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SCENES AND SPORTS IN THE DECCAN.

The following pages may perhaps give the fire-side readers of the U. S. J. some idea of those unfrequented wilds in the N. E. of the Deccan, known by the name of the Warangul and Cummermait jungles, and of a remarkable superstitious notion entertained by the natives, as connected with a particular spot of those remote districts.

The cold season of 183— was nearly over, and with it had ended all the bustle it calls forth in the extensive cantonment of Secunderabad. The numerous reviews of the different corps stationed there, together with their concomitant balls and dinners, were concluded, the public rooms and amateur theatre were closed for the season, the races were at an end, and even the gaiety of the Residency was at a stand still; in short, the god of heat and dulness appeared to reign paramount, and to hold undisputed sway over the whole Hyderabad subsidiary force.

It is during this time of universal stagnation that I beg to introduce myself to the reader, together with my chum and brother sub, Lieutenant Cygnet, as we were both lazily reclining on our camp chairs, with our legs (as usual in India) on the breakfast table, which important meal we had just concluded. Cygnet was doing his best to reduce to vapour a Trichinopoly cheroot, and I was listlessly gazing on the rafters of the bungalow, and inwardly cursing a couple of sparrows, that had taken up their position on them, and whose constant chirping considerably disturbed the course of my meditations." I wish, Cygnet,” cried I, losing at last all patience, “ I wish to God we could get rid of these cursed birds, they will fairly drive me mad." “ They are certainly a great nuisance," replied he, “ but, talking of driving, what say you to a drive down the lines this morning? I have two or three calls to make, and by the time I have finished my cheroot, it will be late enough to start.” answered I, yawning, “ I should not mind accompanying you, but that this weather 'tis such devilish hot work to go about in a red jacket, calling on the women. I vote we put on our shooting traps and try the snipe ground at Lallpett; though rather late in the season, we may yet find a few brace of stragglers.

We were still discussing these knotty points, and had not determined which course to pursue, when the tramp of sandals in the verandah announced the approach of somebody, and a hasty " under aou” (come in) produced a tall gaunt figure, whose natural darkness of hue was not a Iittle enhanced by the fatigue and exposure which his appearance implied.

We had, however, no difficulty in recognizing old Lingou, the confidential servant of our mutual friend Lessterre, who, in his professional pursuits, had been several months absent from Secunderabad. After the due number of salaams, Lingou approached and informed me that his master and party were then about two hundred miles off, and that he had been despatched into the cantonment to get fresh supplies, &c., with strict injunctions to deliver to me the following letter, which I annex for the benefit of the reader.

My dear I take the opportunity of Lingou's going to the cantonment, to remind yourself and Cygnet of your promise to join our party this year, and you cannot have a better opportunity of performing it than the present,

“ Why,"

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as we are about to proceed a second time to the Perkhal Lake, to which place Lingou would serve you as a guide. We were there some time ago, and the accounts I had previously heard of its extent and the romantic beauty of its banks were in no way exaggerated. I shall not, however, by attempting a description, anticipate the pleasure I am sure you will feel on beholding this fine sheet of water; but, in order to tempt you to undertake the trip, I shall say a few words as to the sport to be had in its vicinity.

I have no hesitation in saying that at this time of the year it must be excellent; but at any other period, except during the dry season, it is not at all practicable, owing to the great height of the grass and rankness of the vegetation. While encamped there I am convinced that I was frequently within fifty feet of a herd of elk, without once getting a shot or even a glimpse at them; in fact, the grass was so high above my head, that I might as well have been in a pit. You must have heard the shrill bleating noise these animals usually make; this was my guide on these occasions, and a precious "will-o'-the-wisp" it invariably proved ; leading me over bogs are morasses, till I could have almost sat down and cried with vexation; it appeared to me that the brutes never noved till they heard me rustling in the grass, and then went deliberately off, at least, if I might judge from their confounded bleating, which always appeared near enough to induce me to go on. However, as the grass is now nearly all burnt up, I have no doubt we shall do considerable execution in the shooting way in the neighbourhood of the lake.

The natives have several ridiculous superstitions regarding the lake ; amongst other things, they say that its banks are haunted by demons and spirits, and I, at last, began to believe that my friends the elks, with all their vanishing qualities, appertained to the lake's species.

