Fresh sensations at every footstep—The endless procession to
the water— Daybreak—The annual exodus begins—The Kutmullea Pokra—The
first shot—What a commotion!—Tank shooting—A good bag for the pot—The river
banks—Kiver scenery—What variety of life!—Shoot an alligator—A
miss—Entangled in a Ralmr
sudden and unwelcome rencontre—A
lucky escape—In the Oude jungles—Abundance of big game—A quiet saunter
through the forest —The coolies give news of nil
the coolies for a beat —Take up a good position—Jungle sights and
sounds—Sound of the distant beaters—My first nil
appearance of a bull rhino —A glorious prize indeed!—Measurement.
I suppose no one will deny that self-evident proposition, and
if you desire ducks, you will naturally look for water.
duck shooting, although not so exciting a sport as the pursuit of big game,
is, for an off day's pastime, one of the most delightful exercises in which
Indian sportsmen can indulge; and then the plenitude of the air and water is
such, and the potentialities of a day on the river are such, that at every
fresh footstep you may experience a new sensation, and in fact you never
know from moment to moment what may happen.
For instance, in taking a short cut through the grass or
growing crops, to circumvent a bend in the river, you may haply chance upon
a solitary stag, a morose bachelor boar, or possibly a wary leopard, lying
up during the heat of the day, and waiting till the "shades of night"
enswathe the village in their garments of mystery, when with stealthy foot
and red tongue licking his cruel chops, he will prowl around the precincts
of the hamlet, to see if haply he may not pounce upon a belated dog, some
luckless calf, or, if the circumstances be favourable, perhaps carry off a
"kid of the goats," sheep of the fold, or possibly some luckless truant boy
or girl or helpless babe—for he is not particular, and is quite willing to
make a meal off any chance plump morsel that fortune may throw in his way.
Then, of course, there are such small deer as otter,
porcupines, jackals, wolves, foxes, tiger-cats, florican, quail, plover,
green-pigeon—in fact, a bewildering variety of winged creatures and
four-footed beasts, from the great, heavy, lumbering nil
to the swift flights of tiny ortolans, flashing like diamond dust in the
Beautiful as these little creatures certainly are, they are
none the less savoury on that account, on toast, when nicely fried.
Possibly you do not know how to "do" ortolans'? It would be
no use to pluck them, they are too tiny. So you simply put two or three
handfuls in a dipper, plunge them in scalding hot water, which brings off
all the feathers, and in fact parboils them, and then you fry them in
boiling butter or fat, serve on toast with a little red pepper and a
dredging of bread-crumbs nicely browned, and you may just believe it, that
in these same tiny little ortolans you have one of the most savoury dishes
that not even the luxurious fancy of Apicius himself could have improved
upon. In the thick jelly of "Hunter's Pot" they are most toothsome, or in an
aspic they are simply delicious. At one time or another during the day or
night, almost every kind of indigenous game may be found near the river or
tank or lake as the case may be. In the early morning the water is alive
with a bobbing mass of duck, mallard, widgeon, teal, and other kinds of
web-footed swimming creatures, pruning their feathers, flapping their wings,
scolding, wooing, conversing in their extraordinary quack-lingo, waking the
echoes on every side, and making a scene of such unlimited noise and motion
as can only be witnessed to perfection in these great haunts of water-fowl
life that abound in the chowrs and
rivers of India.
Thus all day long the wading birds, numberless in their
variety, run up and down the sand banks, parade in lines through the oozy
marshes and humid hollows—stirring up with their busy beaks the retiring
denizens of the ooze and slime upon which they prey; and 'neath the shade of
the high banks, beasts of prey retire for their midday siesta; the stately
elephant and truculent rhinoceros come down to slake their thirst when the
broad afternoon shades are widening; and when the shadows of night begin to
fall, singly and in twos and threes come the tierce beasts of prey; and then
in troops the stately deer and graceful antelope advance, and the long lines
of thirsty kine and ponderous buffalo deploy; while during all the livelong
night the melancholy cry of the curlew or the monotonous dialogue of the
Brahminee duck, give endless evidence that the teeming life of the Indian
water-side is still awake and ever represented.
