Taylors Tea Garden – by Ajit MuttuCumaraswamy
CHAPTER ONE (13)
The news that Jenkins had arrived came to James through Sinniah.
“ Thanks for letting me know Sinniah. I have to meet him.” said James.
“ He is in Kondagala Estate.” said Sinniah.
“ You must be knowing that Jenkins is a very experienced tea maker from Assam.” said James.
“ Yes Mr. Taylor. I heard that he has been working in Assam making tea for thirty five years.”
“ I’ll be going to Kondagala Estate. I’ve got to meet him. Mr. Harrison mentioned this to me. Mr. Pride also mentioned this to me.” said James.
“ The road to Kondagala Estate is a bit difficult at Ramboda Pass but the estate can be reached easily.” said Sinniah.
“ Thanks. I will go to Kandy and make arrangements.” said James.
“ Plenty of coaches going to Ramboda Pass from Kandy.” said Sinniah.
“ I’ve got meet Mr. Harrison in Kandy. He has been telling me about Jenkins.” said James.
James planned his visit to Kandy for the Wednesday. He was in with a chance to meet Daisy in Stainton Hotel. He could travel to Ramboda on Thursday.
James and Thangam retired to their bedroom after dinner. James lay in bed and Thangam nestled in his extended arm, with her head on his chest. James fondled her nipple gently touching her and kissing her on her hair as they talked.
“ I will be going to Kondagala Estate next week.” James said to Thangam.
“ Oh. Will you be staying there for long?” asked Thangam.
“About a week. I will be working with Jenkins to learn about tea making.” said James.
“ I heard he has been working in Assam for a long time.” she said, her arm extended and fondling his member.
“ Yes. I’m supposed to work with him. Harrison and Pride have made arrangements with Jenkins to help with making tea. But Jenkins will be having his own tea estate in Ramboda, at the Kondagala estate. I’m going there at least every other week to work with him. I’ ll be helping him and he will be teaching me about tea planting and tea making.”
“ Alright. My father will look after Loolecondere while you are away.” she said.
“ Yes. I’ve got your father I can rely on.” he said, turning towards Thangam and fondled her breasts.
“ I will miss you when you go away.” she said and bent over to quickly fondle him.
“ Me too. But this could be the best thing that has happened for tea plantations in Ceylon.” he said, leaning over to her intimate parts, the wetness making him even more keen to enter her.
James left for Kandy on Wednesday. The carriage was small and was called a dog cart maybe because it was just enough for a man and a dog. He stopped over at Peradeniya. While at Peradeniya, it occurred to him that Daisy had been coming to Peradeniya frequently and enjoying the many trees with amazing flowers that had been growing both sides of the valley. No doubt that seeds for these trees came from the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. Birds could have pooped them on the slopes of the hills that flanked both sides of the road that James had come along from Loolecondere. He drove back to take a good look at the trees and beautifully formed hills that formed the landscape of the valley. He felt excited at thinking about Daisy. She was an English woman from Guildford and she was an English rose that he could hold in his arms all night, even for days and weeks. It was very nice of her to have spent time with him, as if she wanted him to enjoy a little bit of his home country while being so far away from it.
It must be some thing that was worked out between Daisy and her husband Crosfield – James thought. After all, Kandy was a small town and news must go back to her husband that Daisy was seen in Stainton Hotel talking to men and having a drink and occasionally indulging in a bit of love making with men who were looking for some sex. After all, a man like Crosfield had any number women to choose from, fair skinned Kandyan girls, girls from Malabar with golden brown skins, darker skinned Tamil girls with stunning eyes, well formed attractive facial features and even some charming mixed race girls who were hard to find but willing to indulge a white man if she stood a chance of being a planter’s wife. It was a gamble that paid off, sometimes. The girl risked her reputation but the prize was worth the risk. Always come out better off anyway as the men paid princely sums as compensation to the parents if a baby comes along. It was a very costly outcome for the man, even more costly if he was married.
James arrived at Robert’s office in Peradeniya, pondering these matters, the good things and the bad things about falling in love with local girls. The extra ordinary plants that graced the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens never failed to amaze him. He had never even heard of such plants or read about them in the books that he read for botany. Amazing trees from South America, exotic giant flowering trees from Africa, trees that had flowers drooping down almost touching the ground, palm trees that had coloured fruits in bunches, small bushes with exotic purple and blue flowers.
