Preby. till April for this work. Im supposed to go back to Okoyon then I expect, which I shall simply refuse to do, as it wd. be unfair to Miss Wright, at least till her furlough is due in mid winter.

I had a visit on Court day from a Mr Wilson, who is dredging or cleaning the river & creek. He expects to be on that work for long. He wants prison made mats, & as I can sell them at a profit, I shall let him have as many as he wants. So they will be going to build largely, as he has got 1000 already from Ikoneto, & wants 1000 at least more. I hear Sir Walter Egerton is come to Calabar, but am not sure. He sent the railway men to call on me. His wife is with him, so it will be lively at the Consulate I dare say. Gaiety will be the order of the day now. All the Europeans are to have their wives now, which will be a good thing for them & for the country. There's your chance, I'll be an Aunty to you both shd. you be wise & fortunate enough to accept your privileges. I do trust you will come straight back to Ikot Okpene, & will say it any & every where. You have made & settled the District really, & why should you not complete it unless indeed you get something more enticing. I've never had a chance to speak to Esien since you left. Ive had his brothers wife threating [Note 3] to leave Ofon, this evening, & really she was entirely in the right. She is the elderly clearly intelligent mistress of the house you lived in always in Ikot Obon. He behaves abominably towards her, & she does for herself. She does not get one yam a year from him in return for her work to him. nor will he pay for what he takes from her out of what she trades for others. Such is marital bliss in Ibibio. We have substituted for giving over children to old husbands, giving 18 goats or a girl, & 9 goats to replace the mother & child by another wife, & it is working well, without the harrowing details of breaking up a family.

We have had our first twins saved here, but they were such tiny sickly things, they only lived 2 days. The father is your head man, at the back of our hill, so I was glad to see them go. The day after, a boy of 2 or 3 months old came from behind the brick field, its mother dead, so the twin mother took it when its people left, & she has helped with it ever since, & she is very quiet, & has another child, but they wont let it come for fear it dies beside her. They have given her 4 yams, which means they wont have her back.

Now what means the two books come by this mail? It is your handwriting, & I have been reading Halbeck during the nights. It is not the best of Mrs Wards. She has created a most original, & difficult heroine, & the evolution of her character under such strange & extreme circumstances & environment is an interesting study, but she can do better work in analasis than this. The workings & results of Christianity from the Roman Catholic point of view, are so unreal so laboured, so manifestly a working from the outward, that it grows grotesque, & instead of the exquisite & subtile charm of mysticism, there is a wearying almost sensuos piling up & on of the commonest gauds. It is all too tawdry to be associated with the sacred Name of Jesus Christ the Saviour of the World. The very burden of the ritual, & the unloveliness of the characters, both Protestant & Catholic, make the whole system something above the level of the African Fetish & its Product. I trust Christ & Christianity will do more for the high spirited, finely strung, independant young woman of today than it did for poor Laura & her noble husband to be, & for the poor "starved soul" of the invalid stepmother. I have sent a reading round to Mrs Robertson today, & am anxious to renew my girlhoods friends of the "Mill on the Floss", those wholesome, natural sinners bred in our own homeland, who somehow are very dear because of their very faults & frailties. I thank you most sincerely for them, for I'm sure it is your gift, but cant make out the Post Mark. How are things at home? Im glad for Liberal victory all along the lines. don’t trouble to pity me, I'm glad of my Plebian tastes, & trust public money will be spent for public good. How goes it with Poor Russia? she is paying dearly for ----------!! I wont be drawn into it!!! but she will be born again & live out of the agony. The birth throes are always agony for body & spirit, for nature & nations, but who wd. choose death in preference? Well, Well! heres another sheet of Govt. paper. I have not a scrap of writing paper till the Str [Note 4] comes, but I have written my own for Government for years, so conscience does not prick. I don’t know if you can wade through this. It has been a constant interruption. I trust you will enjoy your furlough, & be a comfort to your home circle. Whether you smile or not, I pray God to bless you & to *satisfy* you with *Himself*. *It* *is* a Grand *Reality* this *personal* relationship through Christ.
Yours most sincerely
Mary MSlessor

The £50 is all right. Mr Mansfield told me it is in the Safe. Thanks

Editorial Notes:

  1. Mbiam.
  • "The liquid substance which is tasted, & sometimes put on various parts of the body, in taking a solemn oath. It is supposed to cause dropsy, & so destroy any individual swearing falsely."
  • Mbiam can also mean "the oath so taken, & hence sometimes applied to any solemn oath, whether mbiam has been used or not." from Charles Partridge's copy of the Rev. Hugh Goldie's "Dictionary of the Efik language".

