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country lying along the coast northwards as far as Berhampore, is noted for the number of bears which inhabit the rocky hills. I made one of a party which went out in the beginning of this year for three days' shooting to Jeypore, a large village about twenty miles north of our cantonment, where was a very large hill, full of caves and dens, the habitation of a numerous colony of bears. The morning after our arrival, we were successful in shooting a fine bear, which came up to our ambush, in the grey of the morning, between the embankment of a long tank and the side of the hill. Bears, after feeding in the level country all night, usually come back at, or even before, daylight, and, if unmolested, saunter quietly along till they reach the point at which they intend to mount the hill, to lie there till the evening shadows tell them that it is time again to prepare for their nocturnal explorations for grubs, white ants, and tasty roots and berries in the open plains. I was the lucky one, on this occasion, to put the first bullet into Bruin. The flourish of trumpets which followed was tremendous, as is always the case with this grotesque animal; but it was quickly stopped by a combined volley, and Bruin fell to rise no more. We sent him to cantonments, whole and unskinned, carried on a pole by half a dozen coolies; our success inflamed the whole regiment with a desire to do as we had done, and another expedition was soon organized, consisting of four eager sportsmen besides myself.
We rode out on a cool morning in February (if I recollect rightly), and the journey was marked by a considerable eclipse of the sun, which I foolishly watched, as we rode, without any smoked or stained glass to moderate the effect of the glare upon my
A BELATED BRUIN.
eyes. The consequence was that, on arriving in camp, I found my eyes to be seriously affected, and that I was unable to read a book. This soon wore off in some measure; but I did not for a long time cease to suffer inconvenience from the injury. Our camp was pitched in a fine mango grove: it was near the hill, which was covered with long grass and cactus bushes, filling up the crannies and hollows amid the grey weather-stained rocks. The plain, which stretched to a great distance round the hill and village, was partly under dry cultivation, and partly occupied by waste jungle of low growth.
Next morning, before daylight, we all took up our post along the foot of the hill, and, as the shadowy dawn was succeeded by bright day, and the sun rose, large and red, in the misty East, we feared that we were to have a blank day. Fortunately, we kept our places until near seven o'clock, and were rewarded for our perseverance by seeing an immense male bear cantering up from the low scrub jungle. He was evidently later than he liked or thought safe, for he came at a much quicker pace than bears usually employ, and exhibited much trepidation in the anxious turn of his head from side to side as he made his way straight for the hill. Well he might be uneasy! for, as he passed a clump of bushes, he was greeted by a loud report, and the bullet of a sportsman, too excited to take good aim, whizzed past him: his canter quickened to a gallop, and he ran the gauntlet of three more guns and rifles, apparently unscathed. I was one of the unsuccessful ones; and our despair may be imagined when he all but gained the hill, grunting triumphantly, his long black hair waving as he ran. At this moment another shot rang out from
REMINISCENCES OF SPORT IN INDIA.
where" Old Copperface" (the queer addition to our numbers at Samulcottah) had stationed himself, and Bruin rose up to his full height with a loud roar, only to fall, in his last agony, to the ground. One other bullet, we afterwards found, had just grazed his stomach, and this had certainly added fresh vigour to his gallop. We sat up this night for a panther which was known to inhabit the hill; and we baited for him with a young kid. Half of a cocoanut-shell was partly split and fastened on the kid's ear, which was inserted in the split, so that the kid might be uncom. fortable and bleat properly all night, and attract the panther. At midnight, no panther having been attracted by this humane dodge, we voted the whole thing a bore and returned to our camp.
It was a bright moonlight night, and when we had walked about half a mile and were crossing some dried-up rice-fields, we saw a strange-looking animal of no great size walking slowly in front of us. Besides our guns and rifles, we had a hog-spear and a cutlass with our party, and we immediately gave hot chase to the unknown beast, which began to run, though not so fast but that we easily overtook it: it set up a menacing noise, something like the cry of a bat, but much louder. The spear and sword were speedily exercised on its tough hide, and, after a short skirmish, it fell dead. It was an Indian badger, about the size and very much the appearance of its European cousin ; its smell, also, was sufficiently high to justify the proverb and to prove the relationship. It was carried to camp and skinned, and the skin hung up to dry at a distance from the tents.
This animal is never seen by day, its habits being strictly nocturnal: it has a bad reputation as an eater
of carrion, and a disturber of graves, which it is said to tear open with its powerful claws. Natives also have an absurd idea that it is a match for and does battle with the tiger. In reality, it is a harmless creature slow, as has been seen, in movement; retiring in disposition; and supposing it does eat carrion of sorts, why should it be blamed? Graves should not be dug so shallow as to invite depredation. Natives of India commonly dig graves only to the depth of about two feet; and I have often seen them, on the outskirts of a village, scratched open by jackals, and matted hair and freshly-picked bones lying round them.
The next morning we came across three bears, but they escaped up the hill before we could get a shot at them, and a great fight ensued between them and three powerful dogs which we had with us. No result, of course, from the fight, except a tremendous roaring and barking, which rolled up the hill, and ceased only when the bears had made good their retreat into their caves; and then the dogs came back with angry eyes and tongues hanging half a yard out of their mouths. On our way back to cantonments, we saw a great number of blue pigeon on an old pagoda on the outskirts of a village, and we opened fire on those which were flying around; but the unreasonable villagers turned out and showed their teeth, and, not wishing to get into a row, we retired. The loudest and most uncivil of the village mob were some pensioned sepoys. This has been noticed on more than one like occasion; and it is difficult to account for such feeling on the part of the pensioners, except, perhaps, that they are considered men of importance in their villages, and think it necessary to
keep up their dignity by putting themselves forward on all occasions among their fellow-villagers. Shortly before I arrived at Vellore, two or three young officers, who either did not know, or, knowing, did not regard, the prejudices of the natives, shot some paroquets (very sacred birds in Hindoo estimation) in the vicinity of a village: they were thereupon violently attacked by a mob, among whom, it was discovered, were not only pensioners, but actually two or three men of a regiment in garrison, and who were afterwards brought to trial by court-martial for their shameful behaviour. Not only is the paroquet very sacred with the Hindoos (it being said to have drawn the chariot of one of their numerous deities), but so also is the fish-kite, and, but only in certain localities, the blue pigeon and the pea-fowl.
After this bear-hunting expedition, we returned for some time to our ordinary cantonment life, of which there is very little to record. One matter perhaps worth notice was the extraordinary recovery of an officer from dysentery. He was so ill that the doctors entirely gave him up, and said that he could not possibly live many days. The Colonel was told this, and asked the doctor of the regiment whether he might try his hand. The Medico answered, "By all means. I am sorry to say that you can do him. neither harm nor good." The Colonel immediately gave the sick man a good beef-steak and a bottle of sound claret, and from that time, either in consequence of, or in spite of, this extraordinary treatment, the patient began rapidly to mend; at the time that I am now writing (1884) he is living, in a green old age, in either the north of England or in Ireland, which, I am not sure.