The horse and cart were taken charge of by Robert’s man.
“Welcome James. How are things going at Loolecondere?” Robert asked.
“ Going fine Robert. How are things with you.” asked James.
“ Going alright. I’m both excited and worried by developments with tea and coffee.”
“ Is that right? What’s worrying you. We know that there is little one can do to stop the coffee blight spreading. But tea is doing alright, so far as i can see. I’m doing well in Loolecondere. You said that when you came over.” said James.
“ Yes. Coffee is definitely finished as a plantation crop. Some pockets of coffee trees are surviving in the low country. But up country plantation coffee is all over as far i’m concerned. Tea from certain areas of Darjeeling is more suited to Ceylon. That’s what I think anyway.” said Robert.
Tea and sandwiches arrived as it was mid day. James felt hungry and tucked into the sandwiches and drank some tea. The tea was served with sugar and milk in ceramic crockery with pouts for easy pouring. James sipped the tea without sugar or milk.
“ Nice sandwiches and the tea is very nice too.” said James.
“ Well the tea is the same type that is growing in your estate in Loolecondere. I am very keen on this variety. But looks like Jenkins is bringing his own plants and having a nursery in Kondagala Estate. This is my worry about tea. We are taking a risk bringing tea plants from that part of Assam. We are risking a repetition of what happened when the Rothchilds brought planters from Assam. They did well in Assam but not here.” said Robert.
“ I see where you are coming from. But Jenkins has spent his whole life growing tea. I’m more or less a starter when it comes to tea. I may end up like Jenkins spending my whole life as planter in Ceylon. I wish I get a break in India.” said James.
“ Jenkins may or may not succeed. That is something we cannot be sure of.” said Robert.
James added some sugar in the tea and drank it.
“ Tea does taste so different with sugar. I wonder whether tea in Europe will be tea with sugar.” said James.
“ They are trying to encourage Europeans to drink tea with sugar because the sugar industry in Queensland and the West Indies is trying encourage sugar consumption. All that land in Queensland is wasted doing nothing. Sugar will double and treble incomes of European settlers in Queensland.” said Robert.
“ Yes. i can see that. But tea drinking in China will not be changed easily. They are the real big tea drinkers. They don’t drink beer or water do they?” said James.
“ I agree that tea will always be drunk the traditional way in China. No amount of persuasion will work in that part of the world, including Japan and Korea .” said Robert.
“ Time will tell. Thanks for the refreshments. Much appreciated.” said James.
“ Welcome James. I guess you are on your way to Kandy. “ said Robert.
“ Actually I’m on my way to Ramboda Pass to meet up with Jenkins.”
“ Please don’t mention my views to Jenkins. He may be offended. After all he is the most senior tea planter in the country. Tea has been his whole life’s work. i’m just a botanist dabbling in tea. My views are only thoughts that come to mind ” said Robert.
“ Don’t worry about it. I won’t mention it to Jenkins. We share our thoughts openly and we will keep them private, just between us. “ said James getting up walking out, followed by Robert.
“Exactly James. What are friends for if not for sharing our thoughts. Without fear of the consequences.” said Robert.
They stood on the verandah while the carriage was being brought to the front of the bungalow.
“ This is such a delightful place Robert. You are a lucky man to be paid for residing here.” said James smiling.
“ Yes indeed. I am a lucky man.”
“ And what about a woman to share your good luck?” asked James.
“ She comes over at the weekends. To study botany. She wants to be a botanist. That suits me. She is a Sinhalese girl. Much younger, but with much experience in love making,” he replied smiling.
“ I’m happy that you are enjoying life in these lovely gardens Robert. Let’s meet up in Kandy on my return. I’m at the Kondagala Estate for one week.”
“ Sure. i will come to Stainton next Wednesday. I take it you will stay the night before leaving for Loolecondere.”
“ Yes. I will break journey in Kandy next Wednesday. See you then.” said James getting into the dog cart.
“ Don’t get into mischief at the Stainton. Too many babies are conceived in that hotel.” said Robert smiling a great smile.
