Imágenes de página

By Jove! my boys ! it is a deuced lucky chance you see your old major among you again!"

*How so, major? Do tell us!" exclaimed a dozen tiffin-eaters, in a voice as clear as consternation at the prospect of so unwished for a consummation, and a spoonful of doubled cayenned mulligatawney would permit. “ You look as if

you had seen a spirit!” “ I tell you what, my lads ! it's nothing to laugh at!

If it had not been for å spirit of a very different description, I should have been as dead as that kabob curry! I started home last night” (the major's bungalow was two miles distant from the mess-house), “or rather this morning-when was it, messman, you gave me that bottle of brandy?”

“ Four 'clock ’morning, master!" “ Pooh! nonsense! well

, I had no sooner got out of the fort gates than I knew something would happen to me. I never pass that clump of cocoanut trees without a presentiment, and last night my worst fears were realised. Before I had gone a mile, what should I see standing directly in my way home, but a huge infernal brute of a bear! half as big as an elephant, and black as the devil himself! Before I had time to run, or to plan any mode of attack, he was upon me! I had no weapon of any kind near me except my fists, so I was obliged to grapple him by the snout with one hand, and punch him in the ribs with the other; but he was too much for me, I felt myself going, and at the very moment that I thought 'twas all up, and tried to recollect some of my catechism, (God forgive me!) I recollected the bottle of brandy I had in my coat-pocket, carrying home with me! By a desperate effort I got one hand free, and managed to extract the bottle; and with the last remaining ounce of strength left in my carcass, I smashed it over the head and eyes of the enemy! By the god of war, boys, you should have seen the fellow dance and hop about as the fiery liquid trickled into its eyeballs. It saved my life:-and saved you, you rascals! a funeral parade this evening! Claret, messman.

Time to think of one's bier when bruin hops," exclaimed the most inveterate, irredeemable punster of the regiment, whose diabolical sallies were invariably greeted with a yell of execration from the auditory; in the present instance particularly loud from the major, of whose story it had utterly destroyed the romance of, as well as all sympathy for the narrator. (By way


parenthesis, I must be allowed to relate an anecdote of this same punning wag. One of the big-wigs of the island passed half his time in collecting antiquities (a sort of virtuoso in every thing, from a starved fire-fly to a triangular cocoa-nut in short), varied in their degrees of mouldiness and curiosity. One sanctum, and a tolerably large one it was, was devoted to the purpose of an inanimate menagerie, which one fine morning received an addition from our friend in the shape of a Muscovitechair. The donor was asked to dinners and suppers innumerable on the strength of it, and it was upwards of a year before the old gentleman found out that the only claim the chair could adduce to being à Muscovite, lay in the fact that it was a “ Rush 'un.” However, the perpetrator of the joke had not to stand the brunt of the discovery, for he was 14,000 miles away. Of course the Rush'un soon found its Siberia in the kitchen.)

But to return to our bears.

The seriousness with which our brother officer told the bear story, left no doubt on the minds of any present, but that at all events it was founded


in fact, and revenge and brandy-paunee simultaneously inflaming the party, it was agreed before 5 P. m., to inflict summary chastisement on this ursine Jack Sheppard, and away we sallied, armed with guns, rifles, &c., headed by the major, with a brace of horse-pistols. We had then never seen a wild bear, and our excitement being intense, we invested the creature with a thousand more terrible attributes than ever entered all the compositions of all the bears since they disembarked after the flood ; and if it had not been for the extra glasses that we swallowed before leaving table, at the possibility of falling a victim to bruin's killing affection, we cannot possibly give a notion of what the state of our nerves would have been, when the major, throwing up one hand in the air, with the pistol in it, to enjoin silence, came to a dead stop, and in a sort of articulation between a whisper and a groan, ejaculated

“Here's the very spot!"

For hours did we in vain explore every hole and corner, now looking up among the cocoa-nuts, an now down into the rat and snake holes, but there was not a vestige left, not even the ghost of a footmark. After


space of time, as we were starting on our way back to barracks, one of the party stumbled across the stump of an old tree, around which a fire had evidently once been lighted, which had left it perfectly black; and between two small branches, sticking invitingly out at the top, we undoubtedly did discover the neck of a recently-broken black bottle, the other part of which lay in fragments around. The tree altogether had a disagreeably strong perfume of cognac about it, and was terrifically mauled and wounded where the bottle lay. But we didn't find the bear.