2. 12/- = Twelve shillings [or 60 new pence] Should surely read "threatening" Str. = Steamer

Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1998
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998

Letter no. 28

30th April 1906

Miss Slessor tells Mr Partridge of her latest bout of fever despite using filtered water. She thanks him for the gift of books which include a copy of Robert Burns's poems. This is put to good use for towards the end of the letter she uses a quotation from it. There is news of the Court and some cases, and she goes on to relate the events that have overtaken Udo Antia's family while he is in prison. Progress of the road building programme is related. The High Commissioner and Lady Egerton had paid a visit, during which she told him that the steady employment on road building was the best possible way to civilise the country. Lady Egerton comes in for praise as does Mr. Mansfield, who is acting District Commissioner during Mr. Partridge's leave. She concludes by hoping Mr. Partridge is having a pleasant leave, and wishing his speedy return to Calabar.

Ikot Obon
30th April 1906

Dear Mr. Partridge

Your long, breezy letter came last night - shall I confess it? When I was struggling vainly to throw off a bit of fever, - But I *had* taken quinine & Miss Amess is with me I *have* been using filtered water so you Cant Crow over a victory.

What shall I say for all these books? What a lovely "Burns", Just a luxury to touch. O you dear old thing! Can I not invent a word or something to thank you properly! & I cant do a single thing to help you in return. I'm --- I don’t know what I was to say here, as a small crowd came to the office, & now it is afternoon, & who do you think was in the forefront, and stayed longer than the others? Udo Antias daughter. She has not been to her Efik husband since the place was fired, as she declares some one has made witch for her & it has gone into her legs. She says she put all her things into a certain shed whch. was spared at the war, & Abiatuk fired the shed & burned every thing. She wants them to Court, but has not yet taken out a summons. I gave her a "book" [Note 1] to Mr Wilkie of Duke Town, so that he might - if it is not against the law - see Udo, & let his mother know how he is.

She says every one of the slaves & household servants & retainers have made off. The wives all but one have gone with their children from the first day. Not one has stayed to help with planting or building. I must ask Mr. Mansfield if these women, may make "friend" marriages till he Udo comes home, & then go back to him with his children, as women here cant live single for years. Yes Mr. Mansfield is a good man, & conscientious but I prefer the sweep & the personality of Mr. Partridge's methods. Detail & red tape is most obnoxious here at the beginnings of things. Still it is a great blessing to have a gentleman to work for, & with.

I had a most pleasant visit from the H.C.{Note 2] & Lady Edgerton. She is simply charming. A true, sweet womanly woman; *His* [lines?] fell in pleasant places when the [Note 3] fell on her. He is a fortunate man. I told him the place was your creation, & etc. He was speaking on the difference in it from his last visit. He thinks it is too civilized for me now. My books were made up last month & the income for the 5 + a 1/2 months is £164. 8. 6. & the expenditure - I cant find the sheet, - but thats not bad Eh? & for this month I have £25, in hand, & more summonses are being taken out than we can deal with. The C.B. house are not troubling me in the least except that big fellow from Obot Etim, Otu, who was to appeal you time, & didnt. He has taken a boy just now, after being summoned to appear. He took the summons - went into the house who are the [Plfs?] & took a boy off to Calabar, then wrote to me that he was ill at Calabar with Yellow Fever but trusts God will spare him to come back. Some body said he was in the Itu house. He has tried to bluff the house several times on Court day, but I put my foot down and he subsides. If only he could be got off that trade road it wd. be good for Ibibio. He comes up on market days & holds up the people passing before they reach the factory. If he does it on the Govt. road, we will prosecute. Their power is broken. Asan is beginning to find that Ikot Obong will not tolerate what Itu did, & they are bothering less, but Mr. Mansfield was threatning some of them the other day. The Ibibio chiefs are doing well. You would hardly believe how clean they are, & the old vacant stare, or the giggle & the interpolations, are all absent now & a certain amount of dignity reigns. But I must give most of the credit to Okpo & Itu, for they have helped immensely in training the Ibibios in cross examination & courage, & in self repression. I cannot tell you how much I owe to their steady support & scorn of meanness & greed among the chiefs, & also in averting anything unbecoming from me, as they understand something of Chivalry towards women from their contact with European Officers. Our old man here improves, & often asks for you, so does Imuk, & some others come in since you were here, who knew you well. Day by day we gain a little I think, some one comes in, or I get a case & send for them in private and try to shew them the lines on which we work & they give me some yams and a fowl, & then come as friends.

