V; - V
THE TRIBES ON
MY FRONTIER. AN
FOREIGN POLICY. SIXTH
BY E. H. AITKEN (E H A^
AUTHOR OF "A NATURALIST ON THK
PROWL," " BEHIND THE BUNGALOW "
F. C. MACRAE
LONDON: W. THACKER & CO.
2, CREED LANE, E.C
CALCUTTA AND SIMLA:
TRACKER, SPINK & CO. 1904.
\All rights reserved,]
THESE papers were written during the
Afghan War, and made the dtbut in
the Times of India. They come on the stage
again in answer to what vanity fancied was
an encore. Perhaps it was the voice of the
Scotchman crying, " Ong-core ! Ong-core !
We'll hae nae mair o' that."
A DURBAR i
THE CROWS . . . . . . . .
THE BATS . '
BEES, WASPS, ET HOC GENUS OMNE . .
THE BUTTERFLY : HUNTING HIM
THE BUTTERFLY: CONTEMPLATING HIM ....
THE BIRDS OF THE GARDEN
THE BIRDS AT THE MANGO TOPE . ....
THE BIRDS AT THE TANK
THE POULTRY- YARD
THE WHITE ANTS
THE HYPODERMATIKOSYRINGOPHOROI ....
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
NATIVES SHIKARRING DUCKS .... Frontispiece
AN ANXIOUS MOMENT 19
A DETACHMENT 39
THE PURSUIT OF PLEASURE ...... 42
AMONGST THE PHILISTINES. 60
FAMILY AFFECTION 71
SPORT SECOND TO NONE 97
FOR LIFE 123
THE MANGO TOPE 151
ROAST KULLUM LOOMING 161
THE SERGEANT 177
LIBERTY .......... 209
FRONTISPIECE. NATIVES SHIKAKRING DUCKS. The wild ducks, familiar with
floating gourds, are unsuspicious of the natives, who wade towards them covered by a
chattee. or earthenware vessel, very like a gourd, and draw them under water by the legs.
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER,
IS June in Dusty-
pore. Fancy a
that seems to gather
the heat together, and
rub it into your cheeks and
eyes, clouds of dust that nearly
hide the landscape I had almost
said, through force of habit, but I
mean that wide expanse of negativeness
into which the sun is striking his almost
visible rays till the air distinctly quivers and
trembles under them ; no ice, no resource except "thinking
on the frosty Caucasus," or sitting behind those rheumatic
THE TRIBES ON MY FROSTIER.
and agueferous devices, tatties and thermantidotes. Bom-
bay people do not know what heat is. The only thing to
be complained of at this time in Bombay is a certain ten-
dency to liquefaction. Chemically speaking, one gets deli-
quescent about the end of May. The melting mood is
strongest during the morning walk ; at the end of it there
is little left of one but a pool of water. But abjure walk-
ing, court the sea-breeze, or sit under punkahs, and the
climate of Bombay is balmy. These are the signs by which
any one may know hot weather. When you take a change
of raiment from the drawer and it feels like fresh-baked
bread, when you put on your coat and it settles like a
blister on your back, when returning to dinner from the
evening constitutional you feel as you step through the
doorway that you are entering a limekiln, then the weather
is getting hot. In such weather every Oriental whose hard
fate has not made him a punkah-puller religiously enjoys
his midday nap, and so about noon a quiet as of a Scotch
Sabbath comes over the land.
Just at that time when all is stillest and sleepiest, I hold
a levee, for a house is like the shadow of a great rock in a
weary land, and to its blessed shelter, as the sun grows
fiercer and fiercer, all the neighbourhood " foregathers."
The choicest place, of course, is that moist spot at the back
of the house, under the pomegranate-trees, where the bath-
water runs out into the ground. The fowls have taken pos-
session of that, and are fitting themselves into little hollows
scraped in the cool damp earth. The next best place is the
broad verandah, with the elephant-creeper oppressing the
trellis. Here long before noon the birds begin to come to-
gether. Up among the rafters first I generally detect a
social lark* sitting solitary and speechless ; then down
among the roots of the creeper, hopping idly about, turning
over a dead leaf here and there, and talking to one another
in querulous falsettos, come a dozen dingy-brown " rat-
birds,"t feeble folk, which keep in flocks, because they have
not back-bone enough to do anything singly. They are just
miniatures of the " Seven Brothers," only there are no dif-
ferences of opinion among them. A little later on, two or
three well-breakfasted mynas drop in and assume comfort-
abledigestiveattitudes. The myna is the most proper of birds,
respectable as Littimer himself. In his sober, snuff-brown
suit and yellow beak, he is neither foppish nor slovenly, and
* Calandrella brachydactyla.
f The striated bush-babbler ( Chatlarrhaa caudata)^
THE TRIBES ON M\ FRONTIER.
his behaviour is stamped with self-respect and good breeding.
Nevertheless, he is eaten up with self-admiration, and, when
he thinks nobody is looking, behaves like a fool, attitudiniz-
ing and conversing with himself like Malvolio. But in public
he is decorum itself. He sets his face, too, like a flint, against
every form of vice, and is the abhorrence of the mungoose,
the wild cat, and all the criminal classes.
On one of the beams of the roof is a meek turtle-dove
that coos patiently, so that his spouse may hear him as she
sits upon her two white eggs in (of all places for a nest!) the
prickly pear hedge. Their nest, consisting of three short
twigs and a long one, was first built on one of the rafters,
but it was dissipated by that painted iniquity, the squirrel,
out and out the most shameless ruffian that haunts the
house. See him lying flat on his belly upon the stone step,
crunching a crust of bread, stolen of course. This is tiffin.
For breakfast he had a dozen or two of the tender shoots
of the convolvulus which I have been pruning and watering
to make it grow. And his conscience does not trouble
him ! He should die the death if I could make up my
mind what manner of death would best befit his crimes.
Of all my guests there is not one more dainty, or more mo-
dest (with so much to be vain of), than the. hoopoe, which
sits unostentatiously in a corner, with even its gorgeous
crest folded decently down. Every minute or two it trots
out to one of those cup-shaped little hollows in the dust,
where the ant-lion lies in wait. Once a poor ant slips over
the treacherous edge of that crater, it has as much chance
of coming out again as Empedocles from Etna. It may
struggle to keep its footing on the slippery bank, but the
unseen n.onster below jerks up showers of sand, and soon
sand and ant go rolling down together, where the out-
stretched grey jaws lie waiting in the dust. The hoopoe
knows exactly what is there, pokes its long beak down into
the funnel, fumbles about for a moment, and pulls out
the slayer of ants, to be swallowed like a pill.
Along with the birds a pretty green lizard used to come
every forenoon, shikarring ants and other insects, but it
was breakfasted on yesterday by that sinister-looking
butcher-bird which now stands on the floor of the verandah,
with legs straddled, like Apollyon in the Valley of Humilia-
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER,
tion, and mouth agape, gasping from the heat. With his
pale grey mantle, snow-white breast, and black "points,"
the butcher-bird would be handsome, but for his villainous
eyebrows and generally assassinous aspect. Nothing living
comes amiss to him, from the sparrow, if he can surprise it,
down to the large fussy black ant, which comes hurrying
along, to catch the train or something, with its tail cocked
over its head, till it is suddenly arrested and introduced into
that atram ingluviem where a dozen of its fellow-citizens
have gone before it. Cr ernes aux fourmis must be as
good as the Frenchman thought it. Now, wherever this
bird comes, comes also a smaller bird, with the same
white breast, the same shaggy black eyebrows, and the
same brigand look, and it stands close by and shrieks and
hisses and heaps opprobrious epithets on the other. This
is a cousin of the bird it vilifies. Lanius is the surname of
both ; the Christian name of the big one is Lahtora, and of
the other Hardwickii. (It was named after one General
Hardwicke, poor man ! but he did nothing wrong.) And
as the little one hisses out its impotent rage, it cocks the
stump of a tail which was once long and flowing as that
which adorns the objects of its wrath. Short as the stump
is, thereby hangs a tale, and I happen to know it
One Sunday morning, not long ago, Hardwickii was busy
murdering some small creature at the foot of a tree, when
Lahtora spied him, and came gliding gently down, and,
before he was aware of any danger, he was knocked over
on his back, with those sharp claws imbedded in his snowy
breast, and that murderous beak hammering his head.
He hit back most
pluckily, and shrieked
atnbo, thought I, and
declined to interfere.
Still, my appearance
on the scene created
a diversion in the
little butcher's favour,
and with a desperate
struggle he freed him-
self and was off, but, like Tarn o' Shanter's mare, with-
out his tail. Hinc ilia lachrimce ! At the sight of his
oppressor the bitter memory of that morning comes upon
him, and, as he glances back at the place where the tail
should be, he can no longer contain his feelings. The
" poor dumb animals " can give each other a bit of their
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
minds, like their betters, and to me their fierce or tender
little passions, their loves and hates, their envies and
jealousies, and their small vanities, beget a sense of fellow-
feeling which makes their presence society.
The touch o'f Nature which makes the whole world kin
is infirmity. A man without a weakness is insupportable
company, and so is a man who does not feel the heat.
There is a large grey ring-dove that sits in the blazing sun
all through the hottest hours of the day, and says coo-coo,
coo, coo-coo t coo, until the melancholy, sweet monotony of
that sound is as thoroughly mixed up in the cells of my
brain with 110 in the shade as physic in my infantile
memories with the peppermint lozenges which used to
"put away the taste." But as for those creatures which
confess the heat, and come into the house and gasp, I feel
drawn to them. I should like to offer them cooling drinks.
Not that all my midday guests are equally welcome : I
could dispense, for instance, with the grey-ringed bee which
has just reconnoitred my ear for the third time, and guesses
it is a key-hole she is away just now, but only, I fancy, for
clay to stop it up with. There are others also to which I
would give their congt if they would take it. But good,
bad, or indifferent, they give us their company whether we
want it or not ; and from any point of view it is strange
that Europeans in India know so little, see so little, care so
little about all the intense life that surrounds them. The
boy who was the most ardent of bug-hunters, or the most
enthusiastic of bird-nesters, in England, where one shilling
will buy nearly all that is known, or can be known, about
birds or butterflies, maintains in this country, aided by
Messrs. B. and S., an unequal strife with the insupportable-
ness of an #ff#/-smttten life. Why, if he would stir up for
one day the embers of the old flame, he could not quench
it again with such a prairie of fuel around him. I am not
speaking of Bombay people, with their clubs and gym-
khanas and other devices for oiling the wheels of existence,
but of the dreary up-country exile, whose life is a blank, a
moral Sahara, a catechism of the Nihilist creed. What
such a one needs is a hobby. Every hobby is good, a sign
of good and an influence for good. Any hobby will draw
out the mind ; but the one I plead for touches the soul too,
keeps the milk of human kindness from souring, puts a
gentle poetry into the prosiest life. That all my own finer
feelings have not long since withered up in this land of
separation from " the old familiar faces," I attribute partly
to a pair of rabbits. All rabbits are idiotic things, but these
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
come in and sit up meekly and beg a crust of bread, and
even a perennial fare of village moorgee cannot induce me
to issue the order for their execution and conversion into
pie. But, if such considerations cannot lead, the struggle
for existence should drive a man in this country to learn
the ways of his border tribes. For no one, I take it, who
reflects for an instant, will deny that a small mosquito, with
black rings upon a light ground, or a sparrow that has
finally made up its mind to rear a family in your ceiling,
exercises an influence on your personal happiness far beyond
the Czar of all the Russias. It is not a question of scientific
frontiers the enemy invades us on all sides. We are plun-
dered, insulted, phlebotomized under our own vine and our
own fig-tree. We might make head against the foe if we
laid to heart the lesson our national history in India teaches,
namely, that the way to fight uncivilized enemies is to en-
courage them to cut one another's throats, and then step in
and inherit the spoil. But we murder our friends, extermi-
nate our allies, and then groan under the oppression of the
enemy. I might illustrate this by the case of the meek and
much-suffering musk-rat, by spiders, or ants ; but these
must wait till another day.
DUST gives place to mud,
and scorching winds to
cool damp breezes, and the
ground begins to blush with
green, and giant frogs come
out of their graves in the
ground, bleached to a fine
brimstone yellow, and celebrate
their obscene saturnalia in the
flooded fields, when the paddy-bird stalks solemn among
the puddles, and the crow, expelled with opprobrium from
the verandah, sits on the dripping bough, with a dank
" droukit " look, each feather of its bedraggled tail leading
an independent, schismatical existence, then the tribes that
12 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
infest our borders discover man's use in the scheme of the
universe. He builds houses to shelter them from the rain.
And the first to make this discovery are the rats. In dry
weather most of these gentry live out of doors, but the first
heavy, steady, soaking rain is the signal for a general in-
vasion. First of all in the evening, after dinner, I spy one
perched in the Venetian blinds of the window, and it spies
me ; so my machinations against its life come to naught.
The same night as I lie awake, dreamily anathematizing a
mosquito, while the measured music of the frogs
" Beats time to nothing in my head,"
noises from the dressing-table invade my ear. First there
is a mysterious scraping sound, which old experience tells
me is the candle being chewed ; next the eau-de-Cologne
bottle and Kemp's Equatorial Hair Douche are upset ; and
now the pincushion is being vigorously disembowelled.
This ceases, and presently I am conscious that something
is scrambling energetically up the mosquito curtains. I
launch out wildly, and a heavy body falls to the ground with
a flop. Within half a minute a fierce rasping noise comes
from the foot of the door; for doors are intended to facilitate
passage from one room to another, and the construction of
THE RATS. 15
most doors is faulty from a rat's point of view. I hiss and
clap my hands, and there is a moment's pause : I know the
brute is looking at me over the point of its insolent nose.
Then again it falls to, in the name of the Prophet, rasp, rasp,
rasp. A well-aimed slipper will stop proceedings for five
minutes or more, but I have only two slippers. This night
must be endured. Next night a trap is set, and, instead of
the criminal for whom it was intended, it catches a gentle-
looking white-breasted rat, with large soft eyes, and tender
pink feet. For there are rats and rats, and a man of average
capacity may as well hope to distinguish scientifically be-
tween Ghilzais, KukI Kheyls, Logar Maliks, Spigwals,
Ghazis, Jezailchis, Hazaras, Logaris, Wardaks, Mandozais,
Lepel Griffin, and Kizilbashes as to master the divisions of
the great race of rats. Nature has been prodigal of them.
India alone produces at least seventeen kind?, besides fifteen
varieties of mice. There is the black rat, the brown rat, the
field-rat, the tree-rat, the bandicoot, and so on, to the lovely
fawn-coloured Jerboa rat, with its satin-white breast and
tufted tail, which wrought such ruin to the crops two years
ago. Two of these, Mies rattus, the black rat, and Mus
decumanus (from dtcumanus, a tax collector), the brown rat,
have attached themselves to man, and how to detach them
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
is a question which all the ingenuity the world has produced,
from Archimedes to Mr. Edison, has left unanswered. The
black rat was indeed got rid of in England by the introduc-
tion of a greater nuisance, the brown rat ; but there is no
greater nuisance left now, so that road is shut. The black
rat was the aboriginal race in Britain, and tradition says
that the same ship which brought us the Prince of Orange
brought also the first brown rat. From that day the natives
disappeared, as the red Indian, or the Maori, disappears
before the face of the white man. A black rat is now a
great curiosity in England ; they have all been slaughtered
or scattered. A good many have of course found refuge
in such a collumes nationum as Bombay, where they haunt
outhouses and servants' quarters. But the brown rat mean-
while spreads before the Scotchman and the crow, and
possesses the earth. And a monster of iniquity it is. In
fertility of resource and energy of execution it has no rival
when evildoing is concerned. Its appetite is most glut-
tonous, and everything is food to it. Bread and cheeze, beef
and mutton, the horse's grain, candles, canaries, soap, pigeons'
eggs, fiddlestrings, the in'ards of the harmonium, all contri-
bute to the maintenance of its nefarious carcass. And it
will not be suppressed. Every man's hand is against it
THE RATS. 17
and still it prospers. It sets at defiance gins and traps, cats
and dogs and poisonous pills.
Now, all these are good, but in my opinion it is better to
take the field in person against them. When I see the tail
of a rat disappear behind a box, I quietly shut all doors
and windows and stop up all holes, then arm myself with a
good supple cane, and advance upon the foe. Its present
situation is a good one. A sweeping stroke between the
box and the wall can scarcely miss. But it does not wait.
At the first sight of me it makes for the hole it gnawed in
the door, and finds it stuffed with a towel ! While it is tug-
ging like a maniac at the towel there is a chance ; but canes
miss rats amazingly, and it is off to each window and door
in turn. As soon as it has grasped the idea that escape is
impossible it changes tactics. Driven with difficulty from
one trunk, it dives under another. There is nothing for it
now but hot pursuit ; press it hard ; rats are short-winded.
It soon gets blown, and rests behind the box again. A
sweeping whack with the whole length of the cane ought
to annihilate it, but only breaks a leg, and an able-bodied
rat can always spare a leg or two, so it is away as nimble
as ever. But the blow has had a good moral effect. It gives
up the Fabius Cunctator strategy, and the chase becomes
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
exciting. From box to box it scurries, with me at its heels
raining blows on the floor and choking myself with dust.
Then it is up the bed-post, down again, up the book-case
and behind Webster, where it regains its wind before I can
dislodge it, from shelf to shelf like a monkey, across to the
almirah with one bound, and then nowhere ! I mount a
chair and reconnoitre the top, lay my face to the ground
and explore the bottom, peer behind, but it simply is not.
While it was sitting behind Webster it thought on a tunnel
which it had excavated last year through the back of the
almirah. After much pondering I decide to open the al-
mirah, and sure enough it bounces out of a nest of neckties,
and, lighting on my foot, clambers like a lamplighter up
my pantaloons, happily on the outside. An agonized spring
which an adult kangaroo would be proud of, flings it to the
middle of the floor, and ere it can recover itself and reach
any shelter, I swoop like a falcon on my prey, and a dex-
terous flick with the point of the cane rolls it over. The
great malefactor's course is run, and the convulsive wagging
of its tough ropy tail makes a rap, rap, rap on the ground.
This is royal sport and satisfies many cravings of a nature
snubbed and kept down by civilization. No doubt civiliza-
tion is a good thing for man as a moral and intellectual
THE RATS. 21
being, but it is very hard on the genius of the body, the
spirit which had its halcyon days before the pithecoid
monkey developed into the anthropoid ape, and the anthro-
poid ape looked higher. And the games and sports which
we devise for our relief all fail in this, that they have no
worthy end in view. The means is itself the end, an ar-
rangement which is always demoralizing. A man who us:s
dogs to worry useful jackals and harmless hares to death is
not only doing no good, but he must be case-hardened if he
feels no gnawings of remorse when the deed is done and
the excitement is over. But remorse will be hungry indeed
before it gnaws a man for taking the life of a rat. In rat-
hunting the end is a positive virtue, and the means are
most laudable, more humane certainly than cats and
poisons, and infinitely more so than that instrument of
cruelty, the abominable iron rat-trap.
But, if it is a virtue to make war on the rat, it is none
to confound friend and foe, and offer upon the altar of
ignorance and prejudice another little animal which, with
palpitating heart and tremulous nose, ventures into the
house in these cold, wet nights. I refer, of course, to the
musk-rat. " The unfortunate nobleman who now languishes
in Dartmoor jail " ha. not been more ill-used and mis-
22 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
represented than this poor creature. It is not a rat at all,
neither Mus this nor Mus that, but Sorex coerulescens, which
means the heavenly shrew. And, if it is not a rat in name,
it is still less that villainous thing in nature. It wants none
of your provisions, and wanton destruction is not in all its
thoughts ; its sole purpose in the house is a friendly one,
videlicet, to hunt the loathsome cockroach and the pestiferous
beetle. It is charged with diffusing an unpleasant odour,
and there is undoubtedly some truth in this ; it can be very
unsavoury at times. But that is not its normal state ; it is
the fruit of vexation of spirit. An unpersecuted musk-rat
is most inoffensive. In short, that quality which brings the
meek little animal into such bad odour, so to speak, is the
defensive armour with which Nature has provided it, and
every time you hunt a musk-rat you justify the provision.
Lastly, one small fault may well be overlooked in view of
the many amiable virtues that adorn its character. While
the rat, after a night of crime, spends the c'ay in a san-
guinary fracas with its own brothers in the ceiling, and the
mother squirrel has to retire into the woods and bring up
her family in secret, lest their own papa should eat them,
the days of the heavenly shrew are passed in sweet domes-
tic harmony. As night comes on, the pair venture out of
THL RATS. 23
their hole and meander along together, warbling to one
another in gentle undertones. Or perhaps the little ones at
home are growing up, and their mamma brings them out
to see the world. The first-born takes hold of her tail in
its teeth, its tail is grasped by the next, and so on to the
little Benjamin at the end, and thus the whole family, like
a hairy serpent, wriggles away together a sight, I admit,
to make one's flesh creep ; but, looked at in a proper spirit,
it is a moving spectacle, full of moral beauty ; and as for
the callous man who can see no beauty in it and would lift
his unfeeling stick to sever such a " family tie," I say with
" Vetabo sub iisdem
Sit trabibus, fragilemve mecum
Sol vat phaselum."
DO mosquitos bite ? The
question has exercised me
much, and it is painfully clear
to my mind that modern
science has made it more
difficult to answer than it was before. Formerly it was
thought right to believe that everything in nature had a
definite use. To be was not end enough ; there must be a
raison cCetre; and the reason, should, if possible, have to do
with the welfare of man, who, as everybody knew, was the
Lord of Creation. Holding this faith we could explain
mosquitos in many ways. Mr. Phil Robinson is, perhaps,
guilty of flippancy when he asserts that they were intended
to teach man humility ; but there is much in favour of
THE MOSQUITO. 25
another view to which I leaned, until modern thought upset
me, namely, that these and several other little animals,
which ought not to be named in refined society, were
designed to promote a healthful use of Nature's currycomb
among a large class of people who are too much accus-
tomed to regard water only as a means of quenching thirst.
And, if all our explanations were proved to be wrong, it
would only show that we have still to discover the right
one, and we should be gainers in humility. But now Hux-
ley has abolished teleology, and Darwin has proved to the
satisfaction of every one who is disposed to agree with him,
that no characteristic in any animal can be explained by
its being beneficial to some other animal ; for only those
peculiarities are maintained and developed which are
advantageous in some way to the animal itself, and give
it a pull over others in the struggle for existence. And so
we are plunged in a mire of perplexity. For what possible
gain can it be to a mosquito to gorge itself on my life-blood
until its wings almost refuse to carry it, and it can just sail
slowly, like some great crimson balloon, with the wind,
positively inviting me to imbrue my hands in my own blood,
and avenge the wrongs of countless nights of woe ? Insects,
as every one knows, or ought to know, require no food in
2 6 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
their winged state at least, the flimsier kinds do not, such
as flies, and gnats, and butterflies. They have done all the
serious business of life, the eating and growing, in their
grub state, and when they dress up and come out into the
world, to enjoy a few days of vanity before they die, they
have no proper mouths, only a sort of tube for sipping light
refreshments. But supposing that mosquitos do require
nourishing food, the great difficulty still remains. Why can
they not bleed us painlessly ? Why make us pay fees in
anguish for the operation ? It can be no advantage to them
that we wince and jump when they sit down to dine. Who
would thank anybody for inventing a pump which should
tickle the earth so horribly as to bring on earthquakes when-
ever one went for water ? The traveller who invented the
original vampire bat understood matters better, and made the
horrid monster fan its victim gently with its ample wings, that
he might the more sweetly sleep on into the sleep of death.
So, from the Darwinian standpoint, mosquitos ought to have
developed some sweet narcotic fluid, some natural rosalpinus>
which would produce the most exquisitely pleasurable titil-
lations, and make the fat man hasten to resign his back, sore
vexed with prickly heat, to their soothing ministrations, and
his soul to sweetest dreams. I hold that Darwin, weighed
THE MOSQUITO. 27
in the balance against the mosquito, is found wanting.
Another minor sub-difficulty is that mosquitos are always
most venomous where they can scarcely ever have a chance
of biting in pestilential swamps and jungles inhabited
by such impenetrable pachyderms as the wild elephant and
the rhinoceros. Among rank weeds in deserted Bombay
gardens, too, there is a large, speckled, unmusical mosquito,
raging and importunate and thirsty, which will give a new
idea in pain to any one that visits its haunts.
To come to the description and history of the animal,
the mosquito is not the same as the buffalo, though it is
said that a young lady who had just landed in India fled
from a herd of those peaceful domestic antediluvians and
asked if they were not the dreadful mosquitos of which she
had heard such tales. The mosquito is only a little insect
with two wings and six legs. The wings are for flying with,
and four of the legs for walking with. The two long hind
legs are connected with the suction apparatus and are of
the nature of pump-handles. Of course, the anatomist, pry-
ing with his microscope, will deny this ; but the microscope
comes from micros, small, and scopein, to see, and no one
who relies on it can grasp a large idea. Anybody may
satisfy himself by watching a mosquito at work and noting
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
the action of the pump-handles. The suction apparatus
looked at microscopically, contains a whole set of surgical
instruments : looked at large-mindedly, it is simply the tube
of an artesian well, and is used in the cam j way. When a
mosquito settles on you it pricks up its ears for r, moment,
RAGING AND IMPORTUNATE AND THIKSTY.
to mr.ke sure that there is no danger near, and then waiKs
about slcwl; , probing for a soft place. When it has found
one, it fixes the tube and begins to drive it home. Then is
the moment to smite it.
Mosquitos ar: of many sorts. There are common grey
ones ; and small, speckled, sl.rill-voiced ones which sing an
overture and then tap the outside edge of your ear ; and
THE MOSQUITO. 29
large droning ones, which are found, like the best mangoes
only in Mazagon and some other parts of Bombay ; and
queer ashy ones, which stand on their heads and bore into
you like a bradawl.
As to its history, all the " promise and potency " of the
future mosquito lay at first in a minute egg floating on dirty
water. From this came forth an execrable shape, bristling
all over with hairs, breathing through its tail, and progress-
ing by a series of wriggles, bringing its head and tail together
first on one side, and then, with a jerk, on the other. So,
by making ends meet, it twisted itself through life for a
fortnight or more, feeding day and night on the impurities
of the water and growing prodigiously. Then it floated for
a while, eating nothing, but meditating a change. When at
last internal arrangements were completed, the skin at the
back of its head split open, and the mosquito looked out,
snuffed the fresh air, drew itself cautiously out of its case,
and glided gaily over the water on a boat made of its own
skin. Then it sailed away into the air and joined the throng
" As th'ck and numberless
As motes that people the sunbeams,
Or likest hovering dreams."
