Taylers Tea Garden – By Ajit MutuCumsrawamy – Chapter 12 – The next day…..

Taylors Tea Garden – by Ajit MuttuCumaraswamy


The next day, James gave orders to pull out all the tea plants that were planted. 

He was very disappointed with the taste of the tea. It was not like tea at all. Not good quality tea anyway. Robert had confirmed that they were a variety that did not suit the climate and soil conditions. They might have been better suited to low country areas. There was no doubt that the crop had failed. The new variety brought in by Harrison was much better.

              All the tea plants were dug out and left to dry in heaps. They could be used as twigs to start the fire, before fire wood is added. James could see the roots of the plants, still fresh with soil sticking to them. He had worked very hard to have them planted. Now he had to get them all pulled out. He felt sad and dejected. He felt he had lost his way. What will happen next? 

              Sinniah had been looking a bit worn out. He was present when orders were given. But he rarely made his presence felt after that day. He left it all to the workers. He may have felt the same as James. So much hard work had come to nothing. 

              It took several weeks to dig out the plants from the twenty acres. James walked around and inspected all the areas. The place looked desolate, acres and acres of land where only dried uprooted plants could be seen. The smell of the earth was everywhere. The pungent smell of exposed clay and roots. There were very few trees in between the plants.  

                                                           *                *                  *

              When he went home, he found Thangam in a sombre mood. 

“ Are you going to plant something else now that the tea plants are out.” she asked.

“ No. Harrison wants to plant the new stock he got down from Assam. The seeds have arrived and they are being grown in the nursery. We should have them ready for planting very soon.” he said.

“ But it’s the same plants again. Why pull out plants that have already grown?” she asked.

“ It’s just that the variety was not good for this kind of soil and climate. What Harrison has brought is better for this place.”

“ How do know this. It seems all a waste of time and effort.”

“ Sometimes i feel the same. But we have to do something. It’s no use waiting any more. Only thing left is to try another variety. If nothing happens, well, we have to admit that we have all failed, just like all those people before us, like the Rothschilds. We should all be packing our bags and go home. I’m only joking.” said James.

“ Packing your bags and going home? That’s exactly what my peole are telling me.  That I should be thinking about my future and that you are going to leave.” said Thangam.

              Her face showed the strain that she was undergoing. Tears rolled down. Her mouth curled into a sob. 

              “I’m sorry darling. Please forgive me. I didn’t mean that. I don’t plan to go away if the tea fails again. I’m going to do something else. Maybe try to get a job with the railways maybe.”

“ Ah! I can’t see you working in anything else. I can see you like to work in a plantation. You are always walking around and you look happy being a dorai in a plantation.”

“ Okay. I do like the plantation life. It’s very enjoyable. But if things go wrong, Ive got to think of other things.”    


              Robert wrote a letter to his father.

“ Dear Father,

              I trust everyone is keeping fine. i’m keeping well even though I had another malaria attack. I’m lucky that the people who work here are very good. They are doing everything and they look after me as well. My right hand man here is Sinniah. There is a young lady, Sinniah’s daughter, who is doing all the housework and I don’t worry about that side of things. 

              The coffee is definitely a dying thing. Very few plantations are able to grow the beans that can be exported. it’s the tree disease. The leaves get a rusty colour and then the beans stop getting bigger. It’s a big problem. It’s happening in every country growing coffee. The research done has not really helped. Only way out for planation owners, including our relative Peter Moir, is to pray and hope that tea will be a success this time round.”

              “ I think I told you in my last letter that Rothchilds tried to grow tea. They brought experienced planters from India to work in the plantations. But it did not work. I guess it’s not a big deal for them. It’s small money for them. But for the others, it’s going to be serious. It’s almost the end of plantations in Ceylon unless tea takes hold. So far things don’t look good. I hope that our new seeds will be a success. The quality has to be good to be able to ship to London. Nobody pays much money for tea locally.”

              “ Cinchona was a real success. We grew it here and exported it. The climate and soil are well suited for Cinchona. But it soon became clear that it was growing well in all the countries especially South America. There was so much available in the market that the prices collapsed.” 

