FROM EDINBURGH TO INDIA AND BURMAH
FROM EDINBURGH TO INDIA & BURMAH
BY W. G. BURN MURDOCH
Author of "From Edinburgh to the Antarctic," "A Procession of the Kings of Scotland," etc.
WITH TWENTY-FOUR FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR FROM PAINTINGS BY THE AUTHOR
LONDON GEORGE ROUTLEDGE & SONS, LTD. NEW YORK: E. P. DUTTON & CO.
TO ST. C. C.
Introducing these Digressions. Point of Departure. Edinburgh Street Scenes. Flying Impressions from the Train to LONDON.
Street Scenes there — The Park and Regent Street. The People in the Streets. Our Royalties gone, and Loyalty — going. Piccadilly Circus by Night, and Mount Street. pp. 1-8
London to Tilbury, and the Platform at Victoria Station. The Embarkation on a P. & O. A Bugle Call. The luxury of being at sea. The Bay, and "Spun Yarns" on to 9-18
Orpheus and the Argo and the Sirens in heavy weather. Down the Portugese Coast. High Art in the Engine-Room. Our People going East. A Blustery Day, and the Straits of Gibraltar. Gib and Spain, and "Poor Barbara." 19-26
A Blue Day at Sea, and Castles in Spain. A Fire Alarm, and A Dummy Dinner. The Beautiful French Lady. Marseilles and the Crowd on the Wharf. Bouillabaisses, and Rejane, and Cyrano, etc., and the head of a Serang for a tail-piece. 27-34
About the Crowd on Board, and the discomfort of a voyage first class — British types — Reflections on the Deck and on the Sea — of Sky, and People, and of things in general. A P. & O. yarn, Old Junk, or Chestnut. Respectability and Art. It gets warm — The Punkah Infliction. Egypt in Sight, and the Nile Water.
Port Said and its Inhabitants — Jock Furgusson and Ors. Corsica, Sardinia, Lipari Islands, Stromboli, Crete, and The Acts of the Apostles. 35-45
The saddest thing in Egypt — Dancing in the Canal, and the Search-light on the Desert — The fizzling hot blue Red Sea, and digressions about rose-red Italian wine, & Ulysses, and Callum Bhouie, and Uisquebaugh. 46-53
Is still about the Red Sea — "The Barren Rocks of Aden," and small talk about small events on board — a fancy dress dance, and sports, and so on to BOMBAY. 54-62
Is — without apologies — of first impressions of India; and about the landing and entertainments of their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales — Great people and little people, and their affairs; Royal Receptions to snake-charmers — Illuminations, Gun-firing, and the Bands playing God save the King — Edward the —? 63-74
This chapter continues to deal with splendid Royal Shows, and there is the precis of a dream of a Prince and an A.D.C., who correct the Abuses of the Privileges of the Royal Academies. 75-84
And this is about the arrival of Lord Minto, and the departure of Lord Curzon, and the Tomasha connected therewith; Vice-regal Receptions, and Processions, and more band playing, and gun-firing. 85-101
Chronicles small beer — things about books and little Indian beasts and natives, and there is another digression to the subject of "English v. British Union, and the Imperial Idea," and a sail over the Bay with a piratical (looking) crew, to the caves of Elephanta. 102-111
Is a somewhat lengthy drawn-out chapter about a train journey from Bombay up the Western Ghats, and down south on the Deccan (Dekkan) Tableland to Dharwar — Rather a "carpet-bag chapter," to quote Professor Masson. 112-122
Dharwar. My Brother's Bungalow. Life in a small Station. The Club. Duck-shooting 123-135
A letter on the subject of DUCK — And a Cholera Goddess. 136-144 CHAP. XV
Last evening at Dharwar, then notes in the train south to Bangalore. 145-149
Is of notes and sketches about things you see in Bangalore. 150-156
Is of a long journey for a small shoot — Life on the Railway Line, and a letter about SNIPE.
Our day's shoot is cut in two by the Royal Procession, and we go to the Embassy, then to jail, and make a picture of the Bazaar by lamplight, and discourse on the subject of music with the Maharajah of Mysore. 157-173
Is about the Maharajah's Palace at Mysore — To Seringapatam in Trollies — Remarks about the Siege, mosquitoes, and landscape — Back to Mysore, and Dinner on the Track. 174-185
Channapatna Village, and a free tip to artists — Our Camp in a railway siding in "beechen green, and shadows numberless" — Thoughts of Madras and the Ocean again — How we rule India, and ghosts on the railway track — A Bank in India, and about cooking, and the Indian squirrel or Chip-monk — The Maharajah — Red Chupprassies — The Museum, and Ants, etc., etc. 186-196
En route for Madras — A plague inspection in the grey of the morning — Madras and blue southern ocean, through Tamarisks, and the silvery Cooum and fishermen seine-netting on the strand — The Race-course — The Old Fort of the Company — Dinner at the Fort, and the people we saw there; and of those we remembered who once lived there — A Digression from Crows to ancient Naval Architecture, and the new Order of Precedence. 197-209
A delightful Fishing Day — Surf Rafts. — Making Calls — Boating on the Adyar River — A Sunday in Madras Churches, and on a Surf Raft — End of the Year. 210-220
1st JAN. 1906. — Call at Government House — The Fort again — More about Surf Rafts — Lord Ampthill's Government House Reception — Nabobs and nobodies. — Fireworks and pretty dresses, and the band playing. 221-226
Out of Madras, and on the blue sea again, bound West to Burmah — Packed with Natives — An unsavoury Passage Ruskin's English and Native Essayists. 227-231
GOLDEN BURMAH, and the Golden Pagoda — a gymkhana dance — Sketching at the Pagoda entrance — Various races — Bachelor's quarters — The Shan Camp — Princesses and Chieftains, and their followings — Mr Bertram Carey, C.I.E. — The peace of the platform of The Shwey Dagon Pagoda. 232-244
"The Blairin' trumpet sounded far," and the Prince comes over the sea, and lands at Rangoon — Receptions and processions; pandols, shamianas; and Royal Tomasha — Illuminations at night on the Lake, and the Royal Barges — Song about Our King Emperor — We start for Mandalay by river-boat up the IRRAWADDY. 245-250
The Flotilla Co. — Bassein-Creek mosquitoes — Searchlight fantasies fairy-like scenes on the river by night and day — Up stream on a perfect yacht — Past perfectly lovely villages and scenes — The Nile nowhere — Mr Fielding Hall — Riverside delights — Prome — Pagodas — The Prince comes down the river. 251-263
THAYET MYO, 20th Jany. — It gets cooler — Thoughts of big game — Watteau trees — Sweet pea dresses — Country scenes — Popa Mountain — The Fanes of Pagan — A little about shooting and geese — and the pleasures of the river life to end of chapter. 264-275
The shore at Mandalay — The Queen's (Supayalat) golden Kioung or Monastery — Street scenes — THE ARRAKAN PAGODA, and scenes for a Rubens or Rembrandt — The Mecca of this Eastern Asia — Burmese women bathing — A Burmese harper — The Phryne in hunting green kirtle — Mingun and the pagoda that was to have been the biggest in the world, and the 90-ton bell — Mr Graham's house — Life on S.S. "Mandalay" at the Mandalay shore — King Thebaw's Palace. 276-293
Away to Bhamo!
Off again — In a cargo steamer up river to the end of the Empire this way — The markets on board and Burmese life — Changing views, flowers, sunlight and swirling river — Fishing — Geese — Painting — Cascades of beautiful people, Snipe-shooting, and more fishing. 294-302
Anchor up — Mist on the river — "Stop her" — Pagodas and cane villages — Fishing with fly; A 35-lber — The Elephant Kedar Camp — Animal life on the river banks — We go aground — The crew strike work — We get away again — Kalone to Katha. 303-313
Sunshine and haar — Children of Cleutha — Moda — Girls and old ladies of Upper Burmah — We meet a Punitive Expedition, Sikhs and Ghurkas under a Gunner-Officer returning from Chin hills to Bhamo — Fog banks and the second Defiles — Jungle scenery — Shans and Kachins at Sinkan — We go shopping on an elephant at BHAMO — China Street — A Chinese gentleman's house — The Joss House — Painting in a Chinese crowd — Marooned. 314-327
The D.-C. Bungalow — Roses, orchids, and "The Mystery." 328-330
Many pages, lengthy, descriptive, of an expedition in canoes, and on elephant back through pucca jungle to shoot snipe, and of our entertainment in the evening at the Military Police Fort, with Kachin dances in moonlight — A Review of Kachin native police. 331-342
Preparations for our pilgrimage into China — Our servants, ponies, and live stock — On the Road — From Bhamo to the back parts of China — The first Rest-House. 343-347
Kalychet — A mid-day halt and Mahseer fishing — Views in the Kachin Highland Forests — Rivers — "Seven bens and seven glens" — Caravans on the track — The Taiping river — A Spate — Fishing 348-357
"On the Water" continued — Nampoung — The edge of the Empire — Six to seven thousand feet up, and cold at night. 358-362
Nampoung river — A fish in the bag, a cup, and a pipe, by the river side — We wade into China — Meet the Chinese army and wade back — Another cast in the Taiping — "G" collects many orchids — From Kalychet to Momouk — Riding in the sun in the morning and back to the plains alas! A pleasant evening with the Military Police. A study of a Kachin beauty, and of an average type of Upper Burmese girl — Good-bye Bhamo — Paddling down the Irrawaddy — More river-side notes — A.1. shooting, to the writer's mind — The Luxury of a Cargo Boat of the Flotilla Company — Deep Sea Chanties, and Mandalay again. 363-379
We drop from the comfort of the Cargo Steamer to the comparative discomfort of the train at Rangoon — Another plaguey inspection — Another joyous embarkation on another B.I. Boat — Calcutta — Benares and its Ghats; after the Golden Beauty of Burmah! — Street scenes and riverside horrors — A muddle of indecencies and religions — A superior Fakir's portrait — 333,000,000 gods — An artist's private deductions — Les Indes sans le British — Delhi and Agra. 380-391
India generally speaking, as a preamble to several pages about Black Buck shooting.