Let me try to give the reader an idea of a day amongst the
ducks and water-fowl.
It is still grey dawn. The long, slender, whip-like shafts of
the swaying bamboos gently rustle 'neath the first faint breath of awakening
morn, or, shivering through the dank mists that are now rallying their
reserves of grey battalions, as if to present a last front of desperate but
hopeless battle to the onslaught of yonder quivering shafts of light, that
begin to shoot forth tremulously yet strong from the "chambers of the East,"
where the mighty sun is shaking his tawriy locks and rousing himself "like a
strong man to run his race." You have long been up, for in India we retire
early, and are up before the dawn.
A few miruths are
giving forth a husky modest twitter in the bamboo grove beside the river.
The blue smoke curls lazily up from the heaped fire of withered leaves and
dry cow-dung, around which are coufusedly grouped the prone ligures of your
night-watchmen and a few of your domestic servants of the lower caste, who,
having wrapped themselves in their cotton garments like so many patients in
a hydropathic establishment, have there been tasting "Nature's sweet
restorer, balmy sleep," during the "silent watches of the night," placidly
resting on the great calm bosom of "Mother Earth."
As you emerge from your tented chamber and sound the dog
whistle, the bobbery pack yelp out a motley chorus of delighted greetings in
response to your cheery salutation.
The horses rattle their picket chains and neigh responsively;
the recumbent figures round the fire unwind themselves like so many mummies
getting rid of their cerements, assume a sitting attitude, lazily stretch
themselves; and as the great red disc of the morning sun peeps above the
horizon, and sends his shafts and arrows piercing through the rolling
columns of the mint, the full life of your establishment awakens once again
to the tasks and duties of the day.
And presently the Khansamah, with
his graceful gait and flowing white robes, emerges from some nook in rear of
the camp with your chota
consists of some simple dish and cup of fragrant tea, and you partake of
your modest morning meal, feeling a grateful sense of coolness and
the few morning hours are always the most delicious of the day in your
A sound as of "a mighty rubhing wind" passes over your head!
Instinctively you look aloft.
There is a tremulous flash through the sky, and then the
mighty winged squadron of the annual flight of migratory water-fowl fills
the air with sound and motion; and remembering with a sigh that the hot
weather is approaching, you determine to have "a day at the ducks." Have you
ever seen this annual migration from the Indian chowrs?
It is a wonderful sight.
On they come in ceaseless, rapid, unfaltering flight, with
that swift, rushing sound that is so hard to describe, but which gets
familiar to every Indian sportsman. Sometimes it is a long single line of
birds in the shape of the letter V clearly limned against the morning sky.
With outstretched neck and eager wing they hurry on, cleaving the air with
steady unwavering flight, moved by some mysterious impulse to wend their way
northwards, to the Siberian steppes or Thibetan marshes, until the torrid
heat of the Indian summer shall again have passed, and they shall once more
revisit the broad welcome rice
feast upon the dainties that their fat margins afford. These first Y-shaped
battalions are the grey geese and heavy-winged mallards.
And now far in the distance, like mere specks in the infinity
of space, another line is seen, wavering, rising, falling, aye advancing—now
a long-drawn, thin echelon, anon a dark, compact, wedge-like mass. In a few
minutes they are over us—and now they are but flickering specks again. They
swoop past with a rush like a charge of cavalry. Here again they rally to
the onset. On they come, without pause or check. Sometimes in large bodies
that almost make a current in the air, and again in smaller detachments, and
sometimes only in twos or threes. It is evidently the commencement of the
great annual exodus.
My young assistant D-is still abed.
"Ahoy!" I shout. "Are you going to sleep all day!"
A gurgle and a groan.
"Get up, man!"
A lazy roll.