              “ One of the joint owners of this plantation is Harrison. He has a big company called Harrison and Crossfield. They have big warehouses in Colombo. Harrison is very keen on tea. So we have planted tea along the roadsides and also on the main plantation. Everything depends on the success of this crop. In fact because the railway is coming half way up to Kandy by next year. This means we will be able to ship coffee and tea much more easily.  Lots of people are planning to do tea  because coffee is really losing money. It’s still being grown but the future is bleak because of the coffee rust. There are rumours that they are going to bring labourers from Assam to help start the tea.” 

              “ I’m thinking I may have to try for a job with the railway if things go wrong. Rumour is that engine drivers will be paid well. It’s not easy to drive the train because of the hills. But it’s only a pipe dream.”

              “The new tea plants are promising. My friend Robert from the Botanical gardens came over with the new seedlings. He was pretty sure that this variety will be growing well and the tea leaves should taste much better, less bitter in fact. That was the problem with the last lot.”

              “ I’m hoping to find a solution for  my tea rolling machine. The only company doing metal working in Kandy is called Hunter and Company. They are willing to have a go at it.”

              “The only hotel we got here is in Kandy and it’s called Stainton Hotel. It’s not a bad hotel. Stainton the owner and his wife run the hotel. It’s quite good. Good place to meet people from England and Scotland. Not to mention Wales and Ireland. The Governor here is an Irishman called Gregory. I met him at the hotel this time. He is quite a nice fellow. he asked a lot of questions about coffee. I told him that I don’t see much of a future for coffee because there is no spray or chemical we can apply to stop coffee rust. He was keen to find out about tea as well. I explained that even if we get  a good quality tea leaf growing well, the cost of making tea is making it difficult to sell. But if we had a machine that could roll the tea, we can make a good tea at a reasonable price. I’m also buiding a water mill like the one we have in the village.

              Please give my best wishes to all at home.”


                                                                                                     Your loving son




                      James went around the plantation by foot. He was greeted by workers gathering coffee seeds. He felt happy that the workers were friendly towards him. The coffee fermentary was set up at the middle of the plantation. James walked to the fermentary and he could smell the ripe and fermenting coffee berry. He walked around the tubs where the coffee seeds were  being removed from the berry. He could smell the pulped berry after the coffee seeds had ben removed. They were in the hessian sacks, waiting to be removed by bullock cart. The coffee berry pulp was normally used as fertiliser. He was careful not to use the pulp as the berry pulp could contain coffee rust infection. It was transported to the far end of the plantation and dumped into a pit. Human excrement was used as fertiliser. Toilet buckets containing excrement were taken by bullock cart to the sites where the coffee grew and buried below the soil to act as fertiliser. 

              Several weeks passed by as James concentrated on tending to coffee plants and the tea bushes. The yield from the coffee plants kept falling. No amount of fertiliser improved the output from the coffee trees. It seemed that the coffee plantations were doomed. The tea bushes were also suspect as the taste of the tea was bitter when it was planted the last time around. James felt depressed. The dog had accompanied him this time. it kept looking up at James as if it could sense James’s feelings. He patted the dog.            

              “ Don’t worry about me. I’m planning a visit to Stainton Hotel. That will cheer me up.”

said James to the dog.

The dog whined and moaned as if to say “ Please don’t do that. Thangam will throw a fit”

              It was a little windy. The wind blew through the coffee trees making them bend over and straighten up again. James wanted to head off to Kandy. He decided to tell her that Harrison wanted to see him. A letter had arrived from the office telling him about a person by the name of Jenkins arriving in Ceylon. Jenkins had been a planter in Assam for nearly thirty five years. He was coming to Ceylon to boost the tea production. He would also be planting tea and bringing tea workers from Bengal. It provided a good excuse to go to Kandy and have a night out with Robert. The last time he was there he did notice that there were some English women seated in a corner of the hotel.

              Thangam need not find out about his visit to Stainton Hotel, James told himself. If she did find out, she would be worried that he would be drinking a lot of alcohol. He will take the horse to the stable that was at far end of Malabar Street or leave it with Robert. James rode off the next day, having announced that he was having a meeting with Harrison about Jenkins coming from Assam and discuss making a water mill for Loolecondere like the one in his home town in Scotland. He carried the plans with him. He was not far off from the truth.  in fact Jenkins was going to mentor James about tea making as he was the acknowledged expert with thirty five years experience in Assam.

