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From Edinburgh to India & Burmah

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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.