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Here, There and Everywhere By Lord Frederic Hamilton Characters: 38593

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


An ideal form of travel for the elderly-A claim to roam at will in print-An invitation to a big-game shoot-Details of journey to Cooch Behar-The commercial magnate and the station-master-An outbreak of cholera-Arrival at Cooch Behar Palace-Our Australian Jehu-The Shooting Camp-Its gigantic scale-The daily routine-"Chota Begum," my confidential elephant-Her well-meant attentions-My first tiger-Another lucky shot-The leopard and the orchestra-The Maharanee of Cooch Behar-An evening in the jungle-The buns and the bear-Jungle pictures-A charging rhinoceros-Another rhinoceros incident-The amateur mahouts-Circumstances preventing a second visit to Cooch Behar.

The drawbacks of advancing years are so painfully obvious to those who have to shoulder the burden of a long tale of summers, that there is no need to enlarge upon them.

The elderly have one compensation, however; they have well-filled store-houses of reminiscences, chests of memories which are the resting-place of so many recollections that their owner can at will re-travel in one second as much of the surface of this globe as it has been his good fortune to visit, and this, too, under the most comfortable conditions imaginable.

Not for him the rattle of the wheels of the train as they grind the interminable miles away; not for him the insistent thump of the engines as they relentlessly drive the great liner through angry Atlantic surges to her far-off destination in smiling Southern seas. The muffled echoes of London traffic, filtering through the drawn curtains, are undisturbed by such grossly material reminders of modern engineering triumphs, for the elderly traveller journeys in a comfortable easy-chair before a glowing fire, a cigar in his mouth, and a long tumbler conveniently accessible to his hand.

The street outside is shrouded in November fog; under the steady drizzle, the dripping pavements reflect with clammy insistence the flickering gas-lamps, and everything, as Mr. Mantalini would have put it, "is demnition moist and unpleasant," whilst a few feet away, a grey-haired traveller is basking in the hot sunshine of a white coral strand, with the cocoa-nut palms overhead whispering their endless secrets to each other as they toss their emerald-green fronds in the strong Trade winds, the little blue wavelets of the Caribbean Sea lap-lapping as they pretend to break on the gleaming milk-white beach.

It is really an ideal form of travel! No discomforts, no hurryings to catch connections, no passports required, no passage money, and no hotel bills! What more could any one ask? The journeys can be varied indefinitely, provided that the owner of the storehouse has been careful to keep its shelves tidily arranged. India? The second shelf on the left. South Africa? The one immediately below it. Canada? South America? The West Indies? There they all are, each one in its proper place!

This private Thomas Cook & Son's office has the further advantage of being eminently portable. Wherever its owner goes, it goes, too. For the elderly this seems the most practical form of Travel Bureau, and it is incontestably the most economical one in these days when prices soar sky-high.

There is so much to see in this world of ours, and just one short lifetime in which to see it! I am fully conscious of the difficulty of conveying to others impressions which remain intensely vivid to myself, and am also acutely alive to the fact that matters which appear most interesting to one person, drive others to martyrdoms of boredom.

In attempting to reproduce various personal experiences on paper, I shall claim the roaming freedom of the fireside muser, for he can in one second skip from Continent to Continent and vault over gaps of thirty years and more, just as the spirit moves him; indeed, to change the metaphor, before one record has played itself out, he can turn on a totally different one without rising from his chair, adjusting a new needle, or troubling to re-wind the machine, for this convenient mental apparatus reproduces automatically from its repertory whatever air is required.

Having claimed the privilege of roaming at will far from my subject, I may say that ever since my boyhood I had longed to take part in a big-game shoot, so when the late Maharajah of Cooch Behar invited me in 1891 to one of his famous shooting-parties, I accepted with alacrity, for the Cooch Behar shoots were justly famed throughout India. The rhinoceros was found there, tigers, as Mrs. O'Dowd of Vanity Fair would have remarked, "were as plentiful as cabbages"; there were bears, too, leopards and water buffaloes, everything, in short, that the heart of man could desire. It was no invitation to travel five hundred miles for two days' shooting only, there were to be five solid weeks of it in camp, and few people entertained on so princely a scale as the Maharajah. It was distinctly an invitation to be treasured-and gratefully accepted.