Then, as dawn began to light up the eastern sky, they
swarmed in through every open window, and took shelter
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
among the folds of hanging coats, inside boots, in the pocket
of the dressing-gown, in the chambers of the sola topee ;
and there they are ! And what is to be done ?
Well, by dusting and sweeping, and burning incense and
folding all hanging clothes, you can make them very un-
happy ; and, for your own protection, you can make your-
self utterly abominable to them by anointing your hands
and face with toilet vinegar, or even eau-de-Cologne. But it
is clear that the thing to do would be to come upon the
sanguinary hordes in their earlier stages, and nip them in
the bud, cut them off while they are only mosquitos in posse,
not in esse. And this can be done, for, when a house is
much plagued with them, it may be set down for certain
that there is a factory on the premises. The first thing to
do, then, is to make a tour of inspection. Go to the back of
the kitchen and see if there is not a small cistern, or a tub
sunk in the ground, connected by a short pipe through the
wall with the arena of all Domingo's professional operations,
a veritable Dead Sea, where baleful streams run in, but no-
thing runs out. There, in the inky fluid, on which a filmy
scum floats, whose rainbow radiance is broken only by the
spluttering of the bills of happy ducks, you will find them
in writhing swarms, sixteen to the superficial inch, fast
ripening towards malefaction ; and you may spill their lives
not by tens or hundreds, but by quarts and gallons.
But all means of prevention are more or less disap-
pointing, for after all it is ordained that mosquitos shall
bite us. What is wanted, then, is
some cure, or antidote, for the bite
and there is only one, of which
I am the original discoverer. A
bigoted old Brahmin, who never
tired of unmasking the inherent
badness of everything English,
once admitted to me in a moment
of candour that in one point we
were better than his countrymen.
" If a Hindoo," he said, " invents
or discovers anything, he keeps it secret and makes
all the profit he can out of it, and when he dies, it
dies with h^m ; but if an Englishman makes a dis-
covery, he publishes it and the world gets the benefit."
So I will divulge my antidote for mosquito-bites. It is
inoculation. The idea is curiously supported by analogy,
for Dr. E. Nicholson, in his book on snakes, speaking of the
confidence with which Burmese snake-charmers handle the
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
terrible OpJiicpha&us claps, says that they certainly have
some remedy, and he believes it is simply gradual inocula-
tion with cobra poison. Such experience as we have points
in the same direction. The griffin gets up in the morning
with his face like a graveyard, a monument for every bite ;
but as his blood becomes accustomed to the poison, these
violent effects cease. Probably the remedy has never been
fully tried, but its success is certain. So, if any one is much
tormented by mosquitos, all he has to do is to dispense
with curtains and let them bite him freely for a year, or
two or three years (I am not certain how long it will
take), until his constitution becomes mosquito-proof, and
then for the rest of his days he may defy the most trumpet-
tongued and asp-envenomed of the bloodthirsty race.
MOSQUITOS IN POSSE
NE peculiar feature cf life in India is
the way we are beset by lizards, and
nobody seems to notice it. We all
come out to this country more or less
prepared to find scorpions in our slippers,
snakes twined about our hair, and white ants
eating up the bed in one night, so that in the
morning we are lying on the floor ; but nobody
warns us to expect red-throated hobgoblins
clambering about the trellis, and snaky green
lizards prying about the verandah at noonday,
and little geckos visiting the dinner-table at
night. Perhaps, because they are not very pestilent enemies
nor very useful friends, shallow-minded people do not think
34 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
them worth notice. But a contemplative spirit feels that it
would starve without many things which are of no ttse in
the gross sense of the word, and there is much matter for
chastening meditation in lizards. If the whole race of them
could be wiped out of the earth to-day, exchange would
neither rise nor fall, but has not the poet said,
" M^n are we, and must grieve when even the shade
Of that which once was great has passed away " ?
And lizards once were great. They were the aristocracy of
the earth. Not in the last century, nor in the Middle Ages,
nor even when the Memnonium was in all its glory. In fact
the whole of the "Address to a Mummy" feels like a toy
sentiment to a mind which has been wandering away into
the golden age of lizards. From that distance of time the
score or two of paltry centuries that may have passed since
the mummy dropped a halfpenny in Homer's hat make a
point like one of the fixed stars. They do not subtend any
angle on the retina of the imagination. What a strange
world there must have been on this same earth of ours in
those days ! Did mosquitos as large as sparrows, with
voices like tin trumpets, infest the swampy wastes and
torment the drowsy inegalosaunts, and did the winged
lizards, like flying foxes, hawk them in the dusky forest ?
Did the mild ignanodon, when it has done browsing on a
tuft of maidenhair fern about the size, say, of a clump of
bamboos, turn round and waddle away into a hole, as its
successors do to-day on the plains of Guzerat ? As I see
them hurrying to their burrows at the sight of me, and
think that possibly when the world was young I might
have been glad to rest from the heat of the sun under the
shadow of one of their mountainous ancestors, my mind
goes back to my ancient Goanese cook. He was only a
maislry, or more vulgarly a bobberjee, yet his sonorous name
recalled the conquest of Mexico, or the doubling of the
Cape. The mouldy beaver in which he went to church
seemed to know it, and clung desperately to a worn-out
respectability. I could not pass any of those ruins of
ancient forts or massive churches which lie around Bombay
without feeling as if he were murmuring to himself quorum
pars magnet fui. And the fact was that he was thinking of
a savoury curry for my breakfast !
The lizards likewise are the wreck of a great past. They
had their day ; perhaps they abused it ; at any rate the great
unresting wheel has gone round, and that which was up is
down. The commonalty do not seem to feel it much.
36 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
They have parted even with pride, and make the most of
their circumstances. But all the descendants of great fami-
lies, the crocodiles and alligators and even iguanas, are a
prey to melancholy. They maintain a dignified spiritless-
ness which is affecting. Who can look on that anachronism,
an iguana (I mean the large monitor which Europeans in
India generally call an iguana, sometimes a guano !) basking,
four feet long, on a sunny bank, without
" Revolving in his altered soul
The various turns of chance below " ?
It may well be sad when man, upstart of yesterday, is
watching his opportunity to catch it, that he may eat its
flesh and make tomtoms of its skin, tomtoms which for many
a night to come shall give birth to the din of that music
which "hath charms to soothe the savage breast" and
horribly to excruciate the civilized one. The iguana, or
gorpud, has been put to other uses, too, and has a name in
history. The old tutelary Brahmin of Singhur, if he is still
alive, delights to show sahibs the spot where the Marathas
tied a strong light rope round the loins of a huge gorpud,
and waited until it had clambered up the rocky face of the
fortress and wedged itself into some rugged fissure ; then
THE LIZARDS. 37
while it clung as they can cling, one sinewy mountaineer
after another bound his waistcloth more tightly round him,
and climbed the rope in silence, laughing in his sleeve at the
astonishment in store for the vigilant Mussulman garrison.
Like all races whose greatness is a memory, lizards are
sensual, passionate, and cruel. Sensual first : a lizard lives
to eat, and there never seems to be any time in its life when
it is not looking out for food. And passionate next. Two
sparrows will squabble and scuffle until they get so inex-
tricably mixed that, when they separate, it is quite an open
question whether they have got their own legs and wings,
or each other's ; and two ants will fight until they die in each
other's jaws, and a third comes up and carries off the whole
jumble for the food of the community; but for an example
of devouring rage go to the big garden lizard, which the
children in India call a blood-sucker. See it standing in
the middle of the road, its whole face and throat crimson
with wrath and swollen to the bursting-point with pent-up
choler, its eyebrows raised, and its odious head bobbing up
and down in menace of vengeance. And the explanation of
the whole matter is that another smaller lizard snapped up
an ant on which it had set its heart. Nothing will appease
it now but to bite off the offender's tail. This will do the
38 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
latter no harm, for a lizard's tail is a contrivance for the
saving of its life, planned on exactly the same principle as
the faithful Russian slave who threw himself to the wolves
that were pursuing his master's sledge. I once saw a fierce
scorpion catch a lizard by the tail and plunge its sting into
the wriggling member; but before the venom could circulate
to the lizard's body, it detached its tail and ran away grin-
ning. The scorpion went on killing the old tail, and the
lizard began growing a new one.
This was one of those little house lizards, called geckos,
which have pellets at the ends of their toes. They are not
repulsive brutes, like the garden lizard, and I am always on
good terms with them. They have full liberty to make use
of my house, for which they seem grateful, and say chuck,
chuck, chuck. They are low-minded little plebeians, no
doubt, and can see nothing in a satin-white moth with
vermilion trimmings except wholesome victuals ; but one
must put up with that, for they do good service. At this
season, when the buzzing pestilence of beetles and bugs is
on us, they tend towards embonpoint, but they bate nothing
of their energy, nor seem to get near the limits of their
capacity. They hold that the Bombay Gas Company was
established for their accommodation, and there is scarcely
4 o THE TRIBES ON MY I-RONTJER.
a gas lamp but has its guardian gecko, fat with moths and
mantises, dragon-flies grasshoppers, crickets, and cock-
roaches, even hard-shelled beetles, but not blister-beetles.
These would irritate their little insides, for the sake of
which alone they live.
The only genteel member of the family is the green lizard.
Its manners are graceful and unassuming, and its external
appearance is always in harmony with the best taste, while
it does not betray that ceaseless hankering for provisions
which stamps the rest of them. It is timid and retiring, but
as the sun grows hot in the forenoon you will hear it rust-
ling among the leaves (virides rubum dimovere lacertce),
then it will come softly up the steps, behind the calladium
pots and along the wall of the verandah, and perhaps, if you
keep very quiet, into the drawing room. It does little good,
eats a few ants, perhaps, but it enjoys itself and does no
harm, and I have always had a leaning towards the green
I do not know whether I should class the chameleon
among my frontier tribes, for the only one about my terri-
tories was born near Ahmednugger and is a state prisoner
with me like Yakoob Khan. His residence is a canary cage
with green muslin all round it to keep in the flies which I
provide for his maintenance. Here, clutching a twig, as if
he were the fruit that grew on it, he lives his strange life of
motionless meditation. Till a late hour in the morning he
sleeps, sounder than a ramoosee or choivkeydar ; nothing will
wake him. At this time his hue is a watery greenish yellow.
When the sun begins to warm the world, then colour slowly
comes back to his reviving limbs, and he appears in a dark
Through the day this is his livery, varied sometimes with
specks of white and sometimes with streaks ; but when the
afternoon shoots its slanting rays through the bars of his
cage, surrounding him with chequered light and shade, then
he catches the same thought and comes out in vivid green
with leopard spots upon his sides. Then, when night comes
on, the same deathlike paleness again overspreads his tor-
pid frame. Philosopher as he is, the chameleon requires food,
and since he is too slow to go after it, he brings it to him.
As his ball-and-socket eyes roll this way and that way, one
of them marks a large white butterfly walking up the bars
of his cage, and he forms a purpose to eat it. He unwinds
his tail, then relaxes the grasp of his broad palms one at a
time (for he is extremely nervous about falling and breaking
his bones), and so he advances slowly along the twigs until
he is within six inches of his prey. Then he stops, and there
is a working in his swollen throat; he is gumming his tongue.
At last he leans forward, and opens his preposterous mouth,
and that member protrudes like a goose-quill steeped in
white birdlime. For a moment he takes aim, and then, too
quick for eye to follow it, the horrid instrument has darted
forth, and returned like elastic to its place, and the gay
butterfly is being crunched and swallowed as fast as any-
thing can be swallowed when tongue, jaws, and throat are
smeared with viscid slime. But this part of the process
is inconceivably vulgar, and we may well leave the chame-
leon to himself till it is over.
THE DE GAMA.
GORY battle has been fought in
the bath-room, and the field of
carnage is appalling to look
upon. For some days past, cu-
rious, crabbed-looking, reddish-
brown ants have been gathering
in a lump about the mouth of a
small hole in the floor. This
means always that a new colony is to be founded. I have
no objection to colonies in the abstract, but to see a teacup-
ful of crusty little brutes heaped up on the floor not a yard
from your tub has a tendency to make you feel uneasy, so
I endeavoured to discourage them by dashing the " tin pot "
full of water at them and sweeping the whole body away in
a flood. But any one who engages in a battle of obstinacy
with ants should practise to suffer defeat gracefully, for he
will have to suffer it. They put me to the trouble of keeping
up this tin-pot practice for three or four days, without letting
me feel that I had put them to any trouble at all. Swept
away into the jaws of destruction, they were back again in
an hour with a few more. At length the emigrants appeared,
great lubberly things, fully an inch and a half long, with
wings, and not a notion of how to use them. The room was
soon full of them, crawling over each other, or making blun-
dering essays at aeronautics, which inevitably ended in a
butt against the wall. This brought on a fit of brain fever, in
which they spun on their heads like teetotums, or went sliding
with a buzz-z-z! along the floor. Then the squirrels got scent
of the affair and came in to munch them up, nd the lizards
swallowed them, and the hamal swept the residue out to the
chickens. So the colonizing scheme collapsed. To return,
however, to my story. There is in the same room a settle-
ment of those large black ants which come into the house
at this season and garrison cool damp corners. They are
truculent, hot-blooded ruffians, and will stomach no provo-
cation, so it is little wonder that the two parties came into
collision, especially at a time of such national excitement
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
as always attends the ceremony of seeing an emigrant party
off. The battle began in the evening, and I was there as
special correspondent for the Woihl. The black ants were
few in number, but
terrible in their
fought singly. I
watched in particu-
lar one of gigantic
build and fearful as-
pect, as it charged
and charged again
through the seeth-
ing masses of the
enemy, leaving a
trail of writhing or
in its course.
THE FIGHTING GLADIATOR. At last its OWtt
/ate came. In a heedless moment it stumbled over
a wounded foe, whose jaws at once closed, and closed
for ever, on its leg. Reeling backwards, it fell into the very
midst of three or four more, and hope of escape was
THE ANTS. 47
gone for ever. They threw themselves on it like demons,
and though it rolled on its back amputating and decapitat-
ing until limbs and heads and headless trunks strewed the
ground, all the fury of despair was of no avail against the
numbers that continued to heap themselves on it. At length
its struggles grew feebler and feebler, its ponderous jaws
opened and shut slowly, like some animate rat-trap sighing
for rats, and its life ebbed away. The scene was Homeric,
and I felt like breathless Jupiter watching Hector on his
fatal day, when he felt the movings of pity, yet let fate take
its course. This was an epitome of the whole struggle. It
must have raged all night, but neither side got a victory.
In the morning each was in quiet possession of its own
ground, and the fruits of the battle were many hundred
corpses and a moral.
Solomon has advised us, or most of us, to go to the ant
and consider her ways, and it is good to follow his advice.
Her ways repay consideration. But it is of vital importance
that we go to the right sort of ant. What a lesson, for
instance, in malice and all uncharitableness would one learn
who went to the red ant which infests the f0rrf*ufo-bushes
on Matheran and Khandalla, or on the slopes of Elephanta
Island ! Malice, hate, fury and fierceness, wrath and rancour,
48 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
acerbity, and, in fact, every feeling which is out of harmony
with " sweet reason," seems to have been boiled down, and
its quintessence extracted to compose the blood which
courses angrily through the hot veins of this creature. As
you pant up the red-dusty path, startling the jocund hill
bulbul, with dandy topknot and crimson whiskers, from its
breakfast among the berries, the red ant hears you afar off
and hurries along the outermost branch, to the very point of
the very longest leaf, and there stands on tiptoe, dancing
with impatience to bury its jaws in your flesh. And what a
knowledge it has of our geography ! What an instinct for
detecting tender places !
Industry is not to be learned from these. I believe they
lead idle lives and live on the milk of their flocks and herds.
In the month of May, when the cotrinda-bush is in fruit,
I have often noticed with pain that the choicest berries were
in possession of a garrison of red ants, which had enclosed
them in a sort of chamber by drawing the surround ing leaves
together and joining them with some spider's-web fabric
which they spin. This is not for the sake of the fruit. They
are not frugivorous. It is for the sake of the downy white
aphides, or plant-lice, on the fruit. These aphides yield a
sort of nectar, which is as delicious to an ant as camel's milk
to an Arab. But other ants are content to milk the unre-
sisting little cattle whenever they find them ; the red ants
The ant to which Solomon sent sluggards was plainly the
agricultural ant which lives in the fields. A space of ground
round the mouth of its hole, about as wide as the hat of a
padre whose views are just beginning to get ritualistic, is
always cleared, like a threshing-floor, and covered thick
with the husks and chaff of the grain stored inside. These
holes are the gateways of great cities, and from them broad
well-beaten roads lead away in all directions to other
distant cities. Late and early these roads are thronged
with crov/ds of busy ants. As I sit and watch them on a
sunny morning, the primitive ryot stops shrieking at his
perverse byles, and for a moment puzzles his foggy brain to
guess what I am doing. He believes I am on the scent of
hid treasure, but his more intelligent neighbour says I am
simply illustrating the inscrutable ways of the sahib.
I confess I lean towards Sir John Lubbock's view that
ants are gifted with reason like ourselves. There is no
objection to explaining the wonderful things they do by
instinct, but only a new meaning will have to be invented
for the word. The instinct which a weaver-bird shows in
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
building its wonderful nest belongs plainly to a different
genus from the quality which enables ants to "vote, keep
drilled armies, hold slaves, and dispute about religion," as
Mark Twain says they do, or even to talk. They certainly
do talk about as freely as we do. I once killed a centipede,
and very soon a foraging ant found it. He, or rather she,
surveyed it carefully, estimated the horse-power requisite to
move it, and then started off homewards. Meeting another
ant, she stopped it and said something which, for want of a
microphone, I did not hear, and hurried on. The second
ant made straight for the centipede and found it without any
trouble. Now nothing can be plainer than that the first ant
told the second where to go. *' Glorious windfall ! Dead
leviathan about two miles from here. Keep straight on till
you come to a three-cornered pebble, then turn to the left
and you will come upon three grains of sand and a straw.
Climb the straw and you will see it. It is big enough to be
seen a mile away." Well, the second ant, when it had
found the centipede, did not hurry home. It just sat down
and waited till the first one returned, with a vast gang of
labourers ; then each seized a leg of the centipede, and soon
the stupendous mass was moving along merrily.
But not only has each species of ant a language 3n which
THE ANTS. 51
it can talk to other ants of the same species, but each nest,
or clan, has clearly its own brogue; for an ant knows at once
whether another ant belongs to its own nest or not. The
ants of one nest murder those of another : it is a point of
honour with them.
There is no mode of life that men have tried which one
race of ants or another is not pursuing to-day. Besides
those which are agriculturists and herdsmen, some keep
slaves to do everything for them, some live by hunting or
plunder, while others quarter themselves on us and subsist
by confounding meum and tuum. These last, of course, con-
cern us most. About Bombay there are two Mnds of them,
one black and the other brown. They are both small, and
most people confound them, but in nature they are antipodal.
There is not any figure or simile which can even dimly
shadow forth the extent of their oppositeness. Chalk and
cheese are the same article by comparison. That ignorance
should prevail on this point, even among persons who have
undertaken the responsibility of housekeeping, is distressing,
for it borders on criminality. In a healthier state of public
opinion a young lady would not be considered " eligible '
who could not converse freely on the difference between the
black and the brown ant. That difference in its essence is
52 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
this, that the one is tolerable and the other intolerable. If
one must go more into detail, the brown ant is thickset,
heavy, slow and phlegmatic. It will eat, more or less, every-
thing in the house except, perhap - kerosine oil. It will gnaw
a cold leg of mutton, carry excavations into the heart of a
loaf of bread, dig a tunnel through the cork of an olive-oil
bottle, for the sake of getting drowned in the oil, and orga-
nize a regular establishment for the work of carrying off the
seed in the canary's cage. And, once in a thing, it cannot be
got out. Add to this that it smells unsavoury and tastes
nasty, and you have the brown ant. The black ant is
slender, nimble, and sprightly. Its chief business in the
house is to remove dead cockroaches, crickets, &c., and
where I am there is generally a plethora of dead cock-
roaches, crickets, &c. All day foragers scour the house
in search of these. They do tamper with the sugar some-
times, and, in fact, show a leaning towards sweets in
general; but they do not spoil what they cannot eat.
They do not stick, as a rule, in the jelly, nor drown them-
selves in the ginger syrup. Lastly, there is a feud between
them and the brown ants, and the two will scarcely live
in the same house. Clearly, then, it is sound policy to
make an ally of the black and discourage the brown.
The latter is not an easy task, but I can recommend dropping
kerosine oil into their holes.
The large black ant, already mentioned, is more or less a
house ant also. I do not like it. The way it cocks its tail
over its head is offensive, and it has a cantankerous temper.
Then its officiousness and consequential airs are simply
insufferable. It is perpetually quarrelling with a straw or
getting insulted by a feather.
Of all the various species of these wonderful little beings
there is not one, I think, that impresses you more than the
hunting ant. It is, unfortunately, not a house ant. It just
invades the house at times, does its short sharp work, and
is gone again. In these expeditions they always march in
column, three abreast, with rapid steps and terrible earnest-
ness of purpose. Not one wanders or lags behind. Sugar
entices them not ; stores have no attractions for them.
Straight as General Roberts they make for some ancient
trunk in whose chinks and crannies the outlawed cock-
roach and overgrown cricket have long skulked secure
from my avenging slipper. Now their hour is come. With
the rapidity of perfect system a guard is stationed at each
hole and crevice, and then the main body of ants pours
itself into the box. Then begins a panic. The cockroach,
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
wild with terror, rushes headlong to the nearest outlet,
and is collared by the guards and stung to death almost
before it has time to realize the situation. The frantic
crickets break into coruscations of agility which would
enable one who has never seen an aurora borealis to
realize it. But all is vain. Within a quarter of an hour
the ants are marching out as they marched in, three
abreast, with rapid steps ; but now, with drooping limbs
and trailing antennae, cockroach and cricket, cricket and
cockroach, follow the long column in funeral procession.
ONCE distinguished himself by
making a remark about Dry-
den. He said that nothing
ought to be written on the
illustrious poet's tomb except
the single word Dryden, since
to those who knew him that
word would convey the whole, and to those who knew him
56 TJ1E TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
not no words could convey more. So I think I might stop
with the title of this paper
bus. What is there that can be said about them ? Have
they not sufficiently cast a shadow on our lives, left their
black mark on our pleasantest memories, yea, even their
scars on our dispositions and tempers ? Yet it is impossible
to pass them over. I can call up no vision of Indian life
without crows. Fancy refuses to conjure up the little
bungalow at Dustypore in a happy state of crowlessness.
And if the mind wanders away to other times and distant
scenes, the crow pursues it. It is sitting impudently in the
hotel window, it is walking without leave in at the open door
of the travellers' bungalow, it is promenading in front of the
tent, under the mango tope. Only when in thought we go
back to happy rambles away from the hum of men,
" Where things that own not man's dominion dwell,
And mortal foot hath ne'er or rarely been,"
is the horrid phantom absent On the breezy hill-top, with
its scented grass, its ferns and wild flowers, down in ths
solemn ravine, where the " Whistling schoolboy " tunes its
mellow throat and the clucking spur-fowl starts away among
the rustling leaves, or over the varied woodland playgrounds
cf the butterfly and bulbul, you meet no crow. The air is
too pure and the calmness too sweet. The crow is a fungus
of city life, a corollary to man and sin. It flourishes in the
atmosphere of great municipalities, and is not wanting in
the odorous precincts of the obscure village innocent of all
Many of our frontier tribes have unpleasant traits of
character, and in some the catalogue of vices is long and
the redeeming virtues are few. But the crow differs from
them all in that it is utterly abandoned. I have never been
able to discover any shred of grace about a crow. And what
aggravates this state of things is the imposture of its out-
ward appearance. It affects to be respectable and entirely
ignores public opinion, dresses like a gentleman, carries
itself jauntily, and examines everything with one eye in a
way which will certainly bring on an eye-glass in time, if
there is a scrap of truth in the development theory. But
for this defiance of shame one might feel disposed to make
allowances for the unhappy influences of its life ; for, in
truth, it would be strange if a crow developed an amiable
character. Even a consistent career of crime must be less
5 8 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
demoralizing than the aimless vagabondage by which it
maintains itself. It begins the day by watching the veran-
dah where you take your chota hazree, in hope to steal the
toast. When that hope is disappointed it wings its way to
the bazaar, where it contends with another crow for the re-
mains of a dead bandicoot flattened by a passing cart-wheel.
Then, recollecting that the breakfast-hour is near, it hurries
back, not to lose its chance of an eggshell or a fish-bone. On
the way it notices a new-fledged sparrow trying its feeble
wings, and, pouncing down ruthlessly, it carries the helpless
little sinner away to a convenient bough, where it sits and
pulls it to pieces and affects not to hear the pitiful screams
of the heartbroken parents. Later on it is watching a little
stream of water by the roadside and plucking out small
fishes as they pass, or it is vexing a frog in a paddy field,
or it has spied a swarm of flying ants and is sitting down
with a mixed company to supper. For another instance,
take the following which I myself witnessed, and say if any-
body could have a hand in such a transaction and preserve
his self-respect. A large garden lizard had wandered un-
wisely far from its tree, when two crows observed it and saw
their advantage. They alighted at once and introduced
themselves, like a couple of card-sharpers. Then the lizard
also took in the situation, and, wheeling about, made for the
nearest trees. " Not so fast," quoth one of the crows, and
with three sidelong hops, caught the tip of its tail and
pulled it back again. Then the lizard reddened to the ears
with offended dignity, and swelling like the frog in the fable,
squared up for a fight ; for lizards are no cowards. But the
crows had not the least intention of fighting. They re-
mained as cool as cucumbers and merely took up positions
on opposite sides of the lizard. The advantage of this
formation was that, if it presented its front to the one, it had
to present its tail to the other, and so, as often as it charged,
it was quietly replaced on the spot from which it started.
Now, to be continually making valiant rushes forward and
continually getting pulled back by your tail must be very
discouraging, and after half an hour or so the lizard was
evidently quite sick of the situation. But as its spirits sank
the crows' spirits rose. Their familiarities grew more and
more gross, they pulled it about, poked it in the ribs, cawed
in its very face and finally turned it over on its back, with
its white breast towards the sky, and were preparing to
carve it, when suddenly the squirrel gave a shrill warning,
a panic seized the hens, and the two miscreants had just
time to dart aside, one this way and one that, as a kite, with
whirlwind swoop, dashed between them and bore away the
lizard in its talons. They stared after it with a gape of
" b nd my internal spirit cut a caper,"
as the poet sublimely says, for I could not have slept at
night if those crows had enjoyed their disreputable meal.
