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REMINISCENCES BY AN INDIAN OFFICER.
"The hills and dales of merry England have been the best riding-school to her gentlemen."-PROFESSOR WILSON.
It is true, most sagacious Christopher-from whom I have borrowed a motto-that English gentlemen do not live at ease: their pleasures are rough and manly, befitting the war of life. In the parish where we were born (seven of us, myself the seventh brother), none of gentle nurture but worked harder for pleasure than the sons of thrift and servitude for daily bread. Let alone the "Heelands o' Scotland" for rearing gaunt horse-troopers for the colonies. Seven good fowlers and clever riders across a country were we, before we could currently read more than the horn-book and big Bible. Knowing in the haunts of the buzzard and the kite, the falcon and the merlin, even of the solitary peregrine in all its rare beauty, our earliest days were not unattended with danger-nay, with absolute peril. In the superstition of our land of mist, did we not reckon every exploit lucky according to its risk? And, now that six of us have been buried in the swamps of India, do I, the sole remaining prop of my father's ancient house, dread aught but the jungle-fever or the creeping sickness of inaction? In the dreary route from India to Cabul (dreary because accompanied by severe changes of climate), might I not have fainted with toil, like some of my men, but from my early apprenticeship to sport? Glorious sport! which braces the nerves and swells with wild but not cruel excitement the breast of every healthy son of the empire! Have we not, I and my fellows, penetrated the almost impenetrable jungle to have a cast at the game-the deer and wild-boar more particularly, with which a hundred wild districts of our route abounds? Have we not dined off venison of our own killing-and cooking, too, for that matter-to avoid being poisoned, and all within sight of the warlike Belochees? We boast not of the tusks of elephants, of tiger and other skins, which we preserve as trophies of our inherent love of sport, to carry with us when we return to the land of our forefathers, because such spoil belongs to pacific India : hours, days, weeks-spent in hunting, shooting, fishing, yachtingthese are the periods I least regret in my many-coloured life. While riding my own horse for a sweepstakes at the eastern presidencywhile shooting the wild-fowl of the Himalayas-while in all seasons, and in all climates, setting agoing the befitting pastimes of the country
in which I was located, I have been satisfied that in an enlarged sense sport was the nursery of courage. So long as distant expeditions shall be sent forth, gentlemen seamen promoted to foreign stations and service, armies commanded by men of rank and station; so long is it needful and behoveful of old England to keep up her national boast and glory-her superiority in national sports.
In the early part of 1839 I was at Allyghue, getting men ready for the war of the north, to fill up for casualties.
The army had then entered Persia, but in a sad state. It was rumoured that the enemy was assembled in great strength, and only held back from attacking us by the expectation that privation and disease would carry us off by hundreds. I had then twelve hundred men ready and fit for service, and no ways incommoded by the heat, while I could scarcely draw breath. Yet, four days' journey off, I was up the mountains, fowling-piece in hand, clad as I should be for my own native hills, banging right and left, and scarcely ever failing to bring down my bird.
I have elsewhere detailed the particular kinds of game most frequently met with in the different passes of the Himalayan range. Late in the November of the same year, I left my then homestead for a five months' march and a tent life; and often, during its vicissitudes, did I thank my rough sporting education, that had braced my sinews and muscles to a degree of hardiness that not even India could greatly affect. It was then reported that the Russians were at Balk, and that our division of the army, under the gallant Sir Robert Sale, would take up position in Scinde Kehosh. In all my peregrinations through the magnificent decayed cities (of the dead, as it were), districts, and provinces of this enormous country, the sight which most impressed me was the termination of the Punjab, in the vale of Peshwar. This garden of India, and happy land of beauty, is shaped like a horse-shoe, full of the most picturesque combinations of all that can delight an English eye-all that can charm and elevate that of a lover of nature. We pitched our tents amid odoriferous clover; our boundaries were hills snow-covered. Clear streams were flowing, and flashing in the rich sunlight, down these beautiful uplands; cultivated fields, with here a fort and there a village, met the limited view in all directions. But it were vain to speak of the shapes, and fairy hues, and diversities of those mountains the countless varieties of flowers thronging their sides the rich carpet of mosses and lichens on which to tread -the gushing torrents of foam overhanging precipices or jutting cliffs or the gentler currents stealing through a sheltering underwood-the vaulted heaven of the tropical sky above all. I verily think no other spot in the created earth is quite equal to that vale of Peshwar. To be sure the accompaniments of the red and blue coats of the cavalry, artillery, and foot, of our division, with our white tents in the distance, added to the scene a theatric interest it was none the worst for. Indeed the whole effect was like one of Stanfield's happiest efforts highly sublimed.