"Come, come, get up! Here's Chotah
"Um—m—m, all right!" said very slowly and indistinctly.
Something follows that might be taken for a muttered malediction. Then there
is a desperate digging of knuckles into the reluctant eye-lids, and at
length D- is wide awake; and we are soon fully equipped and ready for "a day
at the ducks." We will first try Kutmullea
The polla is
about two miles from the factory, and the most picturesque spot I know in
all the dehat.
No one knows when it was dug, and for the matter of that, I
suppose, no one cares. And yet it must have been a marvellous work, for it
is in fact one of the largest tanks or artificial reservoirs of water I have
seen even in this land where such huge works are so common. It is perfectly
four-square, and the embankments on all sides, formed in olden time by the
up-throwing from the great excavations inside, are very high—indeed,
As a rule, the embankments around these old tanks, from
erosion and other natural causes, have gradually subsided into the plain,
and often silted back into the old bed from which they were originally dug;
and thousands of tanks in India, from sheer neglect and laziness, have
gradually silted up, and become mere depressions of mud and water, lush with
rushes and aquatic vegetation, the haunt of malarious fever; and the habitat of
snipe and duck, and mallard and teal, and other wading and swimming birds in
bewildering but welcome profusion from a sportsman's point of view.
Around the Kutmullea
old temples are perched here and there on picturesque "coigns of vantage,"
each shaded by some magnificent tamariud trees, amid whose feathery foliage
the white, slender shaft of the lime-washed minaret or dome gleams brightly;
and the surface of the tank itself presents a dense mass of tangled weeds
and water-lilies, which form a tempting covert to the myriads of water-fowl
that are generally to be found here located. The battle between the morning
sun and the dank night mists has not yet been altogether fought out here.
At present a canopy of fog, which one might fancy was the
sulphurous smoke of an artillery engagement, has just settled down over the
still surface of the polcra.
But this condition of affairs is rather favourable for our
sport than otherwise. It wants but three days to our annual race-meeting.
And, let not the reader start. We are not bent so much on sport this morning
as on murder. The fact is, we are out on a pot-hunting expedition.
A sharp canter brings us to the tank. Here we are met by one
of my zilladars, from
whom we receive the welcome intelligence that there are lots of birds.
The west side is rather bare, but the east and south banks
being much overgrown with brushwood, afford excellent shelter for our
Sending D- around to the east side, I give him time to get a
good position, and then cautiously top the bank undercover of one of the
giant tamarind trees, and I am delighted to find a dense flock of birds
right at my feet. They are quite unsuspicious, and are paddling about,
feeding in quiet security, and 1 have ample time to select my victims.
Singling out three large doomer—beautiful
fat plump birds—I take a murderous aim, and—bang! bang! go the two barrels,
and I can see seven or eight birds floundering hopelessly in the water.
Saw you ever such a commotion?
With a wild shriek or scream, or multitudinous quack, if you
like it better, the whole flock rise en
after one wild, plunging, hurrying, circling flight, just as I expected,
awav they go right over to the eastern side, where D- has taken up his
Bang! bang!' I hear his breechloader speak, and several birds
come tumbling to the earth.
Again the breechloader strikes the ready note, and again the
In hurried, circling, eddying flights, the bewildered ducks,
now fairly nonplussed, make for my side, and again I get two successful
This drives them higher, but still they hover over the pokra, and
by-and-by they settle down well out of range in the middle of its broad
Alas for the pity of it! away go several crippled ones,
slowly and painfully battling their way from the main body, while numbers of
dead birds remain floating here and there at intervals.
While the birds have been circling out of range, we have
retreated behind the outside cover of the embankments, and now D- rejoins
A tall, lanky chowlkdar from
the village now puts in an appearance; and encasing his head in a great
wide-mouthed gumla, or
earthen pot, with perforations in it for eye-holes, he enters the water,
retrieves the dead birds, and as many of the wounded ones as he can get at,
and then rejoins us.