I told Udo's daughter your proposal about going to Ikot Aba, & she thought it was splendid, but wished it had been at the beginning. The new road has gone through their land & through Udo's Yard, & the only wife who has stayed built a house & had it finished, & they knocked it down saying, "If you don’t knock it down *at* *once*, we will burn you". "Thats a lie" I said, the interpreter may have said that, the White Man did *not*. You can Bike up now from the beach to the front of our house, & we walk down on the new road by the side of the spring to the bridge at the foot. The road does not go at all that way now. It goes through Ikot Aba, & is a mile & a half north they say of Manya. You will not go near Manya, & a long loop in a certain river, which was as two rivers, is avoided. You will know these yourself. I do not.

Now about myself! I have not only got a Roving Commission from the Home Church & the Presby [Note 4] here, but have got a helper for the school & the women, in Miss Amess, who is out of Okoyon till they get some one from home to go up beside her. As my dear helper Miss Wright is going to marry Dr Rattray, our good doctor at Umvana, & has run home to see her Mother & get a rest before she takes up the strenuous life of a bush Drs wife. I don’t therefore need to leave Ikot Obon, & the responsibility of supply for my own station is taken off! Now tell me where shall I buy land for an industrial school & refuge for women who need help? I have the money. Shall it be near Ikot Okpene? or Where? If it is to supply any kind of work for the European, it must be near some sort of transport, & it must be near a population which could be helped & taught. Must it be near the river???

I do not remember anything fresh. 600 or so of the boys have been taken off the road as the money is done. I told the High Cr [Note 1] that I was sorry for he would not get a cheaper or safer way of steadying & pacifying & civilizing the country. These Ekit & Aro men, Anan & etc have been utterly transformed by the steady discipline of hours & etc., & are my best friends, & they will go to their distant homes, exponents of the White Man, & thus open his way. I have tried to win them, by visiting & dressing their wounds, & acting as umpire & in their quarrels etc. The first iron bridge is getting up at the end of the road to Ekof Edi. But the Itu road is put off for a season. Im sorry, I think it is being "penny wise pound foolish" to let a long wet season destroy what is already so near being an accomplished fact. However, they know better than I do. Wilkinson does well in business. I think they are jusitified in their venture. I hear the Railway survey goes on, but it is distant a bit from us. They send their respects but I cant locate their camping place.

The twin Mothers from several districts have come at various times to me in order to get their lot made easier. I *forced* a number to come to Court, but they were in terror for the chiefs taking revenge. The Eniyon & Itu men spoke well to the Ibibios, & comforted the women greatly, & sent proclamations to all parts, that each man was to care for his wife, & get a suitable house built for them, also the markets which prohibited them from buying or selling were warned to change their laws. I have one twin mother here. They don’t want her back, and she is planting here.