The Taj Mahal not described — Sha Jehans portrait. 392-401
LIST OF COLOURED ILLUSTRATIONS BY AUTHOR AND "G."
Ayah and Child Frontispiece A Glimpse of the North Sea to face page 4 Piccadilly Circus, by Night 8 A Spanish Woman 26 A Cafe, Port Said 44 Aden, and Fan-sellers 58 Waiting for Carriages after Reception at 79 Government House, Bombay Lord Minto's Landing in India 92 A Reception in Government House, Bombay. 98 Sailing from Elephanta 111 An Indian Tank 151 A Street Corner, Bangalore 171 Entrance to the Shwey Dagon Pagoda, Rangoon 237 H.R.H. Prince and Princess of Wales 249 landing at the Boat Club, Rangoon A Burmese Harpist 284 A Priests' Bathing Pool 302 A Chinese Joss House 324 A Kachin Girl 370 A Girl of Upper Burmah 372 A Fakir at Benares 387 A Delhi Street Scene 390
Illustrations by "G."
A Sacred Lake near Rangoon 244 Sunset on the Irrawaddy 251 Mid-day on the Irrawaddy, distant Ruby Mountains 298
Some time ago I wrote a book about a voyage in a whaler to the far south, to a white, silent land where the sun shines all day and night and it is quiet as the grave and beautiful as heaven—when it is not blowing and black as—the other place! A number of people said they liked it, and asked me to write again; therefore these notes and sketches on a Journey to India and Burmah. They may not be so interesting as notes about Antarctic adventure and jolly old Shell Backs and South Spainers on a whaler; but one journal ought at least, to be a contrast to the other. The first, a voyage on a tiny wooden ship with a menu of salt beef, biscuit, and penguin, to unsailed seas and uninhabited ice-bound lands; the other, in a floating hotel, with complicated meals, and crowds of passengers, to a hot land with innumerable inhabitants.
I trust that the sketches I make on the way will help out my notes when they are not quite King's-English, and that the notes will help to explain the sketches if they are not sufficiently academical for the general reader, and moreover, I fondly believe that any journal written in the East in these years of grace 1905-6, must catch a little reflected interest from the historic visit of their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales to India and Burmah.
Edinburgh is our point of departure; the date 13th Oct. and the hour 10 P.M. All journeys seem to me to begin in Edinburgh, from the moment my baggage is on the dickey and the word "Waverley" is given to the cabby. On this occasion we have three cabs, and a pile of baggage, for six months clothing for hot and cold places, and sketching, shooting, and fishing things take space. I trundle down to the station in advance with the luggage, and leave G. and her maid to follow, and thus miss the tearful parting with domestics in our marble halls.... Good-bye Auld Reekie, good-bye. Parting with you is not all sorrow; yet before we cross the Old Town I begin to wonder why I leave you to paint abroad; for I am positive your streets are just as picturesque and as dirty and as paintable as any to be found in the world. Perhaps the very fact of our going away intensifies last impressions.... There is a street corner I passed often last year; two girls are gazing up at the glory of colour of dresses and ribbons and laces in electric light, and a workman reads his evening paper beside the window—it is a subject for a Velasquez—all the same I will have a shot at it, and work it up on board ship; it will make an initial letter for this first page of my journal.
Across the Old Town we meet the North Sea mist blowing up The Bridges, fighting high up with the tall arc lights. What variety of colour there is and movement; the lights of the shops flood the lower part of the street and buildings with a warm orange, there are emerald, ruby, and yellow lights in the apothecary's windows, primary colours and complementary, direct and reflected from the wet pavements; the clothes of passing people run from blue-black to brown and dull red against the glow, and there's a girl's scarlet hat and an emerald green signboard—choice of tints and no mistake—we will take the lot for a first illustration, and in London perhaps, we will get another street scene or two, and so on; as we go south and east we will pick up pictures along the road—from Edinburgh to Mandalay with coloured pictures all the way, notes of the outside of things only, no inner meanings guaranteed—the reflections on the shop windows as it were—anyone can see the things inside.
An old friend met us at the station; he had just heard of our exodus and came to wish us good-bye as we used to do in school-days, when we considered a journey to England was rather an event. He spoke of "Tigers;" India and tigers are bracketed in his mind, and I am certain he would get tiger-shooting somehow or other if he were to go East; he looked a little surprised and sad when I affirmed that I went rather to paint and see things than to shoot. Shooting and other sports we can have at home, and after all, is not trying to see things and depict them the most exciting form of sport? I am sure it is as interesting; and that more skill and quickness of hand and eye is required to catch with brush or pen point a flying impression from a cab window or the train than in potting stripes in a jungle.
Look you—this I call sport! To catch this nocturne in the train, the exact tint of the blue-black night, framed in the window of our lamp-lit carriage; or the soft night effect on field and cliff and sea as we pass. No academical pot shot this, for we are swinging south down the east coast past Cockburnspath (Coppath, the natives call it) at sixty miles the hour, so we must be quick to get any part of the night firmly impressed. There is faint moonlight through low clouds (the night for flighting duck), the land blurred, and you can hardly see the farmer's handiwork on the stubbles; there are trees and a homestead massed in shadow, with a lamp-lit window, lemon yellow against the calm lead-coloured sea, and a soft broad band of white shows straight down the coast where the surf tumbles, each breaker catches a touch of silvery moonlight. The foam looks soft as wool, but I know two nights ago, an iron ship was torn to bits on the red rocks it covers.... I must get this down in colour to-morrow in my attic under the tiles of the Coburg. Who knows—some day it may be worth a tiger's skin (with the frame included).... There is the light now on the Farnes, and Holy Island we can dimly make out.
To the right we look to see if the bison at Haggerston are showing their great heads above the low mists on the fields.... The night is cold, there is the first touch of winter in the air. It is time to knock out my pipe and turn in, to dream of India's coral strand, as we roll away south across the level fields of England.
In London town we arrive very early; an early Sunday morning in autumn in the East of London is not the most delightful time to be there. It is smelly and sordid, and the streets are almost empty of people, but I notice two tall young men in rags, beating up either side of a street, their hands deep in their pockets as if they were cold; they are looking for cigarette ends, I expect, and scraps of food; and we are driving along very comfortably to our hotel and breakfast. An hour or two later we are in the park at church-parade; a little pale sun comes through the smoky air, and a chilly breeze brings the yellow leaves streaming to the ground. There are gorgeous hats on the lines of sparrows nests, and manifold draperies and corduroys and ermines and purple things, with presumably good-looking women inside. We men run to purple ties this year, quite a plucky contrast to our regulation toppers, black coats and sober tweed trousers. And one unto the other says, "Hillo—you here again! Who'd have expected to see you, dear fellow! What sort of bag did you get; good sport, eh?" "Oh, good—good—awfully good! Such a good year all round, you know, and partridges, they say, are splendid; hasn't been such a good season for years; awfully sorry to miss 'em. And when do you go back?—On the Egypt!—Oh, by Jove! won't there be a crowd! Horrid bore, you know—'pon my word everyone is goin' East now; you can't get away from people anywhere! It's the Prince's visit you know; what I mean is, it's such a draw, don't you know."
