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Tent Life in Tigerland
Chapter XVII - "A Day at the Ducks."


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 Khet—Hornets—A 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 ghai—Muster the coolies for a beat —Take up a good position—Jungle sights and sounds—Sound of the distant beaters—My first nil ghai—Sudden appearance of a bull rhino —A glorious prize indeed!—Measurement.

Ducks like water!

I suppose no one will deny that self-evident proposition, and if you desire ducks, you will naturally look for water.

Now 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 ghai, down to the swift flights of tiny ortolans, flashing like diamond dust in the sunlight.

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 hazree, which 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 refreshment. For the few morning hours are always the most delicious of the day in your Indian home.

But hark!

Whish!

Whis-s-sh. Whi-sh-sh-sh!!!

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 chours, to 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 Hazree!"

"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 polra!

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, exceptionally so.

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 pokra several 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 stalking.

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 masse, and 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 ambush.

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 feathers fly.

In hurried, circling, eddying flights, the bewildered ducks, now fairly nonplussed, make for my side, and again I get two successful shots.

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 expanse.

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 me.

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 it up.

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 the "irah irahs" and "bapre laps" of 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 halt there.

Nor were we disappointed.

Leaving the doosad to try as host he might to retrieve the cripples, we jogged along to Chota Bhelwyah, the 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."

From 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.

I 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.

D- 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 ducks.

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 evolutions.

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 stone dead.

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 stalk.

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 hoo right 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 hoo in 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 Nuddee, when I had gone up many years after to Oude to take over charge of the forest grants, which I shall refer to presently at greater length.

On the Kutna one could encounter quite as great a variety of water-fowl as on either the Baugmuttee or the Gunduch. But with this added excellence, that the primeval jungles stretched all around for leagues, and big game might be come upon at any moment.

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 ghai had 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. But 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.

Now 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 ghai comes 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 ghai.

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 the sport.

I was just about to saunter leisurely from my concealment to have a good look at the animal, for this was the first nil ghai I 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 beat.

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 he floundered.

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.


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