              James stopped at Peradeniya Gardens while riding to Kandy. Robert was there, happy to see James. They decided to get the carriage to Kandy to avoid problems with the horses while in Kandy. Their destination was Stainton Hotel. Robert was a regular there, well known to Mr. and Mrs. Stainton as well the staff. They were greeted by Mrs. Stainton. On inquiries about Mr. Stainton, they were told that he was not well, possibly malaria or dysentry. 

              The bar was well stocked with Scottish whiskies and beer made locally as well a few beers imported from England. Bottles of rum and gin and various liquor decorated the bar.  They started off with beer and moved over to whiskies. 

              The chandelier in the Stainton Hotel was impressive, the central point of attention. 

“This is quite nice considering we are in a remote part of the world.” said James.

“ Agree. This was a bit run down after they took this place over from the locals.” said Robert.

“ Okay. What was it before it became a hotel?” asked James.

“ Actually it was built by the King of Kandy. It was used as a kind of  residence. Maybe for his concubines. That was in1841. Poor guy didn’t know that he could never use it as he was ousted by the British tha same year or a year later.” said Robert.   
“ Really. And what happened.”

“ Well, the Governor took it over and used it as his mansion until the time when troops came in. So it became barracks as well.” said Robert.

“ It has a long history.” 

“It was called Malabar House at that time, being on Malabar Street. Maybe lots of people from Malabar lived here.” said Robert.

“ How did the Staintons get hold of it?” asked James.

“ The barracks were not needed. There was no possibility of a rebellion in the hill country. The old guard of chiefs had become used to the British presence. They were trying to join the race to grow coffee and tea.”

“ It was sold to the Staintons then?” aked James.

“Yes. It became a hotel used mainly by British planters.” said Robert

“ I guess it became the British watering hole in Kandy” said James

“ I guess so. Good place to meet woman too.” said Robert.

“ Are you able to meet the right type of women” asked James.

“ Yes and no. Yes there are some ladies who will visit you in your room, if you arrange with the waiters. They are mainly from  families who are in poor circumstances due to the husband passing away and the family not able to give much support.”

“ They must be quite nice women since they are not professionals, sleeping with a different man every day.”

“ That’s right James. I have a regular. She is very pretty and speaks good English.” 

“ That’ s the way to go. “ said James.

  She is from a family living close by. She is quite willing to accommodate me provided she does not become pregnant. The family would be upset if she become pregnant,”

“ That’s the same story with me regarding getting pregnant.  My woman is not feeling good because her parents object to her having a baby. My fault I guess.”   

              The bar was getting busy with planters and others dropping in. The lights were bright even though they were kerosene and gas lamps. 

“ It’s getting too dark for you to return James. Why don’t you stay over.”

“ Not a bad idea. I could tell Thangam that Harrison wanted me to stay over because he wanted to talk about the Bengal people coming.” said James.

“ Alright. I can go home quite easily. But I will sleep the night here i think. What’s happening with the the tea seedlings, the second lot?”

“ They are growing quite well. No problems. The leaves are looking fine. I guess the proof of the pudding will be in the drinking.” said James.

“ I hope this will be the right one for the soil and climate for this area. The situation will be very grim if this fails. Coffee is definitely very poorly. Problem is that we have no answer to the coffee rust tree disease problem any where in the world.” said Robert

“ It is a disaster . There is no doubt about it.”

              They   ordered dinner. the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding was excellent. 

“ This is great cooking. Its always a treat to come here for the roast. Mrs. stain ton is an excellent cook.” said Robert.

“ Yes. Its a welcome change for me. Roasting is something that only works once in a while at home. Thangam does her best and it’s not too bad. Iis very good sometimes.”

“ The aroma is amazing isn’t it? Its the herbs that do it I guess.” said Robert.

“ Yes. Rosemary is important. Other herbs are certainly adding to the aroma and the taste.” said James.

              There was a buzz around the dining area as it was dinner time. Loud laughter rang out from some tables as jokes were cracked. There was the distinct sound of knives, forks and spoons clattering on the crockery. There were a dozen or so Europeans dining. Many were drinking seated on tables and at the bar.