Monday morning in Regent Street.—Sauntering with St C., looking at the crowd and incubators and buying things we could probably get just as well in Bombay; but Indian ink and colours, and these really important things we dare not leave behind. What a pleasant street it is to saunter in once or twice in a year or so; what a variety of nationalities and pretty faces there are to see. The air is fresh and autumnal, and overhead a northerly breeze blows wisps of white cloud across a bright blue sky, and just floats out the French Tricolours and the Union Jacks with which the street is decorated. The houses on one side are in quite hot sun; the other side of the street is in cold bluey shade, which extends more than half across the road. A cart crawls up the shaded side, leaving a track of yellow sand in its wake; someone is coming, and the crowd waits patiently.... Now mounted police appear in the distant haze and come trotting towards us, and the guards with glittering breastplates are rattling past and away in a breath! Then outriders and a carriage, and a brown face, moustached and bearded, and the Prince goes by, and the crowd cheers—and I pray we may both get a tiger. Then the King passes with Lord Minto, I think. We have come to London for something!
Possibly in the fulness of time we may see kings in our Northern Capital oftener than we do now. We need ceremonies, a little sand on the street occasionally, and a parade or two—ceremonies are the expression of inward feelings; without occasion for the expression of the sentiment of loyalty, the sense must go ... the loyalty of a second northern people—going—going—for a little sand and bunting—and—NO OFFER?
There is no chance of ennui in the week in London before a voyage; you have packing, shopping, insuring, and buying tickets and general bustling round—what charming occupations for the contemplative mind! Then you throw in visits to friends, and acquaintances call on you, all in the concentrated week; you breakfast late, lunch heavily, rush off to a hurried dinner somewhere, then rush off to a play or some function or other, supper somewhere else and then home, too late for half a pipe; engagements about clothes, hats, dresses, guns, lunches, dinners, theatres, you have all in your mind, awake and asleep, and as you run about attending to essentials and superfluities, you jostle with the collarless man in the street, and note the hungry look, and reflect how thin is the ice that bears you and how easy it is to go through, just a step, and you are over the neck—collar gone and the crease out of the trousers. A friend of mine went through the other day and no one knew; he lived on brown bread and water for ever so long, but stuck to his evening clothes, and now he sits in the seats of the mighty. What "a Variorem" it all is—tragedy and comedy written in the lines of faces and the cut of clothes. But I confess; what interests me in London more than types or individuals, are the street scenes and figures seen collectively. What pictures there are at every turning, and yet how seldom we see them painted. With the utmost modesty in the world I will have a try in passing at Piccadilly Circus. Is there a street scene so fascinating as that centre for colour and movement?—say on a May night, with people going to the theatres, the sky steely blue and ruddy over the house-tops, the Pavilion and Criterion lights orange and green glinting on the polished road and flickering on the flying hansom wheels—or The Circus in a wet night, a whirlpool of moving lights and shadows and wavering reflections! What a contrast to the quiet effects in some side street; for example this street seen half in moonlight, beneath my window in the Coburg; the only sound the click clack of the busy horse's feet on the wood pavement, as hansoms and carriages flit round from Berkeley Square—there's a levee to night, and their yellow lamps string up Mount Street and divide beneath me into Carlos Place.
... My tailor has sent me such an excellent cardboard box to paint on, so I will use it for this effect in Muzii colours; it will make a drop scene or tail piece to this first chapter of these "Digressions."
LONDON TO TILBURY.—If I am to write notes about a journey to the Far East, I must not miss out the exciting part between Grosvenor Square and Liverpool Street Station. The excitement comes in as you watch the policeman's hand at the block in the city and wonder if it will stop your journey; down it comes though, and we are in time, and have a minute to spare to rejoice on the platform with our cousin and niece who are going out with us, or rather with whom we home people are going out to India.
There were those on the platform not so happy as we were; an old lady I saw held the hand of a young soldier in pathetic silence, and the smiles on the faces of those left at home were not particularly cheerful, and the grey set expression of men leaving wives and children is hard to forget. A younger lady I saw on the platform smiling, and straight as a soldier, threw herself into her sister's arms as the train moved off in a perfect abandonment of grief, and the wrinkles in the old lady's face as we passed were full of tears—two to one against her seeing the young man, son, or grandson, on this side. But I suppose that is India all over—many partings, a few tears shed, and enough kept back to float a fleet.
Our 'guid brither' and his wife have come in the train with us to Tilbury to see us on board, so we are all very jolly and the sun shines bright on the river and white cumulous clouds, and the brown sails of the barges are swelling with a brisk north-east breeze as they come up on the top of the flood. The "Egypt" lies in mid-stream, and all the passengers of our train go off to it in tenders, along with hundreds of friends who have come to see them off—there is a crowd! Passengers only bring hand baggage with them, the rest went on board yesterday; the embarkation is beautifully managed and orderly, there is an astonishing repression of excitement and show of out of place feeling. To compare this embarkation with that on a foreign liner; I have seen the whole business of taking passengers and luggage on board an Italian liner stopped for minutes by one Egyptian with a tin of milk on the gangway, holding forth on his grievances to the world at large, whilst handsome officers on deck smiled futilely, their white-gloved hands behind their backs. I suppose it is this military precision that gives the P. & O. their name and their passengers a sense of security; but there are people so hard to please that they ask for less pipeclay, less crowded cabins, and better service and more deck space, and these carpers will never be content, so long as they see other lines, such as the Japanese, giving all they clamour for, comfortable bath-rooms, beds, and a laundry at moderate rates.
A touch of militarism that I rather fancy on the P. & O. is the bugle call going round the ship before meals; it is such a jolly cheery sound to awaken to. It comes from far along the ship in the morning, at first faintly in the distance, when you are half-awake trying to account for the faint sound of machinery and the running reflections on your white roof, dimly conscious of the ever delightful feeling that you are sailing south across the widest and most level of all plains. Louder and louder it comes along the alley-way, till outside your cabin door it fairly makes you jump! A jolly, cheery sound it is, almost nothing in the world so stirring excepting the pipes. There's a laughing brazen defiance in it, and gentleness too, as it dies away—most masculine music! What associations it must have for soldiers; even to the man of peace it suggests plate armour, the listed field and battles long ago.... Did you ever hear it in Edinburgh? up in the empty, windy castle esplanade—empty of all but memories—You see no bugler, but the wide grey walls and sky are filled with its golden notes. It echoes for a moment, and then there is quietness, till the noise of the town comes up again. And at night have you heard it? from the Far Side of Princes Street, the ethereal notes between you and the stars, long drawn notes of the last post, from an invisible bugler in the loom of the rock and the rolling clouds.
G. murmurs, "It is abominable—but after all, going to sea is all a matter of endurance." What a difference there is in the point of view—G., I must say, had a hair mattress last night, and it was not properly blanketted and entailed a certain amount of endurance; on the other hand she is extremely fortunate in having such glorious pink roses and beautiful hangings for nicknacks, touching parting gifts from friends, so her cabin already looks fairly homely; and then, on the walls, there is the most perfect round picture, framed in the bright brass of the porthole—a sailing ship hull down on the horizon, her sails shining like gold in the morning sun, on a sea of mother of pearl.... There is just the faintest rise and fall, and the air is full of the steady silky rushing sound; what is there like it, which you hear in fine weather when the sea makes way to let you pass.
Painted at a sketch to-day of people coming on board the "Egypt" from the tender, no great thing in colour, less in a black and white reproduction, for eye and hand were a little taken up with luggage—a note of lascars in blue dungarees and red turbans—East meeting West—the Indies in mauve and lilac hats and white veils; for shades of purple are all the fashion this year.
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I have found a corner in the waist between first and second class, where one can draw or paint without being very much overlooked; you can get under the sky there, elsewhere you can't, and only see the horizon, for our first class deck is under the officers' deck, and the second class is covered with awnings, a very poor arrangement I think for you only get light on your toes. A sailing ship's deck is ever so much nicer, for you have a reasonable bulwark to keep wind and water off your body instead of an open rail. You can look over a bulwark comfortably, your eyes sheltered from the glare off the sea; on these steam-liners it comes slanting up to your eyes under eyebrows and eyelashes—no wonder people take to blue spectacles! In the sailing ship too you can look up and watch the bends of white canvas and the spars-and cordage swinging to and fro across the infinite blue, an endless delight! Here you have a floor and blistered paint a few inches above you, on which you know the officers promenade with the full sweep of the horizon round them and the arc of the sky above. Still another advantage of the sailing ship is, that you are not just one of a crowd, ticketed No. so and so, bedded, fed, and checked off by a numeral; and you can generally count on a barometer, and learn the names of lights and lands you pass; possibly there may even be a thermometer, and certainly a compass. On this "Egypt," barring a small scale Mercator's projection of the world on which the ship's position is marked daily, there is no means of getting the information that can make a sea voyage so infinitely interesting. I would suggest large sized charts showing landmarks, ship's position, and barometrical readings. What is more interesting at sea than the charts of ocean depths, currents, winds, salinity, and temperature! If you go too fast to touch on Plankton, Nekton, and Benthos, at least let the poor first class passengers have a compass, if not a barograph and a thermometer, to eke out conversations on the weather, the day's run, and bridge.
