Shanghai 18th Dec

Christmas is coming. Business is slow. Pippo is recovering from some unstated illness that put him in hospital for some time. He isn't allowed to drink and that puts a damper on the upcoming "festivities". We get the feeling that he is bored and homesick. Mainly gossip: Bidwell's brother-in-law, growing a mustache, his language skills, correspondance with various people, defence of his old boss against malicious rumours....

My dear maman,

Oh! I see I began in english, but never mind. I'll go on in this very pretty language, it will be good for me and will show you that unhappily I didn't improve much since I left Lyons.

Here nothing new , and I pass my time writing letters after letters, not knowing what else to do. These days I posted some Xmas cards as I want to send one to Miss B. with a box of sweets. I hope she does not expect anything more valuable and that she will like it.

I am getting on very well indeed and even on Monday night I went out for dinner and afterwards to the theatre with Lebas, a very nice fellow who invited me. Of course, I am very careful as I don't care about going back to bed at all, and especially I shouldn't like to enter the hospital again; once in a life is quite enough, it can possibly be good for a young man to have gone through all these experiments, but I can't say I care much for it, it is so sickening to be all the time surrounded by white things, and one is longing to see something red or blue or yellow even.

I told you, if I remember well, that I dined Sunday at the Bidwell's. I like to go there, as I feel quite at home with them, knowing well that I take pot-luck, they never do anything exta for me.

The evening passed very quickly, and if it were not for Some (?), the brother-in-law, with whom I don't quite agree, as he is all the time bothering Miss G. I should say I had quite a charming evening. You cant imagine how wild I sometimes feelseing that fool annoying his sister-in-law, who does not like it, and not being able to say a word. I know well he does not like me, and I can only say I don't either. People say, I mean his sister in law, not G. but Miss B. that he is jealous of me, but goodness, why, he is married. He soes not want to get married with the two sisters! I hope!

At the office everything goes on O.K. only two or three mistakes happened during my absence, and I am very glad of it as it will show to Mr R. that I am of a certain use from time to time. He is very nice with me now and I do my best to go on like this as long as possible.

I generally go to his office every day and try to talk about business matters with him. I say try, as sometimes he makes such a face that I "tchop, tchop" clear out of the way

We have now a very nice Nº 2 shroff 1 who speaks french rather well, it is sometimes too amusing to hear him speaking slang: and no matter as often you go to the jodome (?) he always say: bonzour môssieu.

Our Portuguese is working hard the new Compradore to get presents at Xmas. I wonder if he will give us something. Hope so, I must say.

Jost is quite disgusted, the other day he got his Xmas box and had $10.- duty to pay for it. It takesthe pleasure away, he says, to have to give out 25 francs for something not worth it.

Oh, if you only knew how it bothers me to go to our boss for dinner on Xmas, now that I cant drink anything I shall feel bad to see the chaps enjoying a good glass of champagne, and poor me, I shall have to go without it.

I got an invitation for next Saturday's Ball, but I don't think it would be wise for me to go, and if Bidwell arranges a trip up country for Saturday, I think I like better to go with them than to the Ball.

Do you know, I tried to grow a mustache again, but after 3 weeks it does not look like having an inkling to grow much so I'll have it shaved again this afternoon. The hairs are rather long but they are not thick enough, and I look a little too Japanese like with it.

I say, our house is getting a real hospital, now the little Mayne is in bed & we fear it could be scarlet fever, there is quite an epidemic of it just now. Of course, if it is, hew will have to clear out of the house "assotec quay quay" (Chinese for "like flying duck") as we dont want him with us .. .. of the people are weak , and Mº R wouldnt like it much on ?? of his babies.

The weather is quite funny, one day cold, one day warm, one night you cant sleep for cold, you light a big fire, and the night after, it is too warm. It is quite the real good time for diseases of any kind, but now I have paid my duty to Dº Nature and I hope he will leave me in peace.

19/12. Again nothing new since yesterday. I passed my afternoon painting some few cards and I can say, even myself, that some are realey very pretty. It does not sound very modest to blow myself the trumpet, but what do you want, I am quite satisfied with them, and to you, I can say that.