              “ Did I tell you that there is a wonderful job I heard about and applied for. If I get it , it will be great.  I will have travel to and from Assam and Darjeeling.”

“ Hope you get it.”

“ It will be dream come true. Probably double my salary as well.”

              The bar was pretty busy. Lots people were coming and going. 

“ I like the name The Pub Royal. It’s sounds like royalty visited the place.” said Robert.

“ Yes. It’s a nice pub too. Maybe they were thinking of the last King of Kandy. I remember reading somewhere that his name was Sri Vikrama Rajasinghe. Poor fellow. Got bundled out back home in India. He didn’t make any trouble , did he?” said James.

“ Not really. Actually, the British troops could never find a way of coming up to Kandy to get him. The steep climb meant that the Kings soldiers could roll boulders down the hill. He sent his men to throw stones at the troops and that was all that was needed. The guns hardly had a role to play. Boulders rolling down did the trick.”

“ Oh. I see. How did they get him?”

“ By a stroke of luck, one of the big chiefs got upset with the King and wanted to get rid of him. He showed the way up through the easy passes. The King surrendered without a fight.” said Robert.

“ Thats life isn’t it? You win some and you lose some.” 

              A young English woman walked in. Her blond hair was flowing down to her neck. It was a rare sight. Her face was heart shaped and a smile played on her face. She wore riding cloths. Her body was compact and her breasts stood out proudly. She was aware that her presence was noticed by all. 

“ That is a woman I would do anything to get hold of.” said James.

“ Be careful. Her husband is a big time planter around here, a chap called Crosfield.” said Robert.

“ I’m only saying it. Don’t think she will want to spend time with a small time planter like me.” said James.

“ Time for me to go I think James. Call over on your way home tomorrow” said Robert getting up.

              They shook hands and Robert went out of the hotel. James sat back in his chair thinking about going to sleep and looking at the lady who had walked in. Her blonde hair reminded him of the girl who was supposed to get married to. He kept looking at her feeling a sense of loss, the part of him that was Scottish that he had laid aside. 


              To his surprise, the lady walked up to him and said:

 “Hello. How are you. I’m Daisy.”

“ James is my name Daisy. I’m glad to meet you. Why don’t you sit here.” said James pointing to the chair where Robert had been sitting, the whiskies he had drunk making him bold.

“ Thank you.” she said sitting down.

“ Can i buy you a drink?” asked James.

“ Thank you. I will have a drink. I’m feeling thirsty.”

“What can i get you?”

“ A gin and orange please. I know this is a house speciality.” said Daisy.

“ Fine.” said James getting up and walking to the bar. He ordered the drink , paid for it and walked back.

“ They will bring it to the table.” he said sitting down.

“ Do you live in Kandy” he asked

“ Yes. I live up on the hill overlooking the temple and the lake.” she said.

“ And where do you live?” she asked.

“ I live in Loolecondere about ten miles from here.” he replied. He felt quite relaxed. She seemed the sort of person who did not judge people, or so it seemed to James.

“ That’s a nice ride up there. I’ve been up where the valley begins. Never been all the way to Loolecondere.  I love that valley. It’s full of flowering trees. Maybe because the Peradeniya Gardens is almost at the entrance to the valley” she said.

“ Yes. You are right. The ride is very pleasant. And Loolecondere comes almost at the end of the valley on a slightly higher elevation.” said James.

“ I always wanted to go up those hills but it is just a little to far to be able to return to Kandy before dark.” she said.

              James saw an opportunity to invite her to his home. He feared what Thangam might think but ventured anyway.

“ You are welcome to stay the night at my house.” he said.

“ Thank you so much. I might come with the horse minder. He is very good with horses. I leave it all to him.” she said.

“ Not a problem. There is a spare bedroom and a store room.”

“ Where do you come from? Which part of Scotland? she asked.

“ I’m from Auchenblee. Kincardineshire. Mosspark area,”

“ I see. I’m from Guilford. The Whitehead family served in the Army. Are you affected by the coffee blight problem.” she asked.

“ Yes. We are badly hit with the coffee problem.” he said.