There is no boat, nor raft, nor even a dug-out on the tank,
and so I propose to D- that he should go back to his former place while I go
down to the edge of the water and try a long shot.
My idea being that, whether successful or not, this would at
least "rise" the birds, and probably send them near us again. To this he
agreed; and when he had got to his place I proceeded to fulfil my part of
the programme. Having been at this game before, I walked down quite openly
to the edge of the water.
But the ducks are now thoroughly scared and shy, and scuttle
across the water as I come on. At such a distance there is no use of my
trying a shot; but the nearer I get to the margin of the water, they
gradually edge nearer and nearer to the east side, where D- lies perdu, and
so at last—bang! bang! goes again his iron tube, and several more birds are
added to the list of killed and wounded.
This was too much for them.
Away they fly round and round, high over our heads, with the
exception of a couple of foolhardy teal, that come incautiously near me, so
I drop one and wound the other, which struggled on a little further, and
then fell into a stubble-field, where my syce picked
The main flock were by this time completely out of range, but
this last shot of mine raised a fine large grey duck, which from some reason
or other had stayed behind, and away he now flew with a scared quack! quack!
right athwart D-'s ambush.
A puff of white smoke above the bushes, a sharp report, and
the strong, swift flight of the bird is arrested as if by magic, and amid
irahs" and "bapre
a lot of gaping assamees that
the sound of our shooting has attracted to the spot, the fine fat duck comes
down with a dull crash among the undergrowth.
I certainly never saw a finer shot, for it must have been
over sixty yards' range, and this was before the days of choke bores.
We now sent the lanky chowkedar to
D--again, and ordered the village donsad to
collect the spoil; then having watched the ducks go off eastwards, and
knowing that there was another little tank about a mile further on, I
proposed to give that a visit, as I had a strong belief that our game would
were we disappointed.
Leaving the doosad to
try as host he might to retrieve the cripples, we jogged along to Chota
name of the other pokra.
This is a mere pond as compared with the big tank we had just
been shooting over, and is completely surrounded with a thick belt of trees
and undergrowth. There is just a little pool of water in the centre, the
rest of the tank being almost choked with silt and weeds. I knew the spot
well, as it was a favourite place for snipe, and I had made frequent visits
to its weedy margin.
Dismounting behind the belt of trees on the bank, we had at
once abundant oral evidence that the ducks were here. They were keeping up a
fearful quacking clamour, no doubt discussing the rude interruption to their
quiet existence which they had just experienced.
Cautiously creeping through the cover, we found the little
pool in the centre simply a living mass of ducks. Losing no time, we fired
together; and never was such execution done in such short time. D- had time
for two long flying shots as the flock circled overhead, and we could
scarcely believe our luck as we watched them swiftly wend their way back to Kutmullea again.
"Hurrah! " cried I, "we'll have another chance at them yet."
this little tank we added twelve couple to the bag, but we spent a long time
searching for the wounded.
I put about twenty assamees into
the rushes, and regularly beat the. tank from end to end.
Telling D- to look out for snipe, we each took one side of
the tank, and went slowly along with the line of beaters.
It was great fun, as every now and then a poor wounded duck
would try to get away, when there would be a rush and struggle for the
prize, amid much mutual vituperation on the part of the free-spoken
agriculturists who were acting as our retrievers.
As they got over more than half the tank, the snipe began to
rise, and some very pretty shooting followed on the part of D-.
I don't know what was the matter with me, but I missed over
and over again, and only got three snipe to D-'s eleven.
Committing the slain to the care of a tokcdar, we
hurried back to the Kutmullea tank.
We made our approaches very gradually, as you may imagine,
but our star of fortune shone still brightly, for we secured a place among
the bushes just within range.
We both fired together, one barrel each, and running quickly
down, got still another shot, dropping three more between us.
Once again, as the flock swept past us, our shooting irons
spoke, adding still another quota to the bag.
We now called a halt, and on counting the birds, found the
bag consisted of thirty-three and a half couple of duck, teal and mallard
mixed, one goose, and seven couple of snipe.