It is so stupid, nothing to do all day, the brokers come in with their usual speed, carriages with gallopping ponies, stop at our doors, everybody could think a large business is being done, and inside, our boss reads the papers, Jost writes to his sweetheart at home, and I am writing to you. True, I am getting quite sick (?) of that job.

And what news in Geneva? How are the two lovers, are they still enjoying their honeymoon or are they quarrelling about linoleum and broken chairs. They told me some months ago, they would send me the photos of their flat, but I am still expecting them but alas without result.

Some time ago I got a very good letter from Edith, I was glad I must say, as I was just going to scratch her from my friends list. I sometimes write to her, but not at all regularly, and I am waiting for a long ago promised photo of her.

I have still that letter of Louis to answer about all sorts & kinds of fishes, but the devil if I know where to get the information he wants. There is even not one foreign fish merchant here, or even an english speaking one, I asked my boy but he told me I never heard of such fishes. Louis gives me the chinese name of them, and of course, if it is mandarin, the chinese here dont understand it, if it is Cantonese or Kinkianese or Hankowese, neither. What can I do! I really dont know.

I'll go to the Sanitary Dept and ask one of the Market Inspectors but I doubt he will know anything about it. I shall be very sorry if I have to tell him I cant get these informations, as I should be very glad to be of any use to him, but really people sometimes are funny and think in China you can get all these things just the same as at home. If I were in a small Yang Ze Port perhaps I couod do it, but here ? ? ? ! ! !

Yesterday it was very cold indeed, a strong north wind blowing hard and I enjoyed my good fire and a good hot tea at 5, as here I seldom go without my five o'clock tea. Quite smart is n't ?

People here say I have an awful American twang, funny is n"t. I could understand Jean as born in U.S.A. to have one but I, poor little Chêne-Bougeries natif. I must say I picked out some American expressions in Puk (?) but it was not the U.S.A. accent.

Now you just tell me what you think about my english. I know I make a lot of mistakes, but I'll have to know where they stick. I think I can express myself a little better that in Lyons, but reallyI believe I shall never be an expert linguist. German is going slack with me, though I sometimes speak with german chaps, my french is getting quite bad, and italian, oh, god.

I can still just ask for bread and cheese, though my barber only speaks italian with me, but more Milan's dialect, than pure Tuscan, and I can show off a good deal with my "Minga mal e lei" etc, etc...

But, I say, time is passing rapidly and I have still a little bit of work to do. There, good bye for the present, Ta-ta, as the Americans say. Give my love to the two pidgeons and get a thousand kisses from your loving son

20/12 . Thanks so much for the book, which I think will be very interesting. This mail did nt bring me any letters from you. I sent 3 times to the P. O. but without any success. I got tante Marie's photo. I'll write to her.

Do you remember what Lacroix (?) was saying about ( Bosshant ?) in that letter I sent you. it seems I told something about it to Miss Mary, and Love (?), she got on her big black horse and sticks for B. against Lacroix and even says that L. is "a beast". You can think I don't allow that, and I am afraid she will not like my answer. I know by some letters and Mr R. Ellsworth's letters and others and really he was not quite the goody-goody young man as Miss Mary seems to believe he was. I don't like to say to her anything agaisnt him, but what is quite sure I'll stick for my old boss agaisnt all the of the world, and never mind what she can think of it, I am in S. R. Cº and have to stick for their chap, and as I dont think she has any ??? proofs, she will retract what she said. Of course B. told her a lot of stories about L. and of course, she believed him, but I know Lacroix as well even perhaps better than B. & her together. He has always been kind for me and I shant allow anybody, especially people who dont know him to say that he is a beast & ought to look into his private life before looking into others. First of all his private life (and I know he is all right) has nothing to do & is no business of B. or Miss M.

Thanks again for the book, I hope soon to get a letter.

With tender kisses, I am your


1) Shroff: In South Asia, China, etc., a native teller or silver-expert, employed by mercantile establishments to inspect and count all dollars that reach the firm, and detect and throw out the bad ones.