“ Oh. I hope no such thing happens to me. I’m already struggling to be a good daddy. Any more and I will have to give up hopes of being a man of substance.” said James smiling and waving as he rolled away along the gravel road.
He arrived in Stainton hotel and booked himself in. The hotel seemed some what different. The cart and the horse were taken to the hotel’s mews at the back. Mrs. Stainton saw him and came to speak to him.
“ Hello Mr. Taylor. Good afternoon. Did you notice the new Board outside” said Mrs. Stainton.
“ No . Did something happen?” he asked.
“ Ah! Now this hotel is called Queen’s Hotel.”
“ Have you sold it or is it a change of name?”
“ It’s been sold. But we will stay on and manage it. My husband is not very well. You see he does get malaria quite often. This time he is in bed with something I’m not sure of . The doctor said it could be dysentry.” she replied.
“ Very sorry to hear that. Dysentry could kill you I’ve heard.” said James.
“Yes. It’s a dangerous disease. Are you comfortable in your room? Daisy mentioned to me that you are designing a water mill and a tea making machine.”
James was taken aback. He was under the impression that what passed between Daisy and him was a state secret to be guarded with his life.
“ Ah! Yes” he stammered, trying to recover his poise.
“Yes. That’s right. I’ve designed a water mill and a tea making machine to the cost of tea making.” he said.
“ That’s very good. We are all concerned about what has happened to coffee. But tea seems to give hope.” she said, her green eyes looking at him with awe.
“ Yes. i agree . Our future is very much at stake. We need good luck with tea or else we have to pack up and go home.” he replied.
“ Well. You are right. In fact Mr. Stainton is very sure that we will have to pack up and return to England. He doesn’t think that tea will take hold in Ceylon because it’s been tried twice before. Even the Rothchilds failed with tea. They never give up easily. They got all the money in the world.” she said.
“ The Rothschilds did the right thing. They brought European planters with experience in Assam and Darjeeling. But tea did fail in the end.” replied James.
“ Daisy wanted me to tell you that she won’t be able to come to meet to discuss your plans. That was last week. She was expecting you come last week I think.” she said.
“ Thanks for letting me know. “ said James.
“ She was not feeling well. She had a stomach bug or something like that.” she added.
“ Oh. I see . It’s not good news.” said James.
“ Yes. You have to be careful with water you know. ” said Mrs. Stainton.
“ I see. I must admit that I don’t always drink boiled water. I just drink any water I find. “ said James.
“ We try to make sure that drinking water is boiled just to make sure that guests don’t fall ill.” she said.
“ I must remember to check if our drinking water id boiled. It’s kept in an earthenware jug.”
“ It’s us Europeans that need to worry. The locals seem to be immune to these things.” she said.
“ I guess so. They are not immune to some of the other things like tuberculosis.” said James.
“ Yes. We die from their diseases and they die from our diseases.” she said.
“ Fair exchange, no robbery” said James smiling.
Mrs. Stainton smiled.
“ That’s life I guess. What can I get you to drink.” she said.
“ My favourite is beer.” said James.
“ Alright. I’ll bring you a beer.” said Mrs. Stainton walking towards the bar.
“ I’ll come along.” said James.
James propped up the bar counter for a while observing the people and the lighting. The ceiling was definitely remarkable with a chandelier gracing the centre. The front doors opened out towards the middle of the town of Kandy. Looking out, there was the large lake with reinforced embankments which showed pretty good civil engineering skills.
He stepped out and walked along Malabar Street which flanked the hotel on one side. There were drains on both sides of Malabar Street. The houses on both sides of the street were well built with steps leading over the drain and into the house. The carpentry work was of a good standard. The doors were of sturdy tropical wood. Some had carved features on the doors and door frames. He saw a young woman and her mother walk out of one of the houses. They was clad in sarees. The mother wore her saree in different way. It looked as if the girl was wearing a skirt and a saree covered her upper body. They were both very fair skinned with fine features. He thought about Thangam and Daisy. If Daisy had come to the hotel, he may not be taking a walk. He walked back up and walked to the embankment of the lake and could see the temple of the tooth where Buddha’s tooth was being kept.