Two marches after we left Peshwar we met two regiments who were sent down to assist in convoying the treasure and ammuni
tion through the well-known and dangerous defile, called the Khyber pass. The warlike tribes were in open armed hostility against us; declaring we should not have a man left alive to tell the tale of the passage. It was likely enough that they had been correct in their prophecy, as we had a three day's march in the narrow bed of a river, from which rose on either side most awfully precipitous hills. However, we proceeded; the treasure in front, then the two regiments of foot and cavalry, then my unworthy self, with my poor conscripts, with three hundred camels loaded with ammunition. My officers were all young, who had only joined me for the purpose of reaching their respective corps in Affghanistan. The fourth regiment brought up the rear with artillery and baggage. The first column had not advanced a mile in the narrow inlet, in the presence of an enemy thickly clustered on the sides of the hills, before I was separated from the rest, and the whole of my charge left to my own responsibility. Every shot the enemy fired must of course take effect, while my position rendered me unable to return the agreeable compliment. This, too, was a kind of hunting; but for the nonce, we were the game to be knocked down. However, we treated our foes as I have done a tiger, a wild boar, or a jaguar, before now. We looked full in their faces calmly and steadily, as we marched onwards; and for three long days thus we waded through the pass; and, almost incredibly, without receiving a single shot, but in a state of uncertainty which kept us as much on the alert as a tiger-hunt would have done. On the fourth day we reached the plains again; there the enemy, as if ashamed of their pusillanimity, attacked the rear, and wounded some of the poor lads severely; but their chance was gone. We reached Jelalabad unmolested, and much enjoyed the change of climate: the very fact of cooling our drinking water with snow, spoke volumes in favour of its salubrity. The troops at that time were in splendid health and condition. The first division of the army proceeded to Cabul, under Sir W. Cotton, six days before us; the third followed us a day or two later.
I only mention these events to give the proper life and reality to the pictures of sport I would sketch from my recollection in which we were engaged during scenes and occurrences of great and absorbing interest to the British public. The fish and game of Ghuznee will long live in the memory of the brave officers who beguiled the tedium of garrison life by their capture. Indeed to one not a sportsman I cannot think of anything more deplorably melancholy than the enforced solitude, and ennui, of the life of an Indian officer; while, with this resource, health and good spirits will carry him through much rough work. The jungle hunts were most exciting. Fancy a huge boar, with tusks grimly shown, whetted with rage and impatient of attack, turning fiercely upon you ere you can direct a shot at him, in the midst of a dense underwood, where it was pretty sharp business to deal with such queer-tempered brutes. Shortly after our arrival at Sukkur, I was tumbled down by a huge creature of the species; my fate, as nearly as may be, decided I thought, at least as to this world. We had roused him from his lair—I and a native guide (without the latter it is not too safe to penetrate far into
the thickets) and he turned bravely upon his foremost foe. My guide gave him a shot in the sides at the critical moment. Aside he swerved for the minute, in baffled rage and pain. Up I sprang, saved from the monster's tusks, and together we despatched him; and there we left him for the time, for another chase. Now, even such accidents as these, which form a portion of the life of the hunter of wild beasts, have their bright side. When escaped from, they are pleasant to relate; when in view they form much of the thrilling excitement of the Indian jungle-hunts. I purpose to give next month a curious hunting scene, in Affghanistan. I shall conclude at present with the relation of an anecdote, illustrative of Indian manners, of a friend and brother officer of mine, commencing with a tiger hunt, but terminating in a singular, and most unexpected manner. I am not now at liberty to mention names, or give dates, as the person to whom it principally refers is too distant to be communicated with upon the subject.