While sitting waiting for the horses to be brought up, a poor
solitary duck, lured into rash confidence by the stillness, emerged from
some weeds close by, and was immediately spotted.
had one barrel loaded, but D-had withdrawn the cartridges from his gun.
The bird was a long way off, and was evidently a wounded one,
and more for the sake of emptying my barrel than with
any hope of hitting it, I took aim, giving lots of elevation
to the old gun, and fired.
The result certainly exceeded my most sanguine expectations.
Of course the charge scattered fearfully, but one fatal
pellet found out a vital spot. We saw the duck regularly leap out of the
water, and then alight, dead as a herring. The pellet had gone clean through
the eye into the brain.
It was now breakfast-time, so we rode back to the bungalow,
cleaned our shooting-irons, and after breakfast I proposed that we should
try the river.
was delighted, and to provide against all eventualities, as there was a
chance of both deer and pig, I took my carbine with me as well as my gun,
while D- also took some ball cartridges with him.
The river named the Chut
a Gunduck is
quite close to the bungalow, and we soon arrived at its banks. The river has
cut its way through the rich alluvial mould of the fertile plain, and at
this season of the year rolls its pellucid waters In a contracted channel
some fifty or sixty feet beneath the surface of the adjacent country, the
banks for the most part are ragged and over-hanging.
So keen is the struggle for life, and so dense is the
population in the numerous villages, that even where the banks have toppled
over and lie in tumbled, ridgy masses beside the verge of the river, the
industrious cultivators, wherever there is a foothold, have planted vetches
or other crops, and utilised even that tiny patch. And thus the river run in
a deep canal-like cutting as it were, clothed with luxuriant verdure from
top to bottom of the cliffy banks; audit is only on the long sand-bars,
where the river takes some sudden turn, that duck may be expected to be
found Quail, however, are abundant everywhere.
In fact you may go right across the plain, -where you would
never imagine that a deep river was close to you, until all of a sudden your
horse pulls you up right on the giddy verge of the over-hanging banks. The
country around is one vast rolling sheet of green. The rich flat expanse is
thickly clad with the young luxuriant cold weather crops. Scarcely a tree is
to be seen.
The only relief to the uniformity is an occasional collection
of wretched huts—the odorous habitation of a considerable colony of mullahs or
fishermen. Their ragged brown nets are festooned on sundry pliant bamboo
poles, and a circling flight of scavenger kites constantly hover overhead.
The villages of the cultivators who own these great tracts of
rich green lands are far away back from the river's edge, on the higher
lands; for be it remembered, that when the rainy season conies on, all this
magnificent basin, waving with green though it be now, will be a vast rice
swamp then, with the river water rolling sluggishly along, and boats will be
plying over the very spot where we now stand. Be it understood this chapter
is not for the sportsman. I am trying to describe the country.
"Well, we started at Bailah village, and walked our horses
slowly down to the river.
The first thing "shootable" we saw was a pair of Braliminee
They were resting on a sand spit in the middle of the river,
but on seeing us they got up with their slow, heavy flight, and uttering
their melancholy monotonous cry, were soon out of danger's way. (They are
not considered fairly to come under the category of game.)
A middle-sized alligator, with his serrated back and ugly
long snout, on the end of which is a protuberance of a spongelike character,
perhaps divining that we were on rather a cockney sort of pot-hunting
expedition, seemed to apprehend some danger, and slowly slid off the ooze
into the greenish depths of the river.
Now apart from the attractions of the spot, I always like a
ride along the river on such a day as this; the air is balmy and still, the
heat is tempered by plenteous clouds, and the temperature is much akin to
that of a lovely autumn day in England.
The silent swallows skim backwards and forwards in swift
Here and there, at some infrequent bare spot in the loamy
cliffs, a colony of sand martins have taken up their abode, and a chattering
flock of minahs—the
Indian starling—hop about in your immediate vicinity.
