« EelmineJätka »
few days a first-class ticket overland to Singapore by the next Peninsular and Oriental steamer, which sailed in about a week, so that I did not lose much time. The voyage was a very interesting one, stopping a few hours at Gibraltar, passing within sight of the grand Sierra Nevada of Spain, staying a day at Malta, where the town and the tombs of the knights were inspected, and then on to Alexandria. But having by me a long letter I wrote to my schoolfellow, Mr. George Silk, I will here quote from it a few of the impressions of my journey as they appeared to me at the time they occurred; and first as to my fellowpassengers :
"Our company consists of a few officers and about twenty cadets for India, three or four Scotch clerks for Calcutta, the same number of business men for Australia, a Government interpreter and two or three others for China; a Frenchman; a Portuguese officer for Goa, with whom I converse; three Spaniards for the Philippines, very grave; a gentleman and two ladies, Dutch, going to Batavia ; and some English officers for Alexandria. At Gibraltar we were quarantined for fear of cholera, then rather prevalent in England, and all communication with the ship was by means of tongs and a basin of water, the latter to drop the money in. We had a morning at Malta, and went on shore from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., walked through the narrow streets, visited the market to hear the Maltese language, admired the beggar boys and girls, strolled through the Cathedral of St. John, gorgeous with marbles and gold and the tombs of the knights. A clergyman came on board here going to Jerusalem, and a namesake of my own to Bombay. The latter has a neat figure, sharp face, and looks highly respectable, not at all like me! I have found no acquaintance on board who exactly suits me. One of my cabin mates is going to Australia, and reads · How to make Money'-seems to be always thinking of it, and is very dull and unsociable. The other is one of the Indian cadets, very aristocratic, great in dressing-case and jewellery, takes an hour to dress, and persistently studies the Hindostanee grammar. The Frenchman, the Portuguese, and the Scotchman I find the most amusing; there is also a little fat Navy lieutenant, who is fond of practical jokes, and has started a Monté Table."
“Steamer Bengal, Red Sea, March 26. “Of all the eventful days in my life (so far), my first in Alexandria was in some respects) the most exciting. Imagine my feelings when, coming out of the hotel (to which we had been conveyed in an omnibus) with the intention of taking a quiet stroll through the city, I suddenly found myself in the midst of a vast crowd of donkeys and their drivers, all thoroughly determined to appropriate my person to their own use and interest, without in the least consulting my inclinations. In vain with rapid strides and waving arms I endeavoured to clear a way and move forward, arms and legs were seized upon, and even the Christian coat-tails were not sacred from the profane hands of the Mahometan crowd. One would hold together two donkeys by their tails whilst I was struggling between them, and another, forcing their heads together, hoped to compel me to mount one or both of them. One fellow, more impudent than the rest, I laid flat upon the ground, and, sending the little donkey staggering after him, I escaped for a moment midst hideous yells and most unearthly cries. I now beckoned to a fellow more sensible-looking than the rest, and told him that I wished to walk, and would take him as a guide, and now hoped that I might be left at peace. But vain thought! I was in the hands of the Philistines, who, getting me up against a wall, formed around me an impenetrable phalanx of men and brutes, thoroughly determined that I should only escape from the spot upon the four legs of a donkey. So, bethinking myself that donkeyriding was a national institution of venerable antiquity, and seeing a fat Yankee (very like our Paris friend) already mounted, being like myself, hopeless of any other means of escape, I seized upon a bridle in hopes that I should then be left by the remainder of the crowd. But seeing that I was at last going to ride, each one was determined that he alone should profit by the transaction, and a dozen animals were forced suddenly upon me, and a dozen pair of hands tried to lift me upon their respective beasts. But now my patience was exhausted, so, keeping firm hold of the bridle I had first taken with one hand, I hit right and left with the other, and calling upon my guide to do the same, we succeeded in clearing a little space around us. Now, then, behold your long-legged friend mounted upon a jackass in the streets of Alexandria; a boy behind, holding by his tail and whipping him up; Charles, who had been lost sight of in the crowd, upon another; and my guide upon a third ; and off we go among a crowd of Jews and Greeks, Turks and Arabs, and veiled women and yelling donkey-boys, to see the city. We saw the bazaars, and the slave market (where I was again nearly pulled to pieces for 'backsheesh '), the mosques with their graceful minarets, and then the pasha's new palace, the interior of which is most gorgeous. We passed lots of Turkish soldiers, walking in comfortable irregularity; and after the consciousness of being dreadful guys for two crowded hours, returned to the hotel, whence we are to start for the canal boats. You may think this little narrative is exaggerated, but it is not so. The pertinacity, vigour, and screams of the Alexandrian donkey-drivers cannot be exaggerated. On our way to the boats we passed Pompey's Pillar; for a day we were rowed in small boats on a canal, then on the Nile in barges, with a panorama of mud villages, palm-trees, camels, and irrigating wheels turned by buffaloes,-a perfectly flat country, beautifully green with crops of corn and lentils; endless boats with immense triangular sails. Then the Pyramids came in sight, looking huge and solemn; then a handsome castellated bridge for the Alexandria and Cairo railway ; and then Cairo-Grand Cairo! the city of romance, which we reached just before sunset. We took a guide and walked in the city, very picturesque and very dirty. Then to a quiet English hotel, where a Mussulman waiter, rejoicing in the name of Ali-baba, gave us a splendid tea, brown bread and fresh butter. One or two French and English travellers were the only guests, and I could hardly realize my situation. I longed for you to enjoy it with me.
Thackeray's 'First Day in the East' is admirable. Read it again, and you will understand just how I think and feel.
“Next morning at seven we started for Suez in small fourhorsed two-wheeled omnibuses, carrying six passengers each. Horses were changed every five miles, and we had a meal every three hours at very comfortable stations. The desert is undulating, mostly covered with a coarse, volcanic-looking gravel. The road is excellent. The skeletons of camelshundreds of them—lay all along the road; vultures, sandgrouse, and sand-larks were occasionally seen. We frequently saw the mirage, like distant trees and water. Near the middle station the pasha has a hunting-lodge-a perfect palace. The Indian and Australian mails, about six hundred boxes, as well as all the parcels, goods, and passengers' luggage, were brought by endless trains of camels, which we passed on the way. At the eating-places I took a little stroll, gathering some of the curious highly odoriferous plants that grew here and there in the hollow, which I dried in my pocket-books, and I also found a few landshells. We enjoyed the ride exceedingly, and reached Suez about midnight. It is a miserable little town, and the bazaar is small, dark, and dirty. There is said to be no water within ten miles. The next afternoon we went on board our ship, a splendid vessel with large and comfortable cabins, and everything very superior to the Euxine. Adieu."
I have given this description of my journey from Alexandria to Suez, over the route established by Lieutenant Waghorn, and which was superseded a few years later by the railway, and afterwards by the canal, because few persons now living will remember it, or know that it ever existed. Of the rest of our journey I have no record. We stayed a day at desolate, volcanic Aden, and thence across to Galle, with its groves of cocoa-nut palms, and crowds of natives offering for sale the precious stones of the country; thence across to Pulo Penang, with its picturesque mountain, its spice-trees, and its waterfall, and on down the Straits of Malacca, with its richly-wooded shores, to our destination, Singapore, where I was to begin the eight years of wandering throughout the Malay Archipelago, . which constituted the central and controlling incident of