Tent-Life: Page 4 of 5
crow, always the first to be on the wing, and then the keen scream of the plum-necked paroquets, dashing overhead in swarms; and soon, from the river or the jheel, the calls of the titwee and the crane.
Good and glorious was it then, after the refreshing coffee and biscuit, to spring into our saddles, the syce and shikari carrying gun and rifle, and to set forth in the wine-sweet wind of the morning along the jungle path, where every koss had its picture, every object its charm. Beautiful were the thick green groves of the mangoes; the bamboo thickets, waving and sighing; the blue and red lotus blossoms in the pool; the silk-cotton trees with flowers of fire; and the little bright gardens whence came the creak of the water-wheel and the bihisti's song.
You would see the risen sun shine upon the brown and white coats of the graceful, happy, black bucks; the wolf or hyena or wild boar loafing home from a night of forage; the machi-baugh, the "fish-tiger,' hanging over the pools and dropping like a white-and-black arrow upon its finny prey, after the manner of halcyons; the sand-grouse fly whistling down the wood to drink; and the patient bullocks going out to daily labor with their naked herdsmen.
Possibly you had dismounted on the way to try a patch of rice for snipe, or a jowar-field for quail and Horikan; or some temple or village had drawn you aside from curiosity, or to get news of the jungle. So it is growing by this time hot and late, after the enchanting ride, and the last koss or two will consequently be done at a lively canter, to avoid the heightening sun.
You know the general direction of the next camping-ground, and the shikari has pointed out a landmark. Away you clatter down the nullah, where the little doves are calling, and the hares leap out; over the rocky path, across the maidan, and up the hill track, lined with cactus and korunda bushes, until from the top a sight is caught of the tents judiciously planted in the shade of some green tope, not too near the mud walls of the Mahratta village or the tank where the buffaloes wallow. Then there comes the restoring bath and the gladly-welcomed breakfast, and you pass the burning day, cool and contented, under the double roof of the woven house, whose lifted curtains let in the sea-wind, and the village elders arrive to pay respects, and the jungle business is placidly gone through while the camp of last night goes presently past to await to-morrow's occupation.
That is the ideal manner of life under canvas, habitually well regulated in India down to a heel-rope and a tent-peg. Nothing so complete could be carried out in this country, but much pleasure and benefit
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Update history: This page originally created 2 March 2007. Latest update 2 June 2011.