Tlie ever-watchful kingfisher hovers above a. whirling eddy,
now plunges down as rapid as lightning, anon skimming the surface like a
glancing sunbeam, or perched on some projecting point, quietly ruminates on
the trials and troubles of life, as he digests the last unfortunate member
of the. finny tribe which he has transferred to his capacious maw.
Then there are the gulls, ever flitting backwards and
forwards like restless spirits over the bosom of the deep, occasionally
swooping down till their pinions ruffle the surface of the sluggish stream,
and often rising again in triumph over tire capture of another hapless fish.
The snippets, sandpipers, plovers, blue-fowl, and countless
other long-legged, long-beaked, big and little birds, are grouped about in
every sandy shallow and on every muddy ridge.
A bloated porpoise shows his pointed snout for a moment, and
then his ugly black back rolls heavily through the stream as the
unwieldy-looking brute surges slowly ahead.
Here and there a turtle shows his little head above the
water, enjoying the genial warmth of the mid-day sun, while another
alligator, disturbed by our approach, slides noiselessly like some unclean
thing through the slimy mud, and disappears amid the turbid depths.
We have just turned the bend of the river, and there is a
broad, shelving sandbank before us. See! there is an alligator now on ahead.
Now warily and cautiously back yet further from the bank, and
now we come quietly up till we are within thirty yards of him.
He hears us.
See, he raises his head!
Now, good bullet, do your duty.
Bravo! We had him then, right behind the shoulder.
Hurrah, we have fairly bagged an alligator!
Remember we were at this time veritable griffins, and used to
blaze away at everything that came in the way.
Another shot into him as he flounders about, and now he is
One of the dangur boys
is carrying my spare gun, and I can see his eyes glisten with delight, for
the dangurs will
have a feast to-night, and will make very short work with the alligator,
tough and nasty as he looks.
We have already seen several duck, but they are too wary, and
we cannot get within range, so we go further down to a place which is
generally good for a couple or two.
It is a muddy stretch at a bend of the river, with a high
sandbank behind it, affording good cover for a stalk.
Sure enough the ducks are there, and I allow D- to try the
He got fairly within range, and was just about to fire, when
whir-r-r! away they went, and though he fired after them, the result was
nil. I tried a long shot after them as they flew past me between the two
banks, but they were too far off, and my attempt also resulted in a miss.
This was discouraging.
However, on we went, and on nearing Ghoreah village
we got into a tangled wilderness of raltur, where
I was literally brushed off my horse by the strong brunches, and D- had a
narrow escape from falling over the steep bank into the river.
To add to the contretemps, we
floundered into a nest of hornets, who stung the horses and caused them to
stampede, and we had to crouch down with our faces to the ground amidst the
undergrowth, whilst the angry brutes buzzed away most viciously overhead.
This was certainly not funny,
and we fully experienced the sensations and sympathised with the feelings
the Serpent must have felt when he received the announcement in Eden that he
would have to become a "crawler" for the rest of his life.
Our adventures were not, however, at an end yet.
Just as we were beginning to congratulate ourselves that we
had escaped from our angry buzzing assailants, and were still in our
undignified prostrate attitude, I heard an ominous koo
in front of me.
Casting my eyes in D-'s direction, I noticed a look of
agonised horror overspread his usually rubicund countenance, and in a
whisper, whose deep, hissing intensity showed me that my doughty little
D--was in a mortal funk, he said, "Great Caesar, there's a soor!
And a soor sure
enough it was.
Fortunately not a tusker, but a gaunt, mud-encrusted,
yellow-fanged old sow, with vicious twinkling, blood-shot eyes, lanky legs,
and ragged ears, and an interesting litter of brindled little curlv-tailed
squealers, arching their backs and bristling up like so many tom-cats
almost, all huddling around the old mother's hind legs, as with an alert
front and an angry snort of defiance she made most portentously hostile
demonstrations against the two unlucky "crawlers" who had thus rashly
intruded upon her privacy.