The five-hundred-mile journey between Calcutta and Cooch Behar was unquestionably a varied one. There were four hours' train on the broad-gauge railway, an hour's steamer to cross the Ganges, ten hours' train on a narrow-gauge railway, three hours' propelling by poles in a native house-boat down a branch of the Brahmaputra, six miles of swamp to traverse on elephants, thirty miles to travel on the Maharajah's private two-and-a-half-feet-gauge toy railway, and, to conclude with, a twenty-five-mile drive.

Cooch Behar is now, I believe, directly linked up with Calcutta by rail.

We left Calcutta a party of four. My nephew, General Sir Henry Streatfeild, and his wife, another of the Viceroy's aides-de-camp, myself, and a certain genial Calcutta business magnate, most popular of Anglo-Indians. As we had a connection to catch at a junction on the narrow-gauge railway, an interminable wait at a big station in the early morning was disconcerting, for the connection would probably be missed. The jovial, burly Englishman occupied the second sleeping-berth in my compartment. As the delay lengthened, he, having some official connection with the East Bengal State Railway, jumped out of bed and went on to the platform in Anglo-Indian fashion, clad merely in pyjamas and slippers. Approaching the immensely pompous native station-master he upbraided him in no measured terms for the long halt. Through the window I could hear every word of their dialogue. "This delay is perfectly scandalous, station-master. I shall certainly report it in Calcutta." "Would you care, sir, to enter offeecial complaint in book kept for that purpose?" "By George! I will!" answered the man of jute and indigo, hot with indignation. He was conducted through long passages to the station-master's office at the back of the building, where a strongly worded complaint was entered in the book. "And now, may I ask," questioned the irate business man, "when you mean to start this infernal train?" "Oh, the terain, sir, has already deeparted these five minutes," answered the bland native. Fortunately there was a goods train immediately following the mail, and some four hours afterwards our big friend alighted from a goods brake-van in a furious temper. He had had nothing whatever to eat, and was still in pyjamas, bare feet and slippers at ten in the morning. We had delayed the branch train as no one seemed in any particular hurry, so all was well.

During a subsequent journey over the same line, we had an awful experience. Through the Alipore suburb of Calcutta there runs a little affluent of the Hooghly known as Tolly Gunge. For some reason this insignificant stream is regarded as peculiarly sacred by Hindoos, and every five years vast numbers of pilgrims come to bathe in and drink Tolly Gunge. The stream is nothing now but an open sewer, but no warnings of the doctors, and no Government edicts can prevent natives from regarding this as a place of pilgrimage, rank poison though the waters of Tolly Gunge must be.

A party of us left Calcutta on a shooting expedition during one of these quinquennial pilgrimages. We found the huge Sealdah station packed with dense crowds of home-going pilgrims. The station-master was at his wits' end to provide accommodation, for every third-class carriage was already full to overflowing, and still endless hordes of devotees kept arriving. He finally had a number of covered trucks coupled on to the train, into which the pilgrims were wedged as tightly as possible, a second engine was attached, and we started. Next morning I was awakened by a nephew of mine, who cried with an awestruck face, "My God! It is perfectly awful! Look out of the window!" It was a fearful sight. The waters of Tolly Gunge had done their work, and cholera had broken out during the night amongst the densely packed pilgrims. Men were carrying out dead bodies from the train; there were already at least fifty corpses laid on the platform, and the tale of dead increased every minute. Others, stricken with the fell disease, were lying on the platform, still alive, but in a state of collapse, or in the agonising cramps of this swift-slaying scourge. There happened to be two white doctors in the train, who did all that was possible for the sufferers, but, beyond the administration of opium, medical science is powerless in cholera cases. The horrors of that railway platform fixed themselves indelibly on my memory. I can never forget it.