He walked into the hotel and bought himself another beer and ordered dinner. He sat on a small table. Some Englishmen walked up to him and they shook hands and spoke for a few minutes. Most were planters but there was an engineer and a Government servant. Dinner was served. After dinner, he went up to his bed and a hotel worker who walked up to the room with him lit the lamp.
It was a disappointing day. He was downhearted. But just as well, he told himself. He fell asleep. He heard a knock on the door.
“ Hello. What is it.” he said, feeling annoyed.
“ It’s me Daisy.” came the reply.
He jumped out of bed. Almost ran to the door and opened it. Daisy walked in and hugged him. He locked the door.
“ I heard you were not well.” said James.
“I’m feeling much better.” said Daisy.
“ But you must be careful.” said James.
“ I’m sorry James. I’m confused. I wanted you to be free of me. I don’t want to make your life complicated.” she said. He kissed her face. There were tears still flowing as he kissed her. He lit the lamp. He could see her well now. Her pink cheeks and green eyes made him happy. Their lips met and they kissed . James felt his excitement coming through his pyjamas. She had her hand touching it. She kissed him again and he felt the tip her tongue and responded, gently probing the softness of her lips. He lifted her skirt and slipped his hand inside her laced underwear and pulled it down.
She pushed her self forward to help him. But even though he bent his knees to insert himself, he could not do it. He kissed her on her chest, taking in the perfume that was mixed with the perfume of her body. He gently touched the space between her breasts with his lips.
They moved to the bed and made love. He hugged her body and kissed her everywhere. The perfume that she wore added to his excitement. The perfume of her body intoxicated him,especially when he kissed the lower part. He felt his member get stronger as he went lower and felt her softness with his tongue. She lowered her self and sucked him. They made love again.
“I’m sorry” she said.
“ Why. I’m enjoying it.”
“I’m making your life complicated.” she said.
“ Life is complicated” he said.
“When will I see you again.” she asked.
“Next week. I am returning from Kondagala Estate in about a week. We could meet next Wednesday.”
“ Okay. Will you stay for one day or two.” she asked.
“ Maybe two. If you can make it. “ said James.
“ Alright. I must plan this out.”
“ i could stay longer, if you want me to.” he said.
“ No James. He might wonder why I missed out on my bridge night which is Thursday.” she said.
Daisy got her clothes on and they kissed and hugged briefly before she left.
James felt tired after the days travel. He might had more beers than he normally did.
He fell asleep, thinking about Daisy, Thangam and Samuel. It was confusing, he told himself. But it made sense, in some ways. He need not worry about Daisy. She had someone to be with her. She was an English woman. She has her own home. She may even be a rich woman, with a big house and property in Guilford. She was such a lovely person that he could not bring himself to keep her out of his life. It is a gift from God, he told himself. She came up to him the first time. came up to his table and spoke to him. If she had not done so, he may not have had the courage to even say “hello” to her.
James was up early and had his breakfast before setting off to Loolecondere. He stopped at Robert’s bungalow.
They sat outside and had tea and biscuits.
“ This tea is delicious Robert. Is it the same as the last time we had tea?” asked James.
“ No James. I got these leaves from the plot I planted on the right hand corner , over there, near the palm tree.” Robert said pointing to the plot.”
“ It’s delicious.”
“ The variety is the same as the one I grew in the nursery for Loolecondere.” said Robert.
“ Okay. But this does taste different.”
“ I follow Cameron’s method. Two leaves and a bud.”
“ This is perfect Robert. I need to follow this method.” said James.
“ But it means that you double the cost. Most of the leaves are left unpicked.”
“ Yes. Quite right. It means the price of tea from Loolecondere estate will be much more than tea from other estates. I agree.”
“ But Cameron is certain that people will buy this high quality tea, regardless of the price.” said Robert.
“ I know what i should do. In fact I’m already half way there. The tea rolling machine I designed is nearly ready. When the water mill is installed, my labour cost will come down very steeply. I just need a good tea maker to do the quality control. Sinniah is the finest tea maker anywhere. With him by my side, Cameron’s formula will work.” said James.
“ I see what you mean. You are saying that the cost of the tea leaf, your raw material, will go up. But you will reduce the cost of the labour drastically by using the machines.” said Robert.
