As joyous and merry-hearted a party of young men as ever buckled spur, sat down to dinner together that cold January evening. Parade-bugles, night-rounds, uniform, drill, and duns, had given place to the wild freedom of jungle life. Cantonment and its martial exercises, was it not a good eighteen miles off 1 The sword was exchanged for the spear, the musket for the rifle or smooth-bore fowling-piece, and the abandon of jungle costume and jungle liberty replaced the restrictions of military dress and etiquette.
Spirits were at blood heat. The cold invigorating air, the prospects of sport, all the happy anticipations of a pleasant jungle trip, assisted good fellowship in discarding for the present whatever of care or anxiety may have weighed on some, and they prepared to enjoy the passing hour, and extract mirth and pleasure from whatever offered.
One of the party, who was quick with his pencil, produced a sketch of old Natta in his clerical costume, and labelled it "The Hunting Crane." This was handed round at dinner, to the great amusement of the sportsmen, as well as to the more subdued gratification of their servants standing behind.
But dinner had not proceeded far before another circumstance occurred which furnished the easily amused party with a subject for mirth.
Manuel, the head servant of the regimental mess, had been entrusted with the catering and general feeding arrangements of the party, under the supervision of Mackenzie. The "mejman," as his fellow "bootlaers" politely addressed him, was a little fired with ambition on his promotion, and actually produced a bill of fare of the dinner. This was laid by the side of the plate of Mackenzie, who was installed as president.
Soup finished, Manuel brought in a dish which he placed before Mackenzie with much display. When the cover was removed, there was disclosed a bird considerably larger than a duck, but yet not large enough for an ordinary goose.
" Why, Manuel, what have you got here 1" asked Mackenzie, as he referred to the carte. " I see you call it a goose's p p—p—. I can't make out what."
The ready caterer, who was an Indo-Portuguese, and evidently waiting to be questioned, replied in broken English—" It is a goose's pup, your honour."
"A what!" ejaculated Mackenzie, as he turned quickly round, for a moment quite flabbergasted ; " a goose's which " ft
" A goose's pup," repeated Manuel. " I shot it at a tank on the road."
For a moment Mackenzie looked steadily, almost sternly, at Manuel, and then burst into a roar of laughter, in which he was joined by the whole party.
The bird itself proved to be one of those quasi wild geese* which resort to Cutch in the cold season, and which, on account of its size, Manuel considered to be an immature and youthful specimen. Pup was a term he constantly heard applied to the young of dogs, and knew of no reason why it should not be j st as applicable to the feathered race. The word " bucha " in the tongue he was best acquainted with would be used for all young indifferently.
But this was not the only remarkable item in that bill of fare. Mackenzie examined it more closely, and after several queerly spelt words, of whose signification, however, there could be no doubt, he came to the last item, which was " wilderness."
After a little cross-questioning, it appeared that Manuel had looked out the word " desert" in the dictionary, with a view to correct spelling. Finding it there described as a wilderness, the brilliant idea occurred to him of replacing the old-fashioned word with this more imposing and grandly sounding one. He did so, and succeeded beyond expectation in rendering his bill of fare a marvel of novelty.
* See Appendix, Note F.