Travel Letters: On The Poonah (1882)

DEAR, WILLIAM, — I write my Sunday letter this week on Friday, because to-night we are to arrive at Aden, and there can mail our epistles. There will not be another chance until we come to Bombay. All this week we have been running down the Red Sea. The weather has been sultry and oppressive ; not particularly hot by the thermometer, but such weather as makes one want to get in a draft and do nothing. In the great cabin, the punkas are hung up, long cloth fans, which are fastened to a rod that runs along

the ceiling over the dining-table ; every meal-time they are kept swinging by a long cord, which runs through the skylight, and is attached at the other end to a small Mohammedan on deck, who pulls, and pulls, and pulls. We could hardly live without it. This morning we were passing Mocha, where the coffee comes from, and this afternoon we shall go through Bab-el-Mandel. When we are once out into the Indian Ocean, the special sultriness of the Red Sea will be over, and we shall have a week of charming sailing.

The ship is very comfortable, but she is old and slow. She is four days behind her time, and we shall not be at Bombay before Saturday, the 23d, more than three weeks from the time we left Venice. But it has been very pleasant. There is a miscellaneous and interesting company on board. Here is the general who led the cavalry charge at Tel El Kebir, and is coming back from England after being decorated by the Queen. Here is Lord Charles Beresford, who ran his boat up under the guns at Alexandria at the time of the bombardment, and did wonders of bravery. Here is a young Cambridge parson, going out to a missionary brotherhood at Delhi. Here are merchants of Calcutta and Madras, whom one pumps continually for information about India, — Englishmen, all of them. At Bombay we shall break up, and I suppose I shall stay there about a week, and then travel by Delhi, Jeypore, Agra, Lucknow, Allahabad, and Benares to Calcutta, taking about a month, bringing us to Calcutta about the 1st of February. A week there, a week’s trip to the mountains, and a two weeks’ journey to Madras and its neighborhood, will bring us to Ceylon about the 1st of March ; after a week there we sail again, direct for Aden and Suez. So there is our winter. And you can tell about where we are at any time.

There is a long gap in letters. The last was yours, which reached me just as I went on board at Venice. The next will not come until the steamer after ours reaches Bombay, but I am sure you are all well and happy, and getting ready for Christmas in the old cheerful fashion. I shall think of you all that day, as I sit sweltering in church at Bombay.

Ever affectionately, P.