              Her face was radiant. The Sun had bestowed a wonderful colour to her fair skin. She smiled with a shyness hidden within. He wanted to get up and hug her. He had missed the blond women of his home. It was exciting to see an English woman, a rare sight.

“ Yes. My husband and I have to go back in a few months. His plantation not very far from Kandy.”

“ Sorry to hear that. It must be big shock for both of you.” said James.

              James was thinking of a way of enticing her to go somewhere where he could give her a hug and a kiss. After all, all he wanted to kiss her pink cheeks. Her blue eyes needed kissing too.

“ We knew it was going to come. Tea may be the answer but that is question how can tea compete in price with tea from China?” she said.

“ Yes. That is the problem. And of course the quality. That is equally important.” he said.

              James was fascinated by her knowledge of tea. She was not just a pretty face. She was a bright woman, very much involved in how tea was being produced. Her face fascinated him. He was carried away by the way she spoke. Her blue eyes captivated him.


              “ The other day we were talking about bringing Chinese labourers. Apparently their skills are welcome but not their presence here.” she said.     

              He saw her pink lips and he wanted to plant a kiss on them. Just a simple kiss. He could have done it if the crowd in the hotel lounge was not there. He felt she would allow it. Just a mark of appreciation. Her eyes and manner told it all.

              “ Yes. Sadly we cannot do that. But I am told that arrangements have been made for workers from Bengal to come and work in Kondagala estate in Ramboda pass.” he said.

              There was something about the way she looked at him which told him that she was interested in him. She was not in a hurry to go anywhere. She was relaxed and seemed to enjoy his company. 

“ I heard about this. A very experienced person, who had worked in Assam for thirty five years is bringing them.” said Daisy.

“ Yes. I was told  that Mr. Jenkins is going to help all the planters including me to make tea. He knows the techniques and is willing to pass on the knowledge.” said James.

              James was thinking hard all the while about how he could have a little privacy with Daisy. Could he ask her to come to his room? Surely that would be the end of his relationship with this beautiful woman. 

              “ He is due to arrive next week i was told.” said Daisy.

“ That’s sooner than I thought. I should prepare for his visit. In the meantime, I have designed the watermill. Walker and Sons are going to do the mill. I will help with it. It’s the same type of water mill that we have in Auchenblee.” 

“ Really. You are going to have a watermill? What will it do?” 

“ It’s going to work my tea making machine.” 

“ Are you sure? This is the first time that I came across the idea of a machine to make tea. The whole idea seems amazing.”

              James had an idea. He could say that his plans were in his room. In fact he did have a copy of his design in his leather bag. 

“ Would you like to see the design of the tea making machine” he asked, with little conviction of success in his request.

“ Yes. That would be great.” 

              James was in a quandary. Should he risk offending her by asking her to come to his room. She might walk away. That would be a disaster. He could be in with a chance of at least holding her and kissing her if he played it right. He might even get lucky and who knows? That was something he dared not think about. 

              “ I can bring it down. But it’s pretty crowded here.” he said, doing his best to look straight at her. He wanted make a grab for her, hold her tight and kiss her on her lips, touch her teeth with his tongue. But he stood straight, holding back his excitement. She must have sensed his excitement, maybe his eyes conveyed it all. She sat smiling, not saying anything.

              “ Alright. I will come up to your room and look at the drawings. But not now.” she said, taking a long sip of her gin and orange, nearly reaching the bottom of the glass.

  Let me get you another gin and orange.” he said, getting up.

              His excitement was almost beyond his control. Here he was with an offer to come to his room. 

              He walked towards the bar. The excitement of her offer made him breath faster. What shall I do, he asked himself as he walked  towards the bar. When she comes to the room, shall I make a move or should I  wait for some move on her part, he asked himself. What if she doesn’t make a move. Should I let the opportunity pass. She could be the type of person who never indulges on the first date. Most women don’t indulge on the first meeting with a man. When will he meet her next? Surely not in Loolecondere? With Thangam watching every move?

              When he got back from the bar, holding the gin and orange and another beer for himself, he was plunged into total despair. A white man was seated next to her, seated on his seat. Must be her husband.

“ Thank you James, she said, this is my husband Timothy. James is looking after Loolecondere” she said.   

