"The driver was profuse in his assurances of the safety of his makeshift, and off, once more, we started along the straight, dusty, moon-lit road, cut from the jungle, and dreamily discernible far in front, like the pale diminishing streak of a canal. We had got into full swing, and I was beginning to have faith in the patched belly-band, when a sudden snap and tilt back proclaimed how misplaced was my confidence. This time we very nearly did go back, but on our leaning forward as before, the shafts came down with a whack on to the back of the horse, and he fell, the driver being shot forward against the off horse, and myself just clear of the one prostrate. I was landed a regular spread eagle in the deep dust, in which my face was buried, and I arose with it like a miller's; hair, mouth, eyes, and nose were full of the finest pulverised particles. This, however, was the only inconvenience I experienced from my soft fall. Nor was the driver hurt. Indeed he seemed thoroughly conversant with such little professional mishaps.
" There was nothing to be done but again to patch, to the best of our ability; and, eventually, once more we started at a greatly reduced pace, and safely reached the next station, where fresh harness was procured."
" Oh!" caustically ejaculated Stewart, whose nostrils had snuffed the professional battle, and was yet irate at the aspersions cast on the " horsing system " prevalent in Bombay, or rather, perhaps, at the want of opportunity to argue and prove its advantages. " Ah ! and you call that, and being carried like a woman in a palkee, better than our system of travelling, do you ? Upon my word, Melton, I must say you Bengalese have peculiar notions on the subject of your customs. The principal redeeming point of that cart arrangement is that our system was applied to the horsing. Now, for guns, that, with the detachment system combined----"
" Are strictly forbidden as subjects of conversation," sharply interrupted Mackenzie. "Argue about spears, horses, gindees, anything to do with sport, but ware professional matters, at any rate till you are alone. You two fellows are always sparring about something. Shop is strictly interdicted, so your tilting must be on other subjects."
" Well, I was only comparing our systems of travelling when you interrupted me, Mac," said Stewart. " Now I contend that our bazaar practice of keeping tattoos for hire, enabling a man, as it does, to lay them out and gallop post any distance, is far superior in speed and otherwise to such an effeminate mode of performing a journey as in a palkee. As for the mail-cart travelling, it certainly has the advantage of speed; but then Melton has described some of its disadvantages, which to my mind counterbalance them."
" And, I suppose," retorted Melton, " that you never get a fall from the positively fearful looking screws which serve you as travelling hacks. Knee-leather, I should think, too," he added, sarcastically, " can never be lost on those occasions when you ride a long journey unprepared. I'll stick to our system, which is in every way the best."
"' Arcades ambo' excellent systems both, and equally adapted to their respective countries," said Mowbray, who had tried both.
" The easiest way I ever got over the ground up country, though, was in Rajpootana, where many of the superior chiefs have lots of comfortable carriages, and no end of carriage horses. They were in the habit of lending them to officers formerly, thus franking a man easily over a long journey in their out-of-the-way country. I am sorry to say, though, government won't permit it now. The good old times are fast passing away. But regrets on that head are not to the purpose.
" We used to travel in state with four horses. The wheelers were driven by rein, but both leaders were mounted, affording the most curious combination possible, and one which would, I think, a little astonish the members of the four-in-hand club. But then, it would also puzzle them to drive over the country and roads we were in the habit of crossing.
" There were, however, one or two natives at the principal places, who thought themselves whips, in consequence of having at some former time been in the employ at one or other of the English military stations. This was notably the case at Jodhpore, where the crack whip frequently drove four-in-hand. I remember a party of four of us were on one occasion leaving the Residency there with a team of four, being driven by the individual mentioned. But alas ! for us, his skill was not equal to his temerity.
" Just below the Residency there was a particularly steep hill, down which ran a hard made road leading to the town ; and this we were obliged to descend. Whether from the wheelers being new to the work, or the absence of a drag, or some other reason, the carriage got the better of the horses, and, do all he could, the driver found himself unable to check its impetus, or make his wheelers control it. Under such circumstances, he ought to have held what command he could retain, keeping the leaders at their distance well away from the end of the pole in front. But he lost his head; and when about half-way down, the wheelers ran into the leaders, who, with slackened traces, became at once involved with them. In the scrimmage which ensued, the carriage was carried to the side of the road on the off side, and the wheels ran up on a broken wall. It tilted up and then came over, ejecting such of its contents as had not anticipated ejection by jumping out. Being on the near side, and the carriage an open one, I was one of the latter, and reached the ground safely on my feet. One other man was equally fortunate ; but the rest, on the off side, unable to take time by the forelock, were too late for an easy spring, and were cast, with more or less violence, into the road. Fortunately no bones were broken, but one had his leg badly cut and bruised.
" Ordinarily, however, we got over the ground famously ; though what with running against banks in the narrow roads, and other inconveniences, a pleasant sense of slight risk was given to the mode of travelling."
" I am afraid," said Norman, " that when railways entirely supersede our present means of locomotion, game will gradually become extinct; though it will be pleasant enough, at first, to take a trip into regions not attainable on short leave. I wonder English sportsmen who want the excitement of a little real wild sport, don t visit India a little more frequently."
"So do I," agreed Mowbray. "With plenty of money, and the whole year to himself, a man might make a most enjoyable time of it. Say he left England in October, he might spend the cold weather in the plains, see some pig-sticking, and get splendid duck, snipe, and quail shooting. He might diversify that by obtaining for his hall at home fine specimens of antelopes' horns ; and in some parts manage to bag a tiger and bear or two. If he could stand the hot weather, though, he should reserve big game shooting for that season, and give one or two months to its earnest pursuit. Being able to choose his own ground, he might get his fill. If he funked the heat of the plains, the Himalayas or Cashmere would afford him glorious sport in a glorious, climate, and though the felinae would be there generally unobtainable, bears, and all the tribes of deer, wild sheep, and goats, with fishing, would afford no mean substitute ; and the latter place would be a glorious residence for the monsoon.
"Then, while enjoying the sports most appropriate for the season, in the intervals he might be visiting queer old cities and ruins, and seeing scenery, and forming an acquaintance with the various races of people with their peculiar habits and customs.
" This would, I take it, open his mind a little more than all the gaieties of a London season, or the delightful but comparatively contracted sports of old England. At the same time, he would be laying up a stock of memories for future drawing upon.
" With good arrangements and a previous well-sketched and digested plan, a man of moderate wealth might make a delightful trip and get the cream of sport, provided he were active and energetic, and content to do without a few English luxuries, and forego a few home pleasures."
" That undoubtedly he might, and still not be without the pale of civilisation as in the wilds of Africa," said Mackenzie; " though a shikar trip there has its merits, and very great ones too. A man could find in India materials to satisfy so many tastes. Every variety of sport and every variety of natural scenery, associated with ever-varying change in the character and customs of the people, and their architecture, whether ancient or modern."
" To some men," said Mowbray, " a native of India is a nigger, and only a nigger. Whether a Jew of the West Coast, Parsee, Mussulman of the Nor-west, Mahratta, Bengalese, Sikh, Beloochee, Hill-man, Rajpoot of Rajpootana, or any other race or tribe, it is all one to them. A nigger personifies them all collectively, without ethnological distinction. Such a man never pauses to consider that some of these races are distinguished one from the other by more distinctive characteristics than those of Europe. As Mac remarks, the recognition of the ever varying change discernible to those who pay the slightest attention to the subject, affords of itself a most interesting study."