On the north of Berar, and under the little chain of hills which form its boundary, a kind of road leads from one ancient tomb to another (used as the resting-places of travellers), even to the famous Gawilghur, a length of eighteen or twenty miles. The country, though infested with hordes of Dukhaits, or Thugs, is a fine hunting range. Jackals are as numerous as dogs in Turkey. There are, besides, leopards, lions, tigers, and an innumerable quantity of overgrown snakes, both harmless and dangerous; the enticing covert of the gigantic jungle-grass and intertwined weeds, affording them excellent accommodation. These beasts and reptiles of prey are, however, very little troublesome to the inhabitants.
C— H——, who had been induced to enter the service of a friendly Nizam, was entrusted with a secret despatch from his court to our head quarters. He had fulfilled his mission, and, on his return, took advantage of a merchant-party bound to the same place. My friend was attended by two well-mounted countrymen of his own, and three natives, all well armed; the other party consisted of a father and two sons-brave, high-spirited lads-with several attendants. Among the rest was a man dressed in the flowing robes of the asiatic kalundur, gray and wrinkled enough, but with a countenance of the deepest sagacity. He asked alms of my friend, and, as he thanked him, thoroughly scanned his features, as though they had been familiar to him. They rested at mid-day by a pool of water, the frequent resort of the wild beasts of the region. The merchant's sons, the kalundur, and my friend proposed to lay in ambush and shoot at the largest creature that passed them. They penetrated far into the jungle, the kalundur-his dark eyes fiercely lit up with meaning-directing a guide or servant, the lads had brought with them to carry arms, where to lie. Soon a heavy crash was heard, boughs crackled, and the earth shook beneath the weight of the fierce throng. Tearing and bearing down everything in their way, a tigress, followed by three others, rushed past the very spot of their concealment. Bang! and bang! went shot upon shot at the last and largest of these animals. My friend's third shot hit the tiger in the rear as he had turned to retreat
into the jungle, after vainly attempting to follow the tigress and her two cubs. Then the servant's shawl and the knives of the party despatched the brute from his short-lived agony. It was supposed to be the same animal that had carried away and devoured the slave girl, belonging to a party of travellers, only the week before.
The kalundur then desired the attendant to approach, and beckoned C-H-- also, to come near a spot near which the huge body lay, and which was covered over with decayed bushes and other vegetable matter. The man hesitated, while my friend did as he was requested to do. The kalundur then took a twig of a certain tree, which he dipped in the defunct tiger's gore, and held it over the head of the sinister-looking slave. He then said to him, "You may well tremble, for it is in this very spot you have committed an atrocious murder. Confess, base wretch, or your body shall be ripped up to disgorge the truth; confess that one of this lord's (meaning my friend) relations, or at least countrymen, has here been sacrificed. The slave, a victim to the superstition of those regions, with knees knocking under him, acknowledged the power and skill of the juggler, or whatever he was thus concealed under the kalundur's garb. The place was searched, and then, shocking to relate, were found a heap of putrescent bodies, among which, as the only one not altogether stripped, my poor friend discovered the strangled remains of his own cousin, who had been in the same service as himself, and by whose instigation he had taken the road to wealth now before him. A letter, a list of provisions, and a small pocket-book, had been left in the right-hand pocket of his trousers, which had been slit and left on the poor fellow, probably in the hurry of guilt. Both the slave and the kalundur were secured. The former confessed to be a votary of Kalli, a regular Thug, of course of the lowest order, and gave all the particulars of the sad affair, which are needless to relate here. But, the power of the kalundur was potent enough over the slave to seal his lips as to his knowledge of the occurrence; and such was the idolatry of fear among all classes, that my friend was compelled to leave the kalundur (whom he greatly suspected to be a thug himself, and only instigated by a secret revenge against the slave to betray him) to the retribution of heaven. This occurrence is well known to a number of parties in India.