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For these reasons, old December!
(For these reasons, and some more
I'll still love thee, as of yore.
Now, farewell! and for my sake,
Bid thy fellow Months be kind.
Nor one of true or gentle mind.
We will all assemble round,
When next the winter strews the ground,
B. C. January 1, 1843.
Says Dan to John, a-standing by,
“I thought a horse could cast himself!" Great Western Terminus, Paddington,
Dec. 1, 1842.
EXTRACTS FROM MY INDIAN DIARY.
BY THE OLD FOREST RANGER.
A Highland fireside-Doctor M.Phee---Old whisky and old stories—The
author makes a lame apology for again intruding himself on the publicThe author returns thanks to his readers for past favours, and brings forward substantial reasons for so doing-Dharwar-Want of female society-Difference between a sportsman and a "sporting character" -A piece of advice to the rising generation—Varieties of game found in the Southern Mahratta country-Description of the antelope— Their habits–Affection for their young-Antelope shooting-Hunting cheetahs—Huru shikaries — Their method of snaring antelope - Stalking and driving--Riding down an artelope -Remarks on antelope shooting—Adventure with a panther—Providential escape of the author's brother.
On a stormy autumnal evening, about the beginning of last month, I was seated in my favourite snuggery, enjoying the luxury of a roaring wood-fire, and cheering my old heart with a reeking tumbler of a certain inspiring beverage, designated in our household “the laird's bit dribble o' drink,” but more generally known, among the vulgar, by the name of whisky-toddy. The rain pattered furiously against the windows, and the autumnal blast sweeping down a bleak Highland glen, moaned dismally around the house. But the blaze of sparkling pine logs, bickered gaily against the polished oak-panels of the room, lighting up the grim trophies of the chase with which my sanctum is decorated, and the war of elements without, only tended to make the glow of warmth and comfort which prevailed within-doors doubly acceptable. My old woman, ensconced in her leathern arm-chair on the opposite side of the fireplace, was deeply absorbed in the mysteries of a pair of fancy woollen-hose which she was knitting for my“ sabbath day's wear;" my favourite sky terrier, “ Shalager,” lay coiled up at my feet ; while a shaggy old deer-hound, named « Oscar," stretched at full length before the blazing wood-fire, and “urging in his dreams the mimic chase," monopolized the remainder of the hearthrug.
My venerable better-half had begun to nod over her work, and had already dropped several stitches-an infallible sign that she was fast verging towards a state of unconsciousness—and my eyelids were beginning to close from very sympathy, when the door was thrown open, and in bounced my old friend Dr. M.Phee, booted and spurred, and dripping like a river-god.
"Good e'en to you, laird," he exclaimed, uttering that hearty chuckling laugh so peculiarly bis own, and rousing me from my revery with a goodhumoured slap on the shoulder. “ And the same to you, my dear madam,” raising the old lady's hand to his lips, and bowing over it with the air of a courtier ; while she laying aside her work, and rising from her seat, dropped her best minuet courtesy.
" I've come to ask a night's lodging from you, madam,” he continued, as he unwound a huge shawl from about his neck, and proceeded to divest himself of his homespun gray riding-coat, trot-cosie, and other protections against the inclemency of the weather, classed by the worthy doctor under the general denomination of “haps.” “ And I'm thinkin' I've just come in time to keep my friend the laird's een open, for I see the good fire, and the good drink, ha'e made him amaist ready for his bed, honest man. I'm thinkin', laird, ye'r getting a wee thing frail like mysel'. Hoich! hoich! họ! I ha'e been at the Strathoolish market sellin'a wheen stots, and came o'er the muir thinkin' to win hame the night; but it came on such judgment-like weather, that Smiler (that's my beast, laird ; I ca'd him after the poor old naig I lost in Indé) would hardly set his face til't ; so I thought it would be a sin, and a temptin'o' Providence, to pass an ould friend's house in sic a night, and just turned in to ask the goodwife for a bed, and a drap o' drink, and to ha'e a crack about auld times. Hoich ! hoich ! ho! The mist on the hill was that thick, it was like, amaist, to choke me; and there's some o't stickin' in my thraple yet! Rax me the bottle, laird, till I syne it down wi' a drap speerits, and tak'a bit calker yoursel' to open your een, for ye look awfu' drowsy like.”
The doctor having tossed off his calker, and divested himself of his numerous haps, and having been strictly cross-questioned by my hospitable dame, regarding the certainty of his having dined, and been duly pressed to sit off the door, and into the fire, at length succeeded in dislodging the old deer-hound, and establishing himself in his place. Fresh logs were thrown upon the hearth, the jug of hot water was replenished ; and by the time the first tumbler of punch had been discussed, the goodwife was fast asleep in her arm-chair, and the doctor and I engaged with the eagerness of two schoolboys in fighting o'er the sylvan battles of our youth.
Some difference of opinion having arisen regarding the particulars of a tiger-hunt, in which the doctor and I had been mutually engaged, I bethought myself of referring to an fold sporting diary which I had kept during my residence in India, but which for many years had lain neglected, and almost forgotten, in one of the good wife's lumberclosets.
After some difficulty we succeeded in hunting out the musty volume, and the sporting adventures, therein recorded, conjured up so many glowing recollections of our youth, that the bottle was drained, and se veral of the "sma' hours" had flown by unheeded, before the doctor and I bethought ourselves of retiring to bed. The good wife asserts that we experienced considerable difficulty in finding our way upstairs; but this I believe to be a calumny invented by her as an excuse for delivering a lecture on the impropriety of keeping late hours, and showing a bad example to her well-regulated household.