What think you of my having failed in an attempt to shoot a wild buffalo, while encamped at Seevaporem, a village a few miles from the lake? The aumildar paid me a visit for the express purpose of requesting me to do what I could towards the destruction of an enormous buffalo, which had been the terror of the neighbourhood for the last three or four years, during which time he has been in the habit of constantly sallying out whenever he beholds a flock of tame buffaloes, and after killing or completely disabling the males, (which his very superior size and strength enables him easily to effect,) he follows up his victory by driving away the females into the jungles. The aumildar concluded his description by assuring me that two herdsmen had been killed in attempting to drive him off, that several others had been severely wounded, and that he had killed or disabled fifty or sixty male buffaloes ; that several attempts had been made to shoot him, but, from their uniform want of success, they actually began to think he possessed a charmed life; he had lost an eye, and received innumerable fileshs wounds, but on such occasions he always retired to some secluded spot, and lay in the water till his wounds healed.

I, of course, believed about a tenth part of this, and treated the rest as idle nonsense, but as he promised on the following morning to lead me to the spot the animal frequented, I engaged to do my best to despatch him.

I accordingly went to the place agreed upon, where I found an im

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mense posse of natives assembled, who requested me to take post on a tree they pointed out. I had scarcely made good my footing when I heard a roar, followed by a rushing sound amongst the trees, and presently appeared my friend the buffalo, the beaters flying before him in all directions, and scrambling up the trees like so many squirrels; I allowed him to come within fifty yards before I fired, when I gave him my rifle ball, which I distinctly saw took effect a little way behind the heart; on receiving it he stopped short, and trotted back a few yardsas I was afraid he was going off altogether, I gave him a shot from my double-barrelled gun, which I think struck him on the flank, as he immediately stopped, and either licked or put his mouth to the part ; my second barrel missed fire. While reloading he charged up close to the tree, several times, but finding nothing within his reach, he at last went off to a considerable distance with head and tail erect and looking defiance at us all. The villagers took advantage of this to drive off two female buffaloes I forgot to mention before, which he had seduced from a herd the preceding evening. While anxiously expecting his return, an officious beast of a sepoy, who had sneaked unseen up a tree in front of me, marred all our sport by firing from a distance at which his shot could, I should hardly think, take effect. He, however, swore he could see two wounds, one of which he of course claimed as his own. Be this as it may, it drove him off altogether, as I immediately afterwards saw him trotting away in the distance, apparently as fresh as when we first beheld him. The natives said there was no chance of his dying of his wounds, as he has been repeatedly hit in the same way, but invariably returns perfectly well, after a short absence.

Should he therefore be in existence when you come to the lake, we will have another rap at him. If I had had time I should then have awaited his return. He is certainly the finest animal of the kind I ever saw; his front and horns are splendid. From the specimen I have had of his extreme toughness, I would rather face a tiger than stand his charge on level ground, unless I were armed with something in the shape of a six-pounder.

I got a shot at a bear the day before yesterday, but as he immediately disappeared in the jungle, I know not whether he was struck or not. The boat has exceeded all my expectations; we sailed all over the Perkhel Lake in her. I shall now conclude by hoping in a short time to see Cygnet and yourself, and remain yours ever,

LESSTERRE. The contents of this letter roused us at once from the listless apathy in which we were sunk, and converted the whole bungalow into a scene of bustle and confusion. Of course we decided on going, and indeed at that moment a far less inducement than the wild buffalo, elk shooting, and the pleasant company of our friend Lessterre, would have taken us farther than the Perkhel Lake, which was only 150 miles distant.

In ten minutes, our application for a couple of months' leave was duly drawn out and sent to the Colonel ; and, in anticipation of its being granted, our respective servants were summoned, and received instructions to have everything in immediate marching order, as they were to start the next day with the baggage, Cygnet and myself intending to follow on the succeeding morning. The necessary preparations were not completed without blackey's usual noise and confusion on like occasions. Tent-pegs were found missing, liquor baskets out of repair, baggage-bullocks were not to be had, horses required shoeing ; in short, fifty difficulties were started to delay the departure. However, as we obstinately persisted in its taking place on the following day, all obstacles were at last surmounted; and having received our leave, we had the pleasure on the following day of seeing our tents, baggage, and servants make a fair start, and slowly bend their steps towards Boanghir, a hill-fort about twenty-five miles distant, which we intended to make our first day's march.

The next morning, at the early hour of two, Cygnet and myself, under the guidance of old Lingou, and by the light of a bright moon, were following the same course ; but owing to our mistaking the road, we did not reach Boanghir till near ten, when we found our tent pitched under the shade of some mangoe trees, at the foot of the black and bare mass of granite on which the fort is placed.