The late Maharajah of Cooch Behar had had a long minority, the soil of his principality was very fertile and well-cultivated, and so efficiently was the little State administered by the British Resident that the Maharajah found himself at his majority the fortunate possessor of vast sums of ready money. The Government of India had erected him out of his surplus revenues a gigantic palace of red-brick, a singularly infelicitous building material for that burning climate. Nor can it be said that the English architect had been very successful in his elevation. He had apparently anticipated the design of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and had managed to produce a building even less satisfactory to the eye than the vast pile at the corner of Cromwell Road. He had also crowned his edifice with a great dome. The one practical feature of the building was that it was only one room thick, and that every room was protected by a broad double verandah on both sides. The direct rays of the sun were, therefore, powerless to penetrate to the interior, and with the double verandahs the faintest breath of air sent a draught through every room in the house.

We reached Cooch Behar after dark, and it was somewhat of a surprise to find the Maharajah and his entire family roller-skating in the great central domed hall of the palace, to the strains of a really excellent string band. The Maharajah having a great liking for European music, had a private orchestra of thirty-five natives who, under the skilled tuition of a Viennese conductor, had learnt to play with all the fire and vim of one of those unapproachable Austrian bands, which were formerly (I emphasise the were) the delight of every foreigner in Vienna. These native players had acquired in playing dance music the real Austrian "broken time," and could make their violins wail out the characteristic "thirds" and "sixths" in the harmonies of little airy, light "Wiener Couplets" nearly as effectively as Johann Strauss' famous orchestra in the "Volks-Garten" in Vienna.

The whole scene was rather unexpected in the home of a native prince in the wilds of East Bengal.

The Maharajah had fixed on a great tract of jungle in Assam, over the frontier of India proper, as the field of operations for his big-game shoot of 1891, on account of the rhinoceros and buffaloes that frequented the swamps there. As he did not do things by halves, he had had a rough road made connecting Cooch Behar with his great camp, and had caused temporary bridges to be built over all the streams on the way. Owing to the convenient bamboo, this is fairly easy of achievement, for the bamboo is at the same time tough and pliable, and bamboo bridges, in spite of their flimsy appearance, can carry great weights, and can be run up in no time, and kindly Nature furnishes in Bengal an endless supply of this adaptable building material.

Our Calcutta party were driven out to the camp by the Maharajah's Australian trainer in a brake-and-four. I had heard before of the recklessness and skill of Australian stage-coach drivers, but had had no previous personal experience of it. Frankly, it is not an experience I should care to repeat indefinitely. I have my own suspicions that that big Australian was trying, if I may be pardoned a vulgarism, "to put the wind up us." Bang! against a tree-trunk on the off-side. Crash! against another on the near-side; down a steep hill at full gallop, and over a creaking, swaying, loudly protesting bamboo bridge that seemed bound to collapse under the impact; up the corresponding ascent as hard as the four Walers could lay leg to the ground; off the track, tearing through the scrub on two wheels, righting again to shave a big tree by a mere hair's-breadth; it certainly was a fine exhibition of nerve and of recklessness redeemed by skill, but I do not think that elderly ladies would have preferred it to their customary jog-trot behind two fat and confidential old slugs. One wondered how the harness held together under our Australian Jehu's vagaries.

The Maharajah had chosen the site of his camp well. On a bare maidan overhanging a turbulent river a veritable city of white tents gleamed in the sunshine, all neatly ranged in streets and lanes. The river was not, as most Indian rivers in the dry season, a mere trickle of muddy water meandering through a broad expanse of stones and sand-spits, but a clear, rushing stream, tumbling and laughing on its way as gaily as any Scotch salmon river, and forming deep pools where great mahseer lurked under the waving fringes of water-weeds, fat fish who could be entrapped with a spoon in the early morning.