I do not know about the Afghans, but a policy of mas-
terly inactivity will not do for the crows. Their peculations
and insolence always extend to the limits of your toleration,
and they keep themselves acquainted with those limits by
experiment. I go in for keeping up my prestige with them.
I shoot a crow once a month or so and hang it up in ter-
rorem. This has such an excellent effect that no crow ever
sits on my window and gives three guttural caws in the
caverns of its throat, with intent to insult, as they do at
other people's houses ; nor are their evening convocations
holden on my roof.
In April and May crows make nests of sticks and line
them with coir, or horsehair abstracted from a mattress, or
even with soda-water wire stolen from the butler's little
hoard ! In these they bring up three or four callow criminals
in their own image. I make all such proceedings penal
6 2 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
about my premises, for the claims of a hungry family will
drive crows to even more reckless wickedness than their
own inbred depravity. They will appropriate hens' eggs,
murder nestling pigeons, attempt the life of the canary, and
every now and then startle you with some entirely new and
Most young things in nature are engaging. We grow
more unlovely as we grow older. What is prettier than a
downy chicken, a precocious kid, a young mouse not an inch
long, or that little woolly image of comfort, an infant rabbit,
when it first shows its round face at the door of its nursery ?
But new-fledged crows are a staring exception to the rule.
They are graceless crudities, with glazed eyes and raw red
throats, which they show you about three times a minute,
when they open their mouth to emit an inane caw. They
should be put to death offhand.
All the above remarks refer of course to the grey-necked
crow. To make them applicable to the large black crow,
they must be discounted ten to fifteen per cent. There is
some sturdiness of character in the black crow ; it is a down-
right, above-board blackguard, and my feelings towards it
have some semblance of respect.
There is yet another species of crow, which has never
been named or described, though it is by no means rare in
Bombay and other towns. It is very likef^ r the common crow,
and might, indeed, pass for that bird, but for two marks by
which it may be distinguished at a glance, viz., a prominent
corky wart, which grows right across the bridge of its nose,
and a certain sense of shame which seems to pervade all its
proceedings. I have written a full account of its appearance
and habits under the name of Corvus corticiger, but I am
deterred from publishing the paper at once by a suspicion
which has crossed my mind that Mukkun, the mussaul, may,
in sportive mood, have manufactured the species out of a
captured common crow and a soda-water cork.
" Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing."
seem to hang
f r o m the
the centre of
and every now
and then it
HI boils over.
The " tongue
of dog " is wanting this morning, and the wing is a sparrow's,
THE BATS. 65
not an owlet's, but the rest of the ingredients seem to be as
per recipe. In these materialistic days it is taken for granted
that the witch in question is a rat ; but that at least is a
delusion. No rat in the flesh could get to a hook situated
in the very middle of a smooth ceiling unless it had wings,
and we have been spared winged rats. I protest in all con-
science they are bad enough with four legs and a. tail. No ;
few eyes have rested on the embodiment of hideousness
from whose foul repast these crumbs have dropped. The
demon bat does not go forth to do its deeds of darkness
until the shades of night are falling, and as soon as
' The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,
Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat
Awake the god of day,"
it retires, like a guilty ghost, to its dark haunt among the
rafters of some deserted godown. But in the small hours
of the morning I have risen, when I heard its jaws at work,
"Feeding like horses when you hear them feed,"
and, quietly shutting the windows, have made it a prisoner,
and in the morning there it was, hanging from the hook, its
hyaena eyes glaring at me and a restless tremor playing over
the thin membrane of its enormous ears. Very microphones
66 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
those ears are, fit to catch the gentlest rustle of the feathers
of a dreaming sparrow. Another pair of little trumpets of
semi-transparent skin, like subordinate ears, rise from the
nose, to gather the faintest odour of the sleeping prey as it
floats past upon the air. To this extraordinary detective
apparatus the demon bat adds a pair of ample wings of the
softest vellum, on which it glides noiseless and ghostlike
among the trees, or up and down the verandah, under the
eaves of the roof. It scents a sparrow asleep, with its head
cosily buried in its wing. The sparrow has a dream, a dread-
ful dream; it starts and raises its head and gives a piercing
shriek, and the curtain falls. The sparrow is now hanging
limp and lifeless from the jaws of the shadowy spec re, which
flits in at the window and up to its favourite hook. In the
morning two wings are lying beside the flower-vase upon the
table, and perhaps a beak, for though the demon bat eats the
head, skull and all, before any other part, it often leaves the
beak. If the hamal is up before his sahib in the morning,
he sweeps the remains away, and no one is a bit the wiser.
That a sparrow's wings should occur on the table does not
strike him as a phenomenon requiring explanation, especially
if he found frogs' feet or a mouse's tail, or the remains of a
little bat, on the same spot the morning before.
THE BATS, 67
The demon bat has a miniature, very much inferior to
itself in size and ugliness, which I hold responsible for the
grasshoppers' legs and wings of death's-head moths which I
find about one particular corner of the dressing-room. I
caught the transgressor once almost flagrante delicto, and
sentenced it to be put under chloroform and examined. On
recovering from the effects of the chloroform it was set free,
for I abhor taking life needlessly. Jerdon puts this and the
demon under different genera, and calls the one Hipposideros
and the other Megaderma. It does not appear to me that
they should be classed among bats at all. They seem rather
to be a sort of incarnations of Satan, and might serve as
models to Gustave Dore illustrating " Paradise Lost"
When we speak of the bat we generally have in mind a
little animal which spends the day in crevices about the
eaves, or in chinks of the window sunshades, squeaking and
quarrelling on a small scale with its neighbour, and at dusk
sallies forth after mosquitos. With its wrinkled face and
small peering eyes it is a type of the race, a very estimable,
inoffensive, and humdrum race. Beyond this in their praise
it would be affectation to go : their virtues are not of the
striking sort. One feels grateful to them, of course, for their
unostentatious labours in keeping down mosquitos, small
68 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
beetles, and flies, but Dr. George Smith could not make a
biography out of them. No animal abhors the honest light
of day more cordially than the common bat. Even Lucifuga
blatta, the cockroach, will creep out from its hiding-place
under the table when it smells that the lid has been left off
the butter-dish ; and as for the owl, that bird of night, I
never saw one yet, any hour of the twenty-four, which had
not a very large round eye fixed on me. But a bat in day-
light feels worse than Hercules when he put on the coat with
which his spouse presented him and suffered prickly heat.
The prophet who says that the people will cast their idols
to the moles and to the bats must have been a naturalist.
Nature furnishes no more striking figure. Terminus and
Priapus will lie neglected and half buried in the earth, ob-
structing the burrowing mole, while the Lares and Penates
will be put away with other rubbish in some old lumber-
room or garret, heavy with the smell of long-unmolested
Catching bats with a butterfly-net and examining them
is a good pastime for cold weather evenings. There are more
kinds of them than I can tell the use of, small ones and
smaller ones, largish ones with yellow breasts, pug-nosed
ones and others with more prominent snouts, some thick
THE BATS. 69
and podgy, and one slim fellow with wings so long that they
have to be folded a dozen times, more or less, before the
animal can accommodate them about its person. This last
is the one which you sometimes see shooting through the
sky at express speed, chattering to itself in a shrill key. It
is not to be caught with butterfly-nets or any such gins.
But after all, what have we to do with these ? Of all the
wild-fowl included under the name of bats, the only one
that really comes into the foreground of Indian life is the
fruit-bat or flying-fox. This animal has what I consider a
handsome face, with large soft eyes, and would not be a
bat at all but for two characteristic points, a strong batty
smell and an insatiable craving for strife. Flying-foxes
carry this last trait further than any others of the tribe.
Considering that they spend the night filling their stomachs
with indigestible green fruits, it is nothing strange that they
should be dyspeptic and disagreeable by morning ; the odd
thing is that, in order to be within quarrelling distance of
each other, they all must needs sleep on one tree, generally
a huge tamarind with accommodation for two or three hun-
dred. Before a dozen have gathered there is a misunder-
standing between two which want the uppermost branch.
" That's my place." " I had it yesterday," You hadn't."
70 THE TRIBES 0V MY FRONTIER.
"I had." "You hadn't." " I had." " Hands off." ''Whom
are you shoving?" Mutual recriminations follow, and from
words they proceed to blows. One is dislodged and flies
round to the other side of the tree, where it is greeted by a
chorus of growls, " No room here ! " but it plumps into the
middle of the objectors, and three lose their hold. Then
the brawl becomes general and ends in a regular fracas.
As the sun grows hot they cool down a little, but the fire is
only smouldering, and may break out again at any time.
These wranglings often lead indeed to the most scandalous
scenes, as every one knows who has lived near a bats' roost-
ing tree. Such trees are not so common about Bombay
as they are up country, because every Goanese cook plots
against the life of the flying-fox.
The bat is one of the unclean birds mentioned in the
iith chapter of Leviticus, which the Jews were for-
bidden to eat, but Pedro rejoices in his Christian liberty,
and reckons it second only to roast pig. He hankers
after even the small fruit-bat, that lesser edition of the
flying-fox, which has such a penchant for the flowers of
the plantain-tree. This animal is not a quarter of the
size of the flying-fox, being only a foot and a half from tip
to tip of the wings, consequently it is easily accommodated
in a birdcage, and makes a pleasant pet. I once caught one
with a net, as it was negotiating a guava to which it had no
right, and in a short time it grew quite tame. When I pre-
sented a peeled plantain at the door of its cage it would
travel along the wires, hanging by its feet and thumb-nails,
and take the fruit out of my hand. Then it wrapped its
wings round the plantain, and, beginning at one end, went
steadily through it. The plantain was as big as itself, but
capacity for food is one of the strong points of the whole
bat family, and there was seldom anything left in the
morning. During the day it enfolded itself in its wings
and slept, hanging by one foot from the top of its cage.
Bats have one lovely virtue, and that is family affection.
I shall never forget a captive family of demon bats which I
once saw, the grim old papa, the mother perhaps a trifle
more hideous, and the half-grown youngster, not quite able
yet to provide for himself. There was something very
touching in the tender attachment to one another of three
such ill-omened objects. Fruit-bats, too, when they go
foraging, never leave the baby at home. It clings to the
mother's breast, and she carries it wherever she goes. A
humane friend of mine has communicated to me, for inser-
tion heie, a very affecting story of a bat which he found,
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
prostrate and bleeding, with a mob of dastardly crows seek-
ing its life. Running to the rescue, he lifted it up, and dis-
covered, under its wings, a helpless little infant, which it
was vainly trying to save from its ruthless persecutors.
The pathos of the story comes to a head at the point where
my humane friend, putting his hand into his trousers pocket,
draws out two annas and gives them to a native lad, charging
him to protect the poor creature and take it to a place of
safety. No one who has any respect for his own feelings
will press the matter further, and inquire what the native
did when he had received the two annas and my humane
friend was gone.
BEES, WASPS, ET HOC GENUS OMNE,
HAT-BOX is surely a
modern invention, a solid
leather hat-box I mean,
with movable fittings, to
allow of little articles
being carried in the sides
of it, and costing a sum
of rupees which I will not dwell
on, because it is a painful sub-
ject. The hat jtself, at least that
variety which demands a box for
^ its accommodation, is a modern
invention, and a fortiori the hat-box must be. Yet it has
already become a necessity of life to a smart-looking me-
76 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
tallic-blue fly which rushes about the house at this season,
jerking its wings in a nervous way. Four times have I
found the keyhole of the box which is the habitation of
my Sunday hat securely stopped up with cement, and four
times have I been obliged to excavate my way into the
lock with a pin, and then to turn the hat-box upside down
(disarranging all the little articles in the sides) and drum
upon the bottom of it till I had shaken out a dozen or two
of spiders, and also the white, blubberlike, limbless grub
for whose necessities the spiders were provided. It may be
objected that any other keyhole, or any hole at all of the
same size, would suit the s dd fly equally well, and I admit
that there is an old bunch of keys lying near the hat-box,
in. which every one of suitable calibre has been stopped up.
There are also holes in the old book-shelf, into which it
was the original intention of the carpenter to have driven
nails, and they have all been engaged by these house-
hunters. Nevertheless, the objection is frivolous, for keys
and book-shelves are themselves comparatively modern
devices, and the great question remains, What did all the
community of wasps, bees, and ichneumon flies do before
we, or, to go further back still, before our Aryan brother
came into the country, and built houses and furnished them
BEES, WASPS, ETC. 77
with all these conveniences ? They availed themselves,
perhaps, of natural holes in trees and rocks. But all the
natural holes there are would not suffice for one in fifty of
them. I suspect the over-population difficulty presses these
tribes very hard, and whenever they find a house, with all its
resources of doors and windows, boxes, padlocks, &c., they
immigrate in shoals, like the heathen Chinee into California.
One finds it can suit itstlf to a nicety in ordinary cupboard
keyholes, another prefers quill pens or rolled-up maps, a
third, with more constructive talent builds itself a wigwam
en the back of the door or under the table, while a fourth
simply forms a burrow in the chunam floor of the bath-room
into which it pokes itself at times, singing in a high key.
Taking them all round, I feel convinced that, if accurate
census returns could be obtained, it would appear that the
hymenopterous population of India had centupled since the
British occupation. It requires no very penetrating mind
to detect the grave issues which may depend on this, at first
sight, trivial result of our rule. Let us consider, as an in-
stance, that same fussy, metallic-blue fly which has been
tampering with my hat-box. When she finds an eligible
hole, roomy enough and yet not too wide at the mouth, she
at once cleans it out and puts it in order, and then proceeds,
7 8 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
with all the energy of her character, to stock it with spiders.
Nothing but spiders will do, and they must be, I understand,
of one particular genus, not web-spiders, nor jumpers, nor
any sort of house spider, but a fierce hairy-legged brute
which lives among grass and runs down its prey. These
she < hunts out, sparing neither age nor sex. She seeks them
in their native haunts, follows them by scent like a blood-
hound, and whenever she comes upon one, large or small, it
is the work of an instant to spring upon its back seize it by
the scruff of the neck, and drive her sting into it. She does
not sting it to death, for it is not intended to die at once ;
she stings judiciously, just injecting so much poison as will
act like an anaesthetic and throw the victim into a comatose
state, in which it may linger on for a week or two, and re-
main fresh and eatable all the time. She feels no remorse.
Remorse has nothing to do with the matter in hand. Her
nest is to be stocked. When a sufficient number of be-
numbed semi-conscious spiders have been huddled together
into the hole, she deposits a single egg in the midst of them,
and then she hies her to a place she wots of where there is
excellent day. She brings pellets of this, and plasters up
the mouth of the hole skilfully, kneading the clay well with
her jaws and forefeet, and singing the while to lighten her
SEES, WASPS, ETC.
labour. Then a coat of whitewash is laid over the clay, and
all her anxiety about that child is at an end; she 'is off in
search of another hole.
Now, there is in my office an ancient chair, reserved for
the use of the lowest-paid clerk, or the abject oomedwar,
who lives by drawing up petitions and hoping for temporary
vacancies. The chair was once cane-bottomed, and though
the cane has long since been replaced by more durable-
wooden boards, the holes through which it was drawn remain,
and every one of them is closed with that peculiar stopper
of whitewashed clay which marks the metallic-blue fly. In
the chair there are nineteen of these holes to a side, or
seventy-six in all. Now, supposing each hole to contain on
an average twenty spiders, large and small, then this one
rickety sitting instrument is the sepulchre of 1,520 crea-
tures, which just a week or two ago were galloping about
among the weeds and grass of the garden, scattering terror
and death. Again, multiplying this number by the appe-
tite per diem of an average hairy legged grass-spider, we
have the number of voracious caterpillars and other insects
whose lives are being spared for the maintenance of this
one seminary of metallic-blue flies. And in all that great
resurrection pie of cold platitudes which constitutes the
80 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
tangible result, the residue found on evaporation, so to
speak, of the Famine Commission, there is no allusion to
this momentous subject]
In making calculations, however, it must be remembered
that all these waspy tribes do not combine to exterminate
grass-spiders. A large fellow of the hornet pattern always
appears dragging along fat green caterpillars, another pre-
fers the smaller caterpillar of a particular kind of moth,
another collects house-spiders, another aphides, another flies,
one is said to stock its nest with honey-bees, and just now
a large red individual owns several extensive burrows in
my floor, in which it is stowing away the carcases of those
ridiculous, long-legged, green, grasshopperish animals which
come about the lamp at night and have a ver}' shrill voice.
I doubt if any two kinds eat the same thing. As little will
any two do the same thing, or do a thing the same way, if
there are two possible ways of doing it. Many kinds build
mud barracks, but no two upon the same plan. The large
red hornet, which chooses a site on the back of the door,
arranges a row of chambers side by side, like sepoys' lines.
It is a coarse workman, and the whole suite of apartments,
when finished, looks like one large dab of mud. Another
builds a single bomb-proof dome, which \\hen you break
BEES, WASPS, ETC. 8 1
into it with a hammer proves to be partitioned into many
compartments. One species has a highly cultivated taste,
and spends much time in giving a finish to its work. It lays
on many coats of paint, ending with a beautiful glossy red
varnish. Then, of those that occupy holes, each has its own
idea. The kinds which use keyholes arrange for one child
in each, but those which patronize reels, quills, and rolled
maps, often have the whole family together one upon the
top of the other, with partitions between to prevent them
eating each other. In this case, of course, the cell first
made is at the bottom and the last at the mouth of the
hole, so that the first-born has all its younger brothers
between itself and liberty. To meet this difficulty, the
bee seems to arrange that the eggs shall hatch in the
opposite order to that in which they were laid, but I am
not quite clear on this point. AH these creatures affect
such prodigious secrecy in their proceedings that it is
difficult to get at the truth.
There is one considerable class of bees which, not liking
the bare walls of the hole, line it with rolled leaves. To
make these cigarettes they require little circular pieces of
leaf, like gun-wads, and where those of this fancy are
common the foliage of your garden is apt to be punched
82 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
into all sorts of striking patterns. I suppose each species
confines itself to one particular kind of leaf. There is no
detail, in short, so insignificant as not to furnish these
mechanical geniuses with an opportunity of displaying
originality. If one lays on mud with its jaws, another will
do it with its feet or antennae. If one, when it secures a
large caterpillar, gets astride it and travels like a rider
on the original velocipede (vide illustration in Webster's
Dictionary), its cousin, not to be like it, will turn round
and back towards its nest, dragging its prey after it.
But any one who wants more instances will find it
pleasant and profitable to collect them for himself. It is
sweet, cxperlo crede, to pry into the private ways of these
little people, and discover the diminutive secrets which
they take such pains to hide. And it is also a most
healthful means of appeasing some erring appetites of the
mind. Wholesomely satisfied with this, I feel no hunger for
any other occult science, nor much thirst for scandal about
my human neighbours. In fact, I glut upon these creatures
the perverse craving which is in us all to know what we
are not meant to know. And any person who is largely
endowed with that talent for research in other people's
concerns, which constitutes a man (or woman, even !) a
BEES, WASPS, ETC. 83
successful gossip, will find much exercise for it in ferreting
out the most sacred secrets of the inner domestic life of
those waspy families -hici colonize his house at this
season of the year. He may peer through their keyholes,
so to speak, and read their private letters, and gratify the
spirit of meanness to the full, without reaping self-debase-
ment as his reward. On the contrary, he will learn many
things which will exercise his best sympathies and call
forth humane emotions. For in these families there is
often disaster and sore bereavement. The home papers
often have some sad story to make public of a romantic
son who has left the parental roof, and is supposed to have
started, with a secondhand revolver, for the prairies of
America, or of a daughter, who went shopping, and has
never been heard of since ; and, if it is doubtful whether
fairies and elves really do take away fat bnbies and leave
starved changelings in their place, it is quite certain that
gipsies do worse, for they steal a child and leave no com-
pensation ; but what are all these to the lot of the un-
suspecting little architect, which falls a victim to the designs
of the idle ichneumon fly ? As she builds her little cottage
of clay, the sinister eye of the ruffian is watching her
operations, and when the place is finished and provisioned,
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER,
and she has gone for the last pellet of mud to barricade
the door, it steps quickly forward and deposits a micro-
scopic egg, which is to blast all the hopes of the fond
parent. Out of that egg a grub will come, which, like
Ahab, will kill, and also take possession ; it will consume
first the provisions in the cell, and then eat up their rightful
owner. Some of the most brilliant insects that come about
the house belong to this class. I mean those bee-like
things clothed from head to foot in armour of burnished
green, excepting only that little patch of red which has
given them the name of ruby- tailed flies. When you see
one of these steadily dogging a wasp, flying when she flies,
and pausing when she pauses, you may know the errand it
is on. In its tragedies, as well as in its comedies, the life
of rational man falls below that of beings which seem
almost too small to afford room for much interest.
" Help me curse
That bottled spider."
WHY should the poor crea-
ture be cursed ? If " bottled "
means bloated, as Shakesperian
commentators say, then wherewith is
it bloated ? With the mosquito that bit
you ; with the fly that sat on the point of
your nose, and returned to the point of your
nose, until five words mis-spelled and symptoms
"^ of temporary insanity obliged you to drop your pen ;
with the bluebottle, which baptized its foul person in the
milk, and crawled out again smeared with cream ; with the
cockroach, which gnawed the kid gloves, or that other one
86 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
which has long lived in the bookcase, and smitten with
leprosy the fresh dark binding of many a good book. I
confess that the way in which many people treat spiders
makes me melancholy. Ladies especially crush them with
slippers, or else, if a pretty timidity is one of their accom-
plishments, they invoke the " boy " to " take away that
fanwur" He picks it up with the points of his five fingers,
as he would a bolus of rice and curry, and throws it out of
the window, a miserable agglomeration of mangled limbs.
Two reasons are given for this : first, that spiders are ugly ;
second, that they bite. Now, I am not going to put for-
ward the plea that spiders are good-looking, though that
depends entirely upon your point of view ; but I protest
against the argument in the abstract that plain looks are a
sufficient reason for putting anybody to death. And as for
the second reason, spiders have plenty of jaws and pre-
sumably can bite ; but I have for years been searching for
authentic instances of persons having been bitten by them,
and up to date I have succeeded in collecting one of doubt-
ful value. It was a case of a boy, who thrust his imperti-
nent finger into a hole where there was a spider, and be-
lieved it bit him. I would have bitten under the same
circumstances. The fact is, that people who crush spiders
THE SPIDERS. 87
ought to refrain from giving reasons for it. Those who do
such things do not generally proceed upon reason. I enter
into an alliance, offensive and defensive, with spiders, and
they fight my battles and slay my enemies for me. They
entangle the mosquito swarms, entrap the droning beetle
in full sail for my lamp, plot against the pestilent fly, and
garrotte the cricket. Caucasian Insect Powder is cold com-
fort. When your enemy falls into the toils of a blood-
thirsty spider, and is being bound hand and foot for execu-
tion, "there's retribution in the deed," and you feel that
you are in some sort indemnified for all you have suffered.
What would I do without spiders ? That they are not
prepossessing in their appearance, and fascinating in their
ways, is in harmony with a great law of the universe. " A
man may smile and smile and be a villain," but in nature
there is invariably a certain correspondence between the
outward and the inward, between the aspect of a thing and
the part which 5; has to play in the world ; everything is
dressed as becomes its vocation. And it is in accordance
with the eternal fitness of things that the spider should be,
as to its outward appearance, sinister and forbidding. If
it could look gentle and engaging as it strangled a fly, my
soul would revolt against the hypocrisy of the thing ; but
88 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
as I contemplate the flat tableland of its head, gemmed
with bead-like eyes, the complicated assortment of fangs
and jaws, and other ghastly instruments of death, the eight
bristling legs, and the supreme horribleness of the gross
total, I feel perfectly satisfied that it was meant to do my
work, and to do it con amore.
But there are points about the spider which deserve our
respect besides its professional qualifications. One of these
is maternal affection. Many good people are shocked at
Dr. Johnson for loving a good hater. They fancy that if a
man is too good-natured to hate anybody he must be very
loving, as if one who is weak on his right side was likely
to be so much the stronger on his left. If a man is weak
in his right hand, the chances are that he is infirm all over,
and if there is no force in his aversions and hatreds, I
take it as evidence of imbecility as regards his feelings
generally. However, ne sutor ultra crepidam. I will con-
fine myself to my own sphere. In the animal world the
result of my observations is briefly this, that I expect very
little from a mild constitutional amiability. The love of
sheep is very poor stuff. If you want any depth of
affection, you must seek it in the company of other strong
passions. The terrible running spider, which will tear her
THE SPIDERS. 80
own species, of either sex, to pieces, wherever she finds it,
will part with life sooner than with the white bag in which
she carries her egg, like an Indian squaw carrying her
papoos. Web-spiders generally weave little silken purses
for their eggs, and hang them about the web. When the
infant hordes break forth, which they do like a plague, all
in one day, they occupy their mother's web until they are
old enough to spin for themselves.
Spiders are also worth studying as an illustration
showing in how many ways the same thing may be done.
They all, without exception, live by murder, but the follow-
ing is only a brief list of the chief ways in which they
compass that end :
i. They run down their prey. These are the wolves of
the tribe, and make their living by fleetness of foot. The
chief of them all is the great house-spider of Bombay, fully
four inches in stretch of limb. I love this kind for killing
cockroaches. There is no production of nature, to my
mind, so entirely indefensible as the cockroach. The spirit
of fair-play itself could find no plea for the continued exis-
tence of that sneaking, butter-eating, evil-smelling prowler
of the pantry. And with its long feelers, it is too cautious
to be entangled in any web. But, whether it be the huge
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
winged ship-cockroach, or the more loathsome, wingless,
tortoiseshelled variety, Nemesis overtakes it when it falls
in the way of the running spider.
2. They spring upon the victim. These are the cats of
the tribe, and table flies are their prey ; but they put cats
to shame, for they seek no cover or concealment. On the
open table-cloth, while the gourmand is engrossed in a
luscious drop of gravy, the spider is creeping on it step by
step, whetting her jaws against each other. As she gets
nearer the suspense begins to be painful. She moves like
the hour-hand of a watch, each step is a matter of thought,
while all her eight eyes are focussed, like burning-glasses,
on the victim, and not an eyelash moves. At length you
see her tail go down, and a fine thread is made fast to the
table-cloth, for a spider always casts anchor at critical
moments. Then comes the fatal spring, followed by a
brief buzzing scuffle, and the foul career of that fly is
3. They lie in ambush on some flower of their own hue,
for the busy bee improving each shining hour, or the
frivolous butterfly on pleasure bent. One common kind,
of a lily-white colour, generally lurks, almost invisible, on
the tuberose, with its arms stretched out, ready for an
embrace. Into that embrace the silly butterfly will come,
and, when its life-blood has been sucked dry, its withered
corpse will fall to the ground, and the way will be open for
4. They are fishermen, and make nets to entrap their
prey. These may be subdivided into at least two classes :
(a) Those which hang tangled skeins of flimsy silk
about the corners of rooms. They are a feeble folk, long-
limbed and weedy, and as their webs catch more dust
than flies, I encourage Rama to brandish against them an
instrument made of fifteen feet of bamboo and a broom.