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"THE BAY"—the Great Bay, calm as a mill pond—there's a jolly sense of rest and peace on board; I suppose everyone knows that feeling who has gone East. For weeks you have been doing things, shopping, packing, keeping appointments, then you get out of the bustle of town, breathe again clear air, and rest, on the level sea, that lovely water cushion, the most soothing of all beds.
Everyone is soporific and very restful. We begin to distinguish individuals amongst the many passengers, but so far no one seems particularly conspicuous. They are rather good-looking as a crowd, and one or two children are like angels—at least we hope so.
It is darker ahead now and to the east, the shadow of the World on Nothing, I suppose! possibly an October breeze coming—low banks of cirri-cumuli above the horizon—clear overhead with streaks of rusty red cloud fine as hair—the evening is cold, here is an attempt at it with a brush. And we had music in the place for music on deck; an Irish lady played the fiddle and played so well with a piano accompaniment to an audience of six—if the Bay keeps quite the audience ought to increase. After the sunset, dinner—what a tedious business it is; the waiting is perfectly planned, but the waiters themselves have to wait ages at the two service hatches, where they get all jammed together, so the time between the courses seems interminable; you almost forget you are at a meal at all. To-night dinner and conversation both hang fire at our end of the table, and I overhear from the other end where my cousin sits interesting scraps about India, which is distinctly annoying; R. is relating some of his experiences there that set his neighbours and my niece and Mrs Deputy-Commissioner all chuckling.
I gather that R. converted a certain Swiss. They lived near each other, a lonely life on the "Black Cotton Soil," whatever that is. R. says it blows about like snow. The Swiss lived in a little corrugated-iron house with some hens, and no books, and he loved books, and hated his house and hens, and the British Empire. R. had a nice bungalow and lots of books, and he lent these to the Swiss, on condition that he would read our newspapers! with the result that the Swiss ceased to believe in British "methods of barbarism," said he admired the Empire, and got quite to like his tin house and the black soil,—even his hens!
It is so quiet in the smoking-room to-night—not even bridge going on yet, which perhaps accounts for the discursiveness of these rambling notes on a quiet Saturday night at sea.
Now comes Sunday. "Come day go day, God send Sunday," as the discontented sailor growls before the mast. The day of the month unknown—I do not think it matters, in such notes as these, dates are rather like ruled lines on sketching paper, only distracting.... We have had such a pleasant time so far, that a Presbyterian lady was quite surprised when at breakfast I told her the day of the week, as she had not heard any clanging and clashing of bells, and as everybody seemed quite cheerful and there were no black clothes, she could not realise it was Sunday. But this afternoon it is not joyful for all! There is a solemn grey sky sweeping over us from Spain, with a grandeur and breadth that one only associates with Spanish skies, and there is a fresh breeze, but warm from the land, and this big tub moves a little, enough to make one realise the Sea is alive, her bosom heaves us along slightly, a delightful motion for some of us, and intensely soothing, but alas! there are empty places at our board. What a penance it is this sea-sickness. In the words of Burns,
"It is a dizziness, That will not let a body gang About his business"
at all, at all.... I was a pale-faced student, a week out from Leith to Antwerp, when I first felt this rudeness: we struck a fog-bank off St. Abb's Head to begin with, and a sand-bank off Middlesborough, and listened there to the cocks crowing on shore without seeing a foot ahead for the thickness of the grey, wet mist. We cheered ourselves with bagpipes, and the captain had a case of the very best brandy, the first I think I ever tasted; and he could play some tunes on the practise chanter. "Dinna think bonnie lassie, I'm goin' to leave you," I remember was his best; it is a strathspey tune; I learned it from him. The trouble came when it blew up hard off the Scheldt; but even when coming over the bar, the "romance" of the sea qualified its pains a little. I can feel the cold in my hands to-day of the barrels of the Winchesters at the side of the couch, and to which I clung in my hour of trial, and remembered they had been used in the steamer's very last trip against Real Pirates in the China Seas! And certainly there was the "romance" of the sea in the change from the gale and black night outside the bar, to the quiet morning on the wide river with the cathedral spire, violet against the sunrise, dropping its silvery music "from heaven like dew;" "Madame Angot," was the tune I think, with a note missing here and there.
We saw a number of sea birds to-day, and two at least were skuas, black looking thieves among their white cousins. I saw one try to make a gull disgorge, driving up at it from below, to the gull's loudly-expressed disgust. It is a strange arrangement of nature, and I can't understand why a few gulls don't combine to defend themselves. I am sure each of them must hate to give up the little meal they have earned with so much tiring flight. There were shore birds too; we shipped some as passengers, they were going south like ourselves, but by instinct not by the card. I suppose they were on the road all right, and just needed to rest their wings a little; two large black birds were on the bridge last night, possibly crows, and we have starlings to-day, and I saw some finches of sorts. At least one of these fragile boarders was eaten by the ship's cat—I found its delicate remains, a few tiny feathers and a dainty wing and its poor head.
The land is very faint on the horizon and the breeze is just going down, such as it was; it's a momentary interest at the end of a somewhat dull, grey day to most passengers.
R. and his wife, since one A.M., have had rather a poor time; their cabin is far forward, and so they feel any motion more than we do amidships; what with a little sea-sickness and the anchor chain loose in its pipe, banging against their bunks, they had a disturbed night. We raked out the bo'sun from his afternoon nap, and he and a withered old lascar jammed a hemp fender between the chain and woodwork, so their slumbers ought to be more peaceful; now they are getting a temporary change to a berth amidship, which is unoccupied as far as Marseilles; in it they will hardly feel the motion.
It was really considerate of the captain making a break in a dull, damp Sunday afternoon—the horn went booming, and up we all jumped in the smoking-room with some idea that someone had gone overboard, and up on deck came the lascars grinning, a jolly string of colour, and away forward they trotted and climbed into the forward life-boats from the deck above us. It was very smartly done, but I would like to have seen if their feet could reach the stretchers or their hands the oars; the boats were not swung out, but everything seemed ready. I think my friend the bo'sun must have had an inkling they were needed for he was working about the davits and falls earlier in the afternoon. In the words of the poet, Gilbert,
"It is little I know, Of the ways of men of the sea, But I'll eat my hand if I (don't) understand"
this part of their business; practice on a whaler tends to perfection at getting away in the boats, and at getting on board again too, if you are hungry—and faith if it isn't snowing it is fun!
To night the air is damp and warm from the S.E., and we smell Spain—true bill—several of us noticed the aromatic smell. Scents at sea carry great distances. "I know a man" who smelt burning wood or heather, 250 nautical miles from land, and said so and was laughed at; but he laughed last, for two or three days after his vessel beat up to some islands, from which towered a vast column of brown and white smoke from burning peat, and this floated south on a frosty northerly breeze, and the chart showed the smoke was dead to windward at the time he spoke.
MONDAY—a rolling tumbling sea, soft grey and white, and misty-wet decks with shimmering reflections—a day when even a great liner such as this feels a little shut off from the outside world, for the mist comes down on the edge of the horizon and hedges us in. If I ever paint Orpheus or the Sirens, I will use such a grey wet effect. I think of these old navigators in their small vessels, getting the thick and the thin, just as we do to-day in our own sailing craft; getting well dusted at times, with the salt thick on their cheeks and decks. Taking it all round, the sea is rather a minor chord; so that these Burlington House pictures of the Argo and The Heroes, in orange and rose on a wine-red sea are not convincing. When my patron comes home I will humbly suggest Orpheus singing at the stem, a following wind, a great bellying sail behind, and all around wet air and splashing grey sea, the stem ploughing it up silver and white and green, and away aft under the bend of the sail there would be Jason and the steersman, possibly Medea, with the curl out of her hair, and perhaps just a touch of the golden fleece, just a fleck of pale yellow to enliven the minor tints! Round the bows there would be men listening to the song, watching the stem pound into the green hollows—now, I remember! I have seen this—I'd forgotten. But the Orpheus was in faded blue dungarees, and played a fiddle, and leaned against a rusty, red capstan—saw it from the jib-boom of the Mjolna—fishing bonita—looked back, and there they all were, the same to-day as they were in olden days, I expect, men and boys, salt and sun-bitten sea-farers, lolling on the cat-heads and anchors. A joy of the World, that is—from your perch out on the jib-boom to watch a ship with its cloud of white sails surging after you.
 Norse for Thors hammer.