Each guest had a great Indian double tent, bigger than most London drawing-rooms. The one tent was pitched inside the other after the fashion of the country, with an air-space of about one foot between to keep out the fierce sun. Indeed, triple-tent would be a more fitting expression, for the inner tent had a lining dependent from it of that Indian cotton fabric printed in reds and blues which we use for bed quilts. Every tent was carpeted with cotton dhurees, and completely furnished with dressing-tables and chests of drawers, as well as writing-table, sofa and arm-chairs; whilst there was a little covered canvas porch outside, fitted with chairs in which to take the air, and a small attendant satellite of a tent served as a bath-room, with big tin tub and a little trench dug to carry the water away. Nothing could be more complete, but I found my watchful old "bearer" already at work raising all my trunks, gun-cases, and other possessions on little stilts of bamboo, for his quick eye had detected signs of white ants. By the end of our stay in camp I had reason to congratulate myself on my faithful "bearer's" foresight, for none of my own things were touched, whilst every one else was bemoaning the havoc the white ants had played with their belongings. The guest-tents formed three sides of a square facing the river, and in the centre of the open space stood a large shamyanah, or flat-roofed tent with open sides, which served as dining-room and general living-room. There are certainly distinct advantages in a climate so settled that periods of daily sunshine or of daily rain really form part of the calendar, and can be predicted with mathematical certainty.

It so happened that the Census of 1891 was taken whilst we were in camp, so I can give the exact number of retainers whom the Maharajah brought with him. It totalled 473, including mahouts and elephant-tenders, grooms, armourers, taxidermists, tailors, shoemakers, a native doctor and a dispenser, and boatmen, not to mention the Viennese conductor and the thirty-five members of the orchestra, cooks, bakers, and table-waiters. The Maharajah certainly did things on a grand scale. One of the English guests gave, with perfect truth, his place of birth as required in the Indian Census Return as "a first-class carriage on the London and North-Western Railway, somewhere between Bletchley and Euston; the precise spot being unnoticed either by myself or the other person principally concerned."

The daily routine of life in the camp was something like this: We men all rose at daybreak, some going for a ride, others endeavouring with a spoon to lure the cunning mahseer in the swift-running river, or going for a three-mile walk through the jungle tracks. Then a bath, and breakfast followed at nine, when the various shikaries came in with their reports. Should a tiger have made a "kill," he would be found, with any luck, during the heat of the day close to the body of his victim. The "howdah" elephants would all be sent on to the appointed rendezvous, the entire party going out to meet them on "pad" elephants. I do not believe that more uncomfortable means of progression could possibly be devised. A pad elephant has a large mattress strapped on to its back, over which runs a network of stout cords. Four or five people half-sit, half-recline on this mattress, hanging on for dear life to the cord network. The European, being unused to this attitude, will soon feel violent cramps shooting through his limbs, added to which there is a disconcerting feeling of instability in spite of the tightly grasped cords. Nothing, on the other hand, can be more comfortable than a well-appointed howdah, where one is quite alone except for the mahout perched on the elephant's neck. The Maharajah's howdahs were all of cane-work, with a softly padded seat and a leather-strap back, which yielded to the motion of the great beast. In front was a gun-rack holding five guns and rifles, and large pockets at the side thoughtfully contained bottles of lemonade (the openers of which were never forgotten) and emergency packets of biscuits.

The Maharajah owned about sixty elephants, in which he took the greatest pride, and he was most careful in providing his guests with proved "tiger-staunch" animals. These were oddly enough invariably lady-elephants, the males being apt to lose their heads in the excitement of meeting their hereditary enemies, and consequently apt to run amok.

My particular elephant, which I rode daily for five weeks, was an elderly and highly respectable female named "Chota Begum." Had she only happened to have been born without a tail, and with two legs instead of four, she would have worn silver-rimmed spectacles and a large cap with cherries in it; would have knitted stockings all day long and have taken a deep interest in the Church Missionary Society.