It was some months after the event above narrated, that I found myself brought into active service and actual collision against bruin and his tribe.

A Cingalese one day came to the bungalow with a most lamentable tale about a bear having invaded the generally peaceful neighbourhood of his habitation, where it had devoured his tortoiseshell comb (an ornament which all the natives, male and female, use to keep up their “back hair,” and on which they set a high value), rooted up all his betel-nut, and finished by gobbling down his remaining stock of rice and his youngest boy. Having at times experienced the hospitality of the man when on a shooting excursion (and, moreover, having a huge desire to send home a bear-skin rug for the very prettiest and smallest foot in creation to pillow itself upon), I resolved to start next morning by daylight, and encounter the embrace of the ruffian, or domestic tragedy heroes say, “perish in the attempt.”

And now, courageous reader, I shall depend on your company and assistance, and if you see me folded in the animal's embrace, do not be in a hurry:—come close up to him—quietly insinuate the muzzle of your gun into his ear, or as near it as you like to advance, and then pull steadily. You may depend on my doing the same good office for yourself, should he show a partiality for you. Let me give you another hint. As soon as he shows fight, and before he attempts to hug you, he will get on his hind legs, and looking you straight in the face, begin to grin and dance in the most grotesque manner imaginable. In this way he will approach you nearer and nearer at every step, until he gets within closing distance;


in his arms,

keep your charge till then ; and when he thinks he has

you find your way to his heart without a moment's delay.

Having thus far instructed you, let me put our theory into practice. Leaving my bed, and accompanied by my servant, carrying breakfast, I depart to the scene of action. Living, as I do, at an out-station, I am soon in the wilderness of the jungle, scrambling down mountainroads, formed by sudden torrents after heavy rains on the hills, and anon reaching the shelving sands of some broad river, whose clear and motionless surface induces me to take a refreshing plunge before I go

further; by way of shaking off whatever drowsiness remains, and of giving me an extra appetite for the morning's meal. (Did you ever eat a bear's ham, by-the-by? Only let us kill this fellow, and if we don't save his bacon, ay, and digest it too, and you don't afterwards conscientiously deciare you never tasted any thing half so delicious in all


born days," I say if you don't say all this, word for word, I most sincerely and charitably wish that you may one day perish of starvation.)

At length our guide points out his dwelling-place, the scene of the invaded domestic felicity ; but strain your eyes as much as you like, you cannot distinguish it; an Irish cabin would be a palace to it. We have reached his coffee-garden, and shall soon be upon the scene of action.

“ Halloa ! did you hear that growl ? look out! (click ! click !) who on earth would have supposed it! Don't be in a hurry (or a funk)," but before half of these words are out of my lips, head over heels tumbles the breakfast carrier, and very probably yourself

, good reader, on the top of him, with merely the basket of fresh eggs I have brought out for breakfast between your two carcasses. Bruin having perpetrated a charge worthy of Waterloo, is toddling off as fast as a rather extensive morning's repast will allow him.

Having made sure of whatever remains of the wreck of eatables and drinkables by consuming them on the spot, a proceeding that in a great measure restores my philosophical equilibrium, I again sally forth bent upon ursicide.

I am not going to be knocked over a second time in so unceremonious a manner, so I pick my way through the underwood of the forest, as cautiously and stealthily as possible, almost on my hands and knees, my gun on full cock, and ready for another charge as soon as the enemy chooses.

Confound those innumerable blue wood pigeons ! how they frightenno, not frighten--how they make one start as they get on the wing every moment around me! but bruin has evidently cleared the jungle, for here I am out of the wood in a large open space, with shrubs scattered every here and there as regularly as if they had been planted; the turf underfoot is like velvet, and flowers that would grace the choicest rows in a hothouse, spring up wild and luxuriant in every direction. Bearing a perfume more delicious than any cultivated plants I have ever met with, here they bloom, live their day or week, and die, without an eye to see their beauty, or a nosa (except a pig's in an attempt to get at their 100ts) to appreciate the intense aroma of their scent.

Here let us sit down for awhile, and regale ourselves with a diluted nip from this pocket-pistol, whilst I send my followers forward to that mass of rocks ahead of us, aud if I do not find the gentleman we are in search of at home, in some snug cavern thereabouts, I pledge myself to stand two dozen of Moet's best on our return to head-quarters.

