" The sport was not to be dependent on ourselves, so we had no guns, though many of us would rather have been actors than spectators.
" The principal shikar, however, was to be antelope hunting with cheetahs, in which of course we could not assist; but the number of noble black bucks all about the preserve we subsequently went to, made our mouths water. There was many a pair of horns there measured by eye and coveted.
" Previous to reaching the ground intended for this sport, skirmishers were sent ahead of our line of elephants, for the purpose of marking down hares. This was for the benefit of the Guicowar, who proposed to exhibit his prowess as a sportsman, and trueness of aim, by himself, with his own royal hands, polishing off such as could be found in their forms.
"It was a noble ambition, worthy of the exceedingly drunken, used-up, and despicable-looking, but good-natured little man, who at that time occupied the guddee, and performed or neglected whichever it was —the regal duties of the State. Shade of Nimrod! It would have done that royal shikaree's heart good to see the zeal with which his princely imitator endeavoured to distinguish himself as no unworthy brother of the noble craft of which he was the first great champion. Assisted by the numerous myrmidons who accompanied him in all the pomp of regal daring, and before the line of admiring Englishmen, thrice did the noble sportsman descend from his elephant. Thrice was given into his hands the trusty, well-beloved fowling piece ; and thrice he actually cocked it and stalked manfully forward to compass the destruction of the ferocious hare which the shikarees had seated in its form. But alas ! that I should have to add, thrice was the hero obliged to return to his elephant unsated with blood.
"Hares, unfortunately, have a tendency to run away from danger; and even the Guicowar was unable to overrule this natural propensity on their part, or prevail on them to sit quiet and be shot. The hares were well marked down, but the rolling, goggle eyes of his majesty were considerably wanting in the sharpness of those who had discovered them; and do what they could, they were unable to get the royal optics to discern the couching creature before he had approached so close as to disturb it. A running shot did not come within his notions of sport : or perhaps he was somewhat distrustful of his own competency to make a successful debut before the spectators, and hence, when once on foot, they were allowed to proceed unmolested.
" His ill-success was attended with some swearing at the unfortunate shikarees, and, as I believe, repeated applications to a bottle containing a soothing mixture on his return to his elephant.
"At last Diana looked favourably upon so keen a votary, and determined that he should reap the reward of his perseverance, and make a successful shot.
"Another hare was marked down, and the lucky shikaree kept moving up and down, and stooping, as if engaged in the peaceful occupation of picking up sticks, and so deceive the enemy till the sportsman's arrival.
" This time the latter got so close that he succeeded in seeing the animal, and after a careful and deliberate aim fired, and, as the wah-wah's and shabash's and general murmurs of approval from the courtiers and dependants proclaimed, successfully.
"Highly delighted, the Guicowar ordered the animal to be brought for his own inspection, and exhibition to the numerous English sportsmen ; and he looked towards one or two handsome spring-carts drawn by magnificent bullocks which accompanied the cavalcade, as his success was thus announced. The occupants of these carts had formed subjects of speculation among ourselves; for from their hanging purdahs, and small eyelet holes to peep through, we rightly inferred that they contained some of the female portion of the royal household.
"On receiving the order to bring the game, several shikarees and other ready ministers to his pleasure, rushed forward, each intent on being the fortunate exhibitor of the trophy. But somehow, when the spot was reached, each seemed willing to delegate to his neighbour or rival the pleasing duty for which he had contended. So long, indeed, were they in producing the slain, that the Guicowar had to reiterate his commands, and at last a poor trembling wretch took it in his hand, and deprecatingly presented to his Royal Highness a cat! .
"Begad! it's a fact. A small jungle cat had, in the grass, been taken for a hare, and the mistake was not discovered till the officious menials ran up to it. I need hardly say that to shoot a cat was quite below the dignity of a native sportsman.
" The Guicowar actually foamed at the mouth, and spluttering out anathemas of dire import, condemned the shikaree and all his race to everlasting perdition.
" After all the ostentation attending the shot and its success, this climax was too much for most of us, and we were half convulsed with laughter. It must have been a trying time for the political. To preserve a becoming gravity must have cost him sore. As for the occupants of the bullock carts, I daresay there was a good deal of giggling at the zenana lord's discomfiture.
" Could the circumstance have taken place secretly, or without its coming to the ears of the political officers, I have no doubt that the unhappy shikaree's days would have been numbered."
" That was a royal- sell, and no mistake," observed Melton. " But how did you get on with the cheetahs and black buck afterwards ? That is a sport I never saw."
" Oh! we were pretty successful. After the affair of the cat, our entertainer, thinking, I suppose, that he had sufficiently distinguished himself, ordered some refreshments to be handed to us and faith, he was no niggard with his liquor and afterwards gave the word to proceed at once to the antelope ground. The cheetah carts were now brought to the front; and one or two of us, including myself, got down from the elephants, and took our seats on the open country carts alongside the hunting leopards.