Now this may read somewhat amusing, but I can assure you it
is no laughing matter to be tackled even by an angry old sow in a thick,
matted tangle of rahur stalks.
It might very easily be a matter of life and death.
Fortunately I was able to bring my carbine to shoulder, and
before the brute could charge us, I planted a bullet fair in her chest and
toppled her over.
But I can honestly say that in all my after experience with
wild boar, leopard, tiger, buffalo, rhinoceros, and other big game, I never
was in such a mortal funk as for the first two or three eventful seconds
after hearing that ominous and startling hoo
the rahur field.
This settled our duck shooting for the day, and we were right glad to get
back scatheless to the factory.
I remember another day of quite as varied incident on the Kutna
I had gone up many years after to Oude to
take over charge of the forest grants, which I shall refer to presently at
On the Kutna one
could encounter quite as great a variety of water-fowl as on either the Baugmuttee or
But with this added excellence, that the primeval jungles
stretched all around for leagues, and big game might be come upon at any
For example, in one day, while out after pea-fowl ostensibly,
I have come across half-a-dozen different kinds of deer, leopards, wild pig,
wolves, wild buffaloes, and even a lordly tiger himself.
On the particular occasion to which I allude, I was
sauntering slowly along the river bank, trying to shoot a muggur, which
haunted a sluggish pool near where the coolies were clearing the jungle.
This particular brute was reputed to be a man-eater, and while gingerly
treading the narrow forest track, two or three of my men came up in a state
of great excitement, to tell me that three nil
gone into the forest a little distance ahead, and they earnestly entreated
me to allow them to have a hank, as
they were very desirous of having roast venison for their Sunday dinner.
This was on a Saturday afternoon.
Nothing loth, I sent them back to call all the coolies off
their work, and making them take a wide detour so
as to drive the game towards me, I posted myself on a small eminence jutting
out into the stream, having a piece of boggy ground between me and the
jungle in front, and of course being surrounded by the sinuosity of the
water-course on all the other sides.
It was a capital position to take up, for it gave me command
of all the slope trending towards the river, while at the same time any game
being driven in my direction must of necessity pass across the marshy piece
of ground to get to the river, and while floundering about in the bog, I
could not fail to have ample opportunity of making a good shot.
I had not long to wait.
in these sylvan haunts, one need never feel a trace of ennui, as
there is little monotony in an Indian jungle.
In the river, sluggish and muddy as was its current, various
kinds of water-fowl steal silently in and out among the sedges, waddle a
lazy mho would
ever and anon poke his ugly blunt snout above the surface and lazily absorb
an unconscious fly.
Small turtle here and there might be seen basking on a
half-submerged and rotting log.
A dainty little squirrel, with tail elevated over his
prettily barred back, would run up and down frisking and playing with his
mate; and darting through among the trees might be seen whole troops of
gleaming noisy parrots and other gay plurnaged birds, while if you could not
see, you could still hear the muffled drum of some strutting pea-fowl as he
swelled himself in all the pride of his glorious plumage, and made himself
an object of wonder and admiration to Iris timorous harem of pea-hens in the
leafy covert beyond the river.
There is never much sound in these jungles during the day.
But to the keen observer, who has been trained to scan the
jungle with an eye that lets nothing escape it, every little knot of bushes,
nay, every clump of grass, gives evidence of life.
The deep, monotonous boom of the great croaking swamp frogs
breaks in ever and anon upon the current of your reflections; the arrowy
flight of the iridescent kingfisher, as she shoots from aloft and cleaves
the water with her wedgy beak, and then emerges triumphant with a wriggling
tiny fish in her bill, sometimes startles you.
A snake or two may stealthily slide across the half-worn
track made by the deer through the grass as they come to the salt-lick near
the margin of the water night after night.
A lizard or a great wriggling iguana, shooting out his
quivering fork-like tongue, may catch your eye for a minute, as he warily
puts a tree-bole between him and yourself, and peers around at you as if
wondering what in the world has brought this curious-looking two-legged
thing within the circuit of his vision.
