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The "Paddy Bird's" Wild-fowling.-Timid Elephant.Shoot a Sambur and Panther and Blue Bull.-Borekaira.— Shoot a Bear.-Four Bears in one Lair.-Shoot two of them.
"The Sow! the Village Sow!"-Narrow Escape of Chief Commissioner. To Bombay and back.-Cholera in my Camp.-Bear shot.-Death of a Panther.-Last look at Nagpore Jungles.-Ramteerut and River Wurdah.-Shoot a Tiger and Tigress.-A Family of Tigers.-Shoot a halfgrown Cub.-A fierce Tigress.-Again to England.
IN January 1863 I went to Soorgaum, a village on the borders of a range of grass-covered hills, fourteen miles east of Kamptee. This was a very favourite place. There is a large tank, close under the flattopped hills; at one end of this tank, at the water's edge, and not too near the village, my tent was pitched, under a row of mango trees; a very shady place, and convenient for both shooting and fishing. There were a great many fish, though of no great size, in the tank; it was also frequented by duck and snipe in the cold weather. Before breakfast on the morning of my arrival, I shot the only two snipe which were on the swampy edge of the tank, and the Paddy Bird stalked, and shot, a couple of duck,
PADDY BIRD'S " WILD-FOWling.
in his most approved manner. He is a first-rate wild-fowler. On seeing duck or teal in a tank, he would start off, and on getting within three or four hundred yards of them, divest himself of every stitch of clothing except the scantiest possible strip of cloth round his loins, and, taking his gun in his hand, with a small bundle of "solah " reeds passed with a loop round the head of the ramrod, to keep the gunmuzzle afloat before him, he would creep and crawl, like a great brown lizard, towards the duck, taking advantage of every tuft of grass and strip of rushes. On reaching the water he slid in, with his buoyed-up gun before him, and managed most skilfully to get within good shooting range of his prey. I have often watched him at these manoeuvres, and even from the embankment it was not easy to keep him in sight. Wherever there was the slightest cover he would disappear, and come in view again at an entirely unexpected spot, very likely fifty or a hundred yards nearer to the unsuspecting duck. At last the exciting moment came; the small black-brown spot, which marked my poacher's position in a thin fringe of reeds, became stationary; a puff of white smoke, and terrified scatter into the air of the residue of the duck; and then the gaunt form of the shikarry would rise, hip deep, or waist deep, in the water, and, with great spangs and plunges, would retrieve his dead and wounded game.
After breakfast we went out with two elephants, and ascended the low hill behind the tent, and explored a number of thickly overgrown ravines and corries, which run at short intervals from these hills to the plains below. As a rule, the flat tops of the trap-hills are very barren and stony, the loose
boulders and pebbles lying hid in the thin white grass, which in some places, however, grows strong and high, fully capable of hiding a pig or a panther; and the corries and corners of the hills are full of twining creepers, thorn-bushes, and also large and handsome forest trees, mowah, wild mango, tamarind, &c. To beat out one of these corries is the work, ordinarily, of a quarter of an hour, or little more, so that it is possible to go over a good stretch of hill in the course of a day's work; and few ravines were beaten absolutely blank; though from the rugged nature of the ground, and the habit which all animals have of sneaking out at the side of a beat, and so getting, along the hill, into the next corrie, it more often than not happened that the only knowledge of game being on foot was the sudden excited shout of the beaters, and the clattering of hoofs over the stones, or, perhaps, the glimpse of a brown or black hide, for a moment, on the grassy slopes.
This morning I put up a large herd of hog, which, in this part of the country, are strictly "tabooed" to gun or rifle, as the hog can be ridden in the plains, and there is an old-established "Tent Club," i.e. Hog-hunting Club, at Kamptee, with tents, furniture, shikarries, butler, &c., and always with an old, experienced sportman as Captain. When the hog broke, the elephant which I was on, and which had once been charged and bitten by a tiger, spun round, and carried me, and my shikarry, who was on the seat behind me, into the branches of a large tree; the branches caught the howdah, smashed the iron gun-rail which supports the muzzles in front, and one large bough broke short off, and entered the howdah, narrowly missing me, and sticking in the
SHOOT A SAMBUR AND A PANTHER.
back of the seat. I escaped with a bruise near my eye; but my shikarry did not come off so well, and got a terrible smash across the nose. This was conclusive against shooting from this unsteady elephant, and we went straight on to another village, farther among the hills. My tent had been brought, in the meantime, from Soorgaum, and pitched at Chandpa.
Next day we had a beat, but with the howdah on the other elephant, the timid monster being used as a beater, and we took eight or ten villagers also with After beating for some time, without any luck, a young stag sambur came out of a thicket, and stood for a moment at about a hundred and fifty yards from us. I made a capital shot, and he fell dead, with a ball through his eye. After putting him on the pad elephant, we went on to the next ravine, which was filled with high rank grass. In the middle of this tall grass, we suddenly saw a large pair of horns rise up, and I fired at the spot where the head that owned them ought to be, but missed my mark, for the next moment another and very large stag sambur burst out, and startled my elephant so much, that she moved, and spoiled my second shot at him, and he got clean away. We then put out a hog which disappeared in a very tigerish-looking nullah. We then went up by the hill-side, on our way back towards the tent; and, while going up a small ravine, the pad elephant, to her great dismay, came upon a panther. The beast sneaked about among the bushes, but we soon put it out, and I fired a BB cartridge at the waving of the long grass. This brought it into clear ground, and, just as it was entering a small thicket, I put a ball through its loins; it rolled about,
and I put another bullet through its body, and it died, roaring fiercely. We put her (it was a female) on the elephant, and returned to the tent. The distance to Kamptee being only sixteen miles, I sent the panther into the station, on a bamboo carried by two coolies, after having lightened it by removal of its inside. There were three little cubs in her, which would have been born in a few days.
The next day we beat several ravines, and turned out a good many sambur, one of which I shot, and some barking-deer and hog. Passing over the bare, pebble-strewn top of a hill, we saw a large blue bull standing and gazing at us. I always think that these blue bulls are very like the animals we see in a "Noah's Ark," they are so exceedingly ungainly and wooden-legged. I fired, and wounded it; but it limped off into thick jungle, and we had to give it up till the following day, when, on our way back to Kamptee, we found it again, in company with three hinds. The hinds went off at score; but the bull, stiff and weary, remained still for us to come close up, and I shot him. I heard this day, from my shikarry, a story regarding a fine but unused well, on the side of the road from Soorgaum to Kamptee, which had been built not very long ago, and was nearly new. It appears that the well was dug, and built up with cut stone, all in good style, by the head-man of the village which peeps out from a small grove of trees hard by. There was, in the same village, a well-todo woman, widow of a former head-man. This woman had a furious quarrel with the owner of the new well, and, as a fitting measure of vengeance, she, after confiding her intention to her friends, went to her enemy's well, and drowned herself in its hitherto