I soon got on very friendly terms with "Chota Begum." She was inordinately fond of oranges, which, of course, were difficult to procure in the jungle, so I daily brought her a present of half-a-dozen of these delicacies, supplementing the gift at luncheon-time with a few bananas. Chota Begum was deeply to

uched by these attentions, and one morning my mahout informed me that she wished, out of gratitude, to lift me into the howdah with her trunk. I cannot conceive how he found this out, but I naturally was averse to wounding the elephant's feelings by refusing the proffered courtesy, though I should infinitely have preferred getting into the howdah in the ordinary manner. The mahout, after the mysterious manner of his kind, was giving his charge minute directions to be very careful with me, when I suddenly felt myself seized by Chota Begum's trunk, lifted into the air, and held upside down at the extreme length of that member, for, it seemed to me, at least five minutes. Rupees and small change rained from my pockets to the ground, cigar case, cigarette case, matches and cartridge extractor streamed down to earth in clattering showers from their abiding places; the blood rushed to my head till I was on the very verge of apoplexy, and still Chota Begum, remembering her instructions to be careful, held me up aloft, until slowly, very slowly indeed, she lowered me into the howdah, dizzy and stupid with blood to the head. The attention was well-meant, but it was distinctly not one to be repeated indefinitely. In my youth there was a popular song recounting the misfortunes of one Mr. Brown: "Old man Brown, upside down, With his legs sticking up in the air"; but I never imagined that I should share his unpleasant experiences.

I never enquired too minutely as to how the "kubber" of the whereabouts of a tiger was obtained, but I have a strong suspicion that unhappy goats played a part in it, and that they were tethered in different parts of the jungle, for, as we all know, "the bleating of the kid excites the tiger."

A tiger being thus located by his "kill," the long line of beating elephants, riderless except for their mahouts, goes crashing through the burnt-up jungle-growth, until a trumpeting from one of the elephants announces the neighbourhood of "stripes," for an elephant has an abnormally keen sense of smell. The various guns are posted on their elephants in any open spot where a good view of the beast can be obtained when he breaks cover. I have explained elsewhere how I personally always preferred an ordinary shot-gun loaded with a lead ball, to a rifle for either tigers or bears. The reason being that both these animals are usually shot at very close quarters whilst they are moving rapidly. Time is lost in getting the sights of a rifle on to a swift-moving objective, and there is so little time to lose, for it is most inadvisable to wound a tiger without killing him; whereas with a shot-gun one simply raises it, looks down the barrels and fires as one would do at a rabbit, and a solid lead bullet has enormous stopping power. I took with me daily in the howdah one shot-gun loaded with ball, another with No. 5 shot for birds, an Express rifle, and one of the Maharajah's terrific 4-bore elephant-rifles; this latter's charge was 14-1/2 drachms of black powder; the kick seemed to break every bone in one's shoulder, and I was frightened to death every time that I fired it off.

On that Assam shoot I was quite extraordinarily lucky, for on the very first day the beating elephants announced the presence of a tiger by trumpeting almost at once, and suddenly, with a roar, a great streak of orange and black leaped into the sunlight from the jungle straight in front of me. The tiger came straight for my elephant, who stood firm as a rock, and I waited with the smooth-bore till he got within twenty feet of me and I knew that I could not possibly miss him, and then fired at his shoulder. The tiger fell dead. This was a very easy shot, but it did me great service with my mahout. These men, perched as they are on the elephant's neck, carry their lives in their hand, for should the tiger be wounded only, he will certainly make a spring for the elephant's head, and then the mahout is a dead man. Incidentally the "gun" in the howdah will not fare much better in that case. The mahout, should he have but small confidence in his passenger's marksmanship, will make the elephant fidget so that it becomes impossible to fire.