The Sirens too would paint in this weather; they look quite dry in pictures, they would look better wet—I'd have them glittering wet and joyous, and a fit carvel built boat and crew, and brown sloping sails, three reefs down, making a fine passage clear on to them, just as the steersman might wish with no bindings or wax in ears at all, but all at the Sirens' service.
St. Vincent light is now in sight—the swell from the south-west, and our course, as far as a passenger may guess, will soon be south by east; so we ought to have a fair roll on soon, and I feel glad our sea-sick friends are mostly asleep. To-morrow we hope to be in early at Gibraltar, then they will have a rest—it will be all smooth sailing. "They say so—and they hope so," as the "Old Horse" Chantie puts it. Is there not a wind, however, called the Mistral, in the Gulf of Lyons, and a Euroclydon further east, mentioned by St Paul?
We passed some rather interesting land scenery this afternoon, before we came to the mouth of the Tagus; you could see houses, comfortably nestled up the sides of the hills. At the foot of the red cliffs there is a line of green water and white bursts of foam—made a pochade of a bit of this coast—a castle perched on blue peaks, a rolling sky and rugged mountains, and nearer, a rolling, leaden-coloured swell.
From the well or waist where I paint, I noticed a rather black, white-man stood and watched me out of the engine room. He looked interested, and I spoke to him later. He said he "did a bit" himself in unmistakeable West Country accent, and he took me to his cabin to show me his art work. Though not very high up in the working part of this show—boiler maker or artificer, I think, he had a very nice cabin. His art work was decorative. He applied various cigar and tobacco labels with gum to Eastern wine jars of unmistakeably Greek design, also Masonic, and P. & O. symbols, with crosses, and rising suns in red and gold; the interspaces of these geometric designs he filled up with blue and gold enamel paint; and the general effect was very bright. It was odd though to see a vase of historic shape done over with such brand new labels. He had done this work for some years in spare time, so he had acquired considerable proficiency.
I would fain be able to describe some of the human interest, on such a vessel as this; there is enough for many novelists to study for many a day. Of each class at home we know individuals, soldiers and civilians, and their women folk, and they are interesting as others or more so; but when you see them like this on board their ship in their numbers, going East to their various duties, the interest becomes quite a big thing. There is the girl going to her future husband in a native regiment, not to return for years, and there is a couple sitting beside us to-night in the smoking-room—a white-haired Colonel and his young protege, a budding soldier—they talk of mother at home, and cousins and aunts. Then there's The-most-beautiful-girl-in-the-ship, but she is not typical, and I think she goes farther East than India: she has chummed already with the best set-up man on board, so that's as it should be—and what an occasion it is for chumming! I'd like to know what is the average number of engagements made and broken on these P. & O.'s per voyage. R. tells me of one made in his last trip home; I forget on what line. The passengers were eleven young men and one lady, and she favoured one of them, so there were ten disappointed suitors. They found He and She could sing a little, so one of the ten played accompaniments, and the others encouraged the devoted pair to sing tender ditties, which they did and for all they were worth. He sang, "I want you, my Honey," and put his back into it, as R. says, very slangily I think, and the suitors thought they had great subject for much mirth when they retired to the smoking-room—I think it was almost profane.... But it is time for one pipe on deck and a last look at the somewhat uncongenial sea, then to a bed, three or four inches too narrow.
These two ladies here depicted are the sole survivors of their sex this morning at breakfast, for it blows hard outside; but it's an ill wind that blows nobody good, so these two young things, fresh as roses, made each other's acquaintance at the empty table. They have been an hour on deck, and like the movement, and the breakfast; and possibly their irrepressible joyous sense of superiority is flavoured with pity for their sisters lying low and pale. You see, the fiddles are on the table, and even with these you have to hang on to your cup occasionally. The fiddle makes such a comfortable rest for my elbows, so I scribble this on the back of the breakfast menu (no one wants it) without being seen. I remember that neither the position nor the occupation were allowed in the nursery, and I hear of people to-day in quite good society so dead to art that they will not allow you to draw on the table cloth! I sometimes think how many lovely ideas must have been lost by this! It was the Correggio brothers, was it not? who used to draw during meal-time; they were very enthusiastic, but they died—possibly of indigestion!
We are getting into the Straits of Gibraltar—a nice blustery day, the black tramps coming out of the Mediterranean bury their noses deep in foam, and roll up and show all the beauty of steamers' lines! To starboard we get a glimpse of the serrated African mountains above Tangiers and the Atlas Mountains beyond. They are green in spring, but now they are brown. I used to think the African Coast was flat and sandy; I wonder if school boys do so still. It is a pleasant surprise at first sight to find it so like our own mountainous country. Both the African hills and the Spanish hills are veiled at times with passing rain columns that sweep in from the Atlantic.
Here is a little finger-nail jotting of Gibraltar; you see the parts where the masts are—that is the harbour. The Rock or Mountain, 1,200 feet high, is to the south and right; all its side is bristling with guns; to the left of the ships a long spit of land joins the rock to Spain proper. If the cumulous clouds to the north and east, in the direction of Granada, would lift a little we would see the white tops of the Sierra Nevada.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
This has been a most splendid day! We have been on Spanish soil—I suppose I may call it Spanish soil though it is held by Britain—have seen fair Spanish women, had sun, wind, rain, wet decks, and dry decks, and the bustle and interest of dropping anchor in Port, with all the movement of tugs and boats and people going and coming to and from shore—the roadstead blustery and fluttering with flags, and everything afloat bobbing and moving, excepting the great grey men-of-war.
We got away in the first shore boat. How it rained—G.'s hat ruined—but anything to be in Spain once more. The launch rolls and umbrellas drip, and we have hundreds of yards along splashing wet pier, G. balancing on timbers and wire cables to keep a little out of the mud—one umbrella for the two. Then a jog up the town in a funny little victoria with yellow oiled canvas curtains, past little gardens with great red flowers on one tree, and trumpet-shaped white flowers hanging on the next, past soldiers in khaki, and turbaned Moors huddled in their draperies. The Moors look so out of place in Europe; they seem to have aimed at being picturesque and have failed, and know it and stick to it. The Spaniards you pass are pure joy to the artist; the women have such nice ivory colouring with the faintest tint of pink, and such eyes, brown and dark, and kind, and such eye-lashes—it's easy colour to paint too in Henner's way, Prussian blue, bitumen and ochre and a breath of rose! Look at the bloom on their hair, blue as the light on raven's wing, and the flour on their faces, hanging thick on their black eyebrows. I think they must have a little of the Indian in them. There's a far-away kinship in the expression of the Ayahs on board and the Spaniards on shore, a queer penetrating look, and kindly. The mens' expressions are also pleasant enough, I think—very quiet—but they have your eye and your measure before you realise, with a glance quick as the glint that a pointer gives you from the corner of his eye as he ranges past.... Here is a jotting of one of the natives, perhaps a little heavy in expression, but fairly typical Spanish face. She is my cousin's cook; he is an R. E. and lives in quite a big house for Gibraltar; you can stand upright in any room and stretch yourself in the drawing-room, which has a balcony; I painted her as she stood in it. My cousin's wife had discharged her, but there was no ill-feeling, so she came to pay a complimentary call, in black lace mantilla and pink blouse. She was called Barbara, and loved a baker over the way, and when she should have been regarding the soup, she was throwing glances to the baker in his shop, so she had to go! "Poor Barbara"—and lucky baker, to receive such cordite glances!
A dainty lady of Saxon type, with face like china, hair fine gold, and eyes of Neapolitan violet, looked over my shoulder whilst I sketched. She is just out, and is enjoying Gibraltar hugely. But I should not have said violet eyes, for one was black as a thunder-cloud; she hunted yesterday and got dragged poor thing, and was bruised all over, but she was going about and hunts again in two or three days.
Our first day with a blue sky at sea—my word it is blue, impossibly blue, and the sun is beaming! We have had a quiet night, so everyone is very contented. On our left the Spanish coast is very mountainous, and little cloudlets are throwing shadows over the mountain sides. G. and I study our Spanish grammar; but perhaps "study" is hardly the word, dream over it would be more exact, and wonder at the blueness of the sea and the blue reflected lights on the hurricane deck above us. We have managed to get our chairs into a patch of sun; we rather court its rays just now, by the time we come home again I daresay we will take the shady side of the street. So close are we to the coast that, looking through the glasses, we can see into the glens and make out cottages where we know the people are speaking Spanish; and we plan a voyage through these hills some day; therefore our Spanish exercises. What a country it is both for castles and voyages, and how many ways there are to travel in it. In the train or on horseback, or with mules or a donkey, or a coach and four, as did Theophile Gautier. But not on foot for choice, that would be so undignified as to be barely safe in Spain. We arrange to have mules—for there is such a distinguished and aristocratic appearance about a train of mules, and an air of romance about them and their gay caparisons. We will trek over these mountains, and through the cork woods and brackens in the glens, live on figs and Vino Riojo carried in black skins on our sumpter mules, and camp at night on the dry ground under the brown trunks of the cork trees—another book, mes amis, and pictures, I vow! It will be in the South of Spain, this voyage of ours, amongst the elegant, fiery Andalusians, and we might combine the treking with a little coasting to Cadiz and Malaga, then inland by the Rhonda Valley, where travelling on mules would be almost rapid compared with the train. There are such lovely villages there, embowered in foliage and flowers at the bottom of rocky glens, and such pleasant peasants, with quiet, gentle manners. Just this last word before we lose sight of Spain. Why do women at home not adopt Spanish dancing? I am quite sure it is the secret of the Andalusian's poise and walk.