I am possibly engaged in the occupation of extracting innumerable diminutive harpoons from my legs, that I have collected in our way through the jungle, when a cry of “The bear! the bear !” from the reconnoitring party certifies that I was not far wrong in my surmises, and on arriving at the spot, I am directed to an opening in the rocks, formed by two masses of stone, having fallen against each other, apparently scarcely large enough to admit a cat, but on applying my eyes to the aperture they encounter those of my quarry, glowing like two illuminated saucers at the extreme end of the den.

The first question that naturally suggests itself is how to get at the beast. To shoot it “in its house," would be to lose it altogether. I must get it out, so draw your ramrod, gentle reader! and whilst I probe it in some tender part, you stand by to shoot it as it comes out. Now, then, prong ! prong! "prong !—but it won't budge an inch -- a sulky growl is all it deigns to vouchsafe us. Ten to one it is a lady-bear with cubs ! A sudden inspiration seizes me, viz., to make a monster " black devil” (the component parts of which Satanic preparation are gunpowder and water, as every schoolboy knows, rolled into dabg between the finger and thumb, whereon the effect of fire is a great fizzing, a tremendous shower of sparks, and a most abominable stench), and to hurl it into the retreat of the bear ; then seizing: my gun, I await the denouement. Presently out pops the snout of a youthful member of the firm in a very asthmatical state ; another, rather worse, soon follows; tili the old dowager, finding her offspring getting smaller by degrees, condescends to look after them, and affords me a chance of avenging the indignity of the morning.

She no sooner perceives me at such close quarters, than she is on her hind legs in an instant, dancing for all the world like a man in that execrable "pas seul” in “ La Pastorale," and making straight up to the nearest person, which I will suppose is yourself, fortunate reader! she is soon within four or five feet of your gun's muzzle.

Now send in your "one, two,” as Mr. Jackson would have said. Bravo ! right through the heart ; and a noble animal to boot ; six feet from stem to stern. Reader, that skin is yours. The next time we go on a bear excursion together, let me have a chance.


My lot is ever doom'd to trace

The wheel of Fate, a changeful game ;-
As yonder moon's inconstant face,

Can never rest two nights


Unseen at first-a crescent now

Now with full light and beauty fraught,
But when her features loveliest shew,
Again she wanes and comes to nought.

M. N. T.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

poor sister ?"

How long it was that I occupied this miserable position in the king's study I never could tell. The prince royal was pardoned, and returned to court a saddened and broken-spirited youth : the Princess Sophia married the Prince of Bareith, and was parted for ever from her home and family, but neither of these events, although celebrated with rejoicing, brought back my lost and loved Amelia. Once, and but once only, was her name uttered in my hearing, and my heart thrilled at the sound, for I knew not what to think of this long absence and ominous silence. On the day when the Princess Sophia came to claim her father's blessing before setting out for the residence of her husband, I overheard her say in a whisper to her brother, Now, do

you think that I can plead with safety the cause of our The prince turned pale as death as he gazed over his shoulder at the king, who was engaged in earnest conversation with his new son-in-law. The prison had evidently tamed his pride and broken his spirit, for he looked at his sister with the tears standing in his eyes, and answered in a low frightened whisper,

“ I dare not speak, Sophia, but if you feel courage enough, do it now, for Heaven's sake, or the opportunity will be lost perhaps for ever!".

“I will! I will !” exclaimed the terrified princess, turning to her father, who had meanwhile drawn near.

She bent forward to receive his blessing, which was given with a right good will, but when she uttered in a faltering voice the name of “Amelia," he started, and drew back from her with a look of rage which I shall never forget. He did not chide her, however, although the princess seemed by her violent agitation, and the dreadful trembling of her whole frame, to expect some punishment little short of death for the indiscretion of which she had been guilty; he merely pointed to the Prince of Bareith, and said, in a cruel tone,

“Come, you must not keep your husband waiting; remember, he is henceforth to be the master, you the slave, dependent on his will.” Then turning to the Prince de Bareith, he added, “ Prince, be advised by me,do not suffer your wife to draw too near your side, 'twere wise never to kiss her cheek, or she will take advantage when her lips are close to your ear to breathe some obnoxious prayer-some request in favour of those against whom you have just cause of offence. Women are ever bent on interest. Their very caresses are but the disguise of some cunning purpose. Here is one :-a bride of an hour, who asks her father's blessing ere she quits his side, perhaps for ever, and who all the while thinks neither of the husband she has but this moment sworn to love, nor of the father

« AnteriorContinuar »