(b} Those which construct a regular circular net and sit in
the middle of it. One of these is as much superior to a
dozen of the last as fifty years of Europe is better than a
cycle of Cathay. They have made considerable progress
in mathematics and physics. As the sun is setting in the
west, the spider sits on a projecting branch of some tree
beside a garden pathway, and serves out a fine line, so fine
that it floats away on the air until it touches a leaf of a tree
on the other side of the path, and, being well smeared with
glue, sticks. Then the spider draws it tight, and, travelling
Blondinwise along it, pulls a thicker line across the space.
It is now a comparatively easy matter to stretch a second
92 THE TRIBES ON MV FRONTIER.
cord between the two trees lower down, and then to
connect these by many others, all meeting in a common
centre, like the spokes of a wheel. Then, begining at this
Centre, the spider goes round and round, in widening
circles, pulling a line after it, and fastening it to each spoke
in turn. Almost before the work is done, moths and
beetles, trying to make the passage between the two trees,
sail headlong into the meshes of the net, and are put up in
separate parcels to be eaten at leisure. In the grey light
of the morning, as you start on your matutinal ride, you
carry away the whole web on your face, dealing the fat and
apoplectic owner such a cruel punch in the ribs with the
point of your nose that it drops to the earth in a fit. Of
course, the poor thing has all its work to do over again
5. They addict themselves to occult science, and traverse
the sky like a witch on a broomstick. On a windy day
sometimes it seems as if an emeute had occurred in a tailor's
shop, and all the sweepings of the floor had broken loose.
Long shreds of silk and tag ends of thread of all sizes come
floating past. One catches on a tree or railing, and astride
it there is a gay yellow spider, as proud as Punch and as
lean as Famine ; but, before you can catch her, she has
shot out a yard of loose thread, and embarked on the gale
again. Are they yachting for pleasure, or like a fleet of
IN THE MESHES.
fishing-boats, do they trail their long nets after them to
entrap the shoals of gnats and midges, and briefly happy
ephemerae t When the air is calm once more will they
spread their airy gossamer in the blue empyrean, and float
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
and run in the golden lightning of the sunken sun, or will
the muddy vesture of decay grossly drag them down to the
earth again ?
But to what end am I asking questions, or what would
it profit if I answered them ? I know that I am only on
the threshold yet of all the sterling qualities of head and
heart which adorn my trusty allies ; but I will stop there,
for when I have passed on to their patience and perseve-
rance, when I have adorned my tale with Robert Bruce,
who extracted a moral from a spider and won his kingdom,
when I have quoted the great teacher who noticed that she
was little upon the earth but exceeding wise, when I have
said all that can be said on the subject and more, the voice
of humanity will be as it has ever been,
" Weaving spiders, come not here,
Hence, you long-legged spinners, hence ! "
And, since candour is a jewel, I will confess that I would
say the same if I could complete the exorcism, and ban
" beetles black," and all the rest of the fraternity of vagrants
and uninvited squatters on my estates. Till I can do that
I have need of spiders also. Give me neither or both.
THE BUTTERFLY: HUNTING HIM,
A CORNER of my verandah stands
a weapon, always ready, wherewith
I do battle against liver, dyspepsia,
hypochondria, dull care, "loathed
melancholy," and multifarious other
natural enemies to peace and long
life. It is composed of a light
springy stick, about five feet long,
to which is attached a ring of iron wire about fifteen inches
in diameter, carrying a bag of mosquito-net, or gauze, dyed
green. The wire is as light as it can be without becoming
so thin as to want stiffness, and the gauze of which the bag
is made is soft and open enough to be perfectly trans-
parent. The minutest point which may conduce to the
g6 THE TRIRES ON MY FRONTIER.
perfection of the instrument is worthy of attention, for its
virtues are rare. I find nothing equal to it. It is better
than Eno's Fruit Salt. To the jaded office slave, the brain-
worn student, the overwrought literary or professional man,
I recommend this panacea.
Games are useful in their way, and sport is much better ;
but good sport is not often within easy reach of a Bombay
man. The hills are, and this is the season when a morn-
ing on an Indian mountain-top is not to be bartered for
anything that any climate in the world produces. When
the sun has just risen, and the cold delicious morning air
waves the scented grass, with the frozen green beetles
clinging to it, and the birds sing, and you hear them sing,
because there is no Babel of worldly noises and vile
clangour of coarse-minded crows to drown their music,
at such times to ramble aimlessly along, and simply drink
in the enjoyment which seems to be poured out upon the
face of nature, makes a man feel that his capacity for pure
animal happiness is too limited. He cannot take it all in.
Much seems to overflow and run to waste. Then the sun
grows warmer, and the freshness of the morning fades a
little ; but the man who can handle a butterfly-net need
not go home and mope. His time is just beginning, for
the butterflies are just waking, as the genial warmth of the
sun puts life into their fragile little bodies. There are
hours before him yet of sport which is in my judgment
scarcely second to any. To be a successful butterfly-
hunter a man must have a wiry frame and nimble limbs,
a good eye, true hand, quick observation, patience, judg-
ment, and much practice. A tyro as is easily detected as a
sailor on horseback. The very way he pokes his awkward
tool at a passing butterfly proclaims him. And he has
only one way of proceeding with all kinds, generally a
very futile one. The old hunter knows the habits of every
family, nay, of every species, and has wiles at hand to cope
with each. He will not waste his wind pursuing that
marvel of restless activity, the Sarpendon swallow-tail of
the hills, as it dances from flower to flower. He will
follow it with patience until he finds some flower-head
with fifty little florets, and while it is darting its tongue
into each of these in turn, there will be time for a rapid
but noiseless rush, and a sweep big enough to carry away
butterfly, flower, and all. Even then it will need clever
fingers to secure the little prisoner before its frantic energy
has broken its brittle wings to pieces. But the prize is
worth all the trouble it costs. for some recipe to fix
loo THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
the watery transparence of that blue-green wing, and the
richness of its brown border! But this is one of the
butterflies that soon fade, do what you will. Should one
of the large black swallow-tails, with red crescents on their
hinder wings (of which there are four kinds in Bombay),
come sailing past, like a goodly vessel with sails spread, it
would be folly to wait for it to stop at a flower. It is
most likely on a long voyage, and will not stop at all.
You must run ahead and meet it in its course, when, as
it passes, a well-aimed following stroke will make it your
prize. Then there is a large family of brilliant butterflies
which love to bask in the sun and display their beauty.
Only an utter greenhorn would rush at one of these. It
must be caught, as a cat catches a mouse, by patience and
stealth. If once scared, it is lost. It should never see the
net until it sees it from the inside. Other kinds must be
caught in other ways, some by adroit manoeuvres which it
is difficult to describe and much more difficult to perform.
Occasionally, when a precious prize passes which may
never pass again, and shows no sign of pausing, there is
nothing for it but to give chase. Speedy legs and good
wind, inspired by, say, a leaf-butterfly, or that tailless
prince of swallow-tails, the black and blue giant of the
THE BUTTERFLY. let
Lanowlee woods, will accomplish unexpected miracles
sometimes. And when you overtake it, and the first stroke
misses, as of course it will, never mind ; wave the net
wildly round and round your head. Some strange fate
generally leads a butterfly to eddy round too, and when
you overbalance yourself and tumble to the ground, like
an exhausted teetotum, you may find it fluttering among
When the specimen is caught it must be disposed of.
The safest and most humane way to kill it is to give it a
gentle pinch between the finger and thumb on the thorax.
Every butterfly, like all Gaul, divisa est in partes tres.
The middle one of these parts, from which the wings and
legs take their rise, is the thorax. To accommodate your
captures you should carry in your pocket a few sheets of
smooth and thin letter-paper, folded in quarto. Between
the leaves of this they will lie secure, and the smooth
paper will not rub off their scales. On returning home
you may spread your spoils on the table, and gloat over
them for a reasonable time : but they must be set soon, or
they will stiffen. All the apparatus needed to set butter-
flies nicely is a few boards of thick cork (which may be
made of two or three sheets of sheet cork, glued together),
102 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
with grooves of different sizes cut in them to receive the
bodies, so that the wings may be level with the surface of
the cork. Pass a pin gently through the thorax of each
specimen, put its body into one of the grooves, press the
pin well into the cork, and then spread out the wings, and
keep them in their places with narrow strips of card
pinned over them. In two or three days the specimen
will be ready for the case, and thenceforth it will be con-
spired against night and day by various enemies, the
worst by far being an atrocious round beetle, whose off-
spring is a still more atrocious hairy grub, which will
occupy the inside of the butterfly, and eat away its body,
until the wings, with nothing left to connect them, fall to
the ground, and the bare pin stands, a melancholy monu-
ment, to tell where the gorgeous specimen once spread its
splendours This grub seems to fatten on the smell of
camphor or turpentine, and the only device of any per-
manent avail against it is to dissolve a little corrosive sub-
limate in spirits of wine, and with a fine feather anoint the
whole body of each butterfly thoroughly. If you make
the mixture too strong it will assuredly leave an unsightly
white film upon the back of every black specimen, and if
you do not make it strong enough it will only act as a
THE BUTTERFLY. 103
tonic to the grub. These are the Scylla and Charybdis
between which you must steer.
Many silly people still call butterfly-hunting puerile
amusement, and so it would be if they pursued it ; for the
profit which any one extracts from it is always pretty
much according to the measure of his own capacity. It is
curioos to notice how exactly in the face of the fact this
old notion of the childishness of entomology is. All chil-
dren take an interest in animals, and may with very little
encouragement be developed into naturalists while the
observing faculties are still active and they have not yet
learned the art of going blindfold through the world ; but
it is wild beasts that fascinate them first. Lions and
tigers rank with Bluebeard and Jack the Giant-killer. By
degrees the boy will go on to love birds and become mad
on bird-nesting ; but not until he is growing into a mature
naturalist will he go down the scale of life, and discover in
a gall-fly or a sea-jelly, a rotifer or a hydra, a wonder and
a mystery not to be found in what are called the higher
orders of animals. The pursuit of butterflies is not so
full of deep interest as many other branches even of
entomology, but it is more of a science for the million. It
has the peculiar advantage that it is a recreation as well as
THE TRIBES o.v MY FRONTIER.
a study. In fact, it has all the elements which go to make
up a first-class hobby. It furnishes employment for hours
of recreation without encroaching on hours of business. It
doubles the pleasures of an excursion, turns a holiday to
the best account, and gives a purpose to the morning
constitutional. And it is at all times and everywhere
within reach in this glorious country ; for, though butter-
flies are most abundant and most splendid on the hills,
Bombay is not far behind. That one island, seven miles
long and half as broad, will afford to the collector more
different species than all the United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Ireland. And they will range from the tiny
blue, with its microscopic embroidery of gold, scarcely half
an inch in stretch of wing, to the magnificent ornithoptera
with an expanse of seven and a half inches. Even Dusty-
pore has its butterflies.
Another charge brought against entomologists is that of
cruelty, and it is even more groundless. Nothing is more
unfeeling than ignorance, and nothing makes a man more
compassionate towards his little fellow-creatures than a
close acquaintance with them. This acquaintance can only
be gained, and is cheaply gained, by sacrificing the lives of
a few. I might dwell on the many pleasures of such an
intimacy, and of the solid value of it in this worldly world ;
but if I entered on that subject now, this paper would have
to or to the barber with Polonius's beard.
THE BUTTERFLY: CONTEMPLATING
UTTERFLY-HUNTING is a
means, not an end. The end is
Tji/ to know them, to become inti-
mate with them, so that, as you
C move about the garden, or lie
"Modo sub antiqua il'ce,
Modo in tenaci gramine
Labuntur altis interim ripis aquas,
Queruntur in silvis aves,"
each gay pleasure-hunter that flits by you may be an
acquaintance with a character and an individuality of its
own. These are just the situations that butterflies revel in,
where rippling water runs among shady trees, and Art has
let Nature alone. Well-kept gardens are a nuisance in
their estimation ; for nearly all the operations of the
gardener are directly contrary to the interests of the butter-
fly. He pulls up the weeds on which its caterpillar should
feed, or destroys the caterpillar itself; he introduces
strange and unknown plants of suspicious flavours, and,
above all, he cultivates double flowers, in which all the
parts where the sweet drop of nectar should lie are turned
into unprofitable petals. Every double flower is an
abomination to butterflies. On the other hand, dry plains
and fields afford them no sustenance, and wind dis-
composes them. But seek some retired valley, or hollow
among hills, in the month of October, when weed and
thorn-bush and waving creeper are in bloom, and the sun
is hot, and the air is moist, and you will preside at a
durbar. The lordly swallow-tail will sail past, the little
whites and yellows will flutter ceaselessly from flower to
flower, the huge orange-tipped white, hurrying by, will
yield to temptation, and pause for a moment on a little
blossom which looks insignificant, perhaps, but tastes most
exquisite to the connoisseur's palate, diadema and junonia
will display their glories, dana'is and euplcea will float with
I0 8 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
easy grace on the air, and perhaps a bold leaf-butterfly
will pass with the flight ot a strong-winged pigeon, the
blue sheen of its wings glancing in the sun, until it plunges
into some withered bush, and not an eye can distinguish
its motionless form from any of the dead leaves around it.
And when the afternoon is drawing on, then many a rich
hair-streak will appear, and, taking its station in the
middle of some large leaf, will open its wings just a little,
and give you a peep of the dazzling blue within. By
sunset all these will be sound asleep, and then the richly
pencilled brown butterflies of the twilight will come out
and dance their fairy dances about the roots of some dark
In one particular butterflies seem to me to s'and apart
from all other forms of animal life. Other animals of all
kinds, with plants and trees, are the furnishing of this great
kcsmos, its various vessels and manifold appliances. Every
one has its own use ; none can be dispensed with. Butter-
flies, on the other hand, are the pictures on the walls, the
little nic-nacs on the table, the bouquet in the vase. They
are not for use, only for looking at. By this one point of
entire uselessness butterflies are sharply separated even
from moths. Most moths in their caterpillar state are good
THE BUTTERFLY. 109
for food. Some are soft and green, and these are the very
staff of life to all the little soft-billed birds, the tailor-birds
and sun-birds, and tits and warblers. Others are large and
hairy, and these are in the thoughts of the harsh-voiced
oriole, as it darts like a gleam of sunlight into the dark
foliage of the tamarind-tree. Moth caterpillars have also a
great office to perform in thinning too luxuriant vegetation.
All through the teeming months of the monsoon, when
grass and rank weeds and overgrown creepers are choking
one another, and struggling for a place on the crowded
earth, myriads of moth larvae, with the most miraculous
appetites, are busy night and day eating them down. In
this work the caterpillars of butterflies give little help,
Butterfl es do not lay their eggs in the lump, like moths,
but one here and one there, and the solitary caterpillars
are too few to make much impression. And they are not
good eating as a rule. Some are spiny, like the fretful
porcupine, some protect themselves with an odour like the
musk-rat, and some taste nasty at least, so the birds say.
And as with the larvae, so with the perfect insect. Butter-
flies enjoy a strange immunity from being eaten. They
fall into spiders' webs at times, and lizards catch them if
they can. My pet chameleon's ration is about half a dozen
HO THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
per diem. But birds let them alone. On the morning after
the first storm of the monsoon, as you walk through the
wet grass, a large orange and grey moth will often rise like
a quail before you. Scarcely has it left the grass, when,
from his watch-tower on a dead tree, like an arrow from a
bow, the king-crow is after it, and the loud snap of his beak
tells that he has missed the moth ! But he wheels as
quick as thought, and darts upon it a second time with
surer aim, and now, with the large fluffy morsel in his beak,
he is sailing leisurely back to his perch. But why does he
make no attempt to catch the many small butterflies which
flutter dreamily out of their sleeping-places, as you stir the
grass and shake the bushes ? The green bee-eater too, on
the telegraph-wire, does not seem to see the little orange-
tip travelling feebly across the field, but next moment it is
off in pursuit of a strong-winged bee. Perhaps the zigzag
snipe-like flight of butterflies makes it well-nigh impossible
to catch them, or else, because they have much wing and
little body, birds may have long since come to the con-
clusion that hunting them is " muckle cry and little 'oo'."
However that may be, they form no appreciable part of
the food of birds, and they have no other use that I know
of. They are only made to be looked at. And shall we
THE BUTTERFLY. tit
not look at them ? One docs sometimes meet a man who
will come into a drawing-room where every shade of colour,
every ornament, the very placing of each book, tells of
tasteful thought, and move about in it like a bullock, see-
ing no more than he would see in a barn ; and many move
about in the world in the same way. What an infinity of
grace and beauty is lost on them ! I have seen a fosse of
ladies almost disappear into raptures over a "quite too
awfully delicious" specimen of a Christmas card, and I was
constrained to add some corroborative ejaculations with a
tepid effort at enthusiasm ; but who would put the prettiest
conception in which art ever dressed a Christmas greeting
beside that exquisite little butterfly which at this season
flits over the barren plains of the Deccan, whose wings of
velvet black and intense blue are bordered with peacock
eyes of the richest red ? And every day thousands of them
are born and perish ; for, like the bouquet on your table,
these little decorations are constantly being renewed, so
that they may ever be fresh and bright, and the old ones,
almost before they have time to fade, are cast away. Few
of them live much over a week.
Looking at butterflies as ornaments, there is a good deal
to note in the placing of them, for they are not like each
H2 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
artist's own pictures in an exhibition, hung by that blun-
dering committee just exactly in the worst possible light.
Each kind knows full well how to show off its own peculiar
beauties, and you may almost tell the habits of a new
species from the arrangement of its colours. One struts
and attitudinizes ; another adopts the neglige ' ; the wings
of one droop with a lady-like languor ; another stands like
a drill sergeant. The dusty twilight butterflies never open
their wings except to fly, and if you catch one you will
understand the reason. On the under side, which is seen
when the wings are closed, there is no bright colouring,
indeed, for gaudy hues do not suit the sombre shades of
evening, but a weird blending of rich browns, or an ex-
quisitely chaste and delicate tracery of wavy grey lines,
with a bordering row of blue centred eyes ; but the upper
surface, which would appear if the wings were open, is
smoky brown. There are, moreover, many phases of cha-
racter in the butterfly tribe, and here too the apparel oft
proclaims the man. The innocent little whites and yellows,
fluttering from flower to flower, hardly seem to think it is
worth anybody's while to look at them. For another style,
and a very different nature, take that large Bombay species,
on whose wings of glossy black there are just four patches
of splendid blue, changing with every change of light; he
is a beauty, and he fully knows it ! Every attitude declares
the fact, as he basks in the noonday sun on some outstand-
ing bianch, turning now this way, now that, slowly folding
and unfolding his splendours, or darting from his station to
chase away some rival beauty. Those who can may believe
that this vainglorious little insect is a fortuitous concourse
of atoms, moulded and modified by being for long ages the
unconscious subject of some process of selection. I need a
theory of the world with more soul in it. I cannot look at
the glorious creature in its overweening vanity, and believe
that there is no connection between the outward and the
inward between the splendour and the pride. The one is
the answer to the other, and if the beauty of that butterfly
really developed, then it did so in harmony with the bent
of an indwelling mind. Whatever theory of creation or
development may prevail, the animal which I see will never
be anything to me but the external expression of an in-
dividuality which I do not see, but which is none the less
Butterflies of some kinds especially those energetic
greenish-white ones of the family surnamed callidryat are
sometimes seized with a mania for emigrating to the far
114 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
West. When this is on them, South Sea Bubbles, Bombay
share manias, diamond fevers, gold-mine crazes, are tem-
perate, judicious, and well-considered movements compared
with their behaviour. Science has never settled what it is
precisely that sets them a-going. It seems likely that
something does this. What is quite certain, however, is,
that when once set a-going, they keep going. I have stood
near one of the parade grounds at Poona and watched
them. With scarce a pause to rest their wings or sip a
flower, from eight or nine o'clock until the afternoon, as far
as eye could reach, the host kept streaming past, like the
fugitive Gauls after one of Caesar's great battles. And in
their fate, too, I fear they resembled those barbarian hordes,
when a deep river at last barred their weary way, and they
tumbled headlong, one upon another, into its reddening
waters ; for I stood again another year beside the Bombay
harbour, and watched the frenzied myriads hurrying from
the mainland over Elephanta, and across the sea and over
Bombay or Karinja for thbir direction was somewhat
southerly and then ? Then, I suppose, over the sea, and
on and on and on and on, until darkness settling down on
them and their amazing strength at last ebbing away, they
must have dropped into the waves, each one, as it fell,
creating and perishing in a small South Sea Bubble of its
own ; and the fishes had a feast long to be remembered.
I called the butterflies which are generally afflicted with
this mania by the name of callidryas. I did not mean to
be abusive, but I had no option. Indian butterflies have
no names. Of course I have given them all names of my
own for private use, and this is what each collector must
do, or else make himself acquainted with the opprobrious
epithets which naturalists have applied to them. Some of
these seem to amount to defamation of character. Cahop-
silia crocale ! Yphthima inica ! Plypanis ilytliia ! Pesio-
neura ambaresa ! Horresco refer ens !
THE columns of
the Times of
India I have
had a public in-
"Sarus" to des-
cant upon frogs.
I had thought
tn pass the vile
batrachians by, for I love them not. Besides, now is not
their time. The hot sun has been boiling down the tanks
until the infusion of frog is getting thick, and the water-
snake grows fat on much to eat and little to do. So the
bass voiced patriarchs of the tribe have dispersed to many
secluded water-holes, or perhaps have buried themselves
in the mud, and even the nimble small fry, skimming with
many a hop, skip, and jump along the surface of the water,
have much ado to save their lives from the fierce fish and
the remorseless dJidman below, not to speak of the glut-
tonous heron above. Of course imagination can body
forth the vulgar forms of frogs, even when they are un-
seen, and unheard, too, but it is not the same thing. They
may stand out as clearly before the mind's eye, but they
do not touch the feelings in the same way, and when the
feelings are cold the vital principle of all eloquence is
wanting. Were the rain at this moment dripping from
the roof and gushing from the waterspout, and a concert
of a hundred bassoons from the flooded paddy-field sound-
ing in my ears, I could write on frogs.
I believe the observations of " Sarus " are vitiated by
the common mistake of confounding things which differ
toto cceio from each other. To take, for instance, the frog,
which he found on the top of a door, it is obvious that
everything turns on the question : Had it, or had it not
little round pellets on the points of its toes ? If it had
not, then it ought to have been bottled in spirits, and sent
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
to the able and energetic secretary of some learned society,
for a common frog which can climb to the top of a door
ought to have an essay written on it. If it had, then it
was only a tree-frog, a species which was rather a favourite
with me until one evening
last year. There were sev-
eral of them about my
house, and their gymnas-
tics won my admiration.
From a yard away they
would fling themselves at
a bedpost or a window-
pane, and stick like a dab
of mud, by virtue of those
suckers on their toes.
They would perch pleas-
antly on the edge of the
water cooja or on the rim of
a tumbler. They seemed
to gain little by all their performances, for their aspect was
always famine-stricken and angular, and their colour, with-
out being anything very definable, suggested the sere
and yellow leaf. They slept all day, sticking like postage
A QUONDAM FAVOURITE.
stamps to some window, and at evening went abroad in
search of food, leaping from one perilous position to
another about the railings of the verandah.
On the particular evening above-mentioned I was sitting
in the garden, trying to finish a very interesting chapter in
a book before it got too dark to read at least, I imagine
that was my occupation, but my memory about that period
is almost a blank. Within a few feet of me there was a
projecting sunshade, and on it clung an enterprising tree-
frog. To him my head loomed like some forest-clad moun-
tain against the grey sky, and he guessed there might be
game up there. So he wound up his leaping springs, took
good aim, allowed for the wind, and fired ! I do not know
exactly where he aimed, but he hi; just behind my right
ear, and, of course, stuck. Now, I hold that half the art of
telling a story, as of preaching a sermon, lies in knowing
when to stop, so I will stop ; suffice it to say, that since
that evening I have admitted no exception to the general
feeling of utter aversion with which I regard the whole
race of frogs.
To proceed to the so-called frog, which co:nes into the
house and out- generals " Sarus " in his attempts to evict it,
I know it well. It is not a frog at all, but a toad. The
120 THE TR111ES ON MY FRONTIER.
difference between the two is precisely the difference which
there was in Mark Twain's jumping frog before and after
the shot was administered to it. Touch a frog ever so
tenderly with the point of a stick from behind, and it goes
off as if it were sitting on gunpowder, and your stick were
a lighted fuse. The stolid toad, on the other hand, meets
every hint and every suggestion with a simple vis inertia,
and an unwavering perversity and " contrairiness," which
must triumph in the end. Now, when a man has made up
his mind beforehand what his final opinion is to be, it is
waste of time to dispute with him ; therefore I always
clinch the argument at once with my toad. I bully him
until he feels thoroughly affronted, and refuses to budge
another inch, blowing himself up like an air-pillow, and
snorting feebly by way of protest. Then I introduce the
point of a springy cane under him, and simply shoot him
out at the door. He takes it very ill, but I cannot help
that. It would be mistaken kindness to let him delude
himself with the notion that he is going to get what he
wants in the house. I know exactly what it is. As the
cold, dry, easterly winds begin to shrivel and crack his
parched hide, it crosses his foggy brain in some dim way
that a house must contain a lot of cool damp holes and
THE FROGS. i 2 t
corners, into one of which he may wedge himself, and pass
the dry months in a state of torpor, conserving his vital
juices till next monsoon. This is a proposal, of course,
which cannot be entertained. He is all very well flattened
out under a flower-pot or between the stones of a fernery ;
but it is preposterous to suppose that he can be allowed to
take up his winter quarters inside the house, and I think
the most considerate course is to impress this on him be-
fore he has crossed the very narrow line that separates
his normal state from actual unconsciousness.