Two days later we were beating a patch of jungle, when, through the thick undergrowth, I could just see four legs, moving very, very slowly amongst the reeds, the body above them being invisible. "Bagh" (tiger), whispered the mahout, turning round. I was so excited that I snatched up the heavy elephant-rifle instead of the Express, and fired just above those slow-slouching legs. The big rifle went off with a noise like an air-raid, and knocked me with mangled shoulder-blades into the seat of the howdah. I was sure that I had missed altogether, and thought no more about it, but when the beat came up half an hour later, a huge tiger was lying there stone dead. That, of course, was an absolute piece of luck, a mere fluke, as I had never even seen the brute. As soon as the Maharajah and his men had examined the big tiger's teeth they at once pronounced him a man-eater, and there was great rejoicing, for a man-eating tiger had been taking toll of the villagers in one of the jungle clearings. I believe that tigers only take to eating men when they are growing old and their teeth begin to fail them, a man being easier to catch than a bullock or goat. The skins of these two tigers have lain on my drawing-room carpet for thirty years now.

On our second day the Maharajah shot a leopard. He was only wounded, and I have never seen an animal fight so fiercely or with such indomitable courage. Of course, the whole cat-tribe are very tenacious of life, but that leopard had five bullets in him, and still he roared and hissed and spat, though his life was ebbing from him fast. We must have worked round in a circle nearer to the camp, for whilst we were watching the leopard's furious fight the strains of the Maharajah's orchestra practising "The Gondoliers," floated down-wind to us quite clearly. I remember it well, for as we dismounted to look at the dead beast the cornet solo, "Take a pair of sparkling eyes," began. There was such a startling incongruity between an almost untrodden virgin jungle in Assam, with a dead leopard lying in the foreground, and that familiar strain of Sullivan's, so beloved of amateur tenors, that it gave a curious sense of unreality to the whole scene.

This admirable orchestra made the evenings very pleasant. We put on white ties and tail-coats every night for dinner in the open shamyanah, where the Maharajah provided us with an excellent European repast served on solid silver plates. As the endless resources of this wonderful camp included an ice-making machine, he also gave us iced champagne every evening. As an example of how thorough the Maharajah was in his arrangements, he had brought three of his mallees, or native gardeners, with him, their sole function being to gather wild jungle-flowers daily, and to decorate the tables and tents with them.

Neither the Maharajah nor his family ever touched any of the European food, though, as they were not Hindoos, but belonged to the Bramo-Somaj religion, there were no caste-laws to prevent their doing so. Half-way through dinner the servants brought in large square silver boxes, some of rice, others of various curries: hot curries, dry curries, Ceylon curries, and green vegetable curries; these constituted their dinner, and most excellent they were.

I really must pay a tribute to the graceful and delightful Maharanee, who presided with such dignity and charm at these gatherings. I had first met the Maharanee in London, in 1887, at the festivities in connection with Queen Victoria's Jubilee. The Maharanee, the daughter of a very ancient Bengal family, was then quite young. She had only emerged "from behind the curtain," as natives of India say, for six months. In other words, she had just emancipated herself from the seclusion of the Zenana, where she had lived since her marriage. She had then very delicate features, and most lovely eyes, with exquisitely moulded hands and arms. Very wisely she had not adopted European fashions in their entirety, but had retained the becoming saree of gold or silver tissue or brocade, throwing the end of it over her head as a veil, and looking perfectly charming in it. Everything in England must have seemed strange to her, the climate, the habits, and the mode of living, and yet this little Princess behaved as though she had been used to it all her life, and still managed to retain the innate dignity of the high-caste native lady.

As one travels through life certain pictures remain vividly clear-cut in the memory. The evenings in that shooting-camp are amongst these. I can still imagine myself strolling with an extremely comely lady along the stretches of natural lawn that crowned the bluff above the river, the gurgle and splashing of the stream loud in our ears as we looked over the unending expanse of jungle below us, vast and full of mystery under the brilliant moonlight of India. In India the moonlight is golden, not silvery as with us. The great grey sea of scrub, with an occasional prominent tree catching this golden light on its clear-cut outline, had something awe-inspiring about it, for here one was face to face with real Nature. A faint and distant roar was also a reminder that the jungle had its inhabitants, and through it all came the quaintly incongruous strains of the orchestra playing a selection from "The Mikado":

"My object all sublime, I shall achieve in time,

To make the punishment fit the crime,

The punishment fit the crime."

The moonlit jungle night-scene, and the familiar air with its London associations were such endless thousands of miles apart.