“ That’s right. The raw materai cost will increase with tea leaves and a bud. But the quality of tea will be high. But the manufacturing cost will come down hugely with the machine I’m going to use. The overall price would be about the same as for hand rolled tea..”
“ It’s a very good argument James. I’m very much impressed by what you are trying to do. No matter how well you hand roll the tea, the tea it self is of a mixed quality with leaves from all parts of the bush. With your process, the tea itself is a high quality, no matter what process is used to make it into a drink.” said Robert.
“ Exactly. Robert, I must be going. The biscuits were great and the tea delicious. Many thanks. Thangam will be waiting anxiously. I must admit that it’s Samuel that I miss hugely.” said James, getting up and stretching himself.
They said good bye and James’s thoughts turned towards Loolecondere.
* * *
James recalled the events of the previous night, as the dog cart passed through the valley that was opposite the Peradeniya gardens, one of Daisy’s favourite areas. He was somewhat taken aback by Daisy. She seemed to be more a little fond of him. He did not expect her to be taken up with him to such an extant.
When he arrived in Loolecondere, Thangam was standing at the door with a big smile, carrying Samuel. Her hair was adorned with jasmine flowers. James felt like hugging the two of them and taking a whiff of the jasmine flowers on Thangm’s hair. Samuel was straining to get down but she wanted to wait for James to come up to her and give her a kiss. James came up to Thangam and kissed her on her cheek. He wanted to hug her and carry her. But Samuel was straining to be carried, pushing himself forward, nearing falling away from Thangam. James felt a pang of guilt seeing the lovely smile of welcome from Thangam and the outstretched arms of Samuel. He had everything here. All the love and happiness a man would wish for.
James carried Samuel, hugged him, kissed him on both cheeks and forehead. James always enjoyed kissing Samuel on his head. The aroma of a Samuel’s washed hair was something he very much enjoyed. The pure joy of Samuel’s body against him was something special, a moment of delight. He walked towards the jasmine bush with Samuel. Samuel stretched himself to grab a few of the small white flowers with his hands. Samuel’s chubby fingers held the flowers. Samuel stared at the flowers.
“ Smell it Samuel. That is your Mummy’s favourite flower. Your Daddy’s favourite too.”
he said to Samuel.
Thangam stood there watching the father and son. She seemed to take pride in the the scene. A father and his child enjoying each other’s company. She walked towards them and stood next to the father and son. James placed his arm on her shoulders and felt a sense of peace. He felt grateful to Thangam for giving him the joy of being a father. He was aware the these moments of peace and joy took him back to the days when he was a child and spent quiet moments with his mother and father.
Thangam leaned on him and put her arms around him. When she kissed him on his chest, she let go of him and said:
“ I can smell perfume. Where did the perfume come from” she asked, stepping back, away from him. James was shocked and flustered.
“ I don’t know how perfume came on my shirt. Are you sure it’s not the flowers.” he replied, quickly recovering himself.
“ No. It’s definitely perfume. Have you been with another woman.” she asked, staring at him.
James was almost about to confess. But he recovered his posture and said:
“ No. I was with Jenkins. There is no woman. i have not been with any woman.” he said. Thinking quickly he added; “ It might be from the soap in the hotel. I took a wash in the hotel. It could be the flower from Robert’s garden. We walked around his garden. He has a really good collection of flowers.”
“ Okay. I want to get the food ready. You might want to have a bath. There is warm water in the big cauldron. I’ll take Samuel .” she said , carrying Samuel and walking away toward the house.
It was a close shave for James. He must be more careful , he told himself. He also felt guilty. He went to the bedroom . He carried the bag with the cloths he took for his visit to Kondagala Estate to the bedroom and inspected it carefully just in case there was something there like a handkerchief or piece of paper which might give him away. He had a bath and made sure that he placed his cloths in a cauldron and filled it with water to ensure that the cloths had a good soaking.
* * *
The following week, James made his way to Kandy on a Monday and took a coach to Kondagala Estate via Ramboda Pass. He was met by Jenkins. He spent the evening walking along the rows of tea bushes that had been planted. The new tea bushes were not growing as fast as expected. Jenkins was himself rather puzzled.