The rock is of great height, and can be seen from a considerable distance; from whence its naked and dark mass, destitute of the least sign of vegetation, may be aptly compared to the huge back of the leviathan, protruding from the ocean of jungle with which it is surrounded. Like most hill-forts of the Deccan, that part which is in the least accessible is defended by successive tiers of stone walls flanked by towers; these extend until they reach that portion of the hill, or rather rock, which, from its perpendicular nature, is in itself a sufficient defence. A pettah, or small town, is built at the foot of the rock. It contains a bazar, and its inhabitants appeared to be numerous. Amongst them might be occasionally seen the swarthy and warlike countenance of an Arab, or the ragged person of one of the Nizam's irregular infantry, who compose the small garrison kept up in these peaceable times.

Nothing worthy of notice occurred to us till we left Hunnamcondah, the capital of a district about eighty miles from Hyderabad. Hitherto we had travelled through a fine country, sprinkled with villages, and partly covered with low jungle, in which we found antelopes, hares, and partridge; but after leaving the latter place, the scenery changed at every step; the signs of habitations rapidly decreased, the jungle gradually assumed the character of a forest, amongst the many unknown trees of which we could frequently distinguish the majestic teak. It was also apparently frequented by quite a different sylvan race. We no longer beheld the graceful antelope, but were frequently surprised by the spotted deer, or elk, darting across our path, which, where the nature of the soil permitted it to retain the impression of footsteps, often bore evidence of being frequented by more dangerous visiters, as the prints of the tiger's claws were seen distinctly marked in the sand.

The morning cry of the partridge was also more seldom heard, and was succeeded by the screech of the pea-fowl, or the call of the junglecock. In short, on reaching Gheezcondah, about twenty-five miles from Hunnamcondah, we were transported into quite a new region, different from anything I had hitherto seen in India.

Here, on summoning, as usual, the Potail, or head man of the village, to inquire what "sheekar *" was to be had in the neighbourhood, he pointed to a hill about a mile off, and said we were sure of finding a

* Shooting or hunting.

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tiger on it. Cygnet and myself were too much accustomed to receive false information on this head, to place much reliance on the words of our friend the Potail : however, having nothing better to do, we sallied out in the evening, and bent our steps towards the said hill. On our ascent, objects met our view which fully aroused our attention. We fell in with several bones, and the remains of a sheep; and near the summit of the rock, in front of what was apparently a deep den, we observed a quantity of tiger's hair on the spot where he had probably been lying basking in the sun.

Thinking it likely he was in the den, and would make his exit in the course of the evening, we resolved to lie in ambush on some rocks immediately above its entrance, and thus, in the event of his coming out, get a shot at him before he should be aware of our presence. We had not been stationed here five minutes, when a rustling in the bushes directly opposite intimated the approach of something; and ere another second elapsed, a royal tiger, emerging from the cover, advanced towards us in all his terrific majesty. Not an instant was now to be lost; he was within eight yards of us; and should he make his spring, one or both of us were certain of immediate destruction.

These thoughts must have actuated us both at the same moment. We both fired instantaneously. The monster rose on his hind-legs, as if to spring forward ; but falling suddenly backwards, he rolled, with a tremendous crash, down the rocky and perpendicular side of a ravine, upwards of twenty feet deep, carrying with him the protruding fragments of granite which he came in contact with in his fall. We had effectually done his business, one bullet having struck him between the eyes, the other taking effect in his loins.

At Hunnamcondah we had received intelligence from Lessterre, that he would await our arrival at Seevaporam, a short distance from the Perkhal Lake, and about twenty miles from Gheezcondah. On the following day we accordingly pushed on, and joined his party by breakfast-time. A hearty welcome awaited us; but we were not a little surprised at the change effected in the appearance of Lessterre, and his assistant Barbell, by four months' exposure in the jungles. The former was completely tanned ; and as to the latter, it was impossible to tell his colour, nearly the whole of his face being hidden from the vulgar gaze by a beard that would have done honour to a Mussulman.

As this was the place of residence of the wild buffalo, Lessterre had sent out scouts to bring intelligence of him, in the event of his being seen in the neighbourhood. Accordingly, two days after our arrival, a villager brought us the joyful intimation that he was then grazing in a meidan *, four or five miles distant. We immediately put ourselves under his guidance, and proceeded to the spot, which was a large open space, of about a square mile in extent, covered with long grass, and surrounded by dense, high jungle.

Lessterre, Barbell, and Cygnet, armed with their double-barrels and rifles, were to commence the attack on foot, whilst I was to act as skirmisher, and, remaining mounted, was to draw off his attention from their party, and follow him up in the event of his making off. Having made these arrangements, we emerged from the cover, and beheld our

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* A plain.

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