There is a very distinct swell, and people say it will blow in the Gulf of Lyons, and think they had better have gone overland to Marseilles. We pass the Balearic Isles, and at the distance they much resemble other islands.
Before lunch we saw an extraordinary marine effect. Along the coast the blue sea appeared to be covered with a veil or mist of grass green colour, the green of a duck pond; beyond it the coast was distinct, distant I should say about eighteen miles. We could see upper-top-sails and the peaks of lateen sails beyond the flat bank of green, which seemed to begin a few miles from the shore and spread over the sea's surface several miles west and east. What made me think it was an effect of colour above water, not in it, was that with glasses I could distinctly see the blue backs of the swell coming through it. No one I have met has ever seen the like, but one of the officers was asked what it was, and he said "Water."
In the afternoon we had two interesting shows on board. A bell rang, and a waiter who was bringing us tea turned tail and fled—it was a fire alarm! It was pretty the way every man in the ship's company jumped to fire-stations; hose pipes were down and connected, and pumps manned very quickly, and bar a little talk amongst the lascars, which was immediately stopped, everything was done in silence—bravo, British discipline! All the iron doors were shut and bolted, the inspection followed, and that done, away went everyone, quickly and silently, to boat-stations. All this rehearsal only took about half-an-hour or less, then the tea came.
Another entertainment followed—a dummy dinner. Fifty waiters, all young men, about half white and half Indian, took their posts at the tables up the side of the saloon and down the middle. A tap on a gong and away they all streamed to the entrances to the saloon, to port and starboard service tables at the kitchen, where they pretended to get courses of dinner, and then went and stood at their tables whilst the two pursers and head steward went round the whole of them, patiently asking each separately his duties: "What have you to do?" and each man answered as well as he could, and corrections were made. This inspection took fully an hour, then they went through the coffee, cream, and sugar and tea drill. All this dinner and fire drill is very thorough, I must admit, and the management of a big crowd of people on a ship begins to impress me—but the tea—is horrid!
We are now going north-east towards Marseilles. The sun shines, and it blows a gentle half gale. The sea is blue where it isn't white, and the wind is strong enough to keep us lying steadily over to starboard decks of course all wet, with rainbows at the bow, and bursting spray over all occasionally—people rather subdued, only a small muster at breakfast.
Place aux dames! I forgot to mention that a very beautiful French lady came on board at Gibraltar; she looked like one of Van Beers' pictures as she came down the quay steps in a most exquisite dress, dreamlike petticoats, and open-work stockings on Diana's extremities, and she had a little parasol, and held her skirts high—a Frenchwoman hates mud—and the rain poured, in sheets! She gave a brave farewell to her friends and fiance, and came on board with an air, notwithstanding the drenching rain. She was beautiful—hair like night, eyes brown, and features most perfectly Greek, and white as marble with a rose reflected on it! A doctor beside me whispered "anaemic," the red-haired ass! She leaves us at Marseilles, and will never travel by sea again. G. befriended her and interpreted for her; she was so helpless and alone in a cabin meant for three, with a pile of boxes miles bigger than the regulation size. With feminine courage she fought sea-sickness, fainted in the barber's chair, but appeared at dinner in another most exquisite toilet, and then—even in the paroxysm of sickness, preserved perfect grace of movement of hand and eye and draperies! What heroic courage! But enough of the tea rose in our bean field; let us get to more material things, and to Marseilles, and the coals rattling down the iron shoot beneath our heads as we try to sleep in air thick with coal dust.
This morning the racket is like nothing else in the world. It is a combination of the babel of the East and West, of Europe and Africa. There are four groups of musicians alongside, harpists, singers and fiddlers, all within the ship's length on the quay, and others in boats alongside.
We have two gangways reaching to the wharf, where are hundreds of porters, ship waiters and stewards bringing vegetables on board, and ships officers and hundreds of newly arrived passengers, all talking more or less over the music, and passing to and fro across the gangways in the sun. The ship feels too full to move in now. The new arrivals look a little pale and tired after their overland journey by Paris, but we weather-worn people with The Bay behind us, enjoy the whole scene with the calm of experienced mariners! Behind the sunlit groups of passengers with their baggage, the dock labourers in the sheds pile grain sacks on to waggons, and strings of stout horses stand resting beside them. On the edge of the quay are flower girls in black, selling big bunches of violets, and a Strong-man in pink tights and sky-blue knickerbockers—a festive piece of colour taken with his two white chairs and bright carpet. He plays with silver balls and does balancing feats with his little girl, and puts his arms round her and strokes her hair after each turn, in a delicate appeal to the sympathies of passengers who lean over the rail and take it all in somewhat sleepily.
... The post has brought me an Orient-Pacific guide-book which I wish I had had coming down channel and along the Portuguese coast. I would recommend it to anyone going this journey. It has a most interesting collection of facts both about sea and land on the route.
... We met the beautiful French lady again last night at the Hotel de Louvre, where everyone meets everyone else up town. I think she is Gascon, and the very opposite of the fair Saxon type we ought to admire at home. You hardly expect a perfectly beautiful woman to talk well, but this perfection could both talk and dress; her personality was not "sunk in her hat." She knew Scottish history, all about the good Lord James, and about Mary Stuart, and what pleased us greatly was that she told us words and hummed the airs of children's songs reputed to have been written by Queen Mary, and which she said are sung to-day by French children. The Hotel de Louvre soon filled, so we got away from the crowd in a victoria and drove along the town to a cafe for supper, and it was cold and dark too!
The cafe, Basso and Bregaillon, has a "vue splendide" (in the daytime), so the bill says. What you see at night is a well lit quay with the cafe lights shining out across the dark water in the dock on to some white steam yachts. After getting rid of a uniformed interpreter, whose one idea was to give us an "Engleesh dinner, very good, very sheep," we made up our own order. Of course bouillabaisse et soupe de poissons was the first item. I am not sure how to eat this, with a spoon or fork—two dishes are set down at once, one with half an inch of saffron-coloured soup, made of, I think, shell-fish, and with great slices of bread in it—certainly a spoon is not very suitable; the other dish has a perfect aquarium of little fish and bits of bigger fish beautifully arranged in a pyramid with similar soup round it—there are bits of red mullet, crab, green fish, and white fish, and all sorts of odds and ends. Why do we not make dishes like this at home? I get just such oddities any time I lift my trammel net, but they are thrown away as "trash." But the French are artists in every line of life, in cooking, in dress, and I believe they put art into the way they heave the coal on board. We feel much inclined to stay here a little and see more of these Southern French. I love their jolly abandon of manner, their kindness and "honesty," and their gasconade. So here's to you Cyrano and Daudet, D'Artagnan and Tartarin, not forgetting M. le President.
Who do you think sat beside us within arm's length but Rejane! There were only six or seven people in the cafe and none of them were aware of the presence of their distinguished compatriot till we whispered her name to the waiter, and he whispered it to them and their eyes opened! I came to G.'s side of the table so that I might see the great actress in mufti, and I would have liked to have made a sketch of her as she talked to her companion, but it would have been too obvious—you know the way she speaks, a little out of the corner of her eye and mouth, with hand on hip. She is great! We saw her only a year ago with Coquelin in "La Mantansier."
This is the head of the Serang; I took it when he was not looking. He runs the lascars on board; acts pretty much as bo'sun. This face is brown and beard died rusty red, and he wears a lovely boatswains silver whistle on a silver chain, and has an air of command and the appearance of deepest intelligence.
There is a frightful crush on board. It would take years to consider all the faces. Numbers of ladies are going out to join their husbands after having taken their children home in spring. By the afternoon all the new comers look much refreshed; they have washed off the travel stains of that dusty journey across France, have tidied up, eaten, and slept a little, and have perhaps met friends of the road. You hear, "Hillo—hillo—you here again! met in Simla last, didn't we—wasn't it cold last night?" "By Jingo it was—rummy spell of cold—coming over all western Europe so suddenly," and they talk of "Cold weathers," and "Rains," and "Monsoons," and places you think you heard about in school days and have forgotten; and you realise something of what there is ahead to learn.
