Scinde; or, The Unhappy Valley

by Richard Francis Burton.

First edition in two volumes, 1851.
Richard Bentley, London.

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Volume 1
Volume 2

Corrected from sources at

From Chapter One:


STEP in, Mr. Bull, - after you, Sir!

I hope you liked Trafalgar, and Tarifa, and Gibraltar, and Algiers, and Malta, and Alexandria, and that you found the realities of travel almost as entertaining as the thousand-and-one Di-, Pan , Physi , Poly-, and other -oramic imitations at which you have been perseveringly staring these last few years, sir.

You have now quitted Suez, which a facetious "entertainer" very graphically described as being the Grand Depot for the Overland Babies-you are pacing the deck somewhat curiously and excitedly as the steamer tears furiously down the middle of the Red Sea.

But you look in vain towards me, your guide. I will not answer a single question. One of these days, Mr. Bull, when you are quite recovered from the fatigue and annoyances of this Oriental trip, when Mrs. Bull once more allows you a few weeks leave of absence, when the boys and girls are all in rude health, and at work, as good children should be, and when there is no squabble, clerical, laical, on public grounds or on private grounds, in your happy home,-no murders in the neighbourhood to engross your attention and your spare time-then, sir, may be I shall offer my services as courier to you down the eastern coast of the Erythraean Sea up to Senaa in Yemen, the capital of that land of happy name.

The "Semiramis," or some other confounded place of punishment with a high-flown misnomer, is in orders to convey from Bombay Harbour to Kurrachee a freight of 600 negro souls and bodies. Go we must, sir,-and by her, too; go we must. At this time of the year, October, a coasting voyage in a sailing vessel northwards, is a beautiful illustration of the Moral Impossible. 

"Hollo, young man I where am I to put my box? Show me to my berth, will ye ? And I say, don't forget I want that carpet-bag down in the cabin, and, O, yes, by-the-by, the hat-box must come too, --what the deuce is the matter with you ? "

Oh, Mr. Bull! Mr. Bull! what a sore and grievous premier pas is this I that gentleman whom you mistook for a steward, is the third lieutenant, an officer in the Bombay Marines, alias the Indian Navy, and an individual of infinite importance in his own estimation, if not in that of others. A subaltern in a steam-frigate, sir, is a regular sea-satrap -- under authority, it is true, but not a whit the less capable of pasting authority on with a mode and manner which render it extra-authoritative. Besides you have unconsciously touched a most sensitive "raw."  He and all his cloth are rabid at the degradation of having to transport "soldier-officers," of being obliged to defile their spotless decks with "dirty passengers " and "filthy sepoys." The least allusion to this great grievance is sure to arouse a tornado of wrath in the blue-coated bosom. Now hearken to the thunder that bursts over your devoted head---

" Go to the D----, you old fool. I say, Quarter master, pitch that fellow's traps overboard sharp, d'ye hear?  Ending with a tirade of personal observations, not of a complimentary description. Were the said lieutenant a fellow-passenger with you to Margate or Herne Bay, I should counsel you to invest a five pound note in revenge-not that you would require much advice about the matter.

But my dear, fat, old, testy, but very unblood-thirsty papa de famille, here - in these Eastern seas - all you can du is to swallow, with as few grimaces possible, the bitter bit which you took into your mouth. 

It is only four days to Kurrachee.