Highest on the rise, on a bare spur of the hill, are constructed the barracks for the European soldiers of the horse battery usually stationed there. Next in altitude come the bungalows of the officers of the garrison, placed in a long irregular line, seldom more than two deep, and winding round a shoulder of the hill. Below these, and on the plain at the base, the lines of the native troops, and to their left the bazaar, complete the station-picture.
Between the station and town are a few temples in enclosures.
The town of Bhooj itself, with its palace and white-washed houses and towering temples and pagodas, the whole surrounded by a considerable brown wall of alternate bastion and curtain, lies nearly a mile to the left. One side is washed by the water of a tank, in the hot season reduced to a mere puddle, but which during the monsoon is of considerable extent, sufficiently so to admit of the employment of several pleasure-boats on its surface. ;
Looking from the station itself, at the distance of from half to a whole mile, is a rugged, little range of low, bare, stony hills, and the intervening plain is traversed by a made road leading to the Eesidency, the dwelling of the political officers deputed on the part of the British Government to the Rao. It is plainly distinguishable situated amidst pleasant gardens, a great attraction and eye-rest on that sterile soil. A nullah dry except during the monsoon— runs the entire length of the plain, and being in some parts banked by small masonry walls, serves to direct the drainage and act as a feeder to the city tank. It skirts one side of the Residency grounds through a deep channel cut from the rock, and thence continues its course to the tank referred to, situated a little farther on.
The plain itself is almost entirely barren, save for a square enclosure surrounded by a milk-bush hedge, where a considerable well, constantly in use, serves to rear sufficient vegetables a scarce article in Cutch— for the use of the regimental mess, by whom it is supported.
High hills bound the horizon. The top of Nurra, the conical peak of Nerona, and the hill beyond Dowsa, not unlike a lion couchant, rise marked and singular in shape above the intervening ridges.
Among the compounds of the station itself, are a few gardens irrigated by water from wells, for the most part brackish. Several of these are adorned with shrubs, and even trees of somewhat dwarf dimensions, but pleasing as a contrast to the surrounding sterility. There is no lack of wells generally, but unfortunately, though most of them are very deep, and must have been originally dug at no little expense, few contain water. Hedges of milk bush or prickly pear enclose the compounds, hardly one of which but can boast of having baubel or some other stunted tree within its area.
The station is large for the present force, which was at one time much more considerable. But the troublous times when refractory princes had to be coerced, have long passed from quiet, well-disposed Cutch; and the subsidiary contingent now furnished is proportionately diminished.
The station is traversed by two roads running nearly parallel. One of these passes round the shoulder of the hill as far as a small arsenal, situated within the area of the fort, and nearly a mile distant; the other continues to the station bazaar, where were formerly —for I am speaking of some years ago— good shops, two of them being kept by Parsees.
On the upper road, and towards that end of the cantonment which is nearest to the city, stood, at the time of which I am writing, a small bungalow which was peculiar as being the only thatched one in the station.
This was the residence of Lieutenant Norman ; and though small, it afforded ample accommodation for that officer, and even served to provide quarters for an occasional friend and visitor. I shall speak of it as it usually appeared with the occupier at home alone.
It was an oblong structure, divided into two rooms, the whole well raised above the ground, and nearly surrounded by a wide verandah. This was, in front, enclosed by a low wall, save where the portal, of somewhat imposing dimensions, gave access to the interior by three or four steps. Whitewashed pillars constructed on the outer edge of this verandah at intervals all round supported the roof, except where at one corner the space had been built in to form the indispensable bath-room. The rooms were lighted by numerous windows.
The entrance doorway conducted to the larger and principal apartment, which was that used as a sitting-room, convertible on emergencies into a bed-room. A similar door opposite gave means of egress into the verandah on that side, and another near it opened into the bed-room.
In the latter there was but little adornment. A charpoy, or low bed frame without curtains, occupied the centre of the room. Broad cotton-tape bands were well stretched across both breadth and length of this, and afforded a nice elastic basis on which to spread the couple of rugs and covering of blankets which served to represent the mattress. A gaily covered Tezaiee, or cotton-stuffed quilt, brilliant with many colours, surmounted all, and was a marked exception to the otherwise plain colouring of the room. A small blackwood chest of drawers, with toilet materials and a small folding glass above; one or two overland trunks; a piece of camp table covered with the daily linen shell-jacket, forage cap, and other common clothing necessaries; an infirm wooden horse, on which were suspended a regulation sword and various articles of daily use ; a gindee-stand, and a single chair, composed the furniture of the room.
A small piece of carpet at the side of the bed afforded the only bit of colour to contrast with the uniform hue of the coarse bamboo matting with which the floor was spread.
The larger room was more elaborately adorned and furnished. In the centre was placed a square table of jack wood, supported by a three-footed pedestal somewhat infirm and rickety. On one side was a sideless sofa, with a moveable back and foot stretcher which rendered it adaptable to any length and reclining position. On this was thrown a worsted-worked cushion displaying a pattern of a bunch of flowers, the feminine appearance of which contrasted pleasantly with some of its more masculine neighbours. Against the wall, midway between the two doors, stood in solitary dignity the chef-d'oeuvre in furniture of the room possibly purchased at a sale. It was a handsome blackwood writing-table, with numerous drawers and pigeon holes, and was laden with red-coloured regimental company books. A teapoy, also of black-wood, stood in one corner; and two separate pieces of an old camp table broke the dull uniformity of aspect of the remaining two sides of the room. On one of these a prismatic compass; a japanned moist colour box ; a portfolio ; a drawing board and block, and other drawing materials, announced that the tenant's occupations were not confined alone to those of a sporting nature or matters of professional duty. Above this table was hung a travelling book-case containing a couple of dozen or so well selected volumes, including several of the principal English poets.