Meantime I watch the lascars taking off the effect of the coaling last night; how blue and sharp the reflections of the sky are on the wet deck and their dark feet. It is my business to paint things, not to write, about them, still, both occupations dissipate the time wonderfully. They are scrubbing down the waist, washing the decks with brushes and squeejees and lashins of blue Mediterranean; they wear dungaree tunics, and trousers of dark blue and faded pale blues, with red cloth round their straw skull-caps, and are all in shadow—that colourful, melting, warm shade you have in the South in the afternoon.
27th Evening.—To what shall I liken this evening on deck? You know a railway carriage on Bank Holiday, and you have heard perhaps of a Newfoundland sealing ship, the crew head and tail and three deep in the bunks, and all about the deck and along the bulwarks for want of room—well, it's worse here, at the price! In the smoking-room there is not an inch to sit on; men lean against the pillars, others against the side of the bar or against each other. A few have got seats for bridge, others sit on sofas round the side, the rest have to stand. There were more passengers when we left Tilbury than allowed any free movement on deck; we made light of that. Now, people are jammed beside each other all the way up the side of the deck that is sheltered from the sweep of the wind, others sit on the rail; those who want to move have to pick a devious and careful course between the lines of chairs. And this is to be to-night, and to-morrow, till we get to India! And it will yet be worse than it is just now, for many passengers from Marseilles are still below, waiting for baths and arranging their crowded cabins.
I have to write letters and sketch on a dining-saloon table amongst waiters clearing dishes. There are four small tables on deck in what I think is called the music room, and they are fully occupied with ladies writing and bridge players, and round them every seat in the room is occupied. It is a crowd of people of the most gentle manners and breeding, or it would be horrible beyond words.
28th.—I suppose there were not more than fifty men in the smoking-room late last night when it became sufficiently empty to allow me to see separate faces. There were civilians, judges, and one or two men of business, but the majority were soldiers of middle age. I confess I am much impressed by the general type and the expression of quiet strength and capability of these men of the Indian Services. They have finely modelled heads on powerful figures, better, I think, than any type of the ancients. Their manners are cheery and kindly, but always in repose the lines show strongly across the brow; faces and lines seem to me to spell D-U-T-Y emphatically. For a nouveau it is difficult to follow their talk, it changes so quickly from the man to his horse, to his seat and powers as cavalry leader or the like, perhaps to his family, his marriage, or his death, and whenever the family interest comes in, there is a note of genuine kindness as if brothers were telling or asking about other brothers and their wives and belongings. They speak rather quickly and cheerily, and then in repose the lines come again, not that they look over-worn; on the contrary they look fit, tremendously and are very abstemious. One speaks near me—"You knew so and so? Good horseman—wasn't he? Curious seat—do you remember the way he rode with his toes out?" "Yes, yes—ha, ha!—it was funny! He led a column with me at Abu Lassin. Very sad his death, poor fellow—never got over the last war—heart always suffered—nice wife." "Yes, yes—gave him pretty bad time though—oughtn't to have married. Where is his boy—Sandhurst? No, he's left—he's coming out next month in a troop ship, I hear." These are the older soldiers, and there are also many young officers, and two judges of the High Courts, one with nimble tongue and expression, the other the reverse. And there are business men with concentrated and perhaps rather narrower expressions than the others—Irish, Scots, and English. As they are all in the same black and white kit in the evening it is easier then to compare the various faces; in the daytime the variety of costume, flannels, and coloured ties and tweeds prevent one doing it so easily; I'd like to make a sketch of each, and superimpose these, and get the average, the type of the thousands who follow this road year after year.
... As usual, these Bayards, in dressing gowns of various cuts and colours, stood outside the bathrooms this morning and waited their turn, and if the atmosphere was not murky with swear words, it was not to the P. & O.'s credit. To most men tub time is the jolliest in the day; here it is one of evil temper, for after you have waited say twenty minutes in a passage for your chance, you get into a little wet steamy place over the engines, with possibly no port and poorly ventilated, and have your tub in a hurry for you know other fellows are waiting outside, and instead of gaily carolling your morning song you feel angry and cuss cusses, not loud, but profound as Tuscarora Deep. "Oh! Mummie, do come and see all the men waiting for their baths," said a little angel this morning, as she pointed at the solemn row of bare-footed men holding on to their towels and sponge-bags and tempers—we actually grinned. Like some others I give up the attempt to get a morning tub, and trust to sneak one in during the day; better to have no bath than to start the day cross—"better to smash your damned clubs than to lose your damned temper," as the golfer in a bunker was overheard muttering as he broke each club across his knee. The ladies, some hundreds, have I think five baths between them, and they wait for these a great part of the day. If you pass their waiting-room you get a glimpse of wonderful morning toilettes of every tint, muslins, laces, a black boy with red turbash bustling about to get the bath ready makes rather a good note of colour.
... Notwithstanding all the above grievance we hadn't such a bad day yesterday; it was calm and not too cold, with a soft pigeon grey sea and sky.... Put in a long day's painting in the corner of the after-well, and overhauling sketches done so far on the road—they are mounting up now, and I feel fortunate in having my apology for existence in such a handy shape as a paint box.
But how dull this log-writing becomes! How on earth can I find an incident to pad up this journal; what is there to write about in a route so monotonously first class! Here is absolutely the most risque exciting story I have heard for days; I must say the lady who told it has such an infectious laugh, that at the time I really thought it was very amusing.
You know the cabins on the P. & O. steamers are all exactly like each other, except the number above each door. So once upon a time she related, a certain lady tripped along to her cabin as she thought, to hurry up her husband for dinner and found him pulling on a shirt; she plumped into a seat, saying, "John, John, you are always too late for dinner, and there's no use trying to struggle into your shirt with the studs fastened?" Whereon the neck stud flew and revealed an astonished face—and it was not "John's." After lunch I told this to my barrister acquaintance; he smiled gently and said he had always thought it such an amusing story.
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How I wish I was back at sea again on a whaler, with a swinging hammock, a tow net, and microscope, and opportunities any day to study the fairy beauties in drops of sea water, and with human interest too, so much more varied than on this P. & O. Hotel; there, would be all kinds of men, jolly, devil-may-care fellows, and even disreputable characters, mixed with canny, pawky, canting Scotties, and talk of all the corners of the world; ranting rollicking Balzacian yarns, rich in language, in poetry, and tenderness; any minute in the day amongst such people you might strike a yarn that would bear publication; the picturesque interest of life does not seem to be on the high plains, or low levels, but as it were between wind and water, where plain meets mountain, the poor the rich, between happiness and sorrow, and light and shade; and the fun of painting between one colour and the next. It is all very respectably drab here, and we talk of intellectual and proper things. For an hour to-day—no, two hours I am sure—I laboured at Indian sociology and history and Vedas and things, with the barrister, and I was tired! The barrister knows many books on these subjects, and recommends me to read Sir W. W. Hunter's "History of India" in its abridged form of only 700 pages; I suppose I must!—told my cousin I'd been trying to talk Indian sociology and he shouted: said he knew a man who had lived in India and studied the native life for twenty-eight years, and confessed he knew as little about it at the end as at the beginning; but R. admitted that whenever he had a knotty question of native affairs to settle he always went to this man, and the decision was invariably right. R. has qualified admiration for the Indians honesty. Once, he said, he had to leave his house at a moment's notice, to take home a sick relation, and left all standing, and on coming back months after found every single stick of furniture just as he left it, and not a single article stolen, except one door-mat; his night watchman had taken it with him to another situation, leaving a humble message to the effect that he had got so accustomed to it that he couldn't sleep without it! Their honesty must run in grooves for R. gave a heavy overcoat to one of his men in a cold station, and when he and his servants went to a very hot station, he noticed this man still wearing the thick coat and sweating like anything, so he asked him why he did so, and the man replied that he dared not put it off for a minute or it would be stolen.
We had quite an audience for the fiddles this Saturday—there are two lady violinists now, both very good players—but we had only a short spell of music in the music room on account of a choir practise, for to-morrow; the parson came and took our musicians down to the dining-room to sing over hymns and psalms, verse by verse. I heard the wheeze of the harmonium, and got back to my own chest-lid (sailor term for my own business)—"Every man to his own chest-lid and the cook to the foresheet," is it not a suggestive saying? To every man his prerogative, his chest-lid, and his duties, and the same for the cook and the least bit more! It is now getting passably mild, and we can sit out on deck at night. It was supposed to be hot enough for the punkahs in the saloon; one is hung over the length of each of the five tables, to port and starboard, and there are others the whole length of the table that runs up the middle of the saloon. I have long wished to see a punkah, now I wish I may never see another! On this ship they are narrow velvet rugs hung on edge from horizontal bars, this is swung by two ropes from the roof, and they are all guyed together with cords, so that one pull, from a lascar outside the cabin, sets them all into violent commotion. They hit your face when you stand, and sitting, their lowest edge stirs up your hair. These velvet rugs have white cotton covers on them now that they are being used, so the general effect at dinner-time is of a huge laundry in a gale, with beautiful laundresses in low dresses sitting at table under a world of wildly flapping linen; with the lamps lit, and our black coats for a foil, the colours are really extremely pretty, though the discomfort is great. Men and women are all getting a little brown with the sea air, and the ladies have a little of the blush of spring now, instead of the pallor of winter with which they came on board.
