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to major, and often remained a good time as lieutenant-colonel, in one and the same corps. Even if, as a captain, and before he rejoined his corps as a field officer, he had been on the general staff, he came back as an old friend to the native officers and elder sepoys, and the buzz went smilingly through the lines, that " Sahib is coming back to us."
Towards the early part of the year another great festival takes place, viz. the "Holee," observed by the Brahmins, Rajpoots, and Mahrattas only. This festival is very much of an orgie, in commemoration of certain not specially respectable doings of one of the numerous gods of the Hindoo mythology. The votaries go about the streets singing indecent songs, and cracking equally indelicate jokes on the passers by; moreover, every reveller has a store of red powder, and the same mixed with water, with which he sprinkles and bedaubs all whom he meets. British officers seldom attend this festival, which is held in the same "pandal" (shed) in which the Dusserah is celebrated; but, in the year which I passed at Vellore, some of the officers of the native regiments did attend the Holee, to the great delight of the Rajpoot and Mahratta native officers and men.
The two old colonels of native infantry were especially conspicuous for entering into the fun of the feast, and sprinkled each other liberally with the red powder and red water, so that their white mess. uniforms looked as if the veteran wearers had been engaged in a shambles. On adjourning from the Holee shed to the mess-house, they still carried on their "high jinks," and daubed each other's face with lamp-black! This orgie was certainly not nice, and could not have occurred in later years; it serves to
A SHOOTING EXCURSION.
show, however, how entirely different were the relations of the officers with their men in bygone days.
Some short time after my arrival at Vellore, I went on my first shooting excursion. Three older officers and myself obtained a week's leave of absence, a much more rare indulgence in those days than it now is, and encamped at a village-Parawat-about twenty miles from Vellore, in a wild hilly tract of jungle.
When we had ridden about fifteen miles, we resolved to wait for our servants and commissariat to come up; and a very long time we had to wait. The whole train, as we afterwards ascertained, had taken shelter from a storm in a village, and there they remained for hours, no doubt smoking and eating, little caring that their masters were dependent for breakfast upon their timely arrival.
Hour after hour passed, and at last we became so excessively hungry that we turned to and rummaged the one basket which had fortunately kept up with us. In this precious basket we found a ham, and two or three bottles of beer. Ham by itself, and raw, is not good, and we were still some way from a satisfactory breakfast; but while we were looking with long faces at the open basket, suddenly a flock of sheep, black and brown, lean and ragged, as Indian sheep are, made their appearance at a short distance. A bright idea struck us. A syce was sent with a rupee in one hand and a rope in the other, and, much against the grain, the indignant and expostulating shepherd was compelled to give up one of his master's sheep in exchange for the coin, and I do not doubt that he had a very "bad quarter of an hour" when he reached that master's home!
What followed was barbarous, and only to be excused by the exceeding sharpness of our appetites. A fire was kindled at the roadside; the ham was cut in slices; an iron ramrod was converted into a spit; a syce cut the throat of the scraggy sheep, whose jacket was whipped off, and flesh cut in slices, almost before it had done "baaing"; and a glorious grill of alternate slices of mutton and ham toasted on the ramrod over the brightening fire! Washed down with Hodgson's ale (Bass was not known until some years afterwards), this more than rude banquet was much enjoyed, and the soothing pipe enabled us to wait, in good humour, until our lagging train sauntered into view. After this, we did not again let our servants and coolies (biped beasts of burden) out of our sight; but convoyed them the remaining five miles to our destination-a grove of trees on the margin of a swiftly-flowing mountain stream, near the small village of Parawat.
Just before we got to our camp, we saw a flock of "imperial pigeon" on a lofty tree, and we shot three of them. This is a very handsome bird, twice the size of the "blue rock"; and its slate-coloured plumage is brightly shot with purple gleams. A very pleasant week we passed in these jungles: there were dense tracts of graceful bamboos; and hills also, clad with lofty forest. In order to form a bathing pool, we dammed up the stream, which fretted over smooth boulders and pebbles, and on both sides of which was a wide stretch of water-worn rocks, showing that its present shrunken thread would become a respectable torrent in the rainy season.
In the forest were bison (Bos gaurus), sambur (the great stag of India), spotted deer, "bairkee "bairkee" (com
SPOTTED DEER SHOT.
monly, but improperly, called jungle sheep), and doubtless a sufficient sprinkling of tigers and panthers. But we were all raw hands at Indian sport; not that my companions were so new in the country as myself, but it so happened that none had enjoyed any opportunities of meeting with large game. Nor, on this occasion, though we all much relished our sylvan life, did we do anything very worthy of notice. By luck rather than management, I shot a doe spotted deernothing else, except pea-fowl, jungle-fowl, and pigeon, was shot by any of us. I heard this spotted deer barking in a thick bit of low swampy jungle; and, by good fortune, it allowed me to creep up to within very easy shooting distance. I now wonder that I did not bag myself instead of the deer; for, being loaded with small shot for pea-fowl, I put in a bullet and three or four large slugs over the shot; and the charge bowled over the deer, and, strange to say, did not burst the gun-barrel. All honour to the maker! but it was terribly griffinish of me all the same. This fortunate slaughter of the deer made me quite a hero in the camp; and proud and glad I was to see the table replenished with venison, of my shooting, for the next two days.
We had some village shikarries in attendance during our stay at Parawat; and one of these, who had, I remember, a large wen on his forehead, was leading the way in the jungle, under a particularly hot sun, when it occurred to me to try the effect of a burning-glass on his dusky back. I was walking just behind him, and I brought the glass to a focus on his shoulder-blade. After a second or two, and when the bright spot had rested steadily for a moment on his brown hide, he gave his back an angry slap, and, as
he supposed, dislodged the impertinent insect which had annoyed him. A repetition of the nuisance caused him to give himself another very vigorous slap, accompanied with a fierce expletive in the vernacular, and to turn round for investigation into the cause of the wrong done to his back. The grinning faces of the other shikarries, and of ourselves, soon informed him that he had been the victim of a practical joke; and the glass was duly exhibited, and a hole burnt, by its means, in a piece of paper, for the edification of the assembled party.
In this village an idol-car was being built; and I have always regretted that I did not purchase some of the wonderful wood-carving which was being executed in panels, and in bold relief, by the village artists. Excellently well done were the scenes from the Hindoo mythology set forth in this carving. The material, well-seasoned teak, was also very good, and I dare say that the car may be standing now, under its leaf-roofed shed, in perfect preservation.
At the end of 1840, my regiment was ordered to march to Samulcottah, a station in the Northern Circars, about four hundred miles from Vellore, and close to the sea. Before leaving Vellore, we gave a ball, in our mess-house, by way of bidding farewell to the pleasant society of our station. All went off very well, except that the ladies were somewhat wroth with us for having painted the plain plaster floor of the ball-room in diverse pretty patterns in water colours the effect of the dancing on this ingenious decoration was, as we ought to have foreseen, the complete effacement of the pretty patterns, and transfer of the once bright colours, in the shape of an ugly brown dust, to the skirts of the ladies' dresses!