“ Hello James. Nice to meet you. I heard that Loolecondere is doing well with the new tea plants. It’s good news. I am hearing a lot about you. About your plans for a machine that will do the rolling for the tea. Great work. I hope it all works out. It could mean that Ceylon could produce tea at a reasonable price.” said Timothy.

“ Yes. The machine should help to bring costs down. The water mill will also help.”

“ Good work. I must be going along to the bridge session. Can’t let my partner down. See you later. The coach will come back to pick up Daisy. “ said Timothy getting up.

“ Have a nice evening.” said James relieved and in a better mood.

“ Bye dear. See you later.” said Daisy, smiling her warm smile.

              James resisted the temptation to stare at her and looked down. 

              “ Well. As I said, I was waiting for my husband to say good bye. If you like, we can go to your room to see your plans.” she said.

              She had planned it so that she could slot in some time to be with him, he told himself.

                I’ill go up and get the plans out. My room number is ten.” said James getting up and gulping the beer.

              He walked quietly up the stairs, hoping nobody will notice him. He opened the suitcase and took the plans out and put them on the bed. Five minutes later, he could hear the door knob being turned very quietly. Daisy came through the door and shut it quietly. He was excited. The room had a nice lamp on the table, a globe which gave out pleasant calming light and a larger light which hung from a hook on the ceiling.

              “ I see you have the plans ready” she said walking to the bed and sitting down. They sat on either side of the papers.

              “ This is my water mill” he said pointing to the water mill drawing. It was a large wheel with spokes very similar to the water wheels seen in Scotland and England which dipped into the running stream. The frame holding the wheel was large and sturdy. 

              “ I’ve seen these in England as well. It looks good. When are you going to get this done?” she asked.

              “Well, Harrison has seen it. He said I should be able to place the order next week as it will require an advance to Walkers who are going to make the water mill.” he said.

              He unfolded the other plan. It was his design for a roller for making tea. It was like a large rolling pin sitting inside a tray.

              He made his move while she looked at the drawing. He placed his arm on her shoulder. She kept looking at the drawing. It seemed they were good friends. She was looking at the details of the drawing.

              “ Why don’t you make yourself comfortable. Get your shoes off and rest your feet on the bed.” he said.

              “Thats a good idea.” she said removing her shoes and sitting on the bed with her feet extended. Her feet were nicely shaped with rounded toes. The drawings separated James from Daisy. He moved the drawings to his side and moved closer to her with his arm around her.

              “ When do you expect to get these machines completed?” she asked.

              “ I think it will be about a month, maybe two.” he said, touching her cheeks with his lips. 

              “ If I’m still here, i want to be there when you get it all going.” she said.

              “ No problem. I won’t forget to call you. I want to get this going “ he said kissing her ears softly, and then her hair, where it ran close to her ears.

              “ Can i kiss you?” he asked.

              Daisy turned her face towards him and said: “ I’m a married woman. You can’t kiss married women.” she said looking at him. Their eyes met. His disappointment must have been plain to see on his face.

              “ Oh. You are a boyo. Wanting to kiss a married woman” she said, kissing him on his lips, her tongue darting out to touch his lips.

              James was excited and wanted to return her kiss. He turned around and placed his arm around her and kissed her on her lips, touching her lips with his tongue. The tips of their tongues met and James felt a closeness he had never felt before. It was as if he had known her for many years years. He kissed her neck and tried to remove her brassiere but she helped him to remove it. He was over excited and licked her breasts. She watched him as he took her nipple into his mouth. Her hand gently felt his erection. He was amazed by her pink body. It was his first time to see a white woman’s body. He moved so he could see and feel her with his tongue. And they slipped into the sheets.

              After they made love twice. Daisy moved out of the bed and said:

              “ I’d better go now. See you soon.”

              “ Yes. definitely. I can’t wait. What about tomorrow?”

              “ No. It would be suspicious because I only come to Stainton once or twice a week, not every day,” she said.

              “When do I see you again?” he asked.

              “ Next week would be better as I’m regular here midweek usually Wednesdays.”

              “ Next week Wednesday then. No chance of meeting tomorrow?” asked James.

              “ Not much of a chance. Next week is alright.” she said going towards the mirror.