On the floor of my drawing-room, in Westminster, the skin of a bear reposes close to those of two tigers. This is how he came there: We were at breakfast when kubber of a bear only two miles away was brought in. The Maharajah at once ordered the howdah-elephants round. Opposite me on the breakfast-table stood a large plate of buns, which the camp baker made most admirably. Ever since my earliest childhood I had gone on every possible occasion to the Zoological Gardens in Regent's Park, and was therefore in a position to know what was the favourite food of the ursine race. That they did not exist on buns in the jungle was due to a lack of opportunity rather than to a lack of inclination, so I argued that the dainty would prove just as irresistible to a bear in the jungle as it did to his brethren in the big pit near the entrance to the Zoo, and ignoring the rather cheap gibes of the rest of the party, I provided myself with half-a-dozen buns, three of which I attached by long strings to the front of my howdah, where they swung about like an edible pawnbroker's sign. The bear was lying in a very small patch of bamboo, and broke cover at once. As I had anticipated, the three swinging buns proved absolutely irresistible to him. He came straight up to me, I shot him with a smooth-bore, and he is most decorative in his present position, but it was all due to the buns. The Maharajah told me, much to my surprise, that far more natives were killed by bears than by tigers in that part of India.

The jungle was very diversified: in places it consisted of flat tablelands of scrub, varied with broad open spaces broken by thick clumps ("topes" they are called by Anglo-Indians) of bamboo. In other parts there were rocky ravines covered with forest growth, and on the low ground far-stretching and evil-smelling swamps spread themselves, the home of the rhinoceros and water buffalo.

I had no idea of an elephant's climbing powers. These huge beasts make their way quite easily up rocky ascents no horse could negotiate. In coming down steep declivities, the wise creatures extend their hind-legs, using them as brakes. Cautious old Chota Begum would never ford any river without sounding the depth with her trunk at every step. On one occasion two of the Maharajah's fishermen were paddling native dug-outs down-stream as we approached a river. Chota Begum, who had never before seen a dug-out, took them for crocodiles, trumpeted loudly with alarm, and refused to enter the water until they were quite out of sight. The curious intelligence of the animal is seen when they are ordered to remove a tree which blocks the road. Chota Begum would place her right foot against the trunk and give a little tentative shove. Not satisfied with the leverage, she would shift her foot again and again until she had found the right spot, then, throwing her whole weight on to her foot, the tree would snap off like a wooden match.

There was a great amount of bird-life in the jungle. It abounded in peacocks, and these birds are a glorious sight sailing down-wind through the sunlight with their tails streaming behind them, at a pace which would leave any pheasant standing. As peacocks are regarded as sacred by Hindoos, the Maharajah had particularly begged us not to shoot any. There were plenty of other birds, snipe, partridges, florican and jungle-cocks, the two latter greatly esteemed for their flesh. I shot a jungle-cock, and was quite disappointed at finding him a facsimile of our barndoor game-cock, for I had imagined that he would have the velvety black wing starred with cream-coloured eyes, which we associate with the "jungle-cock wing" of salmon flies. The so-called "jungle-cock" in a "Jock Scott" fly is furnished by a bird found, I believe, only round Madras. An animal peculiar to this part of Assam is the pigmy hob, the smallest of the swine family. These little beasts, no larger than guinea-pigs, go about in droves of about fifty, and move through the grass with such incredible rapidity that the eye is unable to follow them. The elephants, oddly enough, are scared to death by the pigmy hogs, for the little creatures have tushes as sharp as razors, and gash the elephants' feet with them as they run past them.