The old diary has, since then, afforded us several evenings'amusement, and each time it has been produced, the doctor has become more and more urgent with me to publish extracts from it, adducing, as a reason for so doing, that it would be far more “wise-like” to publish my own adventures, and extracts from my own notes on nniural history, than to be setting him up like a merry-andrew, as I did in “ The Forest Ranger," to cut capers for the amusement of the public “ wi' thae twa wild chaps Mansfield and Maister Charles," not to men
tion my attributing to them some of my own" daft-like tricks”-an artifice which he considered unworthy of a respectable chronicler.”
I, for some time, excused myself on the plea, that by so doing I would lay myself open to the charge of egotism. But the doctor was not to be shaken, and having succeeded in enlisting my old woman on his side, the odds rose so fearfully against me, that I have at last been constrained to yield the point, and once more to present myself before the liberal public, to whom I am already indebted for many and substantial favours.
And talking of substantial favours, gentle reader, I shrewdly suspect that my worthy dame has not been altogether moved by disinterested motives in urging me to resume the goose-quill, inasmuch as the sad coloured silk gown in which she rustles to church every Sunday, and which she assures ner gossips “ would amaist stand it's lane,” had its origin in the profits arising from the sale of a certain book entitled the “ Old Forest Ranger." "Perhaps the recollection of a handsome suit of Lincoln green, decorated with resplendent brass buttons, which I don on high days and holidays, to keep the sad-coloured silk gown in countenance, may also have had some weight in inducing me to yield to the goodwife's entreaties.
However ihis may be, fair and gentle reader, I acknowledge myself deeply indebted to thee for past favours, and in the hope that thou wilt still continue to smile upon the Old Forest Ranger, I shall, without further apology, open the aforesaid musty volume, and proceed to lay some extracts before thee.
The first part of my journal is devoted to an account of the voyage to India,-landing at Madras--my feelings of boyish wonder, on finding myself for the first time in a strange land,-crude remarks on men and manners, &c. All of which we may safely pass over.
Suffice it to say that on the 10th June, A.D.--but no matter for the year--my old woman has a strange dislike to recording dates, the
regiment, in which I was then junior lieutenant of the light company, embarked for India, and, after a prosperous voyage, landed at Madras on the 17th September. We were marched up to Bungalore, in the Mysore country, 108 miles from Madras; and a few months after our arrival there I was fortunate enough to obtain leave of absence to visit my brother, who had gone out to India two years before me in the Company's Bombay civil service, and was then stationed at Dharwar, in the Southern Mahratta country, 180 miles N.W. from Bungalore. Here my sporting career commenced, and here, therefore, I shall commence the extracts from my diary.
Dharwar being situated more than three thousand feet above the level of the sea, enjoys a cool and healthy climate. The thermometer seldom ranges higher than 80°, and the nights are frequently cold enough to render one and even two blankets desirable.
The country in the immediate neighbourhood is admirably adapted for sporting, being beautifully diversified with low jungle, open plains, and tanks ; and there is no lack of game; but beyond this it has nothing to recommend it as an agreeable station. A regiment of native infantry, the collector of the district, four ladies, and a few young civilians, constitute the entire society; and three ladies out of the four are ny thing but young, pretty, or agreeable.
To any one, therefore, but an inveterate sportsman, Dharwar must prove a dull station; and even to him the want of female society is a great disadvantage.
Although I have not been here above a month, I already feel this to be the case. No one can enjoy the wild excitement of an Indian hunter's life more than I do; but this, instead of weaning me from the more refined pleasures of civilized society, only tends to heighten my enjoyment when I return to it. Verily it is not good for man to be alone; he is by nature a savage, and it is only the refining influence of female society that saves him from utter barbarism.
In other respects the society of Dharwar is as agreeable as one can expect exclusively male society to be. The civilians, in particular, are an exceedingly gentlemanlike, and well-informed set of young men; and are, in general, first-rate sportsmen, without any of the slang and bluster of " sporting characters." They neither keep fighting-cocks, dress like “swell dragsmen," nor talk like stable-boys. They utterly eschew the use of " modern Greek,'* and make use of the most commonplace English in preference to those pretty playful slang expressions now so much in vogue; and which, when judiciously interlarded with a few gentlemanlike blasphemies, impart so much force and brilliancy to the conversation of the “bang-up sporting character;" half the “ heroes of the ring” are unknown to them even by name ; and I doubt much whether one among them could answer the simple question, “ Who wears the Champion's belt? what is the exact weight of the famous dog Billy? or whether the Gaslight Man' or the Game Chicken' came off victorious in the last mill ?'”
And yet I have never met with harder riders, better rifle-shots, or stancher men to back you in the hour of danger, than these same quiet civilians.
I mention this for the sake of the young gentlemen of the rising generation, on whose minds I wish to impress the fact, that neither the use of slang expressions, the society of slang companions, a sporting style of dress, nor the study of sporting publications, are necessary to constitute a good sportsman.
Instead of devoting their spare time to such acquirements, I would strongly urge upon them the propriety of studying drawing, comparative anatomy, and natural history, in all its branches, from the geological formation of a mountain to the organization of an insect, or the reproduction of a plant.
Without some such knowledge, the pursuits of an Indian sportsman lose half their charm, that of being able to study with advantage the great book of Nature, and become the occupation of a savage who slays that he may eat, or worse still, they degenerate into the mere blood-thirsty instinct of a beast of prey. Whereas to a man of cultivated mind, they not only afford a healthy and exciting amusement; but, if pursued in a proper spirit, present constant opportunities of improving his own mind, and gleaning information which may prove of service both to himself and others.
A press of business, which keeps the young civilians close at work, has hitherto prevented our making out a long talked of expedition to
* Rogue's Latin, pickpocket’s English, or slang.