              She looked in the mirror and arranged her hair before moving to the door. After carefully checking that nobody was around, she blew a kiss before stepping away. James felt that he had changed to a new man. He felt an energy that he never felt before. He felt dizzy too. A feeling of happiness that made him dizzy. He felt love for Thangam and for Daisy. Can such a thing happen, he asked himself. Can a man love two women, he asked himself. He fell asleep thinking about the happy events of the day.


                                                                     *                          *




              James met with Harrison the next day. Harrison was impressed with the plans.

“ I will be contacting Walkers tomorrow. They will want to see the site before commencing work. Have you decided on a site?” he asked.

“ Yes I have. the stream at the end of the road which is good for the watermill. Its got water all year round.” James said.

“ Alright. Expect a visit from Walkers sometime next week. Hunters supply the metal sheets and steel items. Both might come over.” he said.

“ Thats fine. We will get ready for their visit .”

“ They are unlikely to stay over. They would return to Kandy for the night. How is the tea coming along?” asked Harrison.

“ Good results with this batch. it’s growing well. Robert has been keeping an eye on the tea bushes growth.” said James.  


                             James returned to Loolecondere the following day even though he wanted to stay and try his luck. Thangam greeted him. Samuel was delighted to see his Daddy. He leaped out of Thangam’s arms and Thangam scolded him.

“ Hello darling. Did you finish your work. Did it go well.” she asked.

              Samuel wrapped his arms around James’s neck. James kissed him on both cheeks.

“Yes darling . Things are looking good. Harrison has seen the plans and is going ahead with placing an order for them to be made.”

Samuel wanted to play with James’s ears. He kept feeling James’s ears. His tiny fingers teased James’s ears and one finger was trying to go inside James’s ears.

“ That means you will not be going.” said Thangam. She held Samuels hand to stop him poking his finger into James ears. 

“ Its looking good. I should not be going unless we have another problem with the tea.” said James, carrying Samuel up into the air and placing Samuel on his shoulders. 

“ Alright. I will be telling my uncles that you will not be going.” said Thangam.

              It had not occurred to James that  Thangam might be under continuous pressure to satisfy the family that she was not going to be burden on them. Samuel was a little boy who will grow and his needs had to be met as well as Thangams. 

“ Yes. Tell them all is going well.” said James. 

“ It’s just that they think you will get married to a white lady.” she said.

“ Why are they worrying unnecessarily. i won’t be leaving you and Samuel.” said James.

              He carried Samuel up in the air and Samuel giggled and Samuel’s first tooth could be seen. 

“ Also tell them that I’m building a water mill at the stream at foot of the steam as it comes down. The water mill be turning as the water passes along. I will have a tea rolling machine by the side. As the watermill turns, it will move the tea rolling machine.” said James.

“ Alright. this means they will need to keep you here in Loolecondere. You showed me the drawings. They looked really nice. I’m excited to see this machines when they bring it. Are those are machines that you getting?”

              It occurred to James that the drawing were seen by only two women and theses two women were indispensable to him. They made him feel he had all he needed to make a success of his life.

“Yes. Those are two machines. They might finished in two months time.” he said . Remembering that Daisy was also keen to see the machines working, he said:

“ A lot of people will want to come and see the machines working.”

“ Yes. Even British tea estate people will be wanting to come and see them “ she said.

              Samuel was trying to get on the floor and crawl. James let the boy crawl and followed him to the door. It was a nice day. the skies were blue with a few clouds drifting like puffs of smoke.

              “ They also told me that somebody will come from Assam and will be working with Bengali workers in Kondagala Estae  in Ramboda Pass. His name is Jenkins. This could be all very good for us. Jenkins has been planting tea in Assam for thirty five years. he knows all about tea.”

“ Thats good. We can grow tea instead of coffee. My people have been worried about whether they have to go back to India.” said Thangam.

“ I think if we make good tea for sending to London, we would have no problems. Maybe more workers will come to work here.” 

“ Enough people to work I think. We don’t have enough houses in the lines.” she said.

“ Alright. Yes.  I want to see if things could be improved and we can have two bedrooms and a bathroom.”

“ The bullock carts taking tea out will be very slow. Can you get more horses. The tea can be sent faster “ she said.