I think that we all regretted the Maharajah's keenness about water-buffalo and rhinos, for this entailed long days of plodding on elephants through steamy, fetid swamps, where the grass was twenty feet high and met over one's head, where the heat was intolerable, without one breath of air, and the mosquitoes maddening. A day in the swamps entailed, too, a big dose of quinine at bedtime. Between ourselves, I was terrified at the prospect of having to fire off the heavy four-bore elephant-rifle. The "kick" of fourteen-and-a-half drachms of black-powder is tremendous, and one's shoulder ached for two hours afterwards, though I do not regret the "kick" in surveying the water-buffalo which has hung now in my hall for thirty years. I have only seen two wild rhinoceroses in my life, and of the first one I had only a very brief glimpse. We were outside the swamp, when down a jungle-track came a charging rhinoceros, his head down and an evil look in his eye. One look was enough for Chota Begum. That most respectable of old ladies had quite evidently no love for rhinos. She lost her nerve completely, and ran away for two miles as hard as her ungainly limbs could lay leg to the ground. It is no joke to be on a runaway elephant maddened with fright, and it is extremely difficult to keep one's seat. The mahout and I hung on with both hands for dear life, the guns and rifles crashing together with a deafening clamour of ironmongery, and I was most thankful that there were no trees anywhere near, for the terrified animal's first impulse would have been to knock off both howdah and mahout under the overhanging branch of a tree. When Chota Begum at length pulled up, she had to listen to some terrible home-truths about her ancestry from the mahout, who was bitterly disappointed in his beloved charge. As to questions of lineage, and the morals of Chota Begum's immediate progenitors, I can only hope that the mahout exaggerated, for he certainly opened up appalling perspectives. Any old lady would have got scared at seeing so hideous a monster preparing to rip her open, and under the circumstances you and I would have run away just as fast as Chota Begum did.

The only other wild rhinoceros I ever saw was on the very last day of our stay in Assam. We were returning home on elephants, when they began to trumpet loudly, as we approached a little dip. My nephew, General Sir Henry Streatfeild, called out to me to be ready, as there was probably a bear in the hollow. Next moment a rhinoceros charged out and made straight for his elephant. Sir Henry fired with a heavy four-bore rifle, and by an extraordinary piece of good luck hit the rhino in the one little spot where he is vulnerable, otherwise he must have been killed. The huge beast rolled over like a shot hare, stone-dead.

One evening on our way back to camp, we thought that we would ride our elephants ourselves, and told the mahouts to get down. They had no fancy for walking two miles back to camp, and accordingly, in some mysterious manner of which they have the secret, gave their charges private but definite orders. I seated myself on Chota Begum's neck, put my feet in the string stirrups, and took the big ankus in my hand. The others did the same. I then ordered Chota Begum to go on, using the exact words the mahout did. Chota Begum commenced walking round and round in a small circle, and the eight other elephants all did the same. I tried cajoling her as the mahout did, and assured her that she was a "Pearl" and my "Heart's Delight." Chota Begum continued walking round and round in a small circle, as did all the other elephants. I changed my tactics, and made the most unmerited insinuations as to her mother's personal character, at the same time giving her a slight hint with the blunt end of the ankus. Chota Begum continued stolidly walking round and round. Meanwhile language most unsuited to a Sunday School arose from other members of the party, who were also careering round and round in small circles. Finally an Irish A.D.C. summed up the situation by crying, "These mahouts have us beat," whereupon we capitulated, and a simultaneous shout went up, "Ohe, Mahout-log!" It is but seldom that one sees a native of India laughing, but those mahouts, when they emerged from the cover of some bamboos, were simply bent double with laughter. How they had conveyed their wishes to the elephants beats me still.

The best of things must come to an end, and so did the Cooch Behar shoot. It is an experience that I would not have missed for anything, especially as I am now too old to hope to be able to repeat it.

The Maharajah was good enough to invite me again the next year, 1892, but by that time I was seated in an editorial chair, and could not leave London. In the place of the brilliant sunshine of Assam, the grimy, murky London atmosphere; instead of the distant roars from the jungle, the low thunder of the big "machines" in the basement, as they began to revolve, grinding out fresh reading-matter for the insatiable British public.

The memories, however, remain. Blazing sunlight; splendid sport; endless tracts of khaki-coloured jungle; princely hospitality; pleasant fellowship; cheery company.

What more can any one ask?

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