For I have kindly feelings towards the toad; the density
of his stupidity, and his placid contentment, make ill-will
towards him impossible. Low-bred he is, but more than
half the world must always be low-bred; there is no crime
in that. No sane man pretends to despise another merely
because he is low-bred; unless, indeed, he feels that his owr?
high breeding stands in need of a contrast to make it
visible. Ostentatious vulgarity is a very different thing
and it is this that makes the frog an offence to me. He is
for making a noise in the world. He will thrust his gross
entity on your notice. If the rain, which damps everything
else, only cheers the spirits of frogs, I have no objections ;
let them be happy. But why must they, with their riotous
I?2 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
cacophony, proclaim the fact to the world, after the manner
Further, I have physiognomical objections to frogs. The
aspect of them is an outrage. Every line of their gape-
mouthed shallow-pated visages bears witness of general
debasement, and an inordinate love of victuals. The little
leopard-spotted water-frog is more tolerable ; but I am
speaking of the gross overgrown bull- frog. After months
of bleaching while it lay torpid, I suppose, in the ground
it comes out to greet the monsoon all of one uniform
gamboge yellow, and riots in the daytime. Then, when
lusty health has restored it to a dark green hue, with a
gaudy yellow line running down its back-bone, it leads an
amphibious life, lurking among the rushes on the margin
of some pool, and at the sound of your footstep taking a
" header " into the water, with its legs, like the tail of a
comet, behind it ; or, perchance, having tumbled, during
some ill-fated spree, into a deep well, it expiates the crime
of its appearance by a long life of solitary confinement,
with no hope of release. The livelong day it is doomed
to float at the surface of the water, vacantly gazing at
heaven, with supplicating palms outstretched and fat thighs
helqlessly pendulous in the clear liquid ; but sudden death
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
is oftener the frog's fate than imprisonment. Every one
will call to mind the case of the young rip whose amorous
career was cut short by the lily-white duck that gobbled
him up ; and herons are worse than ducks, for they do not
wait till he goes a-wooing, but stalk into his haunts, and
from the far-darting serpent neck and scissor beak of a
heron escape is hard. Then the marsh harrier pounces
down among the rushes on the croaking veteran who had
outlived these perils, and bears him away in its talons.
But the arch-enemy is the dhdinan, or water-snake, and it
is more cruel than the rest, for it takes an hour or two to
swallow its victim. It is impossible to conceive a fate of
more unmitigated horror than that of a frog being sucked
down by a snake, its foot already undergoing digestion, its
leg stretching all the way down the enemy's slimy throat,
and its body slowly but surely following. Happily frogs
cannot have much imagination, yet they must realize the
situation to some extent, for they give expression to the
anguish of their souls every few minutes in a wail so un-
speakably woeful, that it would melt the hardest heart. It
has often melted mine to such an extent, that I have gone
out with my stick to slay the snake, and release the frog.
Once I saw the tables turned. I was watching a wily
snake about two feet long gliding down into a lank, when
a gigantic frog hopped up and swallowed its head. The
snake protested with
frantic wriggles, but
the frog continued
swallowing it down
an inch or two at each
gulp until half the
snake was gone. By
this time the other
half became so violent
that the frog could
scarcely keep its feet,
so for greater security
it turned and plunged into its own element, and I saw it no
more. Even this was beaten in audacity by a frog from
whose stomach I, David like, redeemed the whole leg of a
live chicken. The rest of the chicken was still outside,
Of frogs for the table I have said nothing, having no
experience, for I look upon it as cannibalism to eat them
until the question has been finally decided whether we are
more immediately descended from them or from monkeys.
WORD bug is said to be de-
rived from a Welsh and Gaelic
root bivg, which is pronounced in
some way, no doubt, by those who
are to the manner born, and means a
hobgoblin. Originally, therefore, a bug
was a spectre, or an object of fear, and that meaning has
been preserved in bugbear, bogie, and the verb to boggle.
Tattie-bogles and bogus budgets are also, I take it, of the
"same family. In following the course of this interesting
root, a strong sidelight is thrown on our path by that most
remarkable Indian nursery word bow, \\hich is obviously
connected with the Gaelic bw or bwg, and means, as every
Anglo-Indian baby knows, a dog, cat, spider, ghcst, the
devil, or anything of that sort. It is commonly in use
among ayahs and bearers, to keep children in awe when
they are disposed to be " nattee " i.e., disobedient and
naturally all sorts of ugly insects come to be in practice
the commonest sorts of " bows." That these were also the
commonest kinds of bugs in England in the days of the
Pilgrim Fathers I argue from the meaning which the word
bears in the American language to this day. It was an
American who described the elephant beetle as an "al-
mighty big bug," and in that country, I understand, there
are not only squash-bugs, potato-bugs, corn-bugs, &c., but
bugs which spin us silk, and bugs from which lac and
cochineal are obtained. In England, as we all know, the
word has entirely lost both its primary meaning of a goblin
and its second sense, in which it stood in a general way for
any sort of insect, and is often confined not only to a sub-
division of the order Hemiptera, but to one particular
species of the genus ciwex, known to naturalists as Cimex
lectularius. This is a fate to which words are very subject.
Corn is no longer used in America for anything but Indian
corn or maize, while in Scotland it has a more or less spe-
cial application to oats. In England there are two or three
peculiar birds which pass under the name of " ousel," as the
I2 8 THE TRIBES O.V MY FRONTIER.
water-ousel and the ring-ousel ; but it requires only half an
eye to detect the connection of this word with oiseau, and
infer that at first an ousel meant simply a bird. The words
meat and fowl are other instances. An animal is coming
to mean, among ladies especially, a beast, as distinguished
from a bird or a fish. However, I am not philological, and
have no intention of trying to trace the subtle causes which
have combined to enable one seemingly insignificant and
totally vulgar little insect to draw to itself the whole mean-
ing of a wide word. To do so would take me over ground
which it is my object to avoid. In fact, my only reason for
alluding to the wider senses of the word " bug " is to dis-
abuse any one who may hastily entertain the notion that
my subject to-day is that particular species of cimex which
Linnaeus has defined as Nocturnum foetidum animal. That
is not one of the tribes on my frontier.
When naturalists speak of bugs they mean a certain
well-defined class of insects in which India is unhappily
very fertile. Most people confound them with beetles
which they resemble as much as a woodcock resembles an
owl. All beetles have jaws, and chew their food, while
bugs have only a tube, through which they suck liquid
refreshments, just as sherry-cobbler used to be taken when
it was the fashionable pick-me-up. Again, beetles pass
their childhood and youth as grubs, and appear as full-
blown beetles only when they come of age. A bug is
always the same animal ; it comes out of the egg a bug,
and when it grows to maturity it is only a bigger bug than
it was before. But these are scientific distinctions. To the
eye the most salient mark of a bug is a certain unmistak-
able three-corneredness, or triangularity, in its build. Its
head and neck are of one piece, triangular, resting like a
pyramid on its square shoulders ; its body is exactly the
shape of a three-cornered heraldic shield ; and, lastly, a bit
of the point of each upper wing is generally of a different
texture and colour from the rest, so that, when the wings
are closed, a conspicuous triangular patch appears on the
tail end of the offensive wretch. If the rest of it is flaring
red, the tail will be black or blue ; if the rest is black, the
tail may be golden yellow for bugs are great dandies.
Another and even more pronounced point of difference
between beetles and bugs is, that the last are highly aro-
matic ; and this may have something to do with the notion
of which they are so strongly possessed, that they consti-
tute an excellent flavouring for soup. Louis Figuier says
that some kinds of bugs have a bouquet resembling that
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
t>f apples ; I have not met with any of those kinds. The
aroma which emanates from the varieties with which I am
acquainted is of a sort that would, I imagine, have made
Pharaoh succumb. Where they are collected in numbers
it is enough to breed a pestilence ; and on a calm monsoon
evening I have known some of the lanes round Dustypore
so barricaded with the dense stench, that nothing short of
a company of sappers, with picks and shovels, could have
opened a passage through it. A single individual is most
impressive when it is crushed, or tumbles into scalding
soup. I knew a promising young man who took one with
his soup ! I have felt ever since that I could give any
price for a Book of Manners that would tell what a gentle-
man at a dinner party should do under such circumstances.
It might not strike one at first sight, but there are,
nevertheless, degrees of abominableness, and I divide this
whole family of proboscis-bearing, triangular, particoloured,
and aromatic insects into three classes. The first place in
order of unmitigated nauseousness I concede to a small
black villain, with a glassy white patch on the tail, which,
after heavy rain, invades the house. The tablecloth takes
the colour of a flea-bitten grey, the lamp threatens to go
out with a fizz, dinner has to be abandoned as a chimera,
THE BUGS. 13 !
and when I seize my Shakespeare, in the extremity of my
despair, and search for " To be or not to be," the foul
suicides pop in between the leaves, unbeknown to me, and
get flattened out into mementoes for coming days. Olim
meminissc juvabit !
I give the second place to the dumpy green bug and the
dumpy brown bug, which likewise swarm into the house
during the monsoon, and consort with blister beetles an-d
other bad characters. If there could be another first place
they should have it. In the third rank all the rest may be
included, viz., the large black wood-bug, which looks as if
it would bite, or rather stick its stiletto into you, savagely,
if you touched it, with the whole category of odious crimson
and black dandies, and the tapering curiosities in yellow
and brown, with pointed snouts.
After all, to give the bugs their due, our judgment of
them is founded upon a very casual acquaintance, and may
be an unjust judgment. We see them once in a way, when
the light of the lamp calls them together to plague us, but
how little we know of their private lives ! They populatei
in astonishing numbers, the trees of the jungle and the
plants of the garden, and it may be that they are indus-
trious and useful members of insect society. It may even
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
be that the spicy odour they disseminate corrects in some
imperceptible way the too sweet fragrance of the flowers.
Our tasty curry biscuits are flavoured with assafcetida ; why
may not our balmy breezes be seasoned with bug? I once
thought they sought their own protection by creating a
poisonous atmosphere around them ; but last October I
found my little tame redstart eating up abomination
number one above-mentioned with great gusto. When I
say tame, I do not mean that the redstart is caged ; she is
a voluntary boarder and lodger with me, and spends rier
mornings for the most part at my feet or under my chair,
quivering her tail as if she had ague, and picking up the
crumbs I drop for her benefit. That this dainty little crea-
ture, in her rusty brown dress and large black eyes, should
poke about corners in search of last evening's bugs, surely
illustrates the saying that there is no accounting for tastes.
To return to the possible utility of bugs, most of them live
on vegetable juices and bleed the trees, as the doctors used
to bleed us for our health in the last generation. Some,
however, are carnivorous, and impale caterpillars on their
needle-shaped beaks. It was one of these that brought
about the collapse of my Tusser-silk farm, when I started
that industry for the first and last time two years ago. It
may seem incredible that a despicable brown bug, not half
an inch long, should have the audacity to practise against
the life of a silkworm as large as your little finger, in all its
splendour of green and gold ; but the circumstantial evi-
dence was not to be gainsaid. There was the shrunken
corpse of the splendid spinner, and there, close by, was the
criminal form of the skulking sinner. And I sighed for
the American invention which proclaimed instant death
to potato-bugs, and was perfectly innocuous to all domestic
animals. This preparation was sold very cheap, in small
packets which were not to be opened until required for
use. When the customer opened the packet he found two
square blocks of hard wood, on one of which were the
directions for use : " Place the bug upon this block and
press firmly with the other." Could I have placed those
silkworm-murderers, one by one, upon the lower block, it
would have given me uncommon pleasure to " press firmly
with the other."
It is not clear why I should be writing in December of
an essentially monsoon plague. I was last at frogs, and
perhaps the memory of their music took me back some
months. Yet there is one large tribe of bugs which may
be studied with advantage at this season, namely, the
THE TRIBES O.V My FRONTIER.
water-bugs. The tanks are drying up, and in the dense
weeds which crowd the stagnating water a skilful fisher
with an old butterfly-net may make a good bag of
villainous-looking water-scorpions and silvery "boatmen,"
with perhaps an occasional specimen of the Goliath of
the race, three inches in length, and one at least in breadth
of chest, with four vigorous oars to send it swiftly through
the waters, and two muscular arms to hug the frogs and
fish on which it feeds. It is not an inviting object to look
at, any more than the rest of its kin ; but, nevertheless,
water-bugs are not to be classed with land-bugs, for there
are two things they never do they do not exhale vexa-
tious odours, and they do not mistake the light of your eye
for a candle
like a hail
squirt of acrid
again with the
in the dim
darting into it
tion with a
THE BIRDS OF THE GARDEN,
beasts are usually
classed next to man
and above the birds,
on the ground of
their superior organi-
zation. To express
it in a manner worthy of the closing quarter of the nine-
teenth century, the "differentiation of function," or "phy-
siological division of labour," is carried further in them.
If this is as true as it deserves to be, then I hold that
birds are amply compensated on the moral side of their
nature, with respect to which they occupy a platform much
above beasts. I mean that the cunent of their thoughts
136 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
and imaginations runs at a higher level, and the passions
and emotions which work in their bosoms are more noble.
The difference shows itself at every point, but for an
example let us take the manner in which birds conduct
their love affairs. Watch two beau sparrows, genteelly
dressed in black neckties and white shirt-fronts, making
advances to the same belle. Wherever she goes, they
wait upon her, like a couple of Frenchmen, bowing and
scraping, chattering fulsome compliments, end vicing with
each other in all sorts of little attentions. Sometimes
they do come to blows, but this is the exception ; their
effort is rather to excel erxh other in the arts of the draw-
ing-room. She conducts herself in the somewhat trying
situation with a tact and decorum which show how ex-
quisitely modesty is blended with a due sense of her own
worth. So much admiration and flattery beget in her no
unseemly pride ; nor, on the other hand, does she forget
her dignity, and make herself too cheap. She tries to
appear unconcerned, and picks up grains of sand, pretend-
ing that they are seeds. At last her choice is made, and
she bestows her heart on one whose grace and gallant
bearing have won it. Now look at the respectable senti-
ments so plainly discernible here and try to conceive any
THE BIRDS OF THE GARDEN.
four-footed beast being the subject of such. Or, again
conceive an amorous quadruped pouring forth his passion
in song. Every detail connected with birds and bird life
illustrates the same thing. The art displayed in the nests
in which they are cradled is as far beyond the thoughts of
an average brute as the aesthetic advancement evidenced
by the colours in which they are arrayed. Mr. Ruskin
might be satisfied with the lives which birds lead. This
superiority of bird over beast is admitted by the very way
in which we use the words bestial and brutish. No man
thinks of vilifying another by calling him birdish. But if
it were not so evident as it is, I think there are d priori
reasons for expecting the bird mind to be of a purer caste
than that of the brute. The brute grovels above the
ground, and the range of its vision is bounded by the
grass and bushes among which it pokes its way. It leads
a low earth-bound existence ; it is a serf a hereditary son
of the soil. The bird upon the trees, or soaring in the
sky, feeds its eye on the glories of the world stretched
beneath it, and is constantly the subject of all those im-
perceptible but potent influences of scenery and free air
which make the man of the mountains a being of higher
thoughts and prouder traditions than the man of the plains
I3 8 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
But, in addition to all this, I am not afraid to put for-
ward the proposition that birds have really more intellect
than beasts. The most scientific way to settle the matter,
of course, would be by brain measurement, and I am
pretty sure that birds have proportionally larger heads
than any animals in existence except, perhaps, Scotch-
men ; but my opinion is founded only on ordinary obser-
vation and comparison. Taking the monkey, which I con-
sider to be the most intelligent mammal, and comparing it
with the parrot, which occupies a very similar place among
birds, what a difference there is! In spite of all the acute-
ness of our four-handed progenitor, who would hesitate to
give the palm for solid brain power to the parrot ? A
parrot commands your respect, because it makes you feel
that it has a satisfactory reason for everything it does.
Whether it is overturning its drinking-water, and peering
over the side of its cage to see if the cold douche has taken
effect on the head of the dog, or simply walking about
examining the multifarious scraps strewed on the floor of
its house, and pronouncing on their digestibility, or rasp-
ing away any accessible woodwork, its proceedings are
unmistakably the fruit of deliberate thought. Again, a
parrot never forgets its dignity, and is in that unlike the
THE BIRDS OF THE GARDEN.
monkey, which has no dignity to forget. You never catch
it indulging in contemptible pranks or vulgar tomfoolery
of any kind, nor in unworthy grimaces and contortions of
the visage. Nor can you make a parrot look small or
appear put out, unless by pulling its long tail. That does,
indeed, try it. And all this is true, not only of caged
parrots. The wild ones are constantly about my house,
either chewing neem seeds, or exploring the roof for nest-
ing quarters, or dealing at leisure with ears of j waree
obtained in the neighbouring field, and I find them the
same judicious birds as Polly. There is one on a rafter of
the verandah at this moment. He has nothing particular
to do, and is taking my measure with one eye, which gives
a fine view of his side face a disc of vivid green, orna-
mented on one side with a coral-red beak, half buried in
comfortable black whiskers, and on the other side marked
off from the neck by a narrow black collar, bordered with
delicate pink. In the centre is that reasonable black eye
of which I am the cynosure. I do believe he is counting
my buttons, and considering whether it would be practi-
cable to nip them off. Yes, the parrot is a sagacious bird.
So are the mynas, which pace the verandah making
quaint remarks, especially one with bells on its feet, which
1 40 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
belongs to the butler. When he calls it, it flies to him and
settles on his head ; and when I call it, imitating the
butler's voice as well as I can, it winks at me and says
" Walker." I think mynas share with crows the second
place after the green parrot. They have not its solid
faculties, but they are
as 'cute as Yankees.
It is a question whether
the king-crow equals
these in intellect, but
he leaves the whole
bird tribe far behind
in originality and
for~e of character. Wherever he may be, he takes the first
place as a matter of course. His jovial spirits and easy
mastery of the situation are equally irresistible. He does
not come into the house, the telegraph wire suits him
better. Perched on it, he can see what is going on, and
keep all the other inhabitants of the compound in order.
He drops, beak foremost, on the back of the kite, levies
the tribute of a feather from the passing crow, and jeers
the blue jay as it goes rolling by, like a ship in a heavy
swell, with a lazy flapping of its rainbow-coloured wings.
THE BIRDS OF THE GARDEN.
Anon he spies a bee-eater capturing a goodly moth, and,
after a hot chase, forces it to deliver up its booty. Should
the skulking figure of a mungoose show itself, the stirring
tones of his voice will rouse every bird in the garden,
and send the abashed criminal helter-skelter back to its
hole, under a perfect storm of public indignation. He is
prudent, however, as well as dashing, and lets the Satbkai,
or "Seven Brothers," alone. They are too shrewd and
knowing to be made fun, of, and there is a clannishness
among them which makes them dangerous. Among them-
selves they will quarrel by the hour, and bandy foul
language like fishwives ; but let a stranger treat one of
their number with disrespect, and the other six are in
arms at once. The Satbhai see as far through a stone
wall as any birds, and the recollection of how they out-
witted me about their nests when oology was my mania,
keeps me humble to this day. They positively set up a
fictitious nest for my benefit, and broke into a guffaw as
they saw me climbing the tree. Each Presidency of India
has its own branch of this strange family. Here they are
brothers, and in Bengal they are sisters ; but everywhere,
like Wordsworth's opinionative child, they are seven.
These are a few, but only a few, of the birds ; and if
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
others have not the same intelligence and character, they
all have merry voices and an unfailing supply of good
spirits, and this makes them the best of neighbours. What
an intolerable dulness would settle down upon the place if
the eternal wagging of their little tongues could be stopped !
There is the hilarious bulbul plucking unwholesome berries,
and the turtledove, in the middle of the road, cooing its
devotion to a modest maiden, and the robin not redbreast
cocking its tail over its head with a melodious observa-
tion, and the plain tree-warbler, ever saying tick, like
"grandfather's clock," only at longer intervals. There is
also the golden oriole sometimes, and the harsh shrike
always, and the diminutive sunbird gleaming with purple
and green radiance, and earnestly twittering his feeble song
as he explores the flowers for nectar, or collects scraps for
his nest. The nest, which hangs from the end of a droop-
ing bough, is intended to pass for a bunch of miscellaneous
rubbish entangled in the remains of an old cobweb, and it
will pass for that with most people. Clear and loud above
all the voices of the concert sounds the to-whee, to-whee,
to-ivhee, of the tailor-bird, a most plain-looking little greenish
thing, but a skilful workman and a very Beaconsfield in the
matter of keeping its own counsel. Aided by its indus-
THE BIRDS OF THE GARDEN,
trious spouse, it will, when the monsoon comes on, spin
cotton, or steal thread from the dursee, and sew together
two broad leaves of the laurel in the pot on your very
doorstep, and when it has warmly lined the bag so formed
it will bring up therein a large family of little tailors,
without giving you the least intimation of its proceedings.
At present it is burdened with no such cares, but still it is
always busy, hopping from bush to bush, and prying with
its sharp eyes for spiders and little green caterpillars,
from morning to night seeking the means of its liveli-
hood, with just enough of motion and excitement in the
work to banish thought ! It would be difficult to conceive
a healthier or happier life, where the power of thought is
But, perpetually happy as a bird is, it is familiar with
narrow escapes, and never knows what an hour may bring
forth. How often, when all is going merry as a marriage
bell, does the shrill cry of a watchful rat-bird give warning
that death is at hand, and its fellows dart for their lives
into the grass, the little birds of all kinds rush into hiding,
the bush-quail lies still as a stone, and the parrots are away
on the wind, leaving a chain of shrieks behind them. Then,
silent and swift, the hawk glides up, perches on a branch,
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
and glares about it ; for a minute or so it waits to see if
any silly bird will leave its shelter, but a hawk's blood is
hot and its patience small, so it is soon away to try a sur-
prise elsewhere. No sooner is it gone than a rat-bird puts
out its head and whistles, and in half a minute all is as
lively as if nothing has happened. Birds are light-hearted
THE BIRDS AT THE MANGO TOPE,
ke ride of the station.
In a country where,
look in what direction
you may, the eye meets
one unvarying expanse
of plain, scantily
c'othed in the yellow
traces of last monsoon's
verdure, and dotted
with scrubby babul-
bushes, it is certainly
a grand idea that
should collect into patches, and have under them a well and
a small temple. These patches, it is true, are like angels'
148 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
visits, but where there is one all the country knows it. And,
indeed, what would the country do without it ? Where would
the dusty wayfarer stop to eat his midday chuppattee and
drink a draught of cold water, or where would the collector
pitch his tent ? Into the dark penetralia of that pleasant
resthouse the sun has no" for ages forced his way, and
a perennial coolness broods there. No one can tell you now
who built the small chapel and planted the tope, nor what
wickedness it was that he thought thus to expiate ; but his
was a misguided penitence, I fear, for he has taught future
generations to be grateful that he sinned. However, I would
judge him in no illiberal spirit. Whatever his motives may
have been, estimate him by his deeds, and he ranks, I say,
with those other two great men who have been through the
mango-tree lasting benefactors of their race. I mean that
Fires and that Alphonso, whose names seem to have come
down to us in the luscious t>eirie and the delicate afoos. I
yield to none in reverence for these names. I would not
lend a book to the man who refuses a Bombay mango. At
the same time I think it is a question whether the stunted
timberless tree which produces the luxury of Bombay has
gained or lost in its descent from the veteran of the tope,
with its trunk, ten feet in girth, towering towards heaven
THE BIRDS AT THE MANGO TOPE,
like " the mast of some great ammiral," and its wealth of
shade and coolness. To the unsophisticated ryot it is no
question. He conceives that cultivation could only emas-
culate the pronounced flavour and firm fibrous texture of
that prince of fruits, the wild mango, likest a ball of tow
soaked in turpentine. The parrots are of the same mind,
and competition is so keen between them that all the hot
season a big-turbaned urchin of preternatural powers of
throat and lung is appointed guardian of the tope. Like
Mr. Onoocool Chunder Mookerjee,* he is " filamentous" as
to his limbs, but his middle part is unduly distended, and
this convicts him in my judgment of living on the green
mangoes which it is his duty to guard. But let him pass.
At this season our ears are safe from the irruption of his
frenzied yells, and our lives from jeopardy by his sling- stones.
The road to the tope is what the natives call a sudduk
that is, a layer of dust more or less deep, generally more,
and just wide enough not to allow two bullock-carts to cross.
It lies over a barren plain, with here a cotton-field, and there
a stubble-field, but all the way the keen morning air is astir
* The reader is earnestly advised to procure the Life of this gentleman
written by his nephew, and to read it.
THE TRIBES O\ 7 MY FRONTIER.
with the voices of the birds. To my mind the birds are half
the scenery everywhere, and more than half on an Indian
plain. The view addresses the eye, and the birds address the
ear, and the two should work together. The man whose ear
is untaught to enjoy the harmonious discord of the birds,
walks alone when he might have company, and loses half
the joys of travel and change of scene. In the pigeonholes
of my memory many a glorious gallop over the plains of the
Deccan is tied up in the same bundle with the joyous out-
pourings of the skylark, and the long whistle of the black-
breasted lark, as it rises and falls again with closed wings,
and the monotonous voice of that strange bird which flies a
few feet up into the air, and then spreads its rufous wings,
and comes down like a parachute, revolving slowly as it
descends. The loud wranglings of the satbhai are there too,
more clamorous than usual. I suspect an eighth brother
from some disrupted family has fallen among them. If the
crops were still uncut there would be the chattering of a
thousand jowaree birds or rosy starlings, broken by impo-
tent execrations from the mucJiari* in the middle of the field ;
but the crops are cut, and I do not know where the jowaree
* A high platform from which a man watches the field.
THE BIRDS AT THE MANGO TOPE.
birds have gone. Death is at work too, for many a blue-
grey harrier comes over the hedges and across the fields,
gliding on its long black-tipped wings as if that easy motion
were its normal state its inertia. It is the feeblest of the
hawk kind, but gifted with a miraculous power of stopping
in full flight, and dropping like a drop of rain on a young
lark or incautious lizard. The kestrel is plotting against
the same feeble folk, but it is up in the air, and motionless
as a cloud on a hot day, save for the rapid flapping of its
sharp pinions. If you are out with the sun, as everybody
should be in India, you will certainly meet the guilty jackal
on his way home, and he will sit down, with his usual im-
pudence, to look at you. The little foxes stay out gambol-
ling till a much later hour, and the jerboa rats, whose holes
have riddled the ground like a nutmeg-grater, come out and
sit up on their hind legs, pretending to survey the country.