“ Later this year, there will be a steam engine train  from Colombo to Ambepussa.” said James.

“ What does it look like. Will it be very fast?” asked Thangam.

“ Certainly, it will be very fast, much faster than horse drawn carriages  and bullock carts. It will start in the morning and will be in Ambepussa in three hours, even less.” he said.

“Really. Thats really fast. So you can leave Colombo in the morning and be in Ambepussa   

for lunch.” said Thangam.

“ Yes. in fact they are going to build a rest house at Ambepussa so that planters and government servants can go there for a rest and have meals.” said James.

“ I want to see a steam engine.” said Thangam smiling. She seemed like a little school girl when she smiled.

“ Don’t worry you can see the steam engine.” said James.

“ Will you be taking me and Samuel?” she asked

“ Yes . We can take a coach. I know some people in Kandy who can take us there .” said James.


              Two English persons doing  engineering  at Walkers arrived the next week. James took them on a tour of the  estate. They came to the site that James had selected. 

The water was falling from a height of about four metres and the area where the mill was going to be placed was only a metre deep. The engineers were not impressed.

  I really don’t think the volume of water is sufficient to keep this water mill working for any length of time. Are you thinking of using this mill for your tea production?”

asked the older of the two persons.

“ Yes. I do. The water mill will move the machine which will roll the tea. It’s because the cost of hand rolling is too high.” said James.

“ We cannot guarantee that it will be a success. If you want us to go ahead, we will do the construction of the watermill and the rolling machine.” he replied.

“ There is no other way out. The cost of tea has to come down so we can compete with tea made in Assam and China.” said James.

              They walked back to the bungalow .

“ What’s that plant. Doesn’t look like a tea bush.” asked one of the engineers as they walked along.

“ Its cinchona. Its one of the plant’s used to treat malaria.” said James.

“ Alright. I heard about cinchona. never seen it.” said the engineer.

“ It’s still being grown here but the prices are low. We may stop growing it as the shipping costs alone use up all the money we get for it. We are growing it but the money we get for it just about covers the transport costs.” said James.

              They reached James’s house. Thangam prepared sandwiches. They had  sandwiches and coffee.

“ Nice coffee” said one of the engineers.

“ It’s coffee from our plantation. I roasted it. “ said James. 

“ Please thank your lady for the nice sandwiches. It’s a long time since I had beetroot sandwiches. The tomato and  cucumber sandwich was delicious too. The smell of the freshly ground pepper is superb.” said one of the engineers.

“ Yes. Delicious thank you. It’s time we went. We will be in Kandy before dark if we leave now”  said the older of the two engineers. 

              They were in their carriages and left for Kandy as the Sun was coming low. It was about four o’ clock.

              Thangam came out with Samuel.

“ Did it all go well.” she asked.

“ Not really. They don’t think the watermill will work properly.”

“ Why are they saying it. You know about watermills.” she said

“ Yes. But I’ve never designed one or installed one. These engineers have installed a lot of  machines and they have the experience.” 

              James carried Samuel and they walked around the garden. The cannas had come into full bloom and all the colours were there: yellow, red, white, gold. Samuel got down and wanted to grab some of the flowers. 

              James looked at Thangam and told himself that she looked like a canna flower. A very exotic golden canna flower. He felt horny. If they were in the house, he would have carried her to the bed and made love with her.

“ I’ll get you a nice one Samuel” said James, bending down and taking a yellow canna flower and giving it to Samuel.

“ Time for bed for Samuel. I’ll take him for his feed and warm up your dinner as well. It’s roti and your favourite lamb curry with potatoes and peas.” she said.

“ Great. I’m looking forward to it. Let’s go inside.” James said. He leaned over to her and whispered “ I want to make love to you.” Thangam smiled and looked at him with those  tinted eyes, full of love for James, frozen in space and time. She spouted a kiss at him and walked away with Samuel.


              James walked to the room and sat at his table in the corner. He looked through the plans again. They did need some modifications. He thought about the depth of the water. The water was a little too shallow.  If he designed a smaller wheel, it may not be enough to turn a heavy roller. He thought about making the water level deeper by digging and removing more gravel and stone from the creek, just where the wheel would be. He decided to make notes about the depth of the water.


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