High overhead, in the still tremulous atmosphere, you see the
great silent sweep of the ever-watchful vultures, circling round and round
in never ceasing flight.
A tiny chikara, or
four-horned antelope, the most delicate looking of the deer tribe, peeps out
gingerly for a moment from behind that Jkamun bush,
and then catching sight of your glinting gun-barrel: he
is off with a bound, like a grasshopper.
The ugly grey muzzle of a plethoric jackal is protruded for a
moment behind yonder log, and then again withdrawn, and you feel conscious
that all around, numerous eyes of bird and beast and reptile are peering at
you through the leafy screen, and you know not but that some hungry beast is
gloating greedily with looks of fear yet hate upon his natural enemy—man.
you hear the distant sound of the shouting beaters, and see! on the slope
beyond, a hurrying, agitated, wavy motion in the dense undergrowth, the
sharp crack of dry sticks being snapt by a heavy tread, and above the leafy
bushes just for a moment you see the antlered outline of a noble stag as he
plunges through the jungle.
He seeks the ford below, and after him in swift and stately
procession troop the graceful hinds that constitute his following.
After a pause, you hear above the distant shouting another
lumbering onward rush, and right through the bosky dell, scorning
concealment, blundering blindly on to his fate, a heavy, awkward nil
floundering on, ploughing right through the marshy, treacherous ground in
front, and as lie tops the bank within twenty feet of you, he receives your
bullet full in the chest; the warm gouts of spouting blood quickly follow
the wound, and he topples over with a last desperate quivering kick.
And so falls your first nil
It was rather sorry work.
The poor brute, although belonging to the antelope family,
has little of the elegance or grace of that genera.
The flesh is coarse and rank, and as the poor beast shows
little fight and is not easily missed, there is very little excitement in
I was just about to saunter leisurely from my concealment to
have a good look at the animal, for this was the first nil
had ever shot, when a roar of augmented intensity from the beaters, with
shrieks and hoarse cries of "Ghenra! Ghenra!" were heard, and the heavy
crashing, as if of a ponderous body in front, apprised me that nobler and
more dangerous game was afoot.
Well was it for me that I had chosen the position I had.
I had risen from my seat and was standing lull in view,
having, of course, re-loaded, when right in front of me— not thirty yards
away, but on the other side of the boggy ground I have referred to—forth
from the jungle, in headlong, desperate flight, came a magnificent
full-grown bull rhinoceros.
"Ugh! what an ugly exterior," I mentally exclaimed. "Here's a
pickle if I happen to miss." My heart, I must confess, gave a desperate
There was little time for reflection. It was evident the
angry brute had seen me, and with a hoarse, choking grunt of wrath and
defiance he came plunging straight for me, rushing right into the morass.
He plunged in up to the shoulders, and luckily for me there
Now was my opportunity!
Hastily running down towards him, taking half-a-dozen paces
to the right, to get him more broadside on, I let him have a bullet right
behind the thick fold of his meshy skin that hung over his ponderous
shoulders, and the deep sob, or grunt rather, of pain, found a triumphant
echo in mine heart as it told me that the bullet had gone home.
I let drive again with the second barrel, taking him right
behind the ear, and with a yell of triumph which I could not repress, I saw
the mighty brute sway to and fro, heaving his ponderous body as one may see
a giant of the forest swayed by a rushing wind, and then with a hoarse groan
he lurched forward, struggled again through the tenacious clinging mud, and
then crashed heavily over almost at my feet. What a glorious prize!
This was indeed a piece of luck.
Presently up came the eager, panting beaters, and you may
imagine the scene that followed.
The horn was a very fine one, being nine and a half inches,
from the apex to the base in front.
The length of the body from snout to end of tail was eleven
feet one inch.
The girth, eleven feet, five and one-half inches.
Girth of fore-arm, three feet one-half inch; and from toe to
shoulder, the height was five feet nine and one-half inches.