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DUCK AND SNIPE SHOOTING.
That night a violent "hot-weather storm filled the river with a surging torrent of muddy water, and carried away the treasure-bags in the current. Much of the treasure was recovered, but much was lost. This has always appeared to me to be an incredible and "made up" story; even if the officer were so dull or so inexperienced as described, it is not likely that any such force of water would carry heavy bags of silver beyond a few yards, or that they would sink so deep in the sandy bottom as not to be easily found.
I did not get very much shooting on this march, on my way to Masulipatam, as I was bound not to stray out of sight of my camp; but I made up for this on my return journey, and shot a great number of duck and snipe, also of hares and partridges. My halt at the bungalow of Yernagoodium was especially pleasant. There were many tanks, great and small, some of them quite close to the bungalow, so I made a good bag. One small tank was absolutely black with teal, and I killed over a dozen at one shot. I had a curious piece of luck at a little swamp, which was all but dried up, and was not more than fifty yards in width each way. In this place a very large snipe rose, which I fired at, and it fell. It was a solitary, or double snipe, a rare bird in Southern India. When picking it up, I saw something fluttering in the dry sedges a few yards farther on, and this turned out to be a grey quail, and the only one in the little swamp, so that its luck must have been very bad to have led it in the way of the low raking shot which I fired at the solitary snipe.
At another halting-place, Nullacherla, I made a queer bag of snipe. There was a small piece of very
shallow water, which was encircled by a large extent of soft mud, in which numerous thorn-trees were growing; the branches of these trees hung low, and swept down almost to the surface of the ground. Walking along the skirts of this miry flat, I saw a snipe rise up from the shade of one of the trees, and dart away to another thorn-tree, under which it disappeared. The trees were so thickly set, and their branches also so thick, that I could not get a clear shot at the bird, nor at two or three more which flew out and dodged in the same manner as I went on. I then stooped and looked beneath the hanging branches of the nearest thorn-trees, and saw numerous snipe sitting on the bare mud beneath the shady cover. They sat hunched up, with their bills pointing to the ground. I took a number of sitting shots, for nothing else could be done with them, and bagged eight couple!
At a stage near Masulipatam I came across a number of blue pigeons, which inhabited an old well. The well was large, and built up with masonry, which had become much out of repair, so that the pigeons found many snug chinks and cavities in which to build their nests. I frightened them up by throwing stones down, and shot many of them, for they continually returned and flew over and round the well.
At one stage of my march to Masulipatam, a palanquin was carried up to my camp, and a fat little old man got out and introduced himself to me as the Superintending Surgeon of the Masulipatam District. There was no bungalow, but only a road-side shed in which I had put up. I had shot some snipe, and had brought a large basket of vegetables, green peas, &c. with me from Samulcottah, so I asked him to
dine with me, and he, being, as I found, a great gourmand, was delighted with the unexpected good dinner of roast snipe, green peas, and snipe curry.. He asked me to dine with him when I arrived at Masulipatam, and gave me a very good dinner, one feature of which was that the "gram-fed gram-fed" muttonchops were grilled on a silver gridiron over a charcoal fire in the corner of the dining-room, so that they came up screeching hot, as chops should! Another but not so pleasant part of the entertainment, was the entry, at dessert, of a posse of yellow half-caste children belonging to the Doctor, who cruised around the table, and were fed with fruit, &c., and caressed by their father, who was living in a semi-native style, which was then (1841) slowly going out of repute among English officers.
Soon after my return to Samulcottah, a very strange and, as will hereafter be seen, unhappy addition was made to the officers of the regiment. I was on my way to mess one afternoon, when a curious figure on a yellow pony, and accompanied by a troop of Englishlooking dogs of sorts, rode up and introduced himself to me. He was burned a deep red by the sun, and there was a remarkable expression of mingled simplicity and determination in his coarse features, heightened by a permanent frown, like that of an intent dog, between his eyebrows. He had just been posted an ensign to the regiment, and we afterwards found that he was the illegitimate son of an old Bombay civilian, and, though no half-caste, had been born and bred in India, never having been taken to England. He was a stark shikarry, and, when sober, one of the best shots I have ever seen; but, alas! he had been miserably neglected, and brought up almost
as a native, and we soon found that he was also a hopeless drunkard. In all other respects we liked him much; he was honest and straightforward, full of anecdote, good-tempered, a good naturalist, and a perfect linguist, colloquially, in more than one native language.
His half-bred bull-dogs and "poligars"—a hairless, very powerful and fierce Indian greyhound-were a great acquisition to us subalterns, and were used, I am ashamed to say, in the baiting of many Brahminy bulls and village pigs, which often issued from the native town and invaded our cantonment. We had to undergo many a wigging from our colonel, and even to pay to owners compensation for bulls torn and pigs killed in this way. The Brahminy bulls were very troublesome, and used to come every night into our premises, eat our flowers and vegetables, and "rout" round our houses, making night hideous with their grunting bellow. One very fine bull frequented my compound, and even broke into my railed-in, choice garden, and did much mischief. After bearing for a long time with this nuisance, I sallied out one night, armed with a long spear, and gave the bull a very sufficient thrust in his broad flank. He dashed off at once and disappeared in the darkness; but I had inquiries made quietly by my patternman (confidential sepoy, who cleans his officer's sword, &c., and is always about his house), and ascertained that the bull had been found lying dead in the native town; no doubt the Hindoos must have had violent suspicions against us, but we heard no more of the
Our Colonel was, however, very angry when a mob of villagers brought to his door a monstrous great
sow, which had evidently been done to death with spears, and also bore marks of having been severely baited with dogs. The villagers laid this murder to the subalterns; but it had been perpetrated in an out-of-the-way place on the outskirts of the station, and, notwithstanding the terrible noise which must have attended on the cruel departure of the sow from this world, they had no direct evidence against any of us. We were all sent for and violently harangued by the Colonel for about a quarter of an hour, and this, for a time, put an end to pig-baiting.
Our energies were then much devoted to playing tricks on monkeys, of which interesting animals we had as large a number as we had at Vellore. Our Colonel once intimated his intention to pay a visit to a couple of subalterns who were living together, and who had adorned their bare and whitewashed hall with some very lively and well-conceived coloured sporting sketches, which our commander had heard of and wished to see. The opportunity was too good to be lost. When the fine old gentleman came up to the door-steps, he was greeted by two grinning faces of monkeys, planted, up to their unhappy chins, in two great flower-pots, one on each side of the doorway. The Colonel tried hard to keep his countenance and to look angry, but it was a failure, and he had to break down in the middle of the lecture which he began to deliver. Of course, all the subalterns were within view of the house, enjoying the effect. Many other things, more or less ingenious and indefensible, were done to the wretched monkeys; they were chained to planks and barrel tops, and launched on ponds, to defend themselves against dogs, after the manner of a duck hunt; only that monkeys cannot
MORE TRICKS ON MONKEYS.