“ You know James, this is very strange. I have not experienced such slow growth in all my thirty five years involvement with tea.” said Jenkins.
“ It must be the soil. The climate is no different to Loolecondere.” replied James.
“ This is something I had not expected. As you say the climate is the same as the rest of the hill country except that we are more to the East are we not?” he asked.
“ Yes. Loolecondere is more towards the centre of the hill country” said James.
They walked further down the path between tea bushes. Enough space was left between bushes to give the women tea pluckers room to stand and pluck the leaves. The wind blew strongly suddenly.
“ Ah! That blowing is strong. Is it normal?” asked Jenkins.
“ It’s time for the rainy season to begin. April has been very hot. That is one of the reasons for the slow growth I think. The rain will come from the North East from next month. I guess it’s a little different from Assam.” said James.
“ It’s a just a few months different. Pattern of the rain is the same. Two rainy seasons. The South West monsoon and the North East Monsoon. But of course the monsoons along the Bay of Bengal can bring a deluge of rain ” said Jenkins.
Some rumbling could be heard as the clouds blew in.
“ You were telling me about the tea rolling machine that you are having constructed. When do you expect it to be installed ?” asked Jenkins.
“ In two weeks time. The installation will take about a week I think. The watermill will need some work. I have been making the spot a bit deeper to allow more water to pass through.” said James.
They walked along the footpaths that were designed to help the tea pluckers to move around the bushes, plucking the tea leaves.
“ I’m thinking of two leaves and a bud. This will make the tea expensive since there will be many leaves left unplucked but the tea tastes so much better.” said James.
“ Yes. I go along with that idea. We may end up with two types of tea. Two leaves and a bud style of tea making catering to the upper classes and the normal leaves catering to the others.” said Jenkins.
“ That would happen I’m sure. But I want to concentrate on the high quality tea.” said James.
“ I agree with you. I would go the same way. But we have to face the fact that the price of tea will be much more. It may not be competitive with tea made in China.”
“ My problem is bring down the cost of Ceylon tea by going away from hand rolling and using a machine to do that. I need your help with quality control.” said James.
“ Don’t worry about it James. I will be coming over to Loolecondere as often as you want me to.” said Jenkins.
“ Thanks a lot. I very much appreciate this offer.” said James.
“ I want to help you with your enterprise. Your approach interests me greatly. I will be doing everything I can to help you with your project.” said Jenkins.
They returned to the bungalow as the Sun was setting and sat on the verandah having their tea and biscuits.
“ Dinner will be ready in about an hour. Your hot water should be ready if you are going to have a bath. It gets chilly though. Not unpleasant really.” said Jenkins.
They talked about the dwindling of the coffee crops and the uncertainty of the tea enterprise. After dinner, they walked around the bungalow a few times discussing the tea drinking habits of the upper classes in England. They retired for an early night.
Breakfast was served in the verandah. The household staff were as efficient as as the people who looked after his house, thought James.
“ Excellent breakfast. I see you have a very good team.” said James
“ Yes. I brought some of my people along with me. the workers are also from Bengal” said Jenkins.
“ It’s a good idea. They know you and know what you want done.” said James.
“ Yes. Only downside is that these fellows from Bengal seem to have made friends in the local villages. They go and spend their evenings out in the villages.” said Jenkins.
“ Oh, I see. The friendship could develop and the young men could get married to local girls and then things could get complicated.” said James.
“ I suppose such things do happen. It happens to you and me.” remarked Jenkins.
“ Yes. I agree. We all need a little company. But I must say that the villages in Loolecondere keep themselves to themselves. Our workers do buy any vegetables and yams that the village people sell. ” said James.
“ I do encourage my workers to buy locally rather than go to Kandy. We need to make the local village people feel that we are of some benefit to them. We are using government land but it really belongs to them I suppose.” said Jenkins.
“ Yes. The benefits of government services are not very much in the villages. The town people are enjoying roads and now railways. When is the railway having it s first cargo run.?” asked Jenkins.
“ Next week or the following week.” said James.
“ I guess the people are going to take the opportunity to travel to Colombo.” said Jenkins.
“ Yes. I certainly am very excited. I’m hoping to send a shipment of tea in about two months.”