I have had a couple of rooms put up in the garden below, in which she & the female prisoners can stay. We have two houses - 5 rooms for policemen & prisoners behind the Court house. Our Church is also up, so there are a few civilizing agencies visible about. Brooks did not go away after all, & the boundary is more unsatisfactory than ever. You will get the settling of it yourself I expect for all the promises made. It is not only blacks who make promises & forget. Well, Well! there is such a constant strain on a D.C. [Note 5] I shd. be a street sweeper sooner I think, than a D.C. Ive filled all this paper and there is nothing in it after all. O, Mr Maxwell came up with the H.C. and was Lady Edgertons - I forget what you call it in English, supply the term yourself [Note 6]. - He can act the part to perfection, for he is nothing if not a ladys man. I was so pleased to see him. He looks well, & is as cheerful as ever. I shall be writing to him this week, & will give him your message.

I'm glad to hear that you are enjoying your stay in the Homeland. The cold will be gone before this reaches you. I trust it will be a pleasant time to the very end. I need not say I do not share your opinion about men marrying, who are engaged here. Women are as eager to share in all the work & sacrifice of the world as men, & it is their privilege to share it, & it is their mission to be the motive power & the steadying & inspiring power in a mans life, & so you are keeping some good woman out of her place of privilege & work, & are depriving yourself of God's greatest Gift, outside of the spiritual World in refusing to accept it.

What says Burns?
"The warlds wrack, we share o it
The warstle & the care o 't
Wi her I'll blythely bear it
And think my lot Divine" [Note 7]

Now, tata, Kindest regards, Miss Amess wd send her good wishes I know, for she knows about you, but she is at school. Hurry up, & come back to your work again, & be sure there will be some warm hearts waiting to give you welcome


Among them Yours most sincerely

Mary M Slessor

Editorial Notes:

  1. "Book". Probably a local term for an official document, or statement
  2. H. C. and High Cr. = abbreviations for "High Commissioner"
  3. Presumably intended to be "they"
  4. Presbytery (a local governing body of the Presbyterian churches, in this case in Calabar)
  5. D.C. = District Commissioner
  6. perhaps the French term "aide-de-camp"
  7. From Burns song "My Wife's a Winsome Wee Thing". It is the second verse of a two verse poem, with a chorus.
  • Warld = world; wrack = wreck; warstle = wrestle
Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 16/11/96
Data Entered by: David Kett, 1996

Letter no. 29

2nd October 1906

A short note to Mr. Partridge, now back from leave, informing him that Esien's brother has died. The main part of her letter concerns costs in court cases taken up by Miss Slessor in her Court, and the expenditure incurred. Finally she tells him that this morning she had ridden her bicycle to an early morning school without falling off!

Ikot Obon
2nd Oct 1906

Dear Mr. Partridge

Your letter & the parcel of papers came yest. evening for which I thank you very much.

The boys - Esien - *brother* has been very very ill, & is at Itu. We heard yest. morning that he was dead, but the messenger from Ikot Obon had not returned.

Im sorry the money should be out of order. But I assure you no-one is hurt, and your scale is mine except "Witness" which I seldom use, sending instead an unofficial note to save the Clients. The only difference is, that we charge costs & without this, the court we [Note 1] be brought into contempt & *every* *one* *is* *quite* *able* *to* *pay* *it*. We can speak of that when you come.

I shall pile on as many charges as you like to increase the expenditure, but do not need to.

Our people are very well pleased I think, at our moderate charges, & many come from every where to try & get their Cases taken up. Is it not that we get through a good many cases, by sitting all day, that the money is rather much.

Last two sittings have not burdened me any how with cash. Ive not paid the days expenses, owing to Asan talking hours at their palavers.

I taught a small school at Use yest. & was home before 8 a.m. on my Bike. I did not once come off, & had only a small boy with me. Fancy that!! Am just off today, & will see about the market today.

Kindest regards

M M Slessor

Editorial Notes:

  1. "we". Surely intended to be "wd."
Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1996
Data Entered By: David Kett, 1996

Letter no. 30


Greetings postcard to Mr. Partridge at Ikot Okpene. The card, which is not stamped and has not been through the post, is of “Ben Venue from Loch Achray”, produced by the Cynicus Publishing Co. Ltd., Tayport, Fife. The message reads: “With all the greetings of the season. M M Slessor”.

Transcription By: David Kett, 1996
Data Entered By: David Kett, 1996