Egypt in sight, and this morning we tubbed in the water of the river that floated Moses, and that has been bathed in and drunk since by such a number of people we know, or have read about. Sea and Nile are meeting in blue, and green, and brownish stripes, blending to a general absinthe colour as we get closer to the flat delta; little level rows of cloud throw purple shadows across the crisp small waves, and over the horizon there's a flight of white lateen sails.
What a bustle there is on board to-day; people running up and down stairs with letters hurriedly finished, addressed and stamped to the children at home. No use writing to the man who waits out there, for we carry the mail. It is touching, the wife looking forward and back at the same time—the bull must pass—and the young girl too, leaving the old life for the new married life in a new country; it must take courage.
My notes at Port Said seem to have disappeared, possibly I did not write any. I remember that there was so much to see in the morning; and the change of colour in the water, the absinthe colour of the Nile with pale blue reflections winding in currents in distinct streams into the sea, would, with the blue ocean, need very subtile painting. I remember the fearful jabber, which I suppose has gone on and always will, since Port Said was invented. I got a glimpse of Lesseps's statue at lunch through the port-hole; he points with right hand twice life size up the harbour with a heroic expression, and seems to say to the steamers that come in from the sea, "Higher up there S.V.P.—try a little higher up." We watched the often described black men coaling in black dust, singing and working, the sun's rays making shafts of light stream through the clouds of black coal dust; and the same pandemonium at night in the flare of lights, when the scene is generally admitted to be like the nether regions.
I know we went ashore somehow or other, and that we could hardly see for the shouting and yelling! We felt fortunate in having a Mrs Deputy-Commissioner for a companion, for she was bubbling over with humour and anecdote. She and G. promptly began shopping, and certainly succeeded in getting two rather becoming topees, flatter and prettier than any I have yet seen—you might call them Romney topees; one may appear in sketches further on. I sketched of course—always keep "screeb, screeb, screebling all day long," as an irate German lady once put it to me, "screebled" a cafe scene; on the left you see a native, who calls himself Jock Furgusson, trying to pass off a "Genuine Egyptian Scarab" to a tourist. Jock Furgusson is infinitely more wonderful and artistic to me than the pyramids, for he can imitate accents so as to make you gasp; he spots anyone's nationality instantaneously—before you have opened your lips he knows your county! I believe he can distinguish between the English of a Lowland Scot and a Highlander, which is more than 'Punch' does after all these years of practice. "Ah'm, Jock Furgusson frae Auchtermurrchty and Achterlony, longest maun in the forty twa," he begins—but somebody help me—I've forgotten how he goes on, a long rigmarole in broadest Doric; the words and intonation so perfect, you can so little believe your eyes that you are landed with a scarab or a string of beads before you have recovered, and he is off to another passenger, clippin' 'is g's and r's and puttin' in h's to some Englishmen.
The inhabitants of Port Said, we are told, represent the scourings of the Levant; too bad for Cairo, and black-balled for Hell. All the same G. and I went ashore by ourselves after dinner, rather proud of our courage, for several passengers said it wasn't safe. It used not to be safe, I know, but I asked the Chief-Engineer what he thought, and he took his right hand in his left, all but the very tip of the little finger which he measured off with his left thumb nail, and said, "a black maun's heart's no as big as that." So we went ashore and had no adventures at all, but sat in a balcony and listened to pretty good music, and noted the few drowsy figures in the side streets, the glow of lamp or brazier on their heavy draperies, contrasting with the starlight and the deep velvety shadows—moth-like colouring, and intense repose, after the glittering, howling day.
Looking back over these notes, and the Orient and Pacific Guide Book, and the Acts of the Apostles, I observe that I have made no note about Corsica and Sardinia, Lipari Islands, and Stromboli, or of the Straits of Messina and Etna—have barely mentioned Crete! In the Lipari Islands we saw lights ashore, and down the Straits of Messina; and Stromboli we discovered easily enough by the glow of hot red up in the sky, and a sloping line of red that went glittering downwards. It was too dark to distinguish anything more.
We saw Crete, enough to swear by, the white top of Mount Ida, and realized where Fair Haven and Phenice and Clauda must lie, and that we were actually in the seas where the Apostle Paul was caught in the Euroclydon. By the way what is a Euroclydon; is it a Levanter?
Was there ever a voyage so vividly described, in more concentrated and pithy words? In eight verses you have a complete dramatic account of a tragedy at sea, from a passenger's point of view. It would be curious and interesting to learn what the owner thought, and said, when the prisoner suggested that he, and his sailing master, and the Centurion, were all wrong in a question of navigation; and how it came about that shortly after this difference of opinion the prisoner was master of the commissariat, and how, after heavy weather and fasting fourteen days on a rocky coast, 276 souls were saved on bits of wreckage without the loss of one life! The Board of Trade and Life Saving Societies might enquire into this, and report.
The Canal.—If I had not seen Mr Talbot Kelly's book on Egypt I could hardly have believed it possible that the delicate schemes of colour we see in the desert as we pass through the canal could be painted and reproduced in colour in a book. He has got the very bloom of the desert, and the beauty of Egypt without its ugliness; the heat and sparkle and brightness in his pictures are so vivid one can almost breathe the exhilarating desert air—and smell the Bazaars! But Egypt is ugly a pin's prick beneath its beauty. It is so old and covered with bones and decayed ideas. The Nile is associated with Moses, and it is long it is true, but it is also very narrow and shallow, and its banks are monotonous to a degree; a mile or so of green crop on either side, then stones, sand, bits of crockery, human bones and rags, then desert sand—a cross between a cemetery and a kitchen garden. The ruins are awfully ugly! "Think of their age!" people say, and you look at the exquisite spirals of shells in the lime stones with which these heaps are made! But the saddest thing in Egypt is the fine art debased in the temples, in these ponderous monuments of their officialism; for here and there in them you see exquisite bits of low relief carving, that a Greek would have been proud of, hidden away in interminable hieroglyphic histories spread indiscriminately over grotesque pillars and vast walls, as regardlessly of decorative effect as advertisements in a newspaper's columns. The open desert is the best of Egypt, and this thread of blue canal strung with lakes through its sand is very pretty and interesting all the way. We come to a swing bridge. It is open and our modern hotel and modern people slowly steam right through the middle of a Biblical caravan of Arabs on camels; some have crossed into the Egyptian side, the remainder are waiting on the Arabian side, their camels are feeding on the grey-green bushes. The passengers just give them a glance and go on with their books. Have we not seen it all long ago in nursery books on Sundays. But, in the nursery in our Sunday books we did not see or feel the glitter and heat of the day, some of which, children to-day can get in Mr Kelly's book.
I dared not sketch the desert scenes; it was in too high a key for me, but I made so bold as to do this sketch of a scene on deck at night: an effect I have not heard described, though it must be familiar to those who go this road. I am sorry it is not reproduced here in colour.
The searchlight on the bow plays on the sandbanks and desert beyond, and makes the land like a snow-field, and the slow movement of the white light intensifies the darkness and silence of the desert. In contrast to the cold blue light and snow-white sand, is the group of figures on deck in bright dresses, dancing. It made quite an evident subject. The figure leaning on the rail is not ill. It is only a little Japanese maid thinking of home perhaps.
Suez was a few lights in the darkness over the glow of our pipes, then bed, and in the morning we were sailing down the top, west branch, of the Red Sea, otherwise the Gulf of Suez, with a fresh north wind behind us.
It is extremely charming and refreshing, as I've already remarked, to look out of a port in the morning and see the glittering, tumbling, blue sea alongside. On this occasion the blue is capped with many soft white horses chasing south, and the serrated barren hills of Egypt are slipping away north. They are coloured various tints of pale, faded leather, light buff, and light red, and the sun glares brilliantly over all, "drying up the blue Red Sea at the rate of twenty three feet per year," this from the Orient-Pacific Guide; you can yourself almost fancy you hear the sea fizzling with the heat. The Arabian shore is almost the same as the Egyptian, with a larger margin of swelling stretches of sand between the sea and the foot of the hills.