“ Ah. Yes. Your machine will be churning out the best of Loolecondere to London.” said Jenkins.
“ I’m going to need help with the shipment. It will be first shipment using the machines.” said James.
“I will be at Loolecondere. You can be certain of that. Tea making has been my core skill. The fermenting is very important to my way of making tea. I’m also very keen to make it a success because I will be adopting your methods in due course.” said Jenkins.
“ Thank you. It will be a great help to me. My experience is very limited in that area of tea making.” said James.
“ In many ways, your success will be our success. We planters are at the cross roads. Coffee is definitely out, thanks to the blight. Cinchona prices are down and no signs that it will ever improve. Tea will be our saviour.”
“ Yes. Tea will be our road to success. I’m very confident. I know the risks. But I’m confident.” said James.
They went out and walked along the tea plantation tracks. The tea bushes were not looking lush. The green colour of the tea leaf was not the green colour that was expected. A healthy tea bush had tea leaves of a different colour.
“ Sad isn’t it James. I took a lot trouble bringing tea plants and seeds from Assam. But this is a great disappointment.” said Jenkins.
“ Signs are not good. It’s no use uprooting it at this stage, is there?”
“ No we will wait until a few more months before deciding on drastic action.”
“ Yes. It’s too early.” said James
“ Are you leaving tomorrow as planned?” asked Jenkins.
“No I’m leaving today. It’s Wednesday and I’m doing some work on the water mill site on Thursday.” said James.
“ Alright. Let’s go inside. I’ve got some tea leaves. i will show you about how I do the rolling and fermenting.” said Jenkins.
They moved into the house. Jenkins gave a demonstration of the hand rolling methods used in Assam. The leaves ended up looking like cigars. They discussed fermentation and the methods used for making Chinese green tea. The distinctive smell of green tea wafted around the tea leaves.
“ I guess the packing methods will also be different for green tea.” said James.
“ Not all that different. It’s almost the same. The tea chests we use are the same. The paper used to insulate the tea from the tea chest is the same. Mind you, with the railway starting next week or the following week, we will need to look at the packing methods again” said Jenkins.
“ Yes. Agree. Are you going to Ambepussa for the opening “ asked James.
“ I want to go. Are you going?” asked Jankins.
“ Yes. I want to go.” said James.
“ I guess we will meet there. What about travel and accommodation.” asked Jenkins.
“ The coach from Kandy will get us over there and back. I’m not sure if the rest house or hotel in Ambepussa they are building can accommodate everyone.” said James.
“ Alright. We might meet in Kandy. Depending on the time we get there. I guess it’s time for your trip back home.” said Jenkins.
“ Yes. I will get my bag.” said James.
James arrived in Kandy by late evening. The lamps were being lit in the Queens Hotel. James stepped back to look at the impressive sign board that had replaced the old sign board which said Stainton Hotel. Looks like the place is going to be posh place, James told himself.
He booked himself in and went to his room and left his suitcase there before coming down and having a beer. He spoke to one or two of the British men who were seated drinking their beer and eating snacks like potato wedges and fried prawns.
He felt cheerful standing at the bar and looking at the new curtains which seemed to declare that things have changed in the hotel. The price had gone up ten percent too he noted. He kept looking anxiously towards the door watching out for Daisy. She walked in and saw him but pretended that she was coming in to see Mrs. Stainton. She asked the waiter where Mrs. Stainton was and walked away towards the kitchen, only giving James a quick glance.
She returned and stood talking to James. James placed the key on the table, The tag on the key said Room 10. She picked up the key and walked away.
When James entered the room she was in bed, only in her pants. He kissed her on her lips, as he removed his cloths and stood naked.
“ I love you” she murmured, moving towards him.
“ I love you too” said James getting into bed and removing her pants. The perfume of her body made his erection stronger as he enjoyed the softness inside, exploring her with his tongue. She made him tingle with her tongue and feel the delight of being loved.
When she slipped out later, she gave him a kiss on his lips. She tip toed to the door , opened it slightly to make sure nobody was around , before dashing away.
James went to sleep but his mind was disturbed by thoughts of Thangam. he would need to make some firm decisions. But there was no solution to be seen. He could not control events but events could overtake him.