It is all a sham. Rats cannot see any more than rabbits,
and would have been extinct long ago but for their sharp
But my trusty steed, Sir Richard, pricks up his ears and
quickens his pace : we are drawing near the tope. When
a horse goes out, it likes, just as much as its rider, to have
a definite terminus ad quern, and there is none better than
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
a mango tope. It is visible a long way off, and audible
too, for it resounds with the screams of the green parrots,
as they wheel in circles round it, or all, with spreading
tails, settle at once on the topmost twigs, a spectacle of
inimitable grace. There are no mangoes now, but this is
the breeding season with parrots, and in the gnarled
boughs of an old mango-tree there are always holes. For
the same reason mynas seek the tope, and the " blue jay,"
so called, and the little green "copper-smith" hooting
ventriloquistically. This does not exhaust the list, for, as
you pass under a large tree, a very round face, with the
expression of Mr. Punch, looks out of a hole, and then a
little spotted owl flits silently to the lowest bough of an-
other tree. In two seconds it is joined by another, and
there the two sit and bob their heads and stare at you, and
go through a pantomime which would ruin the reputation
for sanity of any other bird than an owl past all redemp-
tion. I am sure there is some mistake about this spotted
owl. The owl proper of the poets is distinguished for
solemnity : this is a madcap. Tennyson's owl sits alone
and warming his five wits ; this sits in twos and has not
five wits to warm, or I am much mistaken. Shakespeare's
owl sings to-whoOy and likewise the one that Wordsworth's
THE BIRDS AT THE MANGO TOPE.
idiot boy took for a cock ; this squeaks and jibbers like a "
ghost in the Roman streets. Yet it is impossible to get
rid of the impression that the spotted owlet is not such a
fool as it looks. Let us say it is eccentric. In this same
tope there is, however, though it will not let you see it, a
bird or feathered spectre of some sort, which fully restores
the owlish reputation, for it out-'owls (no pun) every owl.
Its voice carries melancholy to a depth of abysmal dole-
fulness which the ear must hear before the mind can image
it. What a power of conceiving unutterable anguish must
lie in the bosom which can express itself so ! The natives
say the devil is in the bird, and they will not go near the
place at night.
The tope has on one side of it a sort of suburb of bore
and babul-trees, mixed with a little scrubby underwood,
and this affords shelter to some birds which could not find
sustenance or a congenial habitation among the mango-
trees. For instance, there is that ungainly object the
coucal, crow-pheasant, jungle-crow, or whatever else you
like to call the miscellaneous thing as it clamours through
a creeper-laden bush, or spreads its reddish-bay wings, and
makes a slow voyage to the next tree. To judge by its
appearance only, it might be a crow developing for a pea-
156 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
cock, but its voice seems to have been borrowed from a
black-faced monkey. There are some strange oddities
among birds. This same crow-pheasant has a second or
third cousin called the koel, which deposits its eggs in the
nest of the crow, and has its young brought up by that
discreditable foster-parent. Now, this bird supposes that
it has a musical voice, and devotes the best part of the
night to vocal exercise, after the manner of the nightingale.
You may call it the Indian nightingale, if you like. There
is a difference, however, in its song, the burden of which
seems to be who-are-you, who-are-you, who-are-you, while
the tune is a crescendo scale running right through the
compass of the bird's voice. When it gets to the very top
of its pitch, its voice cracks, and there is an end of it, or
rather, there is not, for the persevering musician begins
again. You may wonder what pleasure it finds in this, but
why should any one conclude that it is seeking its own
pleasure and not rather ministering to ours ? Does not
the Maratha novelist, dwelling on the delights of a spring
morning in an Indian village, tell how the air' was filled
with the dulcet melody of the koel, the green parrot, and
the peacock ?
I must pass by the rosy-breasted little minivet, with its
THE BIRDS AT THE MANGO TOPE.
bevy of plainly-dressed wives; the paradise flycatcher, with
half a yard of white satin ribbon for a tail ; the too noisy
grey partridge and the screaming pied cuckoo ; and many
more, for now the sun is getting hot. A warm ride home,
a cold tub, and a breakfast qualified with no other stimulant
than high spirits and good tea : this is the receipt for
keeping mens sana in sano corpore through the day. Ex-
perto crede !
THE BIRDS AT THE TANK,
HEN I go to the tank I
am generally on mur-
derous thoughts intent.
I go, therefore, gun in
hand, with my aide-de-
camp, the sagacious
Hubshee, at my heels.
He is called the Hubshee (videlicet,
Abyssinian), I may say parentheti-
cally, because his curly coat is as
black as King Theodore. Readers of
The Field have had abundance of in-
struction lately about the way to suit
yourself with a gun. You are to go
to your gunmaker, and try a dozen or two of guns, until
THE BIRDS AT THE TANK. 159
you find a weapon that fits your figure, then experiment
with it before a looking-glass, or fire at a target, and if the
result is not satisfactory, send it back to your gunmaker,
and have the stock made shorter or longer, straighter or
more crooked, until the fit is perfect. There have been
also plenty of directions (mostly contradicting each other)
about the using of the guri : how to hold it, how to aim,
how many of your eyes to shut when you fire, &c. We go
about things in a different way in India, at least we have
done so since the pagoda-tree withered away. Instead of
repairing to "our gunmaker," we mount our nag and find
our way to where the broad signboard of jee jee,
Europe Shopkeeper, Auctioneer, and Commission Agent,
spreads itself before a dilapidated museum of secondhand
tongas, perambulators, tents, and tatoos, and there we con-
tend with the bland Mr. jee for the gun which Lieu-
tenant Smith, ordered off to Kandahar, has left to be sold
for whatever it will fetch. Bearing our prize home, I do not
say that we consult our chum as to whether the powder
or the shot should be put in first, but we pick up know-
ledge where we can find it, and the griffin, who perhaps
never handled a gun until he came to India, may in a
wonderfully short time have developed into a keen shik-
j6o THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
aree and bold tiger-slayer. Instead of having the stock
altered to suit us, we contrive to suit ourselves to the
stock ; and as to those knotty questions about holding the
gun, shutting your eyes, &c., if all such matters do not
come to a man of themselves by the time he has blown
away three or four thousand cartridges, he may as well sit
down at once and disabuse himself of the notion that
nature designed him for a Nimrod. If our method is not
very scientific, the deficiency is atoned for by practical
success. Few countries have produced more renowned
shikarees than India. Here in Dustypore the mutton-
butcher is said to be filing his schedule in the Court for
the protection of insolvent debtors.
To return to the tank : it seems doubtful whether we
shall get there. Not being so green as I was, I let the
tempting herd of antelopes pass, but the kttllum I cannot
resist. They are feeding in thousands at the other end of
a large field, and to reach them it will only be necessary to
crawl round behind the hedge for a quarter of a mile or so.
The hedge is about a foot high, so my gait must be that
to which the serpent was doomed and this to a man by
nature six feet high is exactly the opposite of otium cum
dignitate. But what will one not do, with roast kullum
THE BIRDS AT THE TANK.
looming in the vista of the future ? The only serious diffi-
culties are two wide gaps in the hedge, where there are
only three blades of grass and a small stone to shelter the
stalker, and, having successfully negotiated these, I go on
swimmingly up to the corner of the field, within five
minutes' crawl of my goal, and then discover, for the first
time, that a small party of kullum are on my side of the
hedge, and will see me the instant I turn the corner. It is
clear I should have gone round the opposite side of the
field and nothing remains but to do so now. I know no
way of putting down upon paper the tedium of wriggling
along the ground on your belly for a quarter of an hour,
and then wriggling back to your first point, for the sake of
starting on a fresh wriggle in the contrary direction ; but
if I did, it would do no good, for the reader would still be
as far as ever from realizing the peculiar sensations with
which, at the end of it all, you take in the fact that ths
kullum are not, as you thought, thirty yards from the
hedge, but about a hundred and thirty, and that you have
got nothing for your pains but lumbago. It only exas-
perates my temper to lie and watch them moving slowly
about in all the gracefulness of their long drooping plumes
and silky-white ear-tufts, so I rise and show myself, and in
1 64 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
a moment, with that clamour which a thousand kullum
can raise, they are up and away, gradually falling into the
figure of a V, each limb of which seems a mile or so in
Late as it is I must go on to the tank, for before starting
I magnificently told my " boy " to bring no bazaar to-day.
The tank is not far, and soon I hear mingled voices and
much quacking. Each kind of duck has its own notion
about tanks. Among the rushes of the far-reaching sheet
of shallow water, where countless teal and pintails revel,
you will not hear the whistle of the genteel little widgeon,
and where you shot the splendid spotted-billed duck in
January there will be only the gaudy vulgar shoveller in
March. This tank is just now the fashionable resort of the
gadwall and the pintail, and, as these are two of the com-
monest (and most savoury) duck in the country, it is in-
deed " a sight for sair een." On each side there is a bund
crowded with babul and dense bushes, so it is possible to
lie in ambush and get a quiet view of one of the most won-
derful scenes of busy life to be seen anywhere the duck
jostling one another for room, some swimming peacefully
in the deep water, but most in the shallow parts, reaching
down their beaks to the muddy bottom until nothing
THE BIRDS AT THE TANK.
appears above the water but a dense squadron of pointed
tails, the spoonbills trotting in solemn line, and moving
their heads from side to side, the shrill-toned greenshanks
mingled with stilts and sandpipers and godwits round the
margin, the ibises, the herons, grey and white, the pelican-
ibises, or " beefsteak birds," the storks, all engaged in a
general scramble for breakfast, with a Babel of gruntings
and snortings, quackings and croakings, screamings and
pipings, that would need for its description the vocabulary
of the poet who tells " how the waters came down at Lo-
dore." Away on the other side there is a mighty fleet of
snowy pelicans majestically sailing on the water, and many
more are basking on the bank.
If all these were only birds, and not game, I could lie
and contemplate them by the hour. As the case stands
my pleasure at the sight is alloyed with a sense of incom-
pleteness or imperfection. While those duck are still on
the water, they seem to come short of their end, which
obviously includes some reference to my dinner to-night.
And how to bring that end nearer is a question with as
yet a very dim answer, for there is not a bird within range,
and if once I show my head above the bank, some wary
watchman will give a warning which all the rest will under-
1 66 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
stand. This perplexity however does not last longer than
till the moment when some turn of events gives a chance for
the first shot. Then, with a tumultuous hubbub, the whole
company rises, and, while the rest disperse, the duck keep
wheeling round and round with amazing speed. It is a case
of load and fire, load and fire as fast as a breechloader will.
The judicious Hubshee sits wondering what all the fusillade
is about, and with some reason, for, if the truth must be
confessed, I find that duck have a most unaccountable way
of not coming down when shot. When at last a graceless
shoveller falls with a splash, he is in after it, and though
it has life enough left to try a dive, the gallant dog comes
of too good a stock (his father was the peerless Kootab-
un-deen) to relinquish the chase until he has pulled it out
by a foot, and safely deposited it on the grass. He does
not stay to mouth it, but plunges into the water for the
next and the next. In a few minutes all is over. The
duck have gone off to other tanks, and nothing remains
but to realise the bag. If this includes bringing to book
a wounded gadwall, it may be the chief part of the morn-
ing's work. The bird will take three charges of No. 5 with
the utmost complacency, and then, when it thinks the
thing is becoming monotonous, it will disappear in open
THE BIRDS AT THE TANK., 167
water before your eyes, like a Cheshire cat, leaving a
ripple instead of a grin. The Hubshee is checkmated now,
but I have another ally, whose deep brown form and white
forehead I see afar as it comes gliding along by the reedy
margin of the tank in search of a basking frog. It is the
marsh harrier, which thoughtless people shoot at because
it is too fond of carrying off a wounded teal when it can.
I discovered its value some time ago, and have encouraged
it since. Suddenly its sharp eyes discover something
among the rushes about thirty yards from where my gad-
wall vanished. It comes swiftly down, and drops on the
spot. A loud quaick and a splash ! It rises, circles slowly
round, and again plunges among the rushes at another
place. A third and fourth time it does the same, and then
it does not rise. The diving powers of the poor duck are
exhausted, and it is safe in the talons of the hungry
harrier. I have only to go round and put him up, and
seize my booty, which has just enough of life left to allow
Peer Khan to make it halal, by cutting its throat in the
name of Allah, and dividing the webs of its feet* Poor
bird ! It seems a cruel end to come to. Yet the cruelty
* See Leviticus xi. 3.
1 68 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
is mostly in seeming. A near acquaintance with living
creatures enforces the conviction that sorrow and suffering,
as we know them, scarcely have an existence in the animal
world ; while happiness, the pure joy of mere existence,
bubbles up and flows on in an unintermitting stream. " The
sense of death is most in apprehension," and from this the
poor beetle that we tread upon is wholly delivered by a
merciful want of imagination. It knows of nothing except
the physical pain which accompanies death, and knows of
that only while actually enduring it. Without doubt, being
torn to pieces by a tiger is to a wild animal a fate less
dreadful than to succumb slowly to fever or old age; and,
looked at wisely, it is a cheering thought that, of the many
birds every sportsman inevitably wounds and leaves to die,
few indeed will escape from the host of rapacious enemies
ever on the watch to put them to a short and sharp, if a
Fear also has very little effect in distressing animals.
Hairbreadth escapes do not take away their breath.
A miss of an inch is quite as good as a mile to them.
I had a tame hare which would be thrown into such a
panic of fright by the rustling of a piece of paper, that
it would almost dash itself to death against the sides
THE BIRDS AT THE TANK.
of its cage ; then suddenly it would stop short and nibble
at a piece of bread.
To return once more to the tank : it is strange how little
all the shooting concerns those birds which know they are
not game. The coots and dabchicks are sailing peacefully
about, the splendid wire-tailed swallow is skimming along
over the water, the speckled kingfisher is hovering high in
air, as if nothing had happened, and every few minutes
dropping like a stone upon some fated fish. The strange
bottle-nests of the weaver birds, hanging in dozens where
the babul-trees droop over the water, seem to add to the
peacefulness of the scene, deserted as they are now by
their chattering proprietors. In grim contrast to the whole,
upon a low boundary-mark in the background sits a huge
imperial eagle, bolt upright, and almost too proud to get
out of the way for me. All through the season and for
many seasons that has been its morning station, and on
the ground around it are strewn bones and large white
feathers of herons or spoonbills, with a few bright rosy
plumes which may have adorned a luckless flamingo,
While I was contemplating all this, suddenly there was a
rushing sound in the air overhead, and a flock of duck
came down with such lightning speed that no gun could
170 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
have followed them, and tumbled like a storm of hail into
the water all but the last. It checked itself, and with a
most graceful curve glided up to the top of a small tree
and sat there, and lo ! it was a hawk, the peregrine falcon,
the most bloodthirsty of all the wild duck's foes. It can
do nothing now, unless I with my gun force them to leave
the water again, and, humanity apart, I have too much
respect for my own feelings to do that.
Now, lest sporting Bombayites choke the columns of the
Times of India with inquiries regarding the whereabouts of
Dustypore, its proximity to the line of railway, and the
best way of getting to the tank, I think it proper to say
that Dustypore is almost everywhere, and the particular
tank I have described is nowhere. It is purely a figment
of my brain, constructed of materials drawn from a multi-
tude of actual or possible tanks. The materials are genuine
I did not make them ; but they are the cream skimmed
from much whey of unsuccessful toil and curds of disap-
pointment. If anybody thinks to inherit them by the
simple process of taking a ticket at the Byculla station,
why, he is mistaken. I could describe the sort of tank he
will get to, and his possible experience there, but nobody
would read the account.
THE BIRDS AT THE TANK.
N.B. I have applied the word kullum, as everybody
does, to the demoiselle crane, which, however, is not pro-
perly the kuUtim, but the koonja.
THE POULTRY- YARD,
that you might
as well call our Aryan
brother himself a frontier tribe
the domestic moorgce ; but I do not see
parallel. I regard the moorgee as an
aborigine. If you were talking of cum-
brous brahmas, or shapely Dorkings, or
other artificial productions, the argument might
stand ; but what have these to do with that little game
bird on which Europeans in the district mainly subsist a
small brown creature with a very large tail which catches
THE POULTRY-YAK D.
the wind like a sail, with plenty of feathers and no flesh,
and weighing about three-quarters of a pound ? In calling
it a game bird I do not mean that sahibs shoot it, for it-
lives much about villages, like the peafowl in Guzerat, and
its semi-domesticated habits almost preclude its being shot
for sport ; but it is much hunted by Goanese and Madras
cooks, who pursue it with stones and short sticks thrown
boomerang-wise. It runs amazingly and flies well, and
affords excellent sport. It cannot be said to have a high
game flavour ; in fact, it has a decidedly low flavour, the
result of vicious tastes.
I once used to keep a stock of these birds as a substitute
fir domestic fowls, but I have given them up. I cannot
stand their ways. It is not that they will eat all you give
them, and hang about the cook-house for scraps besides,
yet absolutely refuse to grow fat ; it is not that when they
do, once a quarter, contribute to your breakfast nine or ten
muddy-coloured eggs, and you essay to try one, you have
to institute a search with your spoon in the depths of the
egg-cup for the minute globule ; it is not that when you
do obtain it, it is redolent of garlic and wild flavours. It
is none of these. The last straw which breaks the camel's
back of my patience is that t as soon as she has produced
174 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
half a dozen or so of these things, the indigenous moorgee\s
seized with a violent ambition to hatch them. From that
time forth she will appropriate other hens' eggs wherever
she finds them ; in default of these she will incubate a
corner of the hen-house, and, if you shut her out, she will
sit dhitrna at the door. Plunging her into water five times
a day does not damp her philoprogenitiveness. The cook
sticks a long feather in her nose, and, when she has worn
the ornament for a few weeks, it is supposed to turn her
mind off incubation. Even the moorgee, however, is acted
upon to some extent by good upbringing and generous
fare. It improves her size, and gives her a comfortable
motherly look quite foreign to the bird in its natural state.
I keep a few of these civilized specimens for hatching and
rearing purposes. Pedro, the cook, also maintains a small
establishment of them on his own account, and, so far from
suffering by my competition, he seems to reap a double
advantage from it. In the first place, his fowls cost him
nothing for food, and, in the second, explain it how you will,
the chickens he rears have all the qualities of my best hens.
It does seem strange that the offspring of a skinny little
dirt-coloured moorgee should be the very image of a Dork-
ing just imported from England, the pride of my poultry-
yard ; but I suppose it is a sort of lusus natures. Another
phenomenon is that, if I, growing suspicious, issue an edict
that he shall not keep poultry in my compound, n ine begin
to die off. Bowing to the inevitable, therefore, I make a
compromise, permitting him to keep a limited number which
are hostages for the health of mine. If a wild cat commits
ravages night after night among my poultry, choosing, with
the eye of a judge, all the best birds, and carrying them off
silently, without leaving a feather to mark its course, then I
hold a Naval Demonstration at once, firing off a prodigious
amount of blank cartridge, to the effect that by this time
to-morrow not one feather of the cook's stock shall be
seen on my premises. At once the wild cat discontinues
its visits, and things go well again, and Pedro's poultry
are not banished.
Thus it comes about that in my compound there is
rather a mixed population. The time to make acquaint-
ance with them is early in the morning when Pedro
emerges with a platter full of grain, and, standing in an
open place, cries, with the voice of a herald, Ah, Ah, Ah!
The stirring cry of "house on fire" in a great city has not
the magic power of those three syllables in a poultry-yard.
The fat foreign hen starts at the sound, and runs faster
176 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
than is good for her ; the lean native fairly takes to her
wings like the guinea-fowls ; the ducks tumble along with
a great deal of both leg and wing action ; the portly tur-
key trots like a baggage camel ; the pigeons come down in
a cloud ; and, at last, the sitting hen leaves her very eggs
and rushes out with much ostentatious clucking. Even
Impudence, the kid while yet he was knew the sound,
and scampered down, his long ears dancing, to pick
up grains of gram. Not that I feed my fowls on gram ; if
they are to be fed on any one grain, let it be paddy ; but
there is a mixture, consisting of the sweepings of the
threshing-floors, sold under the name of mattra, and where
this can be had I recommend it. It is cheaper than any
single kind of grain, and contains a variety which is most
wholesome. The pigeons find among it moog and mut, the
peas that their souls love ; the fowls can have their choice ;
while for the young chickens there is bajree, with other
small grains. So they scramble like children for sweeties,
hitting one another, roaring out when hit, or passing it on ;
and all the while feeding against time. The master of the
ceremonies is that red kullum cock, named the Sergeant.
The kulhim, or game fowl, is the only breed in this part
of India at least to which any attention has been paid ;
178 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
others grow, like Topsy ; but cock-fighting Mussulmans
have really brought the kullum to great perfection. And
the Sergeant is a kullum of the kullums. He is commonly
considered hideous, for he is " caviare to the general," and
it requires an educated eye to discern his beauties. He
stands twenty-five inches high, and a plummet from his
chin would drop on his toes. His head is very red, with a
fleshy knob for a comb, his deep-sunk eyes are fiery, his
legs are very pillars of Hercules, his covering is more like
fishes' scales than the plumage of feathered fowls, and so
scanty, that after dinner it parts in front and displays a
patch of naked redness, but it shines with the richest
purple gloss. I could make my fortune by betting on him
but that he suffers, aristocratic bird that he is, from gout ;
for I do not believe he ever turned his back on a foe. Fear
is a state with which he is not acquainted. When he is
pecking at a bone, the Hubshee looks on from a distance
and breaks the Tenth Commandment, but dare not touch
the bone. When the kid thrust his impudent nose into the
grain-dish the Sergeant smote him between the eyes. But
the most striking feature of the noble bird is dignity, that
inalienable dignity which is an inheritance. Being unable
to compete at feeding-time with the more nimble chickens
he comes to the back door for his special allowance, and
waits like the ckupprassis ; only his martial figure is not to
be mistaken for that slouching satellite, and he does not
cough to attract my attention ; he just stands and com-
mands respect. If you offer him anything, he advances
and accepts it like a gentleman. He seems to weigh about
half a maund, weight of character included.
To descend to meaner things, there are some comely
Bussorah fowls, large and deep-bodied, with bright eyes
and crested heads. These are the main body of my
establishment, for my experience is that, from a utilitarian
point of view, no hen obtainable in India compares with
the Bussorah. The kullum is tasty after death, but during
life it is quarrelsome and delicate. English fowls succumb
to the climate. Bussorahs are strong and healthy, flourish
in dust and heat, lay eggs, not homoeopathic pilules, and
do not insist on hatching them. In point of mind and
character they are like all other fowls, stupid and devoid
of individuality, each one a copy of the rest. The chief
exception, after the Sergeant, is Marco Polo, a sprightly
chicken of four months, which from ils very infancy has
displayed a most ardent passion for travel and exploration.
In the heat of the day, when others are resting open-
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
mouthed wherever they can find a little shade, it is away
in some distant corner, making discoveries amongst the
roots of the prickly-pear hedge, and late in the evening,
when the rest are in bed, it returns from a long expedition
in the fields. I only fear that its adventurous little spirit
will bring it to an untimely end some day in the den of a
jackal or a mungoose.
This reminds me that, whether the inhabitants of the
poultry-yard are themselves a frontier tribe or not, they
are a cause of the presence of some most pestilent
borderers. When I surprised
the vagabond jackal one morn-
ing loitering about my premises
without visible means of sup-
port, could there be any mis-
take about its intentions? And
though the mungoose, about
which all the hens are making
such a cackling, trots innocently
away, bent on nothing in par-
ticular, was it equally objectless when the hen who had ten
chickens yesterday, and has only nine to-day, first noticed
its red nose and snaky eyes peering over a tuft of grass ?
THE POULTRY-YARD. 181
The difference between the jackal and the mungoose is
this, that the former is a tramp, who takes in hard times to
highway robbery and dacoity, while the latter is a pro-
fessional thug ; and I prefer the former. His open assaults,
whether by day or by night, are easier to meet than the
systematic plots of the cold-blooded cutthroat which
murdered two of my rabbits in one afternoon. Happily
for us, the horrid lust for blood easily drives it to its own
destruction, for, when surprised and compelled to leave its
booty, it cannot rest, and if you lie in ambush, with your
gun, near the " kill," you will not have to wait half an hour
ere it returns to drag the carcass home to its hole under a
bush. A third enemy more omnipresent than either the
jackal or the mungoose is the pariah kite. Sailing in easy
circles, it pretends to be in quest of dead rats or scraps of
kitchen refuse, but its eye is on a hen which is busy
scratching the ground, with her numerous brood, still in
downy infancy, gathered about her. Suddenly it half
closes its wings, and, swooping like a whirlwind, passes so
near the astonished hen that it blows her almost off her
feet and clean out of her wits. She picks herself up, but
not her wits, and is away in frantic pursuit of the kite
nmid the piteous screaming of her forsaken chicks, the
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
panic of terrified fowls, and a most horrid roaring of
servants rushing from their rooms to the rescue. But by
this time the kite is sitting on her nest, parting the limbs
of the miserable chicken among the grape-mouthed little
harpies that are worth all the rest of the world to her.
I do not make pets of fowls. As I have said, there is
not stuff in them for that. Still, quite apart from vulgar
uses, it is pleasant to have a large establishment of de-
pendants about you, looking to you for protection and
maintenance. It imparts a certain patriarchal, Abrahamic
magnificence to your conception of yourself. Modern
radicalism may affect to dispise mere externals, but I am
a disciple of Herr Teufelsdrockh. If life were stripped of
its clothes, who would have it ?
THE WHITE ANTS,
THOUGHT I had
gone nearly through
the list of our pests,
and have been fondly
-^F. giving the rein of late
to that pleasing disposi-
tion which delights always to look on the bright
side of things, and now I find narrow, tortuous
tubes of mud showing themselves at certain strategic points
on the floor and walls. The arch-scourge of humanity, the
foe of civilization and blight of learning, the Goths, Ostro-
goths, Huns, Vandals of Indian life, are preparing for their
summer campaign, mustering their hordes, and going forth
to sack our libraries, ravage our museums, desolate our
184 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
godowns, and eat our boots. I had forgotten them, but
they had not forgotten me. Is it not always the way? If
we could always remember, or they would sometimes
forget, things might be different ; but in a moment of
remissness the heavy book-box is laid down in the veran-
dah, and we forget it for a week or two. This was all I
did, and now! "Forbes's Manual" has lost its boards, two
long tunnels traverse the " Bagh-o- Bahar," and though the
" Penal Code " looks all right from without, open it, and a
yawning chasm stretches from Culpable Homicide to an
Unlawful Assembly. Worse than all these, the binding is
eaten away from the back of Kinglake's " Crimea," and the
intelligent hamal, who used to turn it upside down with
such faithful regularity, has nothing left to guide him.
Where do these destroying hordes come from ? Is the
common theory of geology all wrong, and do the bowels
of the earth really consist of a seething mass of white ants ?
On these and all similar questions the prevailing state of
the public mind is a state of ignorance, for these consistent
evil-doers do so abhor the light that any experimental
acquaintance with their internal economy is unattainable.
What is known amounts to this, that if you put anything
on the ground in India, except teak-wood or glass, you
THE WHITE ANTS.
presently find it covered with an earthy crust. If you
scratch that off, you find underneath it a swarfn of little
yellow animals, blind, bigheaded, armed with strong jaws,
and affording a most wholesome and nourishing food for
young guinea-fowls. When uncovered, they manifest the
keenest distress, and rush into any shelter they can find.
In the meantime everything that finds them, from the
black ant upwards, kills and eats them pro bono publico. It
is also known that these same creatures raise hills several
feet high, and in form like miniature
volcanoes, with the principal crater in
the middle, and a network of passages
all through, and that if you dig under
one of these hills you find an animal
as big as a sausage, and so fat that her
legs have long since been lifted off the
ground, and she cannot walk. Never-
theless, she seems quite contented, and
kills time by producing eggs, as some
one claims to have ascertained, at the
rate of 80,000 a day. Another point
on which we have attained certainty is that sometimes,
especially on a monsoon evening, the volcanoes are in
1 86 T11R TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
eruption, belching forth for lava and ashes a column of
winged creatures two or three times as large as common
white ants, and quite the opposite of them, being soft and
effeminate, with good eyes, but second-rate jaws. It also
admits of no manner of doubt that, if you have a dinner
party that evening, these creatures are guided by some in-
fallible instinct to the lights at your table, and while some
perish in a holocaust, until the guttering and spluttering
candles are bristling like bottle-brushes with their wings,
others leave those useless organs in your plate, and crawl
in a very naked, helpless state among your food, wading
especially about the gravy.
These are the facts. Upon the foundation of these, and
with materials drawn from bees and ants, if you have the
scientific faculty, you may found probable hypotheses, and
probable hypotheses are rapidly coming to be recognized
as the real substance and body of all true science. You
will discern, for instance, that the hard-headed little miners
correspond to the worker bees, while the winged things are
properly-matured insects going out to found new colonies.
Then the portentous monster which you dig out from
under the hill evidently answers to the queen among bees.
This receives collateral support from the well-known fact
THE WHITE ANTS. 187
that in Africa, Cetewayo's wives and, indeed, all queens
are found to be very fat. Theories so plausible as these are
always admissible until contradicted by facts, and I admit
them, though in my scientific creed a rank sceptic and
rationalist, doubting even my own evolution from bathy-
bius via the anthropoid ape. At the same time, I have
never been able to see where the new colonies are sup-
posed to be founded. Emigration is an excellent thing,
but I suppose there must be some country to emigrate to
before its advantages can be developed. Now, in a land
whose soil is three-fourths white ants and one-fourth
earthy matter or stone, where is the new colony to settle ?
in the interstices between these already in possession ?
Then, again, as to those pioneers going to found new
colonies : they mostly go to fatten the birds. I remember
sitting with a friend and watching them one fine monsoon
day, as they issued from a hole in the ground. The hole
was so small that they struggled out with difficulty, one
at a time, though a number of sturdy workers were behind
pushing them. At first a lizard was posted at the mouth
of the hole, and licked them up as they came out, but we
drove it off", and mounted guard ourselves, to see fair play.
Every post of vantage en the trees around was occupied
l88 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
by a king crow or one of those strange birds the swallow-
shrikes (Artamus fiiscus), which happened to be common
at that place. As each young adventurer drew itself
through the narrow gateway, arrayed like a bride in its
long gauze wings, it bade a tearful farewell to the friends
of its childhood, and, rising upon the breeze, started upon
the voyage of life. I do not know what rosy hopes were
at that moment blushing on the horizon of its young life,
but a king-crow shot from his station and wiped them all
out with one loud snap of its beak. In half a minute a
second rose on its feathery wings and sailed away towards
the sky, until a swallow-shrike seemed to glide over it, and
it disappeared. No beak snapped this time. The bird
just swept past with open mouth, and the ant was not.
My friend professed to hear a soft tJntd from inside the
bird, but I heard nothing. Thus, one after another, each
in happy ignorance of the fate of its predecessors, they
went forth to seek their fortunes, and the fortunes of all
were the same. I doubt if a single one came to a happy
Here am I, under the influence of a weak pity, talking
sentimentality about the death of white ants. What strange
creatures we are, and how seldom we can make room for
THE WHITE ANTS.
one right feeling without turning out another ! To one
whose sympathies were properly adjusted, what could give
a truer and profounder satisfaction than the sight of so
much potential mischief being nipped in the bud, such a
rolling river of future destruction being staunched at its
very fountain-head ? Now that I think of it, what a crop
of wholesome and righteous feelings I might have raised
many a time while watching such a scene, especially when
the swarm was large, and the hour about sunset, so that the
bats and owls, as well as kites and crows, joined the great
crusade, washing out in some degree the scandal of their
past lives. Yet I fear the practical result of the most whole-
sale slaughter of white ants amounts to nothing. They can
spare a million lives much more easily than any one can
spare time and strength to destroy them, and those that
remain are neither reformed nor deterred. Nothing either
reforms or deters them. A copious use of kerosine oil
would doubtless drive them out of the house altogether, but
not till long after it had driven me out. It is consolatory
to know that they wilt not cross over glass, and a box on
pedestals made of the bottoms of beer-bottles is absolutely
All the great men who have assisted to discover or
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
invent the history of white ants have offered no clue, so far
as I know, to one great mystery which attends their pro-
ceedings. Where do they find water? Starting from the
ground at a place where you might dig fifty feet without
reaching water, they will travel through the foundations
and between the stones of the wall away into the upper
storey of your house, and then, finding their road barred,
perhaps, by a broad stone, they will emerge and build a
covered way to protect their march, until they reach a soft
place where they can enter the wall again. Now, clay can-
not be kneaded or mortar mixed without moisture, and
they manage to carry on these operations in the second
storey of a house with the hygrometer at zero, and all your
postage stamps curling into telescopes. Their heads are
certainly large and red, like water-chatties, but surely they
do not carry water in their heads !
White ants will not eat anything that has life in it. It is
proof enough of this that the earth to-day is clothed with
verdure, and we ourselves survive. In fairness, however,
it should be stated that the malee holds a contrary opinion.
He maintains that plants of his planting are never eaten by
white ants because they have died, but die because they are
eaten by white ants.
THE WHITE ANTS.
It is scarcely necessary to repeat here that white ants are
not ants at all, but termites, and do not even belong to the
order of hymenoptera, but to the neuroptera, for everybody
knows these elementary matters now ; but it is not so
generally known that these distinctions imply a real diffe-
rence, for white ants, like chickens, run as soon as they are
born, and require no swaddling or cradling. Hence, you
never come upon a white ant carrying its papoos, as black
ants do when changing their residence.
1 9 2
IS many-sided, and
to teach one's mind
in every case to walk
round the polygon is an
excellent discipline and
an antidote to bigotry.
For instance, naturalists
classify animals accord-
to the plan of the endoskeleton,
or the perfection of the haematic
and nervous systems, and distinguish one sub-
kingdom from another by the fact that the digestive sac is
differentiated from the general somatic cavity. This is all
very valuable, and indeed I hold that, for purposes of men-
tal drill, a good handbook of zoology or botany is second
only to the Latin grammar or Euclid. But I am not a
pedagogue, not yet a " scientist " (vile word !) sorting the
museum of nature. I am only an exile endeavouring to
work a successful existence in Dustypore, and not to let
my environment shape me, as a pudding takes the shape
of its mould, but to make it tributary to my own happi-
ness. From this standpoint the naturalist's classification,
however just, is not useful. Some other arrangement of
animals is required, founded more on their behaviour
than their stomachs, on the disposition of their minds
towards us, rather than on the disposition of their nervous
In such an arrangement snakes, scorpions, centipedes, and
the biscobra would all be included under one genus, since,
in that aspect of them which I am now fronting, they all
present one salient feature, viz., that they all carry about
with them an instrument to be used for the purpose of in-
jecting a poisonous liquor into our persons. That which
makes a scorpion a scorpion is clearly not that it has claws
like a crab, nor that it has eight legs like a spider, nor that
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
it has a tail curved over its back like a pariah dog ; but the
fact that it can by a single flick of that tail put you to the
necessity of howling for the next twenty-four hours. Thus
the scorpion by its tail, the snake by its fangs, and the
centip3de by its jaws, are linked together into one family
to which, in accordance with scientific usage, I have ven-
tured to give a name.
For the sake of brevity and simplicity I would call them
These are the Ghazis on our borders, that come among us
unnoticed to stab and murder, and India is generally un-
derstood to be infested with them to an extent that renders
life precarious. In deference to this general understanding
our paternal Government has been moved at times to sanc-
tion the expenditure of vast sums of public money, in
efforts to compass their extermination. Out of a lakh of
rupees or so paid away annually in rewards for the slaugh-
ter of wild beasts, a large portion is always devoted to this
chimera of extirpating venomous serpents. The deaths
from snake-bite, or supposed snake-bite, in a year through-
out India, average less than one in ten thousand of the
population ; so, if the reward system leads to the destruc-
tion of one deadly snake out of eighteen thousand in the
THE HYPODERMA TIKOSYRINGOPHOROI.
country (which of course it does not), then by the expen-
diture of the moiety more or less of a lakh of rupees,
Government may be considered to have saved the life of
one man out of the one hundred and eighty millions of
India. Precious man ! I wonder who he is ! And, while
money is thus thrown away, the trees all over the country
remain to this day unprovided with lightning-conductors,
in open disregard of the known fact that men (and bullocks
too) are sometimes struck while standing under trees during
a thunderstorm !
Of all our frontier tribes snakes are pre-eminently un-
sociable, and avoid us so anxiously that we see very little
indeed of them, except in the baskets of snake charmers ;
and of those we do meet only one in many is venomous.
You may distinguish a venomous one at once by opening
its mouth and running a penknife or a small flat bit of
stick over the teeth of the upper jaw. This will raise the
poison fangs, which generally lie folded down on the jaw.
Of course all this is looked upon by all the servants as
" fatuous flapdoodle." They are not much disposed to
believe in non-venomous snakes, and at any rate, one
which has had the honour of being killed by master is, ipso
facto, almost certain to be a do guntaivalla, which means
196 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
that if it had bitten you, or even given you a blow with
its tail, you would have died within two hours. Even after
it is dead you are not safe unless you take the precaution
to pound its head into a jelly. This prevents it reviving
during the night and coming and coiling itself up in your
Besides the cobra, there is only one poisonous kind of
snake at all common here, and that is a prettily-marked
little reptile called Echis carinata, about a foot in length,
with a most cantankerous temper and an abusive tongue.
There are two others to be met with sometimes, the chain-
viper (Daboia elegans), which is in appearance and temper
just an enlarged edition of Echis, and a slender inoffensive
species, with whitish rings on a dark ground, which also
must be content to go by its scientific name of Bungarus
arcuatus, for want of another. There are names in plenty,
such as carpet-snake, whip-snake, krait, foorsa ; but they
are applied promiscuously to any sort of snake, real or
imaginary, and are therefore of no use. The fact is that
in real life, as distinguished from romance, snakes are so
seldom seen that no one who does not make a study of
them can know one from another. Still, you may easily
learn to recognise a cobra or an Echis when you see it,
THE HYPODERMA TIKOSYRINGOPHOROI.
and for the rest it is useful to keep in mind that the whole
tribe of slender, whip-like, green, brown, and ye'low snakes
are as harmless as lambs a month old, notwithstanding
anything your butler says to the contrary. Next to his
own religion, there is nothing an average native knows less
about than nature, and domestic servants are generally
below the average. Yet natives in all their ignorance are
comparatively free from the European's superstitious anti-
pathy to the serpent race. The cobra, indeed, is regarded
by natives of the better classes with a kind of veneration.
When a Hindoo observes that a large cobra regularly
haunts his garden, so far from treating it in a hostile spirit,
he will, if piously disposed, propitiate it with an offering
Firmly believing myself that all the larger snakes, and
cobras especially, do man invaluable service by devouring
field-rats, I am unable to tread my feelings underfoot, and
let unbridled reason run away with me so completely as to
let them off when I meet them. A man who is caught
lurking about your premises with a concealed dagger need
not talk of his past services to the State. I slay a
poisonous snake when and where I find it, and if there is
any doubt about its being poisonous, 1 slay it to settle the
I 9 3 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
matter. In my walks abroad I generally carry a strong,
supple, walking cane. This is the prime weapon for
encountering snakes. Armed with it, you may rout and
slaughter the hottest-tempered cobra in Hindustan. Let
it rear itself up and spread its spectacled head-gear and
bluster as it will, but one rap on the side of its head will
bring it to reason, and another about the middle of the
body will bring it to its end. Without a stick you can
do nothing. Twice have I fled before an angry cobra,
having unwisely attacked it with stones. The cobra,
though of a peaceable disposition in the main, is hasty
in his temper.
Since alchemy was given up, and wise men relinquished
the search for the philosopher's stone, some of the energy
thus saved has been devoted to the discovery of a cure for
snake-bite. Sanguine doctors have from time to time
devoted themselves to pricking poor dogs with the fangs
of snakes, and then embittering their end with doses of
potash, injections of ammonia and other sorrows, and thus
many remedies have been discovered, in each of which its
own inventor profoundly believes. Native medicos, with-
out any of those distressing experiments, have attained
exactly the same result, though their remedies have
THE HYPODERMA TIKOS YRINGOPHOROL
generally a more occult, magnetic, Blavatsky character.
They consist of small pebbles which have virtue to draw
the poison out of the wound, herbs which furnish decoc-
tions to be rubbed on the crown of the head, and wonderful
trees of the forest, with twigs of which if the patient be
well flogged the poison will depart from him.
Poisonous snakes are a great mystery. Out of a class of
animals so harmless, so gentle, and so gracefully beautiful,
one here and one there, for no assignable reason, carries
with it an instrument exquisitely contrived for inflicting
almost instant death on creatures fifty times its own size.
And this provision is of no conceivable use to itself. It
cannot be necessary for self defence, since for one that has
it many do without it ; nor can it be of much service in
overpowering prey which consists of nothing more for-
midable than rats and frogs. And those which bear this
poisoned dagger often belong to totally different genera,
and resemble each other far less than they resemble kinds
which are innocent, thus the more effectually blasting the
reputation of the whole family, and making us shun and
abhor a race which would be universal favourites, not only
on account of their grace and the brightness of their hues,
but for their intelligence, and the pleasantness of their dis-
200 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
positions. In these respects they have nothing in common
with the other reptiles which are their relations, the low-
minded lizards, the base frog, and the Boeotian tortoise.
Some kinds, at any rate, show much motherly affection,
guarding their eggs v/ith great care, and when the young
are hatched they go about with them as a hen does with
her chickens. When danger is near, if there is no other
convenient hole at hand, the little ones will run down their
When the complexion of a snake suffers from exposure,
freckles, or anything of that sort, it enjoys the advantage
of being able to peel itself, and come out in a new skin.
The peel is generally left fluttering, like a streamer of
white satin, on some bush, and the little birds carry it off
to line their nests.
The scorpion is entitled to the second place in the
Hypodermatikosyringophoroi, and it, too, has had its cha-
racter much misrepresented. It is much more inoffensive
than is generally supposed, not, however, from amiability
but from indolence. Its favourite attitude is one of sullen
repose, with its arms drawn up, and its tail wound like a
watch-spring ready to strike. Yet it will not strike, as a
rule, unless bullied past all endurance, or held down so that
THE IJ YPODERMA T1KOS YK1NGOF11ORO'.
it cannot get away. Then it does lash out as if the venom
in its tail came straight from the heart, and it is worth a
fortune to know that a drop of strong ammonia let into the
wound is an almost instant cure. I make out three kinds
of scorpions, the feeble and rather scarce Bombay species,
the sturdy house scorpion of the Deccan, and the hairy
black monster found under stones, especially on the hills.
They all live on insects, and possibly lizards and other
small animals, which they catch with their claws and sting
to death. The scorpion is a superfluous enormity which
cannot justify its own existence. When found it should be
executed at once, as a punishment, not for anything it can
be proved to have done, but for what it is. This establishes
a great principle.
Next come centipedes, which are of many kinds. The
prince of them is a somewhat horrid object, banded with
black and yellow. Natives say it does not bite, but that,
if it runs over you, every footprint becomes a sore, a point
which any one can settle for himself by experiment. It is
not generally known that this creature makes a most enter-
taining pet. I had one which measured 6^ inches, and
would doubtless have grown to double that in time, for he
had a healthy appetite. He would kill and devour an
202 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
ordinary house lizard, leaving nothing but one or two of the
larger bones. His habitation was a box with a glass top,
in which I used to exhibit him sometimes at an evening
conversazione. It was the holiday season at Deccanabad,
and many fair women and brave men had gathered at that
pleasant station. There was the jaded literary man, seek-
ing to recover the exhausted phosphorus of his system and
the departed freshness of his thoughts, his wife, suffering
from an acute attack of want of occupation, the pinched
and dyspeptic banker, just escaped from the treadmill for
a brief season, the stalwart police officer, sick of ordinary
These and many more gathered round the arena, and
the spirit of Nero was there too. It was the time of
year when the lamp is visited by those long-legged green
creatures of the cricket sort, which look innocent and vege-
tarian, and are as carnivorous as Young Bombay ; so the
entertainment commenced with the introduction of a few
of these. The centipede heard their footsteps, and started
up thirsting for blood, but, being very shortsighted, he could
not make out where they were, and the scene became like
a game of blind-man's buff, the monster, with open jaws,
rampaging wildly about the box, while the crickets leaped
THE H YPODKRMA TIKOS YR1NGOPHOROL
in panic from side to side. At length one clumsy long-
shanks stumbled over some part of the long body, which
turned on it in an instant, and embraced it with fifty legs
while a pair of sharp sickles were buried in its throat.
While it was being eaten there was an interlude, and the
musical box played a tune. Then, to vary the performance,
we introduced one of those globular beetles which will be
for ever tumbling on their backs, and cannot right them-
selves. Once and again and a third time, with the rash
204 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
valour of inexperience, the centipede fell upon his impene-
trable foe, and when at last he retired, with blunted fangs
and dislocated jaws, you could see that the very name of
a beetle was abomination to him. Then the beetle un-
packed its legs, and got up and climbed the centipede's
nose, and travelled up and down his back and explored
his geography, until the tide of pity turned, and we had
compassion on the shame and misery of the vanquished
But of all the things in this earth that bite or sting, the
palm belongs to the biscobra, a creature whose very name
seems to indicate that it is twice as bad as the cobra.
Though known by the terror of its name to natives and
Europeans alike, it has never been described in the pro-
ceedings of any learned society, nor has it yet received a
scientific name. In fact, it occupies much the same place
in science as the sea-serpent, and accurate information re-
garding it is still a desideratum. The awful deadliness of
its bite admits of no question, being supported by countless
authentic instances ; our own old gliorawalla was killed by
one. The points on which evidence is required are first,
whether there is any such animal as the biscobra ; second,
whether, if it does exist, it is a snake with legs or a lizard
THE HYPODERMA TIKOSYRINGOPHOROL
without them. By inquiry among natives I have learned a
few remarkable facts about it, as, for instance, that it has
eight legs, and is a hybrid between a cobra and that
gigantic lizard commonly miscalled an iguana ; but last
year a brood of them suddenly appeared in Dustypore,
and I saw several. The first was killed by some of the
bravest of my own men with stones, for it can spring four
feet, and no one may approach it without hazard of life.
Even when dead it is exceedingly dangerous, but, with my
.usual hardihood, I examined it. It was nine inches long,
and in appearance like a pretty brownish lizard spotted
with yellow. It has no trace of poison-fangs, but I was
assured that an animal so deadly could dispense with these.
If it simply spits at a man his fate is sealed, for, excepting
a few cunning Bengalees, no one knows any muntra, or
charm, which has power against it. Afterwards one ap-
peared in my own garden, and I made an attempt to cap-
ture it alive with my butterfly-net, my devoted butler's
hair turning grey as he watched me from a great distance ;
but the biscobra got off into a hole. It escaped me once
or twice again, and then, finding I was bent on catching it,
it gradually changed colour, like a chameleon, and grew
larger at the same time, until in a few weeks it had de-
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
veloped into an unmistakable iguana. Some people
would jump to the conclusion that it was a young iguana
to begin with. My butler would endure the thumbscrew
the more notable tribes
have been taken up one by one,
and the less notable grouped
together by their affinities, there
will remain to the end a
large balance of rag, tag,
and bobtail, a vast mixed
multitude, a circumambient
atmosphere of insignificant
vitalities in the midst of
which we live and move :
- - W e even breathe them. They
extend from Professor Tyndall's contumacious bacteria,
which will not be produced by spontaneous generation, to
20 8 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
the frame of an aged bullock, which, having been discarded
by its owner, npw roams about my compound and the
country at large. The latter deserves a passing word, for
I cannot tell you how forcibly it strikes me, in my more
poetical moments, as a beautiful emblem of Liberty. Pos-
sessing nothing else that makes life sweet, it possesses
freedom, and of this neither guile nor fofce can rob it, for,
being in need of nothing, it is not beholden to any man,
and, having nothing to fear, it defies the malice of tyranny.
It laughs the pound to scorn, for it knows that if you send
it there nobody will pay two annas to redeem it ; and if,
on the other hand, you seek by violence to evict it, you
will be foiled, for stoning and cudgelling have long since
ceased to give rise to any unusual sensations in its battered
hide. It is armed against even the fear of death, for it
knows that its leather would not pay the municipality its
funeral expenses, being worn threadbare at a dozen points.
Or, perhaps, the thought of death has become sweet to it,
for its face bespeaks a sad history, and it may be illustra-
ting the saying of the philosopher, qui sdt mori nescit cogi.
Anyway it nescit cogi on that point I am clear.
This great host of etceteras are too promiscuous to be
arranged in groups, and they cannot be treated singly, for
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
some are altogether insignificant, some do not interfere
with us, and others, which do interfere with us, are highly
vulgar. You cannot ignore them, however, for life is
simply steeped in them ; they fill every pore of existence.
In the hot sun at noon crimson and blue dragon-flies are
darting about, carrying havoc and slaughter through the
fields of air. In the cold and stagnant pool close by, the
dragon-flies of to-morrow are leading the same blood-
thirsty life, but they are hideous brown wingless things,
which shoot along by squirting water backwards from a
bellows which they carry in their bodies. If you walk
through the grass on the margin of the pool, you will rouse
a score of muscular grasshoppers unhappy examples of
great power ill-directed. On many a succulent herb here
and there you will notice little accumulations of white
froth, and, if you wipe away the froth, you will find a
humble greenish insect inside. On that spot where you
find it, it has spent all its days, seeing nothing but dimly
through a foggy haze of its own creation, and never un-
happy until now, when you have let in the clear light of
day upon it. Striking type of the mental state of some
You may see another symbol, if you will, in that hope-
less lunatic which goes about the house collecting par-
ticles of rubbish and dust, which it sticks about its person.
Or turn to the evening lamp and contemplate the hundreds
of flimsy little bodies which dot the white globe, stuck fast
by the smear of oil which the servant's fingers left when he
"cleaned" it. They are mostly after the pattern of a mos-
quito, or gnat, but smaller and more fragile. They came
into winged life this afternoon ; a vision of glory dazzled
them and they pursued it : now they are in the pillory and
will remain there till death releases them, for in nature
there is rarely any place for repentance.
Floundering about on the table-cloth is a small water-
beetle, which was as happy as the day is long while it
remained in the well. But it had wings, and was am-
bitious to use them ; and now it is in sore trouble, learning
in the school of experience the hard lesson that when you
are well off it is best to be contented. I pick it up and
drop it into the finger-glass, and in a moment its trouble
is forgotten, its penitence has vanished, and it is swimming
round and round as full of glee as if the butler were not
already on his way to toss the contents of the finger-glass
out upon the ground. There are pretty ball-room moths,
too, dancing round the lamp in a wild whirl of fascination
2i2 THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
and rapture, until they singe themselves in the flame and
perish. Surely, if there are tongues in trees, books in the
running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything,
then is this lamp of mine a whole tome of homilies.
Yet there are darker pictures, where not folly only, but
vice has its victims ; for in the animal world many a pro-
mising career is wrecked by vice. I once visited a toddy
distillery, and, looking over the great vats of fermenting
palm-juice, I noticed a thick black scum on the frothy
liquid and asked what it was. They said it was flies, and
picked one out to show me. Alas ! it was a honey-bee ;
the little busy bee which, when it was itself, improved each
shining hour. There they floated in hundreds, victims to
intemperance. It made me melancholy. And, strange as
it may appear, it seems to be true that this same unex-
plained craving for some form of stimulant, which works
so much ruin to civilized man, and simply exterminates
aboriginal races, goes down to the lower animals, and exer-
cises its tyranny over them too. That the abandoned crow
and the gross flying-fox make themselves drunk on stolen
toddy is no great scandal, if true ; but I have seen the
most respectable of domestic animals (I allude to the cow),
growing up in a distillery, become such a slave to the
" intoxicating bowl " that she could not be trusted in sight
of the temptation.
I will not moralize on all these things, for this reason,
that a moral is both more palatable and more wholesome
when you extract it for yourself. Served up cold by
another, it is apt to bring on nausea. Materials are plen-
teous for those who will use them. Like a thousand frag-
ments of a shattered mirror, the
bright flies and . other ephemeral
fowls of the air, the caterpillars,
worms, and creeping things on the
earth, and the strange shapes which
people every piece of water, are IV VICTIM TO
reflecting this same life of ours,
with all its lights and shades. Its joys and sorrows light
upon them, its hopes and cares distract their hearts.
One evening I dined with a Major who has a quiver full
of anxieties at home, and he showed me the long row of
their photographs in his pocket album ; another evening I
met a small beetle, travailously rolling along a round ball
of nutritious earthy matter, in which she proposed to bring
up her family. The simplest way of managing the matter
which suggested itself to her original mind was to stand
THE TRIBES ON MY FRON1IER.
on her head and kick the ball along with her hind feet ;
and at this exercise I found her, panting and perspiring.
At length she reached a pit which she had dug before-
hand, and there she proceeded to bury the ball and cover it
with earth ; the
over in his
tages of the
Army and the
Civil Service as
a sphere for his
} first-born, and
would suit his
second boy. Of course, the Major does not care a straw
what becomes of the dirty little beetle and its vile grub ; on
the other hand, it is a matter of the profoundest indifference
to the beetle whether the Major's son runs away with an ac-
tress or becomes Archbishop of Canterbury. She has her own
springs of gladness and sadness, and with these a stranger
intermeddleth not. It seems to me that the difference
between the beetle and us just amounts to this : that she
hopes and rejoices, sighs and suffers, toils in anxiety or rests
with satisfaction, and does not know that she is doing any of
these things. We are like the squad of recruits whom the
Irish drill-sergeant, in the depths of his despair, sarcastically
invited to "stip out now and look at yersilves." We can
get, in a manner, outside of ourselves, and look on at the
tempest of misdirected affections, illusive hopes, and stupid
fears on which we are tossing about. Which is happier,
then, the beetle or the man ? The beetle, unquestionably,
in my judgment, unless man can call to his aid a voice
with power to say to the tempest, " Peace ! be still ! "
I began in June, and now it is May. A year has gone
round, and once more the land is gasping under the op-
pression of the sun, and the soft green which should be
Nature's garb is carrying on a last expiring struggle
against the tyranny of all-subduing dust. And again the
birds, open-mouthed, seek the friendly shelter of my ver-
andah. Bacon says that friendship "redoubleth joyes and
cutteth griefes in halfes," and I suppose, since these little
birds endure so much of the heat, thoy leave the less for
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER.
me to endure. At any rate, if this is not so logical as it
should be, it is all the more true. The thermometer is no
gauge of all the influences which are abroad in the air,
depressing our spirits or making them dance within us. I
am certain that the power to enjoy a balmy breeze, or
bear up against a furnace-blast, would be alike paralysed
by the hopeless dismalness which would come down like
an extinguisher on my spirits, if the keys within me, the
chords of my soul, ceased to be played upon, like an
^olian harp, by the sprightly forms, the merry voices,
and even, sometimes, the plaguey impertinences of " The
Tribes on my Frontier."
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Administration of India.
Punjab Chiefs College.
Address from the Colonists of the
Address from the Khalsa Dewan.
Address from the Simla Municipality.
Punjab Land Alienation Bill.
Bombay Improvement Trust.
Voluntary Plague Workers, Poona.
Banquet at Gwalior.
Address from the Brindaban Munici-
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Darbar at Lucknow.
Ancient Monuments in India.
Convocation of the Calcutta Uni-
Address from the Planters of
Address from the Planters of Tezpur.
Address from the People of Assam.
Telegraphic Press Messages Bill.
Dinner to Mr. and Mrs. Dawkins.
Debate on the Budget.
Address from the Amritsar Munici
Darbar at Quetta.
Punjab Land Bill.
Rajkumar College, Rajkot.
Durbar at Rajkot.
Eurasian Association (Bangalore).
Kolar Goldfields Address,
H.M. Queen Victoria.
The Memorial Hall.
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Third Edition. Enlarged. Demy 410. 36 Plates and Map. 2. 2s.
LARGE GAME SHOOTING
In Thibet, the Himalayas, Northern and Central- India,
By BRIG.-GENERAL ALEX. A. A. KINLOCH.
NYAN,OR GREAT THIBETAN SHEEP.
Times." Colonel Kinloch, who has killed most kinds 'of Indian game, small
and great, relates incidents of his varied sporting experiences in chapters, which
are each descriptive of a different animal. The photogravures of the heads of
many of the animals, from the grand gaur, popularly miscalled the bison, down-
wards, are extremely clever and spirited."
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700 pages. 8vo. Cloth gilt. Rs. 10.
FLORA SIM LAN A.
A Handbook of the Flowering Plants of Simla and the Neighbourhood, by the late
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BOTTING HEMSLEY, F.R.S., F.L.S., Keeper of the Herbarium and Library, Royal Gardens,
Kew. With 200 Illustrations in the text, drawn by Miss M. SMITH, Artist at the Herbarium,
Royal Botanic Gardens.'Kew. And a Map.
This volume contains a descriptive account of the wild flowers and trees of Simla and the
surrounding country, written specially for the use of amateurs, and illustrated by 200 figures,
half natural size, of a selection of the plants. Although the arrangement of the matter is on
a scientific basis, the language employed is as simple as the subject would allow, and a
glossary of indispensable technical terms is appended. The derivation of the botanical names
is also explained. The Introduction contains an analytical examination of the composition of
the flora, and an account of the aspects of the vegetation, compiled from various sources.
The map bears the names and altitudes of the] principal places cited as localities for the
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CLOWES' NAVAL POCKET BOOK, 1902.
A CLASSIFIED LIST OF ALL THE SHIPS BELONGING TO THE
NAVIES OF ALL THE COUNTRIES OF THE WORLD.
Founded by W. LAIRD CLOWES. Edited by L. G. CARR LAUGHTON.
A uiiuMu/m Wt J "
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The Navies of all Nations, Classified and Analytical List: Baltleships, Ironclads,
Gunboats ; Cruisers, Torpedo Boats, and Destroyers ; Hospital, Harbour, Training
Ships, etc., etc. Dry Docks. Guns and Small Arms. Tables for Conversion of
Measures, etc. Plans of Ships: showing Armours, Decks, etc. Complete Index of
Ships by Name.
LORD CHARLES BERESFORD, in a letter, says: "It is one of the most
useful and handy works of reference on naval matters that I know of, and invalu-
able to all who take an interest in naval matters."
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ment of the matter for purposes of reference is admirable, and the ' Pocket Book '
cannot but continue to grow in the estimation of those for whom it is designed."
Pall Mall Gazette. "The information contained upon the navies of the
world is most complete and comprehensive, and the 900 pages of printed matter
are remarkable for containing so much in so small a compass."
Naval and Military Record. " A handy volume for use anywhere and every-
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London: W. THACKER & CO., 2, Creed Lane, E.C,
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755 P a g es i Royal 8vo. , cloth extra. 30.?. net.
With over 150 Illustrations from Sketches and Drawings by the Author,
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THE IMPERIAL RUSSIAN NAVY.
By FRED T. JANE,
Author of "All the World's Fighting Ships," "The Port Guard Ship," "The
Torpedo in Peace and War," Inventor of the Jane Naval War Game
(Naval Kriegspiel), etc., etc.
SOME OF THE PRINCIPAL CONTENTS.
The Germ of the Russian Navy, 865-1645. Peter the Great's founding of the
Russian Navy. Its battles, its history, and its organisation from that time to the
Detailed descriptions (with photographs and plans) of all the Ships at preoi nt
on the Russian Navy List.
Detailed descriptions of all the Russian Dockyards. Russia's Shipbuilding
programme. Projected Ship Canals.
The Personnel of the Fleet. Full details of the pay, uniform, training, equip-
ment, organisation, discipline, of Russian officers and men.
Anglo-Russian relations from both the Russian and British standpoints.
Some problems of the near future.
A copious Appendix : Biographies and services of British Officers who have
served in the Russian Navy ; plans of battles ; official reports, and correspondence
relating to historical mn tiers.
A complete list of Russian War Ships, built and building ; a history of Russian
ship names ; and a comprehensive Index.
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AN EDITION DE LUXE OF
THE WORKS OF G. J. WHYTE-MELVILLE
EDITED BY THE
Right Hon. Sir HERBERT MAXWELL, Bart, M.P.
The volumes are printed from new type on hand-made paper, specially manu-
factured for this edition, and handsomely bound in buckram with gilt tops.
Coloured frontispiece on Japanese vellum, and other full-page illustrations by
VOLUME I. RIDING RECOLLECTIONS. Illustrated by HUGH THOMSON.
II. KATERFELTO. Illustrated by G. H. T ALLAN D.
III. UNCLE JOHN. Illustrated by E. GALDWELLand H. M. BROCK.
IV. MARKET HARBOROUGH. Illustrated by HUGH THOMSON.
V. CONTRABAND. Illustrated by BERNARD PARTRIDGE.
VI. M OR N. Illustrated by C. E. 'BROCK.
,, VII. TILBURY NO-GO. Illustrated by E. CALDWELL.
,, VIII. SONGS AND VERSES and BONES AND I. Illustrated by
H. M. BROCK.
IX. BLACK BUT COMELY. Illustrated by H. M. BROCK.
X. THE BROOKES OF BRIDLEMERE. Illustrated by FRED
XL THE WHITE ROSE. Illustrated by HARRINGTON BIRD.
,, XII. ROY'S WIFE. Illustrated by CECIL ALDEN.
,, XIII. SATANELLA. Illustrated by G. H. JALLAND.
,, XIV. DIGBY GRAND. Illustrated by H. M. BROCK.
XV. SARCHEDON. Illustrated by HARRINGTON BIRD.
., XVI. SISTER LOUISE AND ROSINE. Illustrated by H. M. BROCK.
,, XVII. KATE COVENTRY. Illustrated by H. M. BROCK.
,, XVIII. CERISE. Illustrated by H. M. BROCK.
,, XIX. QUEEN'S MARIES. Illustrated by G. H. JALLAND.
XX. HOLMBY HOUSE. Illustrated by G. H. JALLAND.
,, XXL GENERAL BOUNCE. Illustrated by H. M. BROCK.
,, XXIL GLADIATORS. Illustrated by HARRINGTON BIRD.
,, XXIII. GOOD FOR NOTHING. Illustrated by H. M. BRCCK.
XXIV. THE INTERPRETER. Illustrated by H. M. BROCK.
The Standard. " He made the sporting novel something so entirely different
to what it had been, that he must be recognised as the originator of a new species
more elevated, more refined, and more largely imbued with the spirit of modern
Saturday Review. "What is most rare in writers of this class, Whyte-
Melville possessed to a considerable degree namely, the ability to hold the
attention of readers, whether they were sportsmen or not."
The Times. "The edition has everything to recommend it externally."
The Times. "Good paper and type and a good serviceable binding."
The Field. " Altogether a pleasure to read."
Pall Mall Gazette. " These tasteful buckram volumes are worthy of the man
and the matter in them."
Truth. " Has every claim to be considered an Edition de Ln.\e."
Spectator. " The pleasant setting of this handsome edition."
W. TH ACKER & CO., LONDON.
Demy 8vo. , cloth gilt. 24 vols. 12 125. net.
AN EDITION DE LUXE OF
THE WORKS OF G. J. WHYTE-MELVILLE
Saturday Review. "Fulfils every requirement of the book-lover in paper,
type, illustrations and binding."
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Fifth Edition. In Imperial i6mo. 6s. fis. 5-4. Cash, fis. 4-8.
Uniform with "A Naturalist on the Prowl " and " Behind the Bungalow."
THE TRIBES ON MY FRONTIER
AN INDIAN NATURALIST'S FOREIGN POLICY.
WITH FIFTY ILLUSTRATIONS BY F. C. MACRAE.
IN this remarkably clever work there are most graphically and humor-
ously described the surroundings of a Mofussil bungalow. The twenty
chapters embrace a year's experiences, and provide endless sources of
amusement and suggestion. The numerous able illustrations add very
greatly to the interest of the volume, which will find a -place on every
Field. " It is a very clever record of a year's observations round the bunga-
low in ' Dustypore.' . . . It is by no means a mere travesty. . . . The writer is
always amusing, and never dull."
Chambers 's Journal. " The book is cleverly illustrated by Mr. F. C. Macrae.
We have only to thank our Anglo-Indian naturalist for the delightful book which he
has sent home to his countrymen in Britain. May he live to give us another such."
Allen's Indian Mail. "A most charming series of sprightly and entertaining
essays on what may be termed the fauna of the Indian bungalow. . . . We
have no doubt that this amusing book will find its way into every Anglo-Indian's
Knowledge. " This is a delightful book, irresistibly funny in description and
illustration, but full of genuine science too. . . . There is not a dull or uninstruc-
tive page in the whole book."
Graphic. " It is a pleasantly written book about the insects and other
torments of India which make Anglo-Indian life unpleasant, and which can be
read with pleasure even by those beyond the reach of the tormenting things Kha
Saturday Review. "The volume is full of accurate and unfamiliar obser-
TH ACKER, SPINK <Sr- CO., CALCUTTA,
Fourth Edition. Imperial 161110. 6s. Rs. 5-4. Cash, Rs. 4-8.
BEHIND THE BUNGALOW.
By EH A.
With Fifty-Three Clever Sketches by the Illustrator of" The Tribes."
As " The Tribes on my Frontier" graphically and humorously described
the Animal Surroundings of an Indian Bungalow, the present work describes
with much pleasantry the Human Officials thereof, with their peculiarities,
idiosyncrasies, and, to the European, strange methods of duty. Each chapter
contains Character Sketches by the Illustrator of "The Tribes," and the work
is a " Natural History " of the Native Tribes who in India render us service.
The World. "There is plenty of fun in ' Behind the Bungalow,' and more
than fun for those with eyes to see. These sketches may have an educational
purpose beyond that of mere amusement ; they show through all their fun a keen
observation of native character and a just appreciation of it."
The Graphic. " 'The Tribes on My Frontier' was very good : ' Behind the
Bungalow ' is even better. Anglo-Indians will see how truthful are these sketches.
People who know nothing about India will delight in the clever drawings and
the truly humorous descriptions ; and, their appetite for fun being gratified, they
will not fail to note the under-current of sympathy."
The Queen. " The native members of an Anglo-Indian household are hit off
with great fidelity and humour."
W. TH 'ACKER <Sr CO., LONDON.
In Imperial 161110. I2S. 6d. A's. 10.
A NATURAL HISTORY
MAMMALIA OF INDIA,
BURMAH AND CEYLON.
By R. A. STERNDALE, F.R.G.S., F.Z.S., ETC.,
Author of " Seonee," " The Denizens of the Jungle," " The Afghan Knife," etc.
With 170 Illustrations by the Author and others.
The geographical limits
of the present work have
been extended to all terri-
tories likely to be reached
by the sportsman from
India. It is copiously il-
lustrated, not only by the
author himself, but by care-
ful selections made by him
from the works of well-
Knowledge. " It is the very model of what a popular natural history should be. "
Nature. " An amusing work with good illustrations."
Saturday Review. " Full of accurate observations, brightly told."
AthencEum. " The results of a close and sympathetic observation."
Academy. " It has the brevity which is the soul of wit, and a delicacy of allu-
sion which charms the literary critic."
The Times. ' ' The notices of each animal are, as a rule, short, though on some
of the larger mammals the lion, tiger, pard, boar, etc. ample and interesting
details are given, including occasional anecdotes of adventure. The book will, no
doubt, be specially useful to the sportsman, and, indeed, has been extended so as
to include all territories likely to be reached by the sportsman from India. Those
who desire to obtain some general information, popularly conveyed, on the subject
with which the book deals, will, we believe, find it useful."
The Daily News. "Has contrived to hit a happy mean between the stiff
scientific treatise and the bosh of what may be called anecdotal zoology."
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LAYS OF IND.
By ALIPH CHEEM.
COMIC, SATIRICAL, AND DESCRIPTIVE.
Poems Illustrative of Anglo-Indian Life.
ILLUSTRATED BY THE AUTHOR, LIONEL INGLIS, R. A. STERNDALE,
Tenth Edition. Cloth gilt. 6s. fis. 5-4. Cash, tfs. 4-8.
The World. "This is a remarkably bright little book. 'Aliph Cheem,'
supposed to be the nom-de-plume. of an officer in the i8th Hussars, is, after hi^
fashion, an Indian Bon Gaultier. In a few of the poems the jokes, turning on local
names and customs, are somewhat esoteric ; but, taken throughout, the verses are
characterised by high animal spirits, great cleverness, and most excellent fooling. "
Liverpool Mercury. " One can readily imagine the merriment created round
the camp fire by the recitation of the ' Two Thumpers," which is irresistibly droll.
. . . . The edition before us is enlarged, and contains illustrations by the
author, in addition to which it is beautifully printed and handsomely got up, all
which recommendations are sure to make the name of Aliph Cheem more popular
in India than ever."
Scotsman. "The 'Lays 'are not only Anglo-Indian in origin, but out-and-
out Anglo-Indian in subject and colour. To one who knows something of life at
an Indian ' station ' they will be especially amusing. Their exuberant fun at the
same time may well attract the attention of the ill-defined individual known as ' the
general reader.' "
W. m 'ACKER &- CO., LONDON.
Imperial i6mo. 65. Rs. 5-4. Cash, Rs. 4-8.
A NATURALIST ON THE PROWL.
Author of " The Tribes on My Frontier " and " Behind the Bungalow."
Illustrated by 80 Drawings by R. A. STERNDALE, F.R.G.S., F.Z.S.,
Author of " Mammalia of India," " Denizens of the Jungle," " Sconce, " etc., who
has studied and sketched animals of all kinds in their habitat and at work.
In this volume the Author conducts his Readers to the Jungles and Country
round the Home, and with genial humour and practised science teaches the
interesting art of "how to observe" the structure and habits of Birds, Beasts,
Daily Chronicle. " It is one of the most interesting Books upon Natural
History that we have read for a long time. It is never dull, and yet solid informa-
tion is conveyed by nearly every page."
i8 THACKER, SPINK & CO., CALCUTTA.
300 Illustrations. Imperial i6mo. 12$. 6d.
By COLONEL R. H. BEDDOME, F.L.S.,
Late Conservator of Forests, Madras.
Nature. ' ' It is the first special book
of portable size and moderate price which
has been devoted to Indian Ferns, and is
in every way deserving of the extensive
circulation it is sure to obtain."
Indian Daily News. "I have just
seen a new work on Indian Ferns which
will prove vastly interesting, not only to
the Indian people, but to the botanist
of this country."
Gardeners' Chronicle. "The ' Ferns
of India.' This is a good book, being of
a useful and trustworthy character. The
species are familiarly described, and most
of them illustrated by small figures. "
Free Press. "Those interested in
botany will do well to procure a new work
on the ' Ferns of British India.' The
work will prove a first-class text book.
to the Fei^ of British India, etc,
By COLONEL R. H. BEDDOME.
Containing Ferns which have been discovered since the publication of
"A Handbook to the Ferns of British India."
THE INDIGENOUS DRUGS OF INDIA:
The principal Medicinal Products met with in British India.
By KANNY LALL DEY, C.I.E., F.C.S., Professor of Chemistry
and Chemical Examiner to Government ; assisted by WILLIAM
MAIR, A.P.S. With Portrait. Second Edition. Revised and
entirely re-written. Demy 8vo., cloth. i6s. net. fis. 12.
Pharmaceutical Journal "A work on Indian drugs which is thoroughly up to
date and as reliable as any book can be made, even with the help of experts.
Indian Daily News. " Will be useful to students and to that very large class
of people who are interested in developing the resources of the country. . . .
the work contains a really good index of 4,000 references, and a complete glossary
to the vernacular narnesr"
W. TH ACKER &* CO., LONDON.
Now Ready. Second Edition. 8vo. , cloth.
By G. P. PILLAI, B.A.
With Forty Illustrations.
ISVAR CHANDER VIDYASAGAR, C.I.E.
Short Biographies of the best representatives of the new t;pe of men who
have been brought into existence in India since the growth of British power in
that land. Statesmen : philanthropists : jurists : educationists : archaeologists :
scholars : religious, social, and political reformers : journalists, and those who
have promoted industries.
FORTY BIOGRAPHIES, WITH PORTRAITS.
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BULLET AND SHOT
IN INDIAN FOREST, PLAIN, AND HILL.
WITH HINTS TO BEGINNERS IN INDIAN SHOOTING.
By C. E. M. RUSSELL,
Barrister-at-Law of the Inner Temple, M.R.A.C., late Senior Deputy Conservator
of Forests, Mysore Service.
WITH FRONTISPIECE BY C. WHYMPER.
List of Contents.
The Indian Bison.
Hints to Beginners.
The Wild Goats of Cashmere and
The Wild Sheep of India.
TheWild Buffalo, the Yak, andtheTsine. The Rhinacerotidas and Suidas of India.
The Tiger. Small Animals worth Shooting.
Incidents in Tiger Shooting. The Principal Game Birds and Wild
The Panther, Hunting Cheetah, Fowl of India.
Clouded Leopard, Snow Leopard, j Poachers and Nuisances.
and Indian Lion. Camp Equipment, Travelling in India,
The Chief Bears of India.
The Indian Elephant and Elephant
Outfit, Servants, etc.
Rifles and Guns, Ammunition and
The Deer of India and the Himalayas. , Hints on Skinning and the Preservation
The Neilgherry Wild Goat, or Ibex of of Trophies.
S. India. Etc., etc.
It was frequently brought home to the Author, in the case of
numerous beginners whom he personally assisted to obtain sport,
how unfavorably situated such are in a strange country unless so
aided, and he has endeavoured in the present volume to supply what
he believes to be a want viz., detailed information for the use of
Saturday Review. " We have nothing but praise for his accuracy and for the
value of his practical advice. . . . Not a few of the chapters are very attractive
reading, being full of exciting anecdote and picturesque reminiscences. . . . His
chapters on forest campaigning, camp equipment, and sporting batteries deserve
Civil and Military Gazette (Lahore). ". . . Cannot fail to appeal to sports-
men of every standing, from the veriest tyro, to whom it will prove particularly
useful, to the oldest hand at the game. . . . The general excellence and com-
pleteness of the book should ensure it the position of a standard work."
Land and Water. "A handbook for the use of the tyro has long been
wanted. . . . We recommend this book very strongly to anyone who is going to
India and intends to shoot. ... It is eminently practical, well-written and
W. TH ACKER & CO., LONDON.
A Book for the Sportsman and Traveller.
Medium 8vo. , cloth extra. izs. 6d. net.
A SUMMER IN HIGH ASIA.
A Summer Ramble through Baltistan and Ladakh.
By Capt. F. E. S. AD AIR,
Late Rifle Brigade ; Author of "Sport in Ladakh."
With a Chapter on CENTRAL ASIAN TRADE by
Capt. S. H. GODFREY, late British Joint Commissioner at Leh.
Seventy Illustrations from Photographs and Drawings taken on the spot, and a
Map of the route.
Daily News. "To the big game haunts of Ladakh and Baltistan there are
few guides as good and as interesting to read as the author of this book."
Asian (Calcutta). " It is above all things the handiwork of a sportsman, and
conveys brightly and pleasantly an excellent account of a five months' trip in
countries already made known to us by several good sportsmen."
Til ACKER, SPIN A' & CO., CALCUTTA.
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COW KEEPING IN INDIA
A Simple and Practical Book on their Care
Their Various Breeds, and the means of rendering them Profitable.
By ISA TWEED.
With 39 Illustrations, including the various breeds of Cattle, drawn
from photographs by R. A. STERNDALE.
Home News. " By the aid of this volume anyone of ordinary intelligence and
industry could keep cows certainly with advantage, possibly even with profit to
W. Til ACKER & CO., LONDON. 23
Illustrated. Crown 8vo. Rs. 4.
A Simple and Practical Book on the Care and Treatment of Poultry,
their various Breeds, and the means of rendering them profitable.
By ISA TWEED,
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DUCKS, GEESE, TURKEYS,
PIGEONS AND RABBITS.
By ISA TWEED.
Illustrated. Crown 8vo. Rs. 3-8.
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New Edition in
WATER BIRDS OF
COL. A. LE MESSURIER,
A VADE MECUM FOR THE SPORTSMAN, EMBRACING
ALL 7 HE BIRDS AT ALL LIKELY TO BE MET WITH
IN A SHOOTING EXCURSION.
Knowledge "Compact in form, excellent in method and arrangement, and,
as far as we have been able to test it, rigidly accurate."
Home News. "Will be a source of great delight, as every ornithological
detail is given, in conjunction with the most artistic and exquisite drawings."
HOW TO KNOW THE
By FRANK FINN, B.A., F.Z.S.,
Deputy Superintendent, Indian Museum.
Crown 8vo. Sewed. Rs. 2-8.
W. THACKEK &> CO , LONDON.
Third Edition, revised. With numerous full-page and other Illustrations.
DemySvo. , cloth. 155.
THE ROD IN INDIA. ,
Being Hints how to obtain Sport, with remarks on the Natural
History of Fish and their Culture.
By H. S. THOMAS, F.L.S., Madras Civil Service, Retired,
Author of "Tank Angling in India."
Field. " A masterly treatise on the art of angling."
Spectator. "A more complete guide to its subject than could be found
Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic Neivs. "His book has been for years a
standard work perhaps, without injustice to others, it may be described as the
standard work upon Indian angling."
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THE COMMON SENSE OF RIDING.
In Imperial i6rno. Handsomely bound. io.r. 6d.
RIDING FOR LADIES.
With Hints on the Stable.
By MRS. POWER O'DONOGHUE,
Author of " Ladies on Horseback," "A Beggar on Horseback," etc.
With 91 Illustrations drawn expressly for the Work by A. Chantrey Corbould.
HIS able and beautiful
volume will form a Stan-
dard on the Subject, and
is one which no lady can
dispense with. The scope
of the work will be under-
stood by the following :
I. Ought Children to Ride?
n. " For Mothers & Children."
in. First Hints to a Learner,
iv. Selecting a Mount.
v. , vi. The Lady's Dress,
vn. Bitting. vin. Saddling.
ix. How to Sit, Canter, &c.
x. Reins, Voice, and Whip.
xi. Riding on the Road,
xn. Paces, Vices, and Faults,
xii r. A Lesson in Leaping,
xiv. Managing Refusers,
xvi. Hunting Outfit Considered.
xx. Shoeing. xxm. Doctoring.
XXI. Feeding. XXIV. Breeding,
xxn. Stabling. xxv. "Tips."
XVII. Economy in Riding Dress,
xvni. Hacks and Hunters,
xix. In the Hunting Field.
New York Sportsman.- "When there may arise differences of opinion as to
some of the suggestions contained in this volume, the reader, especially if a woman,
may feel assured she will not go far astray in accepting what is said by one of her
own sex, who has the distinction of three times beating the Empress of Austria in
the hunting field, from whom she ' took the brush.' ' Riding for Ladies ' is certain
to become a classic."
W. TH ACKER &> CO., LONDON.
Demy 8vo. , cloth. 125.
A SERVANT OF "JOHN COMPANY."
(THE HON. EAST INDIA COMPANY.)
Being the Recollections of an Indian Official.
By H. G. KEENE, C.I.E., Hon. M.A. (Oxon.),
Author of "Sketches in Indian Ink," etc.
WITH A PORTRAIT IN PHOTOGRAVURE.
Illustrated by W. SIMPSON from the Author's Sketches.
Palace at Deeg, near Agra. Double Cornice commended by Fergusson.
Saturday Review. "Those who are interested in the life and work of an
Indian magistrate, collector, commissioner, and judge, before and after the
Mutiny, will find plenty of information in his simple and unassuming narrative."
LADIES IN THE FIELD.
Crown 8vo. , 6s.
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Second Edition. Crown 8vo. Revised, js. 6rf.
Vedic and Puranic.
REV. W. J. WILKINS,
OF THE LONDON MISSIONARY SOriKTY,
Illustrated by One Hundred Engraving 1 :,
chiefly from Drawings by Native Artists.
Home News. ' ' His aim has been to give a faithful account of the Hirdu deities,
such as an intelligent native would himself give, and he has endeavoured, in order
to achieve his purpose, to keep his mind free from prejudice or theological bias.
To help to completeness he has included a number of drawings of the principal
deities, executed by native artists. The author has attempted a work of no little
ambition and has succeeded in his attempt, the volume being one of great interest
and usefulness ; and not the less so because he has strictly refrained from diluting
his facts with comments of his own. It has numerous illustrations."
Guardian. " Mr. Wilkins has done his work well, with an honest desire to
state facts apart from all theological prepossession, and